London: the step-by-step guide

Michael Leapman pulls on his wellies for a waterside stroll around Wray sbury
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The Independent Culture
walking is a year-round activity and even the recent terrible weather does not rule out an escape to the countryside. On this pleasant waterside stroll last weekend, just beyond the M25 and Heathrow Airport, I saw and heard geese honking overhead, flyingin neat formation, while away from the water, ponies frisked in the damp fields.

After days of heavy rain I encountered some slippery sections but nowhere was it impassable or even difficult. Just be sure to take stout and waterproof footwear.

From Wraysbury station car park climb the steps to the road and turn left over the railway bridge. Go past the timber-framed brick cottage on your left and just before you get to the black-and-white timbered Tithe Farm Cottage turn left down a potholed drive between farm buildings, passing the farmhouse itself on your left.

Keep ahead on a footpath, with Wraysbury Lakes on your left. This extensive waterscape, where a stiff breeze forms mini-waves on the surface, was created in the Sixties by flooding former gravel pits and is now rich in aquatic bird life. Look out, too, for some clumps of glistening snowdrops on your right.

Soon you emerge on a road opposite the pretty Victorian Baptist church of brick and terracotta, with some charming reliefs on its walls. The house to its left also has good terracotta work.

Turn left on the High Street to pass some shops and take the first turning on the right, Windsor Road, passing the village green on your right. Just after the George Inn turn left down St Andrew's Close and go into the churchyard. Follow the path to the church entrance at the south door. Parts of the building date from the 13th century and there are traces of ancient murals in the chancel. The intriguing font has been put together from sections of medieval columns.

Leaving the church, go down the paved path almost opposite the south porch and through a kissing gate into a field, home to two shaggy and friendly ponies. Make for the stile ahead, partly hidden by a large tree next to a stream. Keep on the fenced path to the right of the stream and follow the footpath signs across more fields. As you approach two pale-coloured houses keep to the left of the wire fence.

When you reach Mede Close take the road almost straight ahead, with houses on your right. Opposite the second house turn left on to a footpath through trees, some recently felled. As the path reaches the Thames there is a dramatic view of the Second World War air force memorial on Cooper's Hill on the other side of the river.

Turn left on a path by the river bank, with views through the trees of the river and, beyond it, the Runnymede meadow where Magna Carta was signed in 1215. Away to the left is a white stone ruin, all that remains of a Benedictine priory founded in 1160.

Follow the path round the river bends until it ends at a high red brick wall. Turn left here on the path to Staines Road. Cross the road and turn right on the footway behind the grass verge. After about a quarter of a mile, just past a 30mph speed limit sign, you will have to cross the road again as the path switches sides, and for a third time at a sharp left-hand turn.

Just after the road crosses Colne Brook - a tributary of the Thames - turn left and cross a stile on to a footpath that runs for more than half a mile between the brook on your left and another large man-made lake on your right. Where the lake ends head towards a stile that leads on to a railway crossing point.

Having crossed the track, turn left after the next stile on to a fenced path alongside the railway. When this reaches Colne Brook it veers away from the rail track and follows the brook to the road. Turn left to cross the stone balustraded bridge to the station car park entrance.

This is one of a series of walks in the Colne Valley devised by the Colne Valley Park Groundwork Trust. Leaflets describing all of them can be obtained from the trust at Colne Valley Park Centre, Denham Country Park, Denham. Uxbridge, Middlesex U19 5BQ (0895 832662).

Distance: Four-and-a-half miles Time: Two hours Transport: Trains every half hour from Waterloo to Wraysbury BR (hourly on Sundays)

Car Park: Wraysbury BR Station

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