Saturday, December 23, 2017

Hatton Cross to West Drayton

I finally had an opportunity to get back on the LOOP yesterday, walking about five miles from Hatton Cross, near Heathrow Airport, to West Drayton.

The walk did not begin auspiciously. I had some interesting views of incoming aircraft at Heathrow -- some of them were much bigger than this plane, which just happens to be the one I photographed. But as I turned onto the first part of the trail I faced a gigantic, squishy mud-bog which I had to traverse. I was tempted to turn back and wait for a drier day, but I decided to persevere. Fortunately my trusty Merrill walking shoes kept out the water.

I soon came to a fork in the path. My directions at this point were to "follow the small path which ambles through the trees and over a small sleeper bridge." As you can see, there were two bridges -- and I was completely bewildered by which one they meant. Usually the directions for the LOOP are quite clear, but not in this case. I initially chose the right-hand bridge, but before walking any further I read that I was supposed to eventually enter "a large open field." The right-hand path looked very woodsy and I could see hints of a field off to the left, so I changed my mind and went that way instead.

It was the right decision. Whew. (I'm subjecting you to all this detail in case another walker is reading this and needs a heads-up about what to do here. Go left!)

Crossing the field, part of Cranford Park, I came to the 16th century St. Dunstan's Church. The Berkeley family, which lived on this land for 300 years until the end of World War I, installed their coat of arms at the church's east end to claim ownership.

A football for Olga! I don't see how she could do any more damage to this one.

I eventually came to the Grand Union Canal, the same canal where I used to walk Olga when we lived in Notting Hill. The stacks of the Nestle coffee factory were neatly reflected in the water. Almost all of the rest of the path followed the canal's right-hand side.

I stopped in the Hayes and Harlington area for a quick bite at this cute cafe -- an excellent vegetarian English breakfast. (A contradiction in terms, I know, but I delude myself that fried potatoes and mushrooms are healthier than fried bacon.) As I took this photo, a man jumped out of a nearby van and unsmilingly quizzed me about what I was doing. I try to be patient with people, I really do, but it annoys the hell out of me when perfect strangers demand that I explain myself for taking a photo -- especially grumpy strangers with no obvious connection to the subject of the picture. "Just a hobby," I said, and walked away.

Anyway, it was a fun walk, despite its wet and rainy beginning, and I'm glad I got in at least one more jaunt before the year's end. (I may manage a bit more walking next week -- we'll see.)


  1. Another interesting trek! It's a good thing you were able to get away from Mr. Suspicious as quickly as you did. How's the pet sitting?

  2. The football looks like a symbol of Theresa May's Brexit progress. As for that fellow quizzing you - Who the hell does he think he is? You should have kicked his ass with your Merrill walking boots!

  3. Some people have the hobby of being paranoid. I like your hobby better.

  4. the left looks just as woodsy to me and I even looked at the big picture.

  5. I got lost in the woods once when I was in my teens, and I get a bit anxious around forks in the path now. Glad you found the right way. YP made me laugh out loud, and I really appreciate his ass-kicking sentiment!

  6. I love reading about these walks. You should write a story about the whole thing when you've finished and see if one of the papers would publish it. That really is a nice looking cafe you found. As for the man asking questions, that is annoying. With everyone in the world carrying a camera (cell phone) with them wherever they go, asking such a question seems so silly. I was taking a holiday decorations photo at the mall a few weeks ago when some woman walked by me, looked me in the eye and said "that is so rude". I guess she thought I was taking a photo of her. I just ignored her as though I didn't even hear.

  7. That guy was probably about to rob the cafe and you were interrupting his schedule! Or not.

  8. I went to Giverny a few years ago, in December, on purpose. I wanted to visit some new friends and see what Christmas looked like in the tiny village when Monet's garden was not open for view and the place was not run over with 600,000 tourists. There was some kind of heavy construction going on at the church up the road from Monet's house, so I stood in the road and took photos. Truthfully, I was framing the shots so I could sneak some pix of the kibitzing locals, old guys in berets with dogs at their side. The foreman walked up to me and demanded to know know why I was photographing his work crew. His tone was not at all friendly.

    French people are, by law, permitted to walk the streets in private and they are quite touchy about having their photos taken in public places. It's exactly the opposite to what has been established in America, where anyone in a public space has surrendered their assumptions of privacy so if I happen to take a snap of you at Times Square with your mistress, well, you had it coming, for taking her out to such a public place means you did to have any right to expect that I'd respect your sense of privacy. True fact.

    I have lived in France and I know vey well how offensive it is to French people to steal their souls with my camera. So I knew I was pushing it, by taking photos out on the street. So I had an answer to the mean guy demanding that I explain myself: Why was I taking photographs?

    I said, "Because I'm from America and everything about France interests me."

    Well! the change in his attitude was instant. This guy seemed so pleased with the situation that he became my personal tour guide to the church of Saint Radegonde, taking me through the cemetery, explaining who Radegonde was, showing me architectural details of the structure that, really, I wasn't at all interested in, but couldn't help but enjoy. He also sent one of his workers to the home of the church's off-duty sextant to rustle up the keys so he could take me inside, but the caretaker was not in, quel dommage. He even took photos of me posing with the church's ancient attraction, a big stone slab that has been there since neolithic times. I forget if it's a grave or some kind of magic druid megalith. It was a wonderful visit.

    I'm not suggesting that the thug who accosted you would have turned out to be a bosom buddy. Men like that are very threatening on purpose. But if you are ever similarly challenged in France, maybe my tip will help you ingratiate yourself to even the most persnickety native.

    I like your travelogue about these Loop walks. If you expand it to book-length, think of the delightful digressions you could take!

  9. So happy you didn't sink to oblivion in the bog!
    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, Steve.

  10. Great persistence on your part to keep walking the trail.