London: the step-by-step guide

Michael Leapman walks around St Dunstan's Church
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The Independent Culture
Distance: Three-and-a-half miles

Time: Under two hours

By rail: BR Hayes & Harlington (three times an hour from Paddington - twice an hour on Sundays)

Buses: 90, 140, 195, H98, U4

Car Park: Behind BR station

while the masses flock to Heathrow for their Easter flights to the sun, you can be enjoying a relaxing stroll through bluebell woods and along the banks of rivers and canals, just a few miles from the airport. The route is not directly on the usual flightpath, so aircraft noise is not much of a nuisance.

Turn right from the station entrance to cross the bridge over the Grand Union Canal. At the Old Crown pub, alongside the bridge, turn right into Western View, then go down steps on the right to the towpath. Turn left on it, away from the bridge.

A few willows are coming into leaf and on your left is a shrubbery, with blackthorn covered in white blossom. Across the canal is a stretch of industrial buildings, principally the large Nestl factory. Soon a rich aroma may signal that this is not where the firm makes its Easter eggs, but its instant coffee.

After passing under a railway bridge through a kissing gate, you are directly opposite the factory's old wharf, where mooring rings suggest that barges were once used to transport the products. After walking under a road bridge you cross an aqueduct carrying the canal over a brook, then pass under the new bridge that takes the Hayes bypass across the canal.

Immediately after the bridge follow a "Hillingdon Trail" signpost up ramps to the road. Turn right at the top to cross the bridge, descending to a busy roundabout. Follow the trail signs to the right of the roundabout and cross the road, then turn right.

After a few yards, just before the Crane pub, turn left down Watersplash Lane. At its end, follow a litter-strewn path through scrub, as it curves left and then right on to the bank of the River Crane. The path follows the bank, with an open field on the right, until it reaches a footbridge.

Do not cross the bridge but keep ahead and then bear right, away from the river towards the back gardens of suburban houses. The path now crosses a stream and enters a wood to approach the M4, where it turns right, parallel with the motorway, before reaching a subway underneath it.

At the end of the subway ignore the signposts and keep ahead through the arch of an 18th-century stable block - all that remains of the stately Cranford Park House, demolished in 1939. Follow the cobbled path around to the left, through a kissing gate to St Dunstan's church (above), with its 15th-century flint tower and a warm red brick nave, built in 1710. There are said to be some fine monuments inside but it was locked when I tried to visit it on a Friday morning.

Just beyond the church, enter Cranford Park by the car park gate on your right and walk to the right of the wooden fence alongside the road. When you reach the river turn right to walk along its bank on a broad, grassy path. Ignore a footbridge and keep to the right of the river, on the edge of a wide meadow.

Approaching a clump of trees, bear away from the river to pass to their right. Beyond the trees, with houses about 100 yards ahead - and the airport beyond them - turn right on a distinct cut grass path across the meadow towards a low wooden post in the distance, marked HT (Hillingdon Trail). Here do not take the arrowed path but keep straight on past the post to cross a low fence, then turn right on the footpath between trees and a hawthorn hedge.

At a crossing of paths keep left on a bridleway through trees, with masses of bluebells coming into spectacular bloom beneath them. On leaving the wood do not follow the high brick wall but bear left, keeping the trees on your left, to low metal railings marking the entrance to another subway under the M4.

Emerging from it, keep straight ahead on Fuller Way, which bears right. At the T-junction opposite some houses under construction, turn left and follow Cranford Drive as it curves right, then straightens up to bring the Nestl factory back into view. Just after the next right curve turn left into Crane Gardens, cross the main road and keep ahead on Harold Avenue, leading to the main gate of the factory.

Here take a left turn on Nestls Avenue, passing the company's well-kept heather garden and bowling green on your right. At Station Road, turn right to get back to the station.

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