On Saturday, we walked from Watford to Chesham. This is one of my favourite shorter walks near London: through Cassiobury Park and across the Gade and the Grand Union Canal, over the hills to the valley of the Chess, then some lovely green lanes behind Latimer and a back way into Chesham. The only drawback is the paranoid hamlet of Redheath, where walkers are forbidden to take a short road through the village, and have to make a long detour involving a stretch on an extremely dangerous road – narrow, winding, high hedges on both sides, no verge, and speeding traffic in both directions. But the reward for surviving that is a very good lunch with a pint of Badger ale in the Cock at Sarratt Church.
The hedges were rich in autumn fruit, especially sloes, haws, and rosehips; the holly trees are laden with berries just beginning to turn red. Autumn colours are already in evidence. There is already a remarkable crop of fungi on dead trees and under the hedges; I lost count of the number of different kinds. Wildflowers lingered in the Chess water meadows.
At Chesham we had another pint in the Misty Moon, and then caught the tube home. Recently the shuttle from Chesham to Chalfont and Latimer has been discontinued, and direct trains run. The trouble was that the train we went to catch was half an hour late; while we sat waiting for it, there were repeated recorded announcements that “a good service was operating” on all the lines that didn’t have engineering work (including, presumably, the one we were on). As someone pointed out recently, “good service” is TfL-speak for “normal service”, with all the delays and inconveniences that involves.
On Sunday we had a more modest trip, to see changes in public transport in our neighbourhood: a new westbound platform at Whitechapel (in use since last week), and the DLR extension to Stratford International. The route of the latter gives views I hadn’t seen before of the Olympic site, especially the stadium (the other side is visible from the Greenway) and the rapidly rising Mittel tower, already painted rust-colour. The station is mis-named: no international trains stop there, the Eurostars to Paris and Brussels thunder through without stopping, but it might be a more convenient way to go walking in Kent.
I thought the time to see this new line was now, since the Stratford City shopping centre opens on Tuesday and things are likely to be very much more crowded. On Sunday, it seemed that only a few trainspotters were actually using this new link. When the other Westfield shopping centre in Shepherd’s Bush opened, I (all unaware) was trying to change trains at Shepherd’s Bush; it was completely impossible, since the press of the crowd was so great that they had closed the Central line station, and I had to walk right through the whole complex to Wood Lane to get a train.
Then on Monday I read about Diamond Geezer‘s weekend. It was almost this one in reverse. On Saturday he went to Stratford International, and on Sunday took the Metropolitan line to Amersham for the festival.
In fact, the parallel was even closer. Not so long ago I wrote about a day out at the Rickmansworth festival. This involved the same “heritage transport” as DG had taken: 1938 Tube stock, Sarah Siddons, and the prototype Routemaster from the LT museum, then some time enjoying the festival.