The walk starts and finishes at Uxbridge Underground Station, which is on the Metropolitan and Piccadilly Lines.

This is a real country walk of 11.70 miles / 18.83 kilometres which takes in elements of the Celandine Route, the Hillingdon Trail, the London Loop, the Colne Valley Trail and the Grand Union Canal Walk. Often in deep countryside with no buildings visible, it is nonetheless almost all within the boundary of Greater London. The walk goes by river, woods and fields to Harefield - still a real village - and then heads straight back to Uxbridge along the Grand Union Canal. There are some moderate hills to be climbed and some stiles. Expect some mud after rain, however, especially where the route traverses bridleways. The walk could be done in two parts, using Harefield as the break-point, in which case Uxbridge to Harefield (Bird Lane) is 6.94 miles / 11.17 kilometres and the return is 4.76 miles / 7.66 kilometres.

 


 

1. From the front of Uxbridge Underground Station, turn right down the High Street. Opposite is the Market House built in 1788, and behind this is the medieval St Margaret’s Church which contains a coffee bar and toilets. It also has the curious monument to Leonora Bennet, who died in 1638, and displays a startling representation of skulls and bones piled up behind a grill.

Bennet Monument, St Margaret's Church 
Bennet Monument, St Margaret’s Church

 

2. Continue down the right-hand side of the High Street with the Pavilions Shopping Centre on your left, and use the pedestrian crossing to cross Harefield Road after 350 metres.  In a short while, turn right into Braybourne Close with Fray’s River on your right, soon forking right to continue alongside it. Go past two bridges, then over grass, to keep by the river again. Eventually housing becomes more sparse and the predominant view is of woodland. Fray’s River is one of a number running from north to south in close proximity in this area, including the Colne and Misbourne.

3. As a tall road bridge comes into view, cross the footbridge opposite the entrance to Alderglade Nature Reserve, then reverse direction on a drive, emerging at Harefield Road again by the former site of the Abrook Arms. Turn here and, in 25 metres, turn right up Gravel Hill to arrive at the 5.2 hectare Uxbridge Common. Go forward to just past the pond, then turn left to keep forward by gorse bushes, keeping parallel with North Common Road over to your left. Cross over the dual carriageway (Park Road) with care at the top left-hand corner of the common and take the path behind the bus-stop opposite. Turn right on a broad track to skirt playing fields then, in 70 metres, turn left then right towards the woods. On reaching these, find a track with lamp-posts just inside the wood, then turn right to take a footbridge over the main A40 London to Oxford road.

4. Now follow a bridleway as it skirts between woods and a school, to emerge at Warren Road. Turn right to follow a cycletrack, then pass a road junction and over a pedestrian crossing on Swakeleys Drive. Go over the bridge and turn left into Swakeleys Park, then keep ahead on the main path. As the path curves left, look right to the right for Swakeleys, a substantial Jacobean house.

Swakeleys House was built in 1638 for Sir Edward Wright, who later became Lord Mayor of London. It was later the home of the Gilbey family, who were in the wine and spirit trade and, more recently, offices for an American pharmaceutical company. It is rarely open to the public.

Swakeleys House 
Swakeleys House

 

5. Where the lake ends, turn left in front of the children’s play area. Do not cross the bridge, but turn right, with the River Pinn on your left. Pass tennis courts and continue to follow the river and through woods to come out on Swakeleys Road, a dual carriageway, which cross with care. Turn left over the bridge and through a gate on the right. Continue along the river, which is now on the right. After 300 metres, arrive at a bridge near houses.

6. A decision can now be made whether to view the medieval Pynchester Moat. If so, continue forward with the river still on the right. Immediately after crossing a culvert, fork right to find the moat, behind a wooden fence on the left. Explore at will, before retracing your steps back to the bridge, which then cross. Otherwise, if omitting the visit, turn right over the bridge.

Pynchester Moat is a scheduled ancient monument. Little is known of the site's early history, but evacuation in 1966-9 revealed the remains of a flint wall and a tiled floor. No firm dating evidence was found, but there are similarities with other sites that date from the 14th century.

