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Tubewalker: The Tube, on Foot

Contact Me: The LOOP in Havering

Author Message
Alan Cooper

Subject: The LOOP in Havering
Posted: 28 May 2004 12:01 pm


Dear Mark
I am the Countryside and Country Parks Coordinator for Havering Countryside Service, London Borough of Havering.

I have just read your website report of the section of the London Outer orbital Path or LOOP leading through Havering.

I am extremely dissapointed with your assessment of this section of the London LOOP.

I am the implementor of this section of the 18 mile length route through Havering. The route was agreed by the London Walking Forum Committee and Havering Council.

My countryside officers and I have been working extremely hard to improve the environment in Havering for the past 23 years.

Implementing numerous tree and hedge planting schemes, clearing rubbish from woodlands and open spaces, working along side Thames Chase Community Forest, creating Greenways, working with the local community and enhancing the environment etc.

The hard surface paths, that you experienced, along parts the LOOP, are there for a reason....

They are there, not only for abled bodied people, such as you and I, but to allow opportunities for people who are less fortunate, who have mobitlity problems, including people in wheelchairs, to experience the countryside and take part in enjoying the London LOOP.
12 miles out of the 18 miles (66%)are wheelchair accessible!

The surburban areas and road sections that you have mentioned,along the LOOP Trail, are unavoidable - how else can we create a path linking the north of the borough to the south, without taking it through towns..?

The route around the outer London Boroughs is designed to link up with Railway and Coach Stations, so that people can get to any part of the LOOP using public transport, leaving their cars / motorcycles at home.

Railway Stations are normally located in towns..!

We are doing our best to promote the path, ofcourse it will be nothing like the South Downs of England, The Lake District or the Himilayas, but at least people who visit the LOOP can enjoy Havering's countryside and what it has to offer - including two country parks,the windmill at Upminster, villages etc.
We have to make the best of what we have got here in Havering - I cannot change the scenery or make the River Thames and surrounding areas more interesting.

Having said that - the current route is not cast in stone - where possible we will be taking the path away from the roadsides and off the beaten track - there are two planned new sections to be re-routed shortly. It is also proposed that there will be a new pathway linking Rainham Station across the marshes to the River Thames allowing people the opportunity to avoid Ferry Lane. So, may I suggest that you return to the LOOP in Havering in 2/3 years time...

In the mean time - I would appreciate your ideas on how you think we can improve the parts along the route that you report to be boring....

Incidentally - have you visited the sister pathway 'Capital Ring' linking the inner London Boroughs?

Kind regards

Alan Cooper
Countryside and Country parks Coordinator, London Borough of Havering.

Post a Reply

Mark Moxon

Subject: London Loop
Posted: 29 May 2004 5:04 pm


Dear Alan.

Thank you so much for your message - I really appreciate you taking the time to write, especially after the drubbing I gave the last day of the London Loop.

Before I answer your message, I should point out two things. The first is that I am a great fan of the London Loop overall, and I'm in awe of the great work that's been done on it. As a part of the team responsible for the walk, I just have to say a big thank you for helping to make it such a delight. The second is that of the 18 miles that you're responsible for, the first section through Havering-atte-Bower is a delight. Havering County Park is lovely and the field-hopping towards Paternoster Row has a sense of space that is a rare treat for us city dwellers. Day 14 is a great walk, and I have no hesitation in recommending it.

But you're right, I didn't rate day 15 as a great walk. It's important to note that I was comparing it to the rest of the London Loop, rather than the Himalayas or the Lake District, and it was in relation to the other 14 days on the Loop that I found day 15 so disappointing. You've hit the nail on the head in your message as to the reason. You said: "I cannot change the scenery or make the River Thames and surrounding areas more interesting." That's true, and at the risk of causing offence, that's the problem. By including this part of the world in the Loop, you by definition should expect comparisons with the rest of the Loop, and purely in terms of countryside, the area (in my opinion) isn't up there with the best, or even the rest, of the Loop.

It isn't alone in some areas, though. The section of the Loop through the suburbs of Kingston is thoroughly boring, and the stretch through Donkey Wood is profoundly depressing in parts. Day 1 from Erith has some ropey moments as it makes its way through the recycling plants and car dumps of Crayford, and throughout the whole Loop there are sections that it's best just to plod through. Luckily the overall picture of the Loop is a great one, but it would be a fussy and unrealistic walker who expected the London Loop to be free of suburban stretches.

Anyway, on to your points.

"My countryside officers and I have been working extremely hard to improve the environment in Havering for the past 23 years. Implementing numerous tree and hedge planting schemes, clearing rubbish from woodlands and open spaces, working along side Thames Chase Community Forest, creating Greenways, working with the local community and enhancing the environment etc."

That's great. Of course, I can't comment on how successful this has been as I've only been to Havering once - on this walk - but the fact that your environmental work has been going on for so long, and continues to do so, is wonderful. Thank you.

Unfortunately I still found the Ingrebourne a slightly sad, choked sight through Harold Hill, and there was a fair amount of rubbish kicking around when I visited (though as it's a conurbation, it's hardly surprising). Also, this is true for most of London, so please don't think I'm picking on Havering; the rubbish was far worse in Donkey Wood, and as for the poor old Turkey Brook in Enfield...

"The hard surface paths, that you experienced, along parts the LOOP, are there for a reason.... They are there, not only for abled bodied people, such as you and I, but to allow opportunities for people who are less fortunate, who have mobitlity problems, including people in wheelchairs, to experience the countryside and take part in enjoying the London LOOP."

