Author Topic: TR: Abiding By Lockdown Rules, 24 November 2020  (Read 441 times)

fernman

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 Desperate to get out for some exercise when I shouldn't be driving to the Chilterns, I chose to do the short Bentley Priory Walk that is in the green belt on the north edge of my borough. It is an area I know well, having botanised in it extensively and I had done this circuit before, though that was many years ago. I started from a car park at Stanmore Common Nature Reserve, that used to be open grazing land until the second world war; now it is largely birch trees.

 Soon crossing a road onto what is known as Little Common I discovered two things: 1. The route marking had fallen into disrepair, with some posts missing and some paths overgrown with brambles, and 2. After more than 20 years of not visiting the area my memory of it was not what it used to be. Further confusion was caused by additional posts for the London Loop, and ones marked Harrow Green, whatever that might be. In spite of this, I easily found the largest of a group of ponds of the old Clutterbucks brewery that operated here from 1763 to 1916.


 Emerging from the common at a main road I turned left and entered the next turning on the right. After a long tramp I found it was a dead end, so it was all the way back to the main road, but at least I had a good gawp at a large number of million pound properties. Continuing down the main road it became clear that I had left the common at the wrong point and the next side road was the correct one. At its end a path led onto Bentley Priory Local Nature Reserve and SSSI. This was hugely muddy because it sits where gravel hills drain onto impervious London Clay which is churned up by free-roaming cattle that graze the grass areas for conservation, plus the number of visitors from the adjacent densely populated suburbs.
 One of Harrow's little known secrets is a herd of fallow deer in an enclosed part of Bentley Priory. Semi tame, they congregrate in a corner by a path where people throw apples over the fence for them. They are a dull colour from years of inbreeding.
 

 Losing my intended route again, I was by now doing my own thing and I had the unplanned bonus of passing the end of the large Summerhouse Lake, formed from a dammed stream and named after a cottage that once stood on its bank.
 
 The reason I didn't find the way turned out to be that the old farm I meant to pass by was now a huge building site surrounded by a new 2m high featherboard fence. Still off the route I left Bentley Priory and crossed a busy main road to enter Harrow Weald Common, which is wooded but with little ground vegetation. In parts it is very undulating due to gravel being dug out for 19thC roadbuilding. Eating a sandwich on a simple bench I gazed at Hertfordshire on the far side of a hedge.
 The south edge of the common is where I should have started my walk, but Harrow Council closed the car park here in September "for maintenance". It was an extremely popular spot with far-reaching views southwards over Middlesex as far as the Surrey Hills on a clear day, but "landscaping" in the form of huge mounds of earth will prevent the view being seen from the car park in the future. The adjacent pub's customers are also deprived of anywhere to park, while drivers who now leave their cars on gravel pulloffs at the side of the road are being given 110 tickets.
 Taking a different route back through Harrow Weald Common I passed a remaining section of Grimsdyke, the bank of which can just about be made out on the right of this photo. Historians are uncertain who built it, when it was built, or why.
 A grand house also called Grimsdyke was occupied by W.S. Gilbert, of Gilbert & Sullivan fame, between 1890 and 1911. He had the grounds planted with a  number of exotics such as giant redwood trees and the ditch by the dyke was landscaped into a series of ornamental lakes. One of these is where he rescued a young woman who had fallen in, an act that led to his death from pneumonia. The house is now a hotel.
 Hidden in the common is a small group of old workers cottages known as The City and now highly desirable residences, beyond which I rejoined my earlier route. Crossing the busy main road again I re-entered Bentley Priory. A level concrete path contours its upper slopes from west to east, with views in places of the towers of another City on the distant skyline.
 In late spring the diminutive adder's-tonge fern can be found in the grass here. Below are  a couple of older pictures of them.

 Towards the end of the walk, the imposing Bentley Priory building, home of Bomber Command in World War 2 and now a museum, sits at the top of the slopes but I didn't get the photo I was hoping for because it is now largely surrounded by recent blocks of luxury flats, while the trees and shrubs around the perimeter fence have grown denser. Instead, here is a ray of late afternoon sunlight. I was out for 4 hours including sandwich break, so I clearly walked more than the intended 4.3 miles.
 
 

Dodgylegs

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Re: TR: Abiding By Lockdown Rules, 24 November 2020
« Reply #1 on: 15:53:10, 29/11/20 »
Enjoyed reading, always surrounded by history!

Mel

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Re: TR: Abiding By Lockdown Rules, 24 November 2020
« Reply #2 on: 18:15:04, 29/11/20 »
And I enjoyed reading that too. 


Well done for losing yourself in some lovely looking woodland  O0


That last pic of the sunlit trees is lovely  :)
Laugh in the face of adversity
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karl h

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Re: TR: Abiding By Lockdown Rules, 24 November 2020
« Reply #3 on: 18:25:14, 29/11/20 »
Smashing photos and an interesting walk O0
Winter afternoon sunlight on trees is always nice to see
show your love for Lady Nature. And she will come back again.
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Ridge

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Re: TR: Abiding By Lockdown Rules, 24 November 2020
« Reply #4 on: 18:40:02, 29/11/20 »
Lovely pictures.
I've walked some bits of where you were and it always is very muddy.

Jac

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Re: TR: Abiding By Lockdown Rules, 24 November 2020
« Reply #5 on: 09:11:48, 30/11/20 »
A delightful read with lovely illustrations. Nature and history a wonderful combination.  The Adder's tongue ferns are really intriguing- something I've never seen.
So many paths yet to walk, so little time left

GinAndPlatonic

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Re: TR: Abiding By Lockdown Rules, 24 November 2020
« Reply #6 on: 09:28:56, 30/11/20 »
A great trip and finding hidden gems is a big plus , when going off an unplanned route . :)
Virtue is more to be feared than vice, because it's excesses are not subject to the regulation of conscience - Adam Smith

barewirewalker

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Re: TR: Abiding By Lockdown Rules, 24 November 2020
« Reply #7 on: 11:33:07, 30/11/20 »
Great TR. Will look at this as my daughter lives close by the N circular and when I can start educating my grandchildren into the pleasures of walking again it should fall within our range.


PS. Peripheral grazing was referred to as Accomodation Land by auctioneers, as it was the often of value to butchers for temporary grazing before the widespread us of deep frozen storage. Might have been the use before the planting of Birchwoods.
« Last Edit: 11:38:21, 30/11/20 by barewirewalker »
BWW
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pdstsp

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Re: TR: Abiding By Lockdown Rules, 24 November 2020
« Reply #8 on: 13:04:06, 30/11/20 »
Lovely pics - it would be nice if some new blood could be introduced for that deer herd to widen the gene pool.

fernman

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Re: TR: Abiding By Lockdown Rules, 24 November 2020
« Reply #9 on: 16:14:36, 30/11/20 »
Thank you everyone for your kind comments.

To BareWireWalker specifically, I was expecting you to name the breed of cattle!
The birch trees weren't planted, they're just the natural succession from heath/common land.
It's a bit of a tiresome journey from the North Circular, though probably nothing for someone who has come 150 miles from Shropshire! Straight up the A5 would be a direct way from the A406. Park in Stanmore Common car park in Warren Lane as I did, or the top of Masefield Avenue, or the end of Old Lodge Way.
There is a PDF of the walk online in the form of an unfolded leaflet,
https://harrowncf.org/Bentley_Priory_circular_walk.pdf
but it's been done in such a way as to make it unprintable because you can't fit each side onto pages. Unless anyone knows better?