7. Once across the bridge, turn left and continue alongside the Pinn. Another glimpse of Pynchester Moat can be seen along here. The river continues for some way along a meandering course. Over to the right are the backs of houses and, across the river, the flowers of lesser celandine (ranunculis ficaria) can be seen in early spring. When a railway bridge appears on the left, fork left. On reaching a T-junction of paths, turn left to arrive at the busy Breakspear Road South.

8. Cross this busy road with care and go up the drive signboarded “MSD”. Almost immediately take the broad track on the right, which gently rises and then drops to a lane at New Year's Green after a kilometre. Turn right along the lane and pass a pond, with Pond Farm sitting on the hill to your right. Just before the lane bends right, turn left through a gate, then between field boundaries along a track for 400 metres, ignoring the first footpath right, to head for Ruislip Woods ahead.

Ruislip Woods are a National Nature Reserve which were recorded in the Domesday Book in 1086, and belonged to the Knights Hospitallers of St John in the 13th century. The woods are a remnant of the forest which covered much of Middlesex in prehistoric times. Trees here include common oak, sessile oak, hornbeam, silver birch, beech, sweet chestnut, alder, holly and aspen. The wood we are about to enter is Bayhurst Wood, the most westerly of the Ruislip Woods.

The approach to Bayhurst Wood 
The approach to Bayhurst Wood

 

9. Just before the swing gate into the woods, turn right to follow the bridleway, which first skirts the wood, then penetrates it. As the wire fence on the right comes to an end, turn sharp right along a broad track heading uphill at a Hillingdon Trail signpost. The track penetrates deeper into the wood, but there is little scope for going wrong, as the bridleway is well signposted. Ignoring any side paths, continue on the obvious track, as it gently rises and then descends gradually to pass an information board and a hut.

10. Eighty metres past the hut, go left past the metal barrier into the carpark. Keeping near its left-hand side, cross to the far end, leaving on a clear path by a recumbent log and a fallen tree. Follow this path onwards through the woods and pass picnic tables. Continue in the same direction, about fifty metres from the edge of the wood, with views over to the right. Gradually our path approaches, then runs next to, a muddy bridleway, but we stay on our drier footpath for a while. Ignore a left turn uphill and carry on. Eventually, descend a dip and go through wooden barriers to walk on the bridleway for a short while.

11. At the junction, ignore a second uphill path left, but keep forward. Just around the bend, look for a fenced-off path on the right for walkers, which will keep you off the muddy bridleway. The path now drops downhill. Ignore the stile on the right, still keeping forward to pass under power lines, a field now over to the left. At the top right-hand corner of the field, ignore the left bend, but take the narrow path on the right, to pass alongside shacks and through a spinney, then cross a stile and go uphill along the right-hand edge of a large field. At the top, be sure to look back and enjoy the extensive view over the woods and beyond.

Autumn colours south of Harefield 
Autumn colours south of Harefield

 

12. At the top of this field, go over the stile and immediately right over yet another by the HT signpost. Now follow a broad track along the left-hand edge of a wood. The track veers away from the wood, dips and rises again to pass a line of oaks on your right. The views to the left are of the Colne Valley, looking over into Buckinghamshire. Turn left downhill on reaching the top of the field, with a hedge now on your right. At the end of the hedge, turn left at the HT signpost to follow a downhill path through trees. Stay with the main path, as it passes some ponds, until Harefield Church comes into view. Follow the churchyard wall, then pass through the wall gap into the churchyard to descend to the gates just past the church.

Harefield Church dates back to the 12th century, but there is a variety of work of many periods. John Betjeman considered it to be the most exciting church in Middlesex; the interior is crowded with fine things. Unfortunately it has to be kept locked, but arrangements can be made for access. On its outside, note the fine monument of 1744 to Robert Mossendew - replete with pious verse - on the north-east corner, and the fine chequerwork and blocked doorway of the south aisle, before leaving the churchyard by the lantern-surmounted gates.

