Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Grand Union Canal / Osterley Park (circular) – (Middlesex) – 19/05/09 – 7.5 Miles – Myself.

In various different route designs and formats, I have been walking along the Grand Union Canal and Osterley Park for over two years now, since I first tried to impress Helen with my local knowledge. Prior to that I hadn’t been along and around either of them, for around 6 to 7 years since my previous incarnation as a jogger/runner. As such they combine to provide as pleasant and safe a walking area as you are likely to get in London (or any other big city). However the events of last Friday 15/05/09, proved that no route is foolproof, so before I carry on writing about today’s walk, I have to return first of all to that one.

I think the biggest issue to come out of that for me, is having to decide what constitutes acceptable/controlled risk with ones personal safety when walking alone in remote areas. The first conclusion (future policy) I have reached is that it is perfectly acceptable to walk in as remote and far off the beaten track area as you feel comfortable with, providing you tell someone where you are going, and what time you are expecting to be back. For most of us however life doesn’t work like that, and if you had to find someone to give all this information too every time you wanted to go walking (or shopping, or anything), you would never get out the door. Therefore (and this applies to me, others obviously make their own value judgements) I am not going walking in future on my own, in remote areas.

So this brings me to the question of what constitutes a remote area ? Well looking at the complete opposite end of that spectrum first, one could always go walking around ones local municipal parks. There you could guarantee there would be trees, grass, and plenty of people always about. Unfortunately you could also guarantee that there would be a fair smattering of youths, hoodies, pit bull terriers, and all the sorts of other things that walking is meant to provide us with an escape from. So the complete other end of that then is to go walking in an area that people haven’t walked through for days. Unfortunately that was exactly what I was doing last Friday when I came across my ‘incident’ (the irony being that remote part of the walk only constituted some 5% of an otherwise perfectly safe route). So the answer for me then is to find some middle ground. I have therefore decided that the benchmark for me is, provided some sort of walker’s come through an area at least four or five times a day, then it doesn’t constitute remote (the clue being is that area overgrown with vegetation). Obviously this is not an exact science, and one could add that if there are signs of an area being used, but that usage consists of used needles and other drugs paraphernalia then that is well worth staying away from. Anyway that is how I shall play it from here on in.

The other no brainer of course which I failed badly on last Friday, is to always carry ones mobile phone. Not only that, but also to be confident that you can give an exact location point reference to the emergency services, should you need to summon them quickly (otherwise there is no point in carrying the thing in the first place). So armed with all these new rules, let me return to today’s walk.

This being another new route design for me, not just to avoid my problem area, but also to provide a new standard reasonable length walk, that runs from front door to front door, when I don’t have the time to travel out and do something longer. The weather was mostly bright with the occasional threat of rain and as usual the walk began in earnest along the Grand Union canal. The first photo here shows what must be one of the earliest one piece iron bridges in the UK (the inscription which you probably can’t see reads ‘Grand Junction Canal Co. 1820’). One of the things I like about walking along here is seeing the mixture of canal barges of those people on a permanent mooring and those people who somewhat inexpertly handle the locks on their holiday barges. In fact there are six sets of locks to handle in just the Hanwell section alone. Also along this section you see the turn off to the River Brent (which is part of the Capital Ring), and the site of the former St. Bernards hospital. A little further along one comes to the (triple) Windmill Bridge designed by Brunel that carries a road over a canal over a railway, quite a feat of engineering in its day. I didn’t see any Herons or Kingfishers today (I never can tell the difference) but they are not an unusual site along this part of the canal.

An ugly road walking part of this route is when I come off the canal and have to walk about half a mile along the busy Tentelow Lane to take the turn off that leads me towards Osterley Park. However last week having crossed the road in a different place I came to a small gate that takes me into Tentelow Woods and then across a small field, which cuts out at least half of that horrible polluting road. Whooa hang on a minute though I hear you say, are you forgetting the new rules already ? Well the answer is no, because the paths in this small wood are clear of vegetation which suggests to me people do come through here with some sort of regularity (I did get buzzed here today though by a noisy paraquet). Thus once across the field that takes me to the top of Osterley Lane I turned left taking me over the bridge over the M4 and into the meat of Osterley Park (as opposed to last Fridays walk where I turned right down Osterley Lane to thrash my way through the more remote areas of Osterley Farm).

To my surprise both Osterley House, the nearby restaurant, and the gardens were all shut at three o clock on a Tuesday afternoon (not that I required any of these). However there was some National Trust staff about, most noticeably one cutting the grass with his motorised thingy. So basically how I have worked this route now, is to do what I would call a loopback around the park, which does mean covering parts of the park twice albeit in a different direction. However it still makes for some pleasant and green walking, and I have always contended that any walk looks different going the opposite way. Eventually one has to depart the park, and with about half a mile along a not too busy road the walk finishes at my front door. Overall it was an enjoyable walk and a route that is a keeper. Also I can’t tell you how good it felt to be out today following Fridays trauma.
Now it is worth mentioning that this walk will now constitute my bog standard exercise walk, to replace the former six and four mile walks in these areas (and the unsuccessful eight mile one). Therefore this is the only time it gets a write up on this blog, and will instead constitute just a footnote at the bottom of other blog entries. So speaking of which, walks since the blog entry of 11/05/09 (1 x eight mile rucksack walk, and the walk on 15/05/09 which turned out to be approx six miles).

No comments:

Post a Comment