London LOOP Stage 5 Part 2: Ewell to Kingston-upon-Thames

Published 9 March 2016

Heron stood next to the Hogsmill River in Ewell

A heron waits for some food at Ewell

This is part 2 of my walk from Coulsdon to Kingston-upon-Thames, setting off after lunch from Ewell.

A hearty lunch of deep fried food – coupled thankfully with a rather good side salad – and it was time for me to leave Ewell and head back on to the London LOOP. The rest of the day would be spent following the Hogsmill River as it flowed from its source, to its end where it meets its mighty neighbour, the Thames, in the town of Kingston.

The river bubbles up at a pond in Ewell’s Bourne Park, after which it meanders for six miles through the suburbs, weaving through parkland and alongside playing fields. There’s almost always housing near by, but somehow the area around the river itself has been protected, providing the basis of a green corridor on its journey through north Surrey and into London.

Outside Tolworth the LOOP joined up with another trail, going by the name of the Thames Down Link; a 15 mile journey that starts from the Thames Path at Kingston and ends at the North Downs Way near Box Hill, thus linking the two trails together. This may also account for the trail’s name, although who could really be sure?

Thames Down Link and London LOOP waymarks on a wooden post

LOOP meets LINK

I’d walked the Thames Down Link the previous year, so I was now in familiar territory. Coming up would be the requirement to cross the massive A240, after which I’d re-enter the county of Greater London, where I’d find that the tranquil riverside fields and nature reserves of Surrey would be replaced by a horrendously overgrown path next to a go-karting centre. So bad it had been last time, that If I’d been thinking about it properly, I would avoided it like the plague and gone down the road instead. But by the time I remembered, it was too late leaving me to battle my way through fallen trees, avoid massive clumps nettles and stop myself getting stuck to the thorns of the never-ending bramble bushes. The path certainly hadn’t got any better in the 16 months since I’d last been there, and it was with a huge sigh of relief that I finally got to the end of it as I arrived next to a giant pub named after the river, and which proclaimed itself to a Toby Carvery.

Who knew Toby Carvery’s still existed? I certainly didn’t. There’d been a couple in the area where I’d grown up, both of which had long ceased to be; one now just a bog standard boozer and another that had lain empty for years before being converted into a garden centre with a restaurant. I had vague memories of stingy portions of meet and copious amounts of veg, and that was about it.

There was something about the place that didn’t make me massively inclined to pop in. Perhaps it was the giant logo featuring a picture of a man holding carving knife, or the fact that the pub was apparently “The Home of the Roast” which felt vaguely sinister. Besides, I was still full from my scampi and chips.

St John’s the Baptist Church, Malden Manor

A clash of styles at St John the Baptist Church

The riverside footpath had gone requiring the LOOP to wander aimlessly around side streets for a bit until arrived at a church close to Malden Manor station, and darted back into parkland alongside the Hogsmill River. The church of St John the Baptist was an eclectic looking one; the current building built in 1611 on top of Saxon ruins, the building had been extended first in 1875 and then again in 2004. Yet there seemed to be little effort made to blend the different versions together. Ancient looking grey flint mingled together with modern and older brown bricks of various shades, resulting strange mish-mash affect, like someone had just thrust two buildings together and hoped for the best.

My return to the Hogsmill was relatively short-lived. A little way along the LOOP, I was deposited at the side of the A3; the main road connecting London with Portsmouth. This was no quiet road, with a whopping ten lanes of traffic. At the core was a three-lane dual carriageway, but for good measure, each side was flanked by service roads for local drivers and buses to use.

Naturally there were few ways to easily cross this behemoth of a road. Houses lined each side of the road but whilst they were not that far away, the residents on each side were quite cut off from each other. And if the local residents weren’t well served with options for crossing the A3, the LOOP walker certainly wasn’t going to be. The only way the trail could get to the other-side was to take a substantial detour up the road, cross it using a subway, then head back all the way back down to the road again. A quarter of a mile detour, purely to travel a few metres to enter the Hogsmill River Park

To call it a river park was, perhaps, overstating things a little. It was just another strip of greenery next to the water, although that’s not to say it wasn’t pleasant, and soon the booming road noise was just a memory as I perched on a bench to rest my legs and watch the world go by. The park was full of dog walkers of all ages, and there was even a family dragging a small boat through it, although the Hogsmill hardly seemed deep or wide enough for such water based activities.