13. Turn right along the lane to Church Hill, and turn right after crossing with care. The building at the top of the hill is the Derby Almshouses, built soon after 1637. Continue past Lovett Road and Countess Close and, after another 100 metres, turn left down Bird Lane. If in need of refreshment, pubs and shops can be found by continuing towards the crossroads, where the village green also allows for a picnic stop. Then retrace your steps back to Bird Lane.

Drop-out Point: From Harefield High Street, the 331 bus runs to Uxbridge and Ruislip Underground Stations, and bus route U9 connects back to Uxbridge.

14. Follow Bird Lane over an estate road and downhill along an earthen track. At the bottom, ignore a stile into a field and continue, this time uphill, on the track. The top of the rise affords the first view of the lakes running all along the Colne Valley — over fifty in number from Rickmansworth to Church Lammas, Staines. Glimpses of these lakes can be seen along much of the way along our return route. Most of the lakes are former gravel extraction sites, and many now have a variety of recreational uses.

15. Turn left at the T-junction here and continue on the main path, which soon descends through trees. When you emerge, cross a stile into a field and turn half-right downhill towards buildings. Cross a stile by an information board about Harefield Locks, then go ahead along a lane. At the junction by buildings, turn left over the canal bridge. Turn right at Black Jack’s Lock adjacent, then right again to pass under the bridge, and continue with the Grand Union Canal on your left. In passing, note the tow-rope damage to the iron strips under the bridge. Black Jack’s Lock is named after the nearby mill. Black Jack himself was supposedly a slave once sold with the property, although the evidence for this is doubtful. A Doctor Who episode was filmed at the mill in 1988.

The descent to Black Jack's Lock 
The descent to Black Jack’s Lock

 

Our way back to Uxbridge is now straightforward to follow, as we keep along the canal almost the entire way. The Grand Union Canal connects London to Birmingham and beyond. It was formerly known as the Grand Junction Canal, the name being changed in 1929, when a number of different canals were amalgamated together. There are more points of interest and opportunities for refreshment on our way.

16. After 1½ kilometres, Wide Water Lock and Bridge 180 are reached, from where the Horse and Barge pub can be accessed. The extensive Harefield Marina then begins on the other side of the canal and is partly hidden by a half-drowned hedgerow. Just over another kilometre takes us under the fine railway viaduct, built as a joint venture between the Great Western and Great Central Railways, c1904, which carries the Marylebone to Aylesbury line. Footpaths off to the right now lead into the 28 hectares of Denham Country Park, but our route is resolutely forward.

Denham Railway Viaduct 
Denham Railway Viaduct

 

17. Bridge 182, 900 metres on, has obviously had a troubled history; it has lost its original span and has to make do with an inelegant girder replacement. A large number of tie-rods seem to be all that is keeping this bridge together. After another 500 metres, we cross the aqueduct over the River Colne and arrive at Denham Deep Lock, aptly named, as it is the deepest lock on the Grand Union. Hard-by is a welcome tea room with under-cover facilities available in its garden. Just beyond this point, we pass from the old county of Middlesex into Buckinghamshire, and stay in the county until just before we leave the canal.

18. Soon the noisy A40 trunk road is again reached. Use Bridge 183 just before this, to continue down the towpath, which has switched sides. The outlying buildings of Uxbridge soon become visible and we pass by moorings. In just over another kilometre, recross the canal and continue for a further 150 metres. Take the ramp up to the road bridge, just past the Swan and Bottle pub, then turn left over it. The Parexel Building on the left was built in 1991 for a pharmaceutical company in a 1930's art deco style. We are now back in Greater London.

19. Cross over Sanderson Road. The Crown and Treaty pub (formerly known as The Place) opposite was the scene in 1645 of an attempted peace treaty between Royalist and Parliamentary forces during the English Civil War. Built in 1576, it has been an inn since c1802. Fork left uphill along the High Street, soon reaching Fray’s River at Braybourne Close again, then retrace your earlier steps back to Uxbridge Underground Station.

 

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If you have any comments about this walk, or notice that it needs updating to take account of changes on the route, then please contact Mike at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.