Julie's Jabber - This week with London LDWA


Julie's Jabber - This week with London LDWA
Julie's Jabber - This week with London LDWA

I have spent most of my life feeling sorry for anyone who doesn't live in London but somewhat to my surprise find I have started envying, far more than I ever thought possible, those who live in the wilder, more remote parts of Britain. The reason is that they tend to have a varied selection of seriously high hills and near-endless tracks and footpaths in which to take their government-sanctioned exercise within easy reach of home. I have discovered there is a limit to the joys of Greenwich Park, our nearest open space, and were the Royal Parks to announce its closure I would be unmoved. I have just seen too much of it in the last few weeks, and will no doubt be forced to see even more of it since the duration of the lockdown remains indefinite. Goldfish are said to lack short term memory, with the result that every circuit of their tank is refreshingly new. "Gosh, there's a green plastic frond!" they exclaim in wonder as they swim past it for the umpteenth time. I wish I could feel the same delighted surprise as I trot yet again past the Observatory and General Wolfe's statue. 

 

croydon highest point

PHOTO Gavin Fuller

 

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Finding ways of filling up the hours between the early morning tea and the closing credits of a Midsomer Murders we've already seen thrice is a challenge. I toyed briefly with the idea of finally getting to grips with Proust's In Search of Lost Time (I last had a crack at it on holiday in Spain in 1983, when I gave up on page 27) but it's not the kind of thing I can get lost in while suffering the constant low-grade anxiety that most of us have been living with since the pandemic began. I've now realised that it's far more relaxing to read walking guides, especially to places that I've walked in person, since that means I can relive the experience. One that is very well-thumbed is The London Loop - mine is the 2012 edition, though the most recent was published in 2017. I last used it to recce the route of social walk I led in April 1918, Three Ws and a B(Hive). It was part of a series of walks linking football stadiums. The Ws stand for Wembley, Watford and Wetherspoon's (where we inevitably finished up) and the B for Barnet.

Originally this was planned as a joint venture with The London Loop's author Colin Saunders, who was largely responsible for designing the route of 3Ws and a B(HIve). Unfortunately he was injured by the time we got around to it and unable to take part. This didn't stop him popping up on the day to cheer us on. You can see him, second left, in the picture below, as we posed at The Beehive, Barnet's home ground - they're known as the Bs. It was a fabulous route, the stand-out parts being a traverse of Elstree Aerodrome and a late afternoon trek on the Ver-Colne Valley Walk alongside the lovely Colne River. I plan to repeat it once these grim times are behind us.

 

three ws and a bee

 

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In a recent Jabber I mentioned that I now have a stash of old London LDWA Newsletters. Coincidentally Colin mentioned the London Loop in Colin's Cackle in Number 18, March 2000. At the time he was researching another book, London - A Definitive Walking Guide, and was about to start a tour of the Loop to include in it.  

I'm really enjoying these old Newsletters,and spotting familiar names. Paul Lawrence contributed an item on  a group walk with the impressive name of Metropolitan Meanderers Meridianal Millennium. It took place at the turn of the century and started at dusk at the Meridian Beacon site on the south coast at Peacehaven 'where the Greenwich Meridian Line leaves our shores.' Paul was joined by Reg and Janet Chapman, John and Gail Elrick, Ken Facett, Phil Goodwin, Katherine Hallgarten, Bill Thompson and Keith Wilson.

How about we accompany them virtually? The walk took them 'in the encroaching darkness over the ridge with the lights of the coastal towns twinkling below, past Telscombe Youth Hostel and down into the Ouse River valley to join the South Downs Way. Downsman Hundred veterans will recall the level crossing at Southease.... Then steeply up to the ridge and past the Red Lion Pond, with the orange glow of an early beacon flickering silently behind on Iford Hill, and on to our target of the beacon site at Firle. [It} was one of a chain of beacons to be lit nationwide in sequence, passing through our four capital cities by 22.00 hours, and culminating in the midnight lighting of beacons along the Meridian Line itself.

'As we approached the trip point, the lighting team with other villagers from West Firle below passed us in their Land Rovers. At 22.00 hours, exactly on schedule it was lit - an impressive mound of wood - providing welcome warmth as we ate our supper. The clear weather, benign so far, turned into mists, the wind grew a little stronger and the distant hills vanished as we retraced our steps, picking our way along the fence posts in the rainy gloom to descend to Newhaven... And so back to the Meridian Line for midnight, to join the hardy band of revelers, with corks popping from the bubbly and the muffled thuds from nearby fireworks, still barely visible in the mist.

'Lighting on the dot of the New Century, a cheer to greet the end of two thousand years, and it really was better than the pub!'

I'm left with the thought that what's a few weeks of isolation compared to two thousand years of civilisation? 

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Writing of the Meridian Line brings me back to Greenwich Park where, of course, sits the Prime Meridian Line of the world. Below is a photo of us (a few yards from said Meridian Line on an evening social walk four years back. You can just spot General Wolfe in the background. I'll be trotting past the old fellow as usual today - without my London Group friends, sadly, but I'll be thinking of you all.

general wolfe statue

 

 

 

London LDWA - http://www.ldwa.org.uk/London