Woolley’s Cottage

I went back to my old house at
Broad Strood today.
The footings remain
And the well
Whose water
Even I wouldn’t drink.

The drain to the septic tank has survived.
I used to love the smell especially in summer
Mixed with honeysuckle and azalea.

The gaffer coming out for a pipe
Silent under the stars
But the last couple of years
I was blind as a bat and
Deaf as a post.
Feckin’ useless the gaffer said
Only he is dead
Kind and dead
I lived for his smell
And his tread.… More

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Route 22

Lea Valley in peace and war – Desire paths and a garlic harvest on the Mighty Dollis – Shed tears and steam clean up: winners and losers in the heritage industry – A good walk hosed: crazy golf in Theydon Bois.

Wednesday (4th April) to Cheshunt for a circular walk via Monkhams Hall. The best view in the Lea Valley – especially since the last semi-wilderness areas of the lower valley are now covered in circus tents, lego and gulag fencing.… More

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London Clay

On Wednesday 8th March I did a kind of broken loop from Kensal Rise to Willesden Junction. As if I hadn’t had enough of mortality on Saturday (Highgate West Cemetery in spring sunshine), my first point of call was Kensal Green Cemetery in the rain. It seemed as though the whole world had just come to London to die – it is a very different vibe to Highgate. More of a working cemetery and still in private ownership.… More

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A for horses

Wednesday (25th January) short stroll from Elstree over the south Hertfordshire escarpment which is the border of the former county of Middlesex. I joined the London Loop footpath out of Elstree station and climbed through suburbia to the ridgeway. Noted brick air shafts in field on Deacon’s Hill and also noted that I just can’t help myself noting bits of useless information. No sign at all of Grim’s Ditch – but I wasn’t looking very hard and after a while forgot I was looking for it.… More

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Lost Towns & Secret Rivers

Saturday (7th) did Merry Lundow’s The Glass Sea. 9 mile circuit from Gordon Hill Station (Enfield) – across Clay Hill and golf club on King’s Oak Plain, down rather unpleasant Cattlegate Road – although there was a grass verge to perch on all of the way so not suicidal just unpleasantly busy with fast cars – across Turkey Brook & under M25 then through Cattlegate Farm views to Cuffley ahead, then bending right under Soper’s Viaduct – saw guilty looking couple with dog at edge of nursery plantation: what they were up to is anybody’s guess.… More

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Canvey Island – 22 May 2011

I overheard a conversation on the train up between a woman from Ilford and a couple of fellow passengers. I didn’t catch a glimpse of her but imagined her to look not altogether unlike Dot Cotton. “I don’t go voting,” she told her new friends in the tone of voice of someone saying “I don’t sleep around.” Her polling station was in the Moslem Centre.”What were they thinking of?” You can imagine the rest. “Nobody listens to us ordinary people … and they all have such big families … my Dad would think he’d come back to a different country … when I was a child we had a garden the size of a postage stamp.… More

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Bedford – 8 May 2011

15-mile round trip from Bedford yesterday in cloudy sunshine along the Ouse, past the backwater where John Bunyon was baptized, Viking long boats, marinas for argee bargees and noddy boats (with sheds), canoe slalom, business park. Then, having lost my reading glasses – it’s a long, & tedious, story – under a motorway past an 18C cross and over a Victorian bridge to the village of Cardington. We had a look at  graveyard where there is a  memorial to 48 people killed when the R101 airship crashed in France.… More

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A Ballad to the Brightening Moon – 110227

In the spring of 1910 Sir Edward Grey and Theodore Roosevelt set out along the River Itchen in Hampshire to listen to birdsong. Last week we followed them. We didn’t set out on a pilgrimage – just a mixture of historical curiosity and the waking and scratchful urge of all hibernating animals to check the progress of the flowers after a cold winter. But the day became spiritualised, the walk became a wake. Perhaps all walks are pilgrimages of a sort.… More

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Primrose Hill-110201

I was in an appropriately grim mood on my last ditch or to be more accurate ditches as I navigated both the Dollis and the Brent and the headwaters of the Fleet in the misty hills of Kenwood. I felt caged, irritable, locked down, like a zoo animal vainly seeking reassurance on a well-beaten path, a Tourette’s trail of muzzled prayer and self-flagellation. I knew I wouldn’t see a kingfisher catch fire – might as well tickle for trout in a puddle or look for otter spraint in an abandoned dog shit bag hanging in an osier thicket on the newly clipped bank.… More

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