That's a very laudable aim, and I wish I'd known that this was one of the reasons behind the hard paths, as they might have annoyed me less on day 15. However, looking at this in the context of the London Loop as a whole, most of the Loop makes a virtue of getting off the tarmac and into the countryside, so from an able-bodied walkers' point of view, day 15 has just too much tarmac to pound.

At the risk of slipping up and saying something I don't mean, the fact that this section of the Loop has been made suitable for the disabled is excellent, but because tarmac is very heavy on the feet, this has the side effect of making the path far less pleasant for walkers like myself. To justify the tarmac by saying it's suitable for disabled walkers is, if I might be so bold, avoiding the criticism I'm making, which is that for walkers - the major users of the London Loop - this section is quite literally a pain. Justifying this by saying that 66% of the 18 miles is suitable for wheelchair access is, I think, missing the point.

"The surburban areas and road sections that you have mentioned, along the LOOP Trail, are unavoidable - how else can we create a path linking the north of the borough to the south, without taking it through towns..?"

I agree - I don't think I say otherwise. But that doesn't mean I have to enjoy them, or to claim they're great walking. They're not, and if you look at my Loop writing, you'll see I don't particularly like suburban stretches, whichever section we're talking about. However, most of these sections on the Loop manage to join up beautiful stretches of countryside or stunning country villages, so they're unavoidable and acceptable. The problem with day 15 is that most of it feels like suburbia, and the highlights aren't quite enough to make all that trudging past pebbledash houses worth the effort...

"The route around the outer London Boroughs is designed to link up with Railway and Coach Stations, so that people can get to any part of the LOOP using public transport, leaving their cars / motorcycles at home. Railway Stations are normally located in towns..!"

True, but most of the rest of the Loop manages to skip round the conurbations successfully. Again, the interminable section through Kingston is a notable exception, but in Havering there are three very long stretches of town walking: Harold Hill is a very long urban section, Hornchurch is not too long but it meanders around, and the bit through South Hornchurch into Rainham seems to go on forever. The bits in between are only semi-countryside, and this makes is feel like a full day of suburban walking, even though there are parts, such as Hornchurch Country Park, the highlight, which obviously aren't.

"We are doing our best to promote the path, ofcourse it will be nothing like the South Downs of England, The Lake District or the Himilayas, but at least people who visit the LOOP can enjoy Havering's countryside and what it has to offer - including two country parks,the windmill at Upminster, villages etc. We have to make the best of what we have got here in Havering - I cannot change the scenery or make the River Thames and surrounding areas more interesting."

I think it's great that the Loop goes through this part of the world, as in walking it I've seen a place that I wouldn't have thought of visiting. The two country parks are excellent, but I'm not entirely convinced this section of the Loop does let people enjoy Havering's countryside. I think it lets them enjoy Havering's suburbia far more.

I also haven't mentioned the section from Rainham onwards. This is the really distressing part, again for reasons that I would assume are beyond your control. Ignoring the industrial park between the station and the Thames, which is obviously not prime walking territory, the Loop takes you down to the Thames at one of its most depressing points. I still remember how amazed I was to find that the Loop takes you past factories, dumped concrete barges (D-Day connections notwithstanding) and alongside a huge landfill site, before coming to an end by a rusty fence in the middle of what feels like the ends of the earth. And not only that, you have to retrace your steps back to Rainham, so you have to go through it all again. It's amazing walking, but only because it's hard to know how to make the Loop end on a lower note. I kid you not - I was gutted to reach the end of such a great walk in such miserable environs.

The new pathway linking Rainham to the Thames across the marshes is a very welcome addition, though. There are two further proposed path changes noted in the guidebook - a shortcut into Rainham that continues along the Ingrebourne and the continuation of the Loop to Purfleet - which would improve things no end. If I had to suggest another option to improve things, I would take the Loop round to the north-east of Harold Hill and through Dagnam Park, then south through Harold Park and past Bleasend Farm. The access to Harold Wood station could go west along the B-road while the Loop continued south, ideally following the pylons. Then again, I have no idea what the land access issues are round here, so it's a bit pointless speculating too much!

"Incidentally - have you visited the sister pathway 'Capital Ring' linking the inner London Boroughs?"

I've just bought the route book - it looks very interesting. All I need now is a nice summer to go exploring; if it's as good as the Loop, I'm in for a treat.

Anyway, thanks again for your message, and I hope I haven't waffled on too much. It's worth bearing in mind that I'm just one voice out there in the walking community, and I'm sure there are plenty of people who disagree with my harsh take on day 15. I'm still grateful to have visited Havering, and I wish you all the best with continued development of the area.

Best wishes,

Mark

Post a Reply

Alan Cooper

Subject: Re: Your Message
Posted: 1 Jun 2004 10:41 am


Hello Mark

Thank you for your detailed reply and useful / interesting comments....

....Havering is Havering, with all it's pimples and spots!

I am hoping that in 2 or 3 years time, sections of the route will be much improved, including an alternative route around Harold Hill......

In some cases it all depends on the cooperation of private landowners......to allow us to create paths, which will go through their land and whether they are prepared to open parts up for walkers etc.

I shall keep you posted with any significant updates, in the future.

If you are planning any future visit to a mountainous region in the world, could you please cut off a chunk, place it in your rucksack and bring it back to Havering - cause I know a place where it can be go!!

Kind regards

Alan

Post a Reply

Mark Moxon

Subject: Thanks for listening
Posted: 1 Jun 2004 1:29 pm


Hi Alan.

Many thanks for listening! I wish you luck in developing the Loop through Havering, and I look forward to being able to visit it in a few years' time to write a glowing review...

Here's to Havering!

All the best,

Mark

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