This walk starts from Acton Town (Piccadilly Line) Underground Station and finishes at Boston Manor Underground Station, three stops further on.

Paths are well-surfaced with no appreciable hills, although there are several flights of steps around the Brentford area. The length is 6.16 miles / 9.92 kilometres.

The walk explores a mixture of environments from the wide spaces of Gunnersbury and Boston Manor Parks, through to river and canal landscapes, and the vestiges of industrial Brentford. There are fine houses dating from the 17th to the early 19th century and some good modern architecture too.


  

1. From Acton Town Station, turn left and walk along Gunnersbury Lane. On reaching the North Circular Road after 400 metres, cross and continue along Popes Lane for a further 100 metres, then turn left through the gates into Gunnersbury Park and follow the drive to the museum.

The entry to Gunnersbury Park described above is currently closed while refurbishment work takes place around the mansions. This is expected to continue until mid-2017. To access the park, continue along Popes Lane, then turn left along the driveway to Capel Manor College and Gunnersbury Park carpark. On reaching this, turn left on a path by the boundary fence. Continue past a bowling green to arrive at the play area described in point 3. Turn right here to follow the rest of the walk. Turning left will enable some exploration of the features mentioned in point 2.

Many of the parks in the former county of Middlesex were once the grounds of country mansions, as is the case at Gunnersbury. The original house of 1658-63 was demolished in 1800 and replaced by a house known as Gunnersbury Park in 1802, (subsequently much altered in 1835), and Gunnersbury House in 1805. They are now unimaginatively known as the Large Mansion and the Small Mansion respectively. The site of the old house lay between the two. The Large Mansion, once home to the Rothschild Family, is now a museum dedicated to the history of the Boroughs of Hounslow and Ealing (free entry). It contains Victorian kitchens and the Rothschilds’ carriages, but will not reopen until mid-2017.

2. Go down the left side of the Large Mansion and take the forward path between lawns. The building over to the right is the Orangery. At the bottom of the slope, look back for a view of both mansions, then go past railings and turn left at the cross-path to view the Gothic ruins. These are a cheap brick imitation of a Gothic folly and their main purpose was to shield the view of the stables from Gunnersbury House. Now return to the cross-path and continue above a low bank towards the Orangery, then curve to the right past it and head back towards the Large Mansion. Fork left of the steps and continue to the cross-path just before the park café, (toilets can be found off to the right), and turn left to the corner of the Round Pond. New display boards here explain plans for the restoration of the park and museum. The classical temple behind the pond was probably built in the 1760's.

Round Pond, Gunnersbury Park 
Round Pond, Gunnersbury Park
 

3. With the pond on your right, walk to the end then continue on, past some fine trees, until a play area is reached. Turn left around this to follow an avenue of trees. After about 400 metres, soon after a slight double bend, turn right and, after another 30 metres, fork right to find Potomac Lake on your left. This was formed around 1861 from a flooded claypit. Where the railings bend left at the end of the lake, turn right for 100 metres near the edge of the park, to find a small gate on the left. Go through this onto Lionel Road North and turn left for 60 metres, then turn right into the playing fields of Carville Hall Park (North). Follow the right edge of the field until a path is reached, go left and soon turn right through a gate in railings. Go past play equipment to exit onto Clayponds Avenue, where turn left to the main road.

4. Now cross over the A4 (and under the M4) at lights, then turn left for 25 metres to enter Clayponds Lane on the right. Follow railings for 40 metres and turn left into Carville Hall Park (South). This is so secluded that it isn’t even marked on most maps! There is only one forward path through this cheerful little park, and even the proximity of the motorway and the tower blocks peering over the other side of the park can’t altogether dispel the charm of this hidden oasis. The house in the park was originally called Clayponds, then later Carville Hall, and was known to have existed in 1777, later undergoing a Victorian remodelling. Continuing to the end of the park only gives access back onto the main road, so retrace your steps back through the entrance gate, and turn left to continue along Clayponds Lane and over the railway bridge.

