Highgate Cemetery Tour

On a glorious autumnal afternoon (we were so lucky with the weather!) a group of us were given a guided tour of the West Cemetery and then allowed to explore the East Cemetery on our own. Opened in 1839, as the inner city of London graveyards became hazardously full, completely neglected and overgrown by the 1970s and rescued by the Friends of Highgate Cemetary Trust, we had an atmospheric wander amongst the 53,000 graves with over 170,000 people buried there in.  Many famous names: Robert Liston (the 1st Surgeon to use Ether), George Michael, Beryl Bainbridge and some not so famous:  Elizabeth Lilley (Midwife to Queen Victoria), Anna Mahler (sculptor, daughter of Gustav Mahler), some buried in the Egyptian Avenue and Circle of Lebanon tombs or the Terrace catacombs.  It was a fascinating walk through history.

Written By Rebecca

Fryent Country Park

We had a great day exploring Fryent County Park starting with a tour of the stables. Dove, the current owner, told us a little bit about the history of the stables, her life with horses, and her exciting plans for the future which includes a lot of engagement with local community groups.

After helping to groom one of the horses we then set off westwards through the park stopping for a picnic lunch once across the main road. Over lunch one of our group shared her comprehensive knowledge of the park’s history. The ancient fields were once a source of hay to feed the huge numbers of London horses. Carts laden with hay would be taken to Haymarket to be sold and on the return trip would carry manure which had been collected from the city streets. It was then spread on the hay fields as a fertiliser and the cycle continued.

Continuing to the highest point in the park we ended our walk with a great view of Wembley and over the rest of London in the distance.

Easily accessible by public transport, this spacious park is a real gem.


Written by Caroline

Dunstable Downs Walk

If you haven’t experienced the view from the National Trust visitor centre at the top of Dunstable Downs you should put that right very soon – it is spectacular!  The gliders who enjoyed the strong thermals also had a good day but watching some of them coming in to land was alarming.

We went on this 6 mile walk on a beautiful Saturday morning.  The wind was strong as we walked along the ridge but once we got over the top and down to the Tree Cathedral this improved, although the mud churned up by the recent rain presented something of a challenge.  We enjoyed the fact that we were walking along the Icknield Way, one of the oldest trails in the UK – it was in existence before the Romans arrived.

The tree cathedral was planted by Edmund Blyth who served in the infantry in World War I and suffered the loss of dear friends Arthur Bailey and John Bennett, who died in the March retreat of 1918. By 1930 another WWI comrade, Francis Holland had been killed in a car crash and Blyth felt that all his friends deserved something more worthy in their memory. From 1930-1939, with the help of just one man, Albert Bransom, he began planting.  Trees soar upwards in feathery arches – tall limes, dark cypresses and strong-veined hornbeam almost meeting in the middle – with cedars and cypresses standing sentinel at the ‘west front’, always the grand entrance to a cathedral.

It is beautifully kept and we also enjoyed the precision hedge cutting which was being done while we were there.  

Shortly after our cathedral visit we enjoyed lunch in the Old Hunter’s Lodge in Whipsnade village and then continued our circular walk.  Our substantial lunch gave us the fuel to climb back through Whipsnade Heath up to the NT visitor centre, where once again the wind almost blew us off the hill with the gliders, but we settled for a welcome cup of tea!

Written by Frances and Rebecca

Hampton Court and Bushey Park

A small (5) group of us had a lovely day walking along the Thames from Hampton Court and then back through Bushy Park on Friday 4th October.

It was easy walking along a large loop of river passing desirable looking chalets (apparently built
on stilts so they do not flood) on Thames Ditton Ait, and a wedding venue on Raven’s Ait. After
lunch in The White Hart in Hampton Wick there was a bit of road walking before we entered Bushy Park where the stags were in fine voice at the beginning of the rut. We saw some magnificent antlers before returning to Hampton Court and taking advantage of their tea room before making our way home.

The weather was not quite as good as we could have hoped but much better than forecast so
hoods and umbrellas were not over-used and, although our guide book told us we had walked
10.9kms our phones told us that it was 8.5kms!

Written by Frances

Eynsford to Otford Walk

Many thanks to Yvonne and Angela for organising a wonderful walk on the Darent Valley path on Saturday 3rd May. A record nine of us (eight from NWLWI and one extra) managed to meet up at a very busy Victoria station to get the train to Eynsford. Setting off from Eynsford, we came across Lullingstone Roman Villa followed soon after by Lullingstone Castle, both of which looked like they deserved a return visit for proper exploration. We could smell the lavender fields some time before we came across them – and even this late in the season there was still one field in full bloom, providing a good backdrop for group photos. We had a quick look at the Hop Farm lavender shop, where there was lavender with everything, even chutney! Carrying on alongside the Darent we soon arrived in Shoreham where we enjoyed an excellent pub lunch. Fortified by our lunch we then climbed a steep path up through the fields and were rewarded by a wonderful view of the surrounding countryside (we knew we were in Kent because of all the oast houses dotted amongst the trees). We then descended again and re-found the Darent which we followed until we reached our final destination of Otford. As we were crossing the river, we suddenly saw some creatures disappearing into the undergrowth and after a lot of speculation and with the help of a local man who happened by, we concluded that they were mink! We were warned, however, that despite looking lovely and cuddly, they are actually very vicious creatures and the man said that they had even attacked his horses! On arrival in Otford we treated ourselves to a restorative cup of tea (and cake!), but while we were congratulating ourselves on completing a nearly nine-mile walk, we saw a large number of runners and found out that they were completing a mere 100-mile run along the North Downs Way. Maybe that should be our goal for next year!

Written by Catherine Jackson


Osterley Park and Grand Union Canal

A very hot walk in temperatures of 30 Degrees Celsius! We were well equipped with sunglasses, hats, suncream and water. We started in Osterley Park fields where we saw a heard of cows enjoying shade under a tree. We then made our way towards the Grand Union Canal where we helped a canal boat navigate a few locks. We stopped for a light lunch and a few refreshing drinks before continuing on to the end back at Osterley House.

Barn Hill, Fryent Country Park and the Welsh Harp

Having met at Preston Road tube station, Catherine led us on a sunny Sunday afternoon to Barn Hill, which has great views over London. We crossed the road to Fryent Park, which is a designated nature reserve before going onto the Welsh Harp, a large reservoir on which various water sports take place. It was all surprisingly free of people given how close we were to London. We took a train back to West End Lane and retired to a local café for tea and cakes, as you do!

Written by Angela.

Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park

A distinctly chilly first day of Spring walk around the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park following (rather haphazard and with a great deal of turning the map this way and that) the Art Trail. We may not have seen all the art on display but thoroughly enjoyed stopping for lunch at the Timber Lodge cafe for hearty warming bowls of soup and good conversation, trundling back on the overground together.

Written By Rebecca