West Ruislip to Bull’s Bridge; 1 November 2014

Yeading Brook, Ickenham, London

Yesterday we went for a walk. The weather, although not as warm as Friday, when the temperature reached seventy in London, remained pleasantly sunny and very mild for the time of year.

At one time or another I have visited most of the London Underground termini, but I had never been to West Ruislip before, so we planned to take the Central line to its western end, then walk south-east along the Yeading Brook and Grand Union Canal, finishing at Osterley Park. In the event we only got as far as Bull’s Bridge.

We began by taking the Overground from Harringay to Shepherd’s Bush. Exiting the railway station, we diverged from the crowds streaming into Westfield, crossed the road to the separate tube station, and from there continued our journey by Tube.

Other than suburban houses, there’s nothing much at West Ruislip, the older and more significant settlements in the area being Ruislip proper, to the north, and Ickenham, to the south, so we headed straight away down the main road to a turn-off at Austin’s Lane.

The Hillingdon Trail then took us south-east towards Ickenham Marsh nature reserve, where we first encountered the Yeading Brook. The path through fields by the brook was pleasant, although we soon began to hear the noise of the traffic on the A40, which the brook crosses via an underpass.

Skirting Northolt aerodrome, the occasional sounds of jets taxiing and taking off began to be replaced by the distant clatter of gunfire from the West London Shooting Grounds as we passed through the ancient woodlands of Gutteridge Wood (thought to be a corruption of Great Hedge Wood) and Ten Acres.

The going was still relatively pleasant, but I was getting fed up with the endless illustrated information boards provided by the London Wildlife Trust, which seems to be in charge of all the small nature reserves along or near the brook. I craved an out-of-the-way old church, earthwork, or similar point of interest, but there appeared to be nothing like that along our route, so my mood began to change for the worse.

By the time we reached Yeading Brook Meadows, where the brook flows though playing fields and expanses of featureless grassland edged by roads and suburban housing, I was becoming not only tired but bored, although I was briefly revived by the sight of a sign saying Middlesex Scrap Metals. (To be fair, Yeading Brook Meadows forms an important local nature reserve; I just didn’t enjoy trudging through it.)

Not far from Southall, the southbound Hillingdon Trail switches from the Yeading Brook to the adjacent Grand Union Canal. The brook continues to flow south, parallel to the canal, but parts of it seem from the map not to be publicly accessible, so we elected to play it safe and stick to the main footpath route.

Along the canal, the setting sun began to shine brightly, but the fact it was directly in our eyes as we walked, and there was hardly anything of photographic interest to be illuminated on the canal banks, meant it was just a further source of irritation.

Southall, London
Above: View from the Grand Union Canal towpath near Southall

Around sunset, we reached Bull’s Bridge Junction, where we decided to call it a day. Climbing up the multiple-switchback walkway from the towpath to The Parkway (A312), we spotted the Yeading Brook far below. Its hemmed-in banks were still wooded but strewn with hundreds of beer cans and other rubbish, as it appeared to pass beneath the canal through a tunnel or underpass, emerging beyond as the River Crane. The sight of the deserted brook from our high vantage point, at dusk, flowing through no man’s land, was an odd highlight of an otherwise dull walk.

Locating a bus stop by a large branch of Tesco (built on the site of a former canal depot), we boarded an H28, which took us by a rather circuitous route to Hounslow. There, we switched to the 237 to Shepherd’s Bush, and then the Overground back to Harringay Green Lanes.

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