Carville Hall Park 
Carville Hall Park (South)
 

5. On reaching Green Dragon Lane (by Greenrod Place), turn left along the road; the tall blocks of Brentford Towers Estate are now on the right. A short diversion can be made by cutting through the raised green area with play facilities before dropping back onto the road. Continue as Green Dragon Lane curves right and passes the entrance to the London Museum of Water and Steam, formerly known as the Kew Bridge Steam Museum.

London Museum of Water and Steam: This magnificent industrial museum, with its 71.6 metre-high tower, is housed in the former premises of the Grand Junction Water Works Company’s Kew Bridge pumping station. It is now home to the world’s largest collection of steam pumping engines, together with a steam railway and a museum of water treatment and supply. The museum is open every day and many of the engines are worked at weekends. (Admission charge). 

Kew Bridge Steam Museum 
London Museum of Water and Steam
 

6. Now turn left into Kew Bridge Road and follow it as far as the Express Tavern. Turn right over the controlled crossing to negotiate the busy junction and go down the sloping road to the right of Kew Bridge.

Drop-out Point: Several bus routes are available from near this junction and connect with Brentford, Richmond and Chiswick. Kew Bridge Station, from where trains run towards Hounslow and back to Clapham Junction and Waterloo, is a few steps past the Express Tavern.

Recommended pub: If you are in need of refreshments, the Express Tavern, built in 1882 and still having a late-Victorian feel to it, can provide both real ale and food.

7. On reaching the river, turn right along The Hollows. This narrow path threads its way between new apartments and the Thames, on which a considerable number of house-boats are berthed, some of which have their own post-boxes. Continue by the river as far as possible, noting Brentford Ait, the first of a string of three islands here. Eventually negotiate a slope and then steps to come out on Brentford High Street opposite the new premises of the Musical Museum.

Musical Museum: This museum, open Friday to Sunday, would be more accurately described as the Museum of Mechanical Music. As well as the more obviously expected exhibits, such as pianos played by paper roll, there are some ingenious mechanisms which play other instruments. The museum also possesses a Wurlitzer organ and recitals are regularly given. (Admission charge).

8. Turn left for 15 metres, then go down the slope into Waterman’s Park, continuing by the river. Opposite the park is the ragstone church of St George, built in 1887. It was the home of the Musical Museum for some years and is now (March 2016) being converted into residential use. At the end of the park, Waterman’s Art Centre is reached. Toilets are available here when the centre is open. Continue between the centre and river. We are now opposite another small island, Lot’s Ait, which contains a boatyard and is home to the rare Thames Door Snail, Clausilia biplicata, found in only a handful of locations in Britain.

9. Go down the steps to pass the back of an office block, then ascend Smith’s Hill to reach the High Street again. Turn left here then, after 100 metres, take Goat Wharf back to the Thames. Continue on, passing a new development of restaurants and apartments, then swing left around a dock. As you walk back on the far side there is a glimpse of the pink-brick Kew Palace, which stands in the grounds of the Royal Botanic (Kew) Gardens across the river. It was built in 1631 as a private residence, and began to be used as a royal residence around 1729, although the only king to actually live there was George III, incarcerated there during bouts of madness.

10. We have now reached the junction with the Grand Union Canal. The canal links London with Birmingham and was open throughout its length by 1805 — the section from the Thames to Uxbridge being opened in 1794. Follow the canal towards Thames Lock, clearly visible ahead. Just before reaching this, turn right to follow the edge of a boatyard back up to Brentford High Street. Brentford was once a heavily industrialised town, with a huge gasworks, breweries and a distillery, as well as the waterworks. There is now little left of this industrial past, but part of the atmosphere of old Brentford still survives around the boatyards. Turn left for 120 metres, then take Dock Road back down the other side of the boatyard to Thames Lock.