Hogsmill River Park

Hogsmill River Park

Less wholesome activities came at the edge of the park, just at the point where the LOOP headed away from the river for a bit due to the footpath disappearing.

I was walking past a convertible car sat in a small parking space when the occupant suddenly decided to throw all the rubbish out of her car, onto the path right in front of me; her waste almost hitting me.

“There’s a reason bins were invented, you utter slob,” I shouted angrily.

It was perhaps not the best line to come out with – but the response I got in return was far more depressing.

Laughter.

Loud, shrieking, laughter.

Suddenly describing her as a slob seemed like an understatement. A flurry of other words instantly sprang to mind. Moron and arsehole for starters.

Had I had more time to react – having seen the offense from afar, perhaps – I would have reacted differently. Believe me, there’s nothing that’s likely to confuse wrongdoers than being nice to them. I have, in my life, confronted several people trying to tailgate others at train and tube station ticket gates. In most cases I went up to them and warmly (and slightly loudly) congratulated them on their gate-jumping technique, and start offering them tips like “next time though, put your empty Oystercard wallet on the reader rather than just hovering it above. It looks more natural.”

The response is instant confusion. Obviously they start denying they did anything, but because someone is being friendly and non-confrontational, they don’t quite know how to react. How do you get aggressive with someone who has just told you you’re doing a “top job”. But the point is clear. You’ve been clocked. And if I can clock you, who else can? And will it be someone nice next time? It’s confronting the offender, making a point of the fact that other people do notice, and all without being confrontational.

Going up to this woman and shouting at her wasn’t going to work. But perhaps going up to her and saying “It’s alright love, I’ll put it in the bin for you. Any other rubbish you can’t be bothered wandering over to that bin 50m away that you’d like me to take?” wouldn’t have worked either. Although perhaps the later, and most unkind thought, of going over to said bin, carrying it over and pouring it into the back seat of said convertible would have been a far more satisfactory approach.

Still if you see a BMW 328i convertible, license plate P33 MAH, be sure to pass on my regards to its driver. And be sure to check they have any litter they need disposing of, before they throw it at you.


The Hogsmill River at Kingston

The Hogsmill enters into the town of Kingston

Berrylands passed by in an angry blur as I stormed up the road whilst trying to calm myself down. It was only as I passed the delights of a sewage works that I managed to regain my normal composure. What can I say? Call me funny, but I don’t like people throwing litter in my face.

It took a mile of walking down roads and paths before the LOOP re-joined Hogsmill, now on its final journey to the town of Kingston-upon-Thames. The LOOP led me past schools, offices, houses and even a former pub that seemed to now be designated as a ‘Centre for Useless Splendour’; something to do with Kingston University’s Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture apparently, although goodness knows what.

And then I was amongst the hustle and bustle of Kingston town centre, walking past its grand Guildhall, and the offices of Surrey County Council that remain in Kingston despite the fact that the borough of Kingston was moved into the new Greater London county in 1965. Every now and then someone suggests that this really should be fixed, perhaps by moving the council to Woking perhaps. Yet every time the status ultimately prevails.

Kingston Guildhall

The Guildhall in Kingston, home to the local council

Perhaps the councillors of staff like being in Kingston too much. After all, they can pop out for a walk on the Thames in their lunch hour. Well, who wouldn’t? I certainly did.

And with the sun shining on that mighty, could there be a finer way to end a day of walking? Even one that had been sullied by inconsiderate morons. The Hogsmill’s joruney had come to end, and mine too. Another stretch of the LOOP was in the proverbial bag, and for the second time on its journey around the capital, the LOOP had met the Thames again. Next time it would do that, it would mark the final steps on the journey.

Although looking at my map, that particular celebration was certainly still some way off.

The River Thames and Kingston Bridge, at Kingston

Meeting the Thames at Kingston

View all 60 of my photos from the day.

Rambling Man Walks the London LOOP

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