Drifting and striding with Geoff Nicholson - author of The Lost Art of Walking, and Walking in Ruins withcholson, author of Toff Nidrifting and stomping withcholson, author of The Lost Art of Walking, considers the narrower and wider shores of obsessive pedestrianism.
Showing posts with label London Loop. Show all posts
Showing posts with label London Loop. Show all posts

Monday, November 12, 2018


“Presently, with an excuse, he left me, asking me to put all my papers together. He was some little time away, and I began to look at some of the books around me. One was an atlas, which I found opened naturally at England, as if that map had been much used. On looking at it I found in certain places little rings marked, and on examining these I noticed that one was near London on the east side, manifestly where his new estate was situated.”

The “he” in that passage – you probably guessed - is Count Dracula, and Bram Stoker’s Dracula has been on my mind because I was walking again with Foster Spragge, a woman who draws rings on maps. Although perhaps to be more precise she probably uses the rings to create maps of a unique kind, but either way you understand the connection.

Dracula, like many a well-heeled immigrant before and since, moves to England and starts buying up property – a house in Piccadilly and another in Purfleet – that’s the place that’s “near London on the east side,” and that’s where Foster and a group of us walked – from Rainham to Purfleet, both in Essex – a mere five miles, but a vital and final part of Spragge’s 150 mile walk - Drawing Dialogue London Loop.

It was a terrific section of the walk to be on – starting early afternoon and ending at dusk, by which time the light was extraordinary and I was thinking of the opening of Heart of Darkness:

"The day was ending in a serenity of still and exquisite brilliance. The water shone pacifically; the sky, without a speck, was a benign immensity of unstained light; the very mist on the Essex marshes was like a gauzy and radiant fabric, hung from the wooded rises inland, and draping the low shores in diaphanous folds. Only the gloom to the west, brooding over the upper reaches, became more somber every minute, as if angered by the approach of the sun."

Along the way there were giant sheds and giant hogweed: 

Cats (more than just this one):

Outsider art: 

Concrete barges:

And much more besides.

Better scholars than I have asserted that there isn’t and has never been a house in Purfleet that fits the description of Dracula’s property there, named Carfax.  However I did see this place which with some modifications might be turned into a very cool, quasi-industrial home, though I suppose you'd have to work pretty hard to give it the Gothic qualities Dracula was looking for.

In Chelsea the next day I took a walk past Bram Stoker’s former digs at 188 St Leonard’s Terrace.  That didn’t look very Gothic either.  

Zoopla estimates its current price as £9,183,000 which is strangely precise for an estimate, and seems a bit steep even for Chelsea, but what do I know?  

These are the kind of things you think about while walking in Chelsea, actually while walking pretty much anywhere, these days.  Of course that doesn’t necessarily stop you thinking about the Undead.  

This is Dracula walking in the streets of London in the 1931 movie:

Wednesday, October 24, 2018


Last Sunday I walked from Uxbridge to Moor Park, Tube station to Tube station, most of it along the London Loop, much of it along the Grand Union Canal.  That’s not my usual kind of walking territory, which was an attraction in itself, and another attraction was that I was walking with Foster Spragge who is sometimes described as a walking artist, and at the very least is an artist who sometimes uses walking as part of her “practice.”  This is her:

The overall title of the project is "Drawing Dialogues on the London Loop," and it’s connected with an organization named tickbirdandrhino, the brainchild of Mat Clum, who was also on the walk.  It says on the website that Foster’s “current work involves a series of drawings created whilst investigating, walking and/or swimming in real time through specific environments - making marks that resonate within her sense of self and place.”  Sounds about right.

We met at Uxbridge station, which is quite a destination in itself.  Is it the only London tube station that has stained glass?  Surely somebody will tell me.

I was on Walk 9.  There are 15 walks most of them in 2 parts of about 5 miles each, though the last walk is 3 parts.  I’ll be there for at least some of that.

The project is partly about mapping.  We were following maps created by Transport for London and as we walked, Foster held a clipboard which made her look like a council official doing a survey rather than an artist, which in some way seemed a good thing.  It certainly stopped people asking questions.
On the board was a sheet of paper, marked up with a line of marks or holes.  Every 7 minutes as we walked she used a compass embedded in a clear plastic ruler with 2 circular holes in it (of nautical origin I imagine), and centered it on the spot marked by a hole, drew a line marking the east/west axis, and a couple of circles.  This created gorgeously inscrutable images that will, I believe, ultimately be used to inspire a different work of art.

We agreed that it would be possible to use this as a map to, as it were, reverse engineer the route, but why would anybody do that?

And so we walked – just 4 of us as it turned out – and we looked around and observed, and took some photographs. Much of the walk was quite watery;

There was some wild(ish) life – a fake crocodile (alligator?) and a real cat

And suddenly, as we got near to Moor Park, the path took us right into the middle of a very fancy bit of suburbia.  There were security cameras trained on us, so obviously we waved to them.  This part was wildly out of keeping with the rest of the walk and although I’m well aware of the contested evils of suburbia, I am fascinated by that kind neatness, by which I mean other people’s, since I’m quite incapable of living like that.  I am also a sucker for topiary: 

We covered about ten miles.  I could have walked further if I’d had to, but I was glad I didn’t have to.

This is Forster Spragge’s website:

This is tickbirdandrhino