11. Cross over the canal by the lock gates and immediately reverse your direction by going down steps, recrossing the canal and going down more steps. Walk alongside the lock and go over a metal bridge by a weir onto Johnson’s Island. This whole area is a fascinating labyrinth of alleys and watercourses. Go forward now between fences and over a further bridge to emerge at Fuller’s Brewery Tap pub — another reliable outlet for real ale. Note how the pub has been designed with access on high as an anti-flood precaution. Follow Catherine Wheel Road back up to the High Street for a final time and, this time, turn right.

12. In 40 metres, cross the road by the lights near the Beehive pub and walk up the left-hand side of Half Acre. On your way, note St Paul’s Church over to your right, built with a tall spire in 1868, but extensively remodelled in the 1990’s. Continue for another 80 metres, then turn left into The Butts, the name coming from the area’s former use for archery practice in Tudor times. The street is flanked by detached Victorian villas and ends in a spacious square, the site of the Middlesex elections in the 18th century. The houses here date from the late 17th century onwards.

13. Make for the top left corner of the square and turn into the Market Place. On reaching the green-tiled Weir pub, note the board recording the stay of the painter, J M W Turner in 1785-7. Turn right along a short section of Lion Way by the former Magistrates' Courts, and leave by passing through bollards at its end. Immediately turn right over the River Brent onto The Island, then turn left alongside the river to arrive at the Grand Union Canal again. Ignore the bridge with the curved rising path, but continue forward to cross the second bridge by Brentford Gauging Locks. Once over, immediately turn sharp right (i.e. away from the nearby main road bridge). Pass a cast-iron marker inscribed “G J C Co Braunston 93 miles”. The initials refer to the Grand Junction Canal, the former name of the Grand Union. Braunston is where the Grand Union meets the Oxford Canal in Northamptonshire.

14. Swing left over an inlet and head towards the office blocks in the distance. The smart new apartments are left behind, and there is something of a surprise as the towpath disappears into a large corrugated iron shed, which is currently (March 2016) being rebuilt. It serves as a Maintenance Depot for the canal. Continue bravely on and the path emerges to pass under a railway bridge, then twists and turns, accompanied by new commercial buildings. Particularly impressive is the GlaxoSmithKline complex on the other side of the Great West Road (A4), the sky spectacularly reflected in the sheer glass curtain walling of the main office block.

glaxosmithkline-building
 GlaxoSmithKline Building
 

15. As these buildings end, cross over the canal by a wooden bridge, going through railings into Boston Manor Park. Take the forward path between the GlaxoSmithKline buildings and meadows — part of the first one of which has been designated as a wild flower meadow. Continue under the viaduct which carries the M4 motorway then, just past the carpark, turn left between gardens and a play area. Path and motorway gradually diverge and things become somewhat quieter as our route continues onwards. As we approach the vicinity of Boston Manor House, the landscaping becomes more formal.

Boston Manor House is a fine, if rather severe, Jacobean house, built in 1623 for Lady Mary Reade, who later married Sir Edward Spencer of Althorp. In 1670, it passed into the hands of the Clitherow family, who lived there until the property was acquired by the local authority in 1924. The house contains some fine plasterwork and an art collection mainly depicting local landscapes. It is open each year at weekend afternoons between April and October. (Free entry).

16. On leaving the house, return to your original path and continue past outbuildings. On arriving at the lake, turn left and follow it before turning right at the junction. There is a circular 650-metre nature trail which starts from here, but this can be muddy. Otherwise, follow the lake around and exit through the park gate at Boston Manor Road. The underground station can be reached by turning left along this main road, but for a more pleasant route, turn left again by the park railings down Boston Gardens, which runs parallel to the busier road. Continue on for 550 metres. When a driveway is reached on the left, giving access to playing fields, turn right and continue up the slope to reach the main road again. Boston Manor Underground Station is just over to the left.


 

© Mike Biggs, Ramblers (Inner London Area), 2016. 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.