Sunday, 11 November 2012

The Number 431 Route – Not

As we trundle around London, we frequently cross the smaller rivers and waterways that wriggle through the capital, and usually try to refer to them.  But of course there are often rivers flowing undetected beneath our routes.  A number of books have been written about London’s lost rivers, but probably the most useful, if you want to get close to them, is Tom Bolton’s London’s Lost Rivers, A Walker’s Guide

He offers eight walks, from the Fleet leaving Hampstead Heath in the north, to the Wandle flowing northwards from South Croydon:  and he tells you where they are, even if they can’t be seen.  You would, for instance, have to have your eyes skinned as you travelled up Royal College Street in Camden on the 46 bus, if you wanted to glimpse the Fleet flowing under the circular drain cover by the Prince Albert pub .  But if you got off your bus, and bent over the cover, you would both see and hear the river as it heads for the Thames. It's of course much more beautiful away from buses as it starts off at Hampstead Heath Ponds.

The River Peck, too, has an attractive first view in Peckham, having started on One Tree Hill.  It then vanishes underground,  travelling beneath the streets of south London before linking up with the Earls Sluice. This begins its life in Ruskin Park, overshadowed by King's College Hospital.

There are few traces of the Earl's Sluice, except for the occasional dip in the road, or stench pipe, and when it, now united with the Peck, needs to cross the railway, it does it in a pipe!

 Possibly the least known and hardest to trace of the rivers is the Neckinger, which wandered through the marshy areas of Lambeth, starting near the Thames before wandering south and then north again. 

There are fine views to be had of St Paul's Cathedral at the start of the walk, though much of its course in the days when it really was a river would have been fairly nasty, with tanneries, slaughterhouses and mills all making use of its water.

The Neckinger finally enters the Thames at  St Saviour's Dock.

These pictures were all taken by Andrew.  You will find many more if you look at Paul Talling's attractive book London's Lost Rivers

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