12th May 2020

We are following  Stephen Springall’s 1907 book Country Rambles Round Uxbridge and producing a new walk guide that illustrates the changing landscape.

As many people are finding right now, if you take a walk it can ease your mind; problems seem more manageable, sometimes we are inspired. This feeling of well-being can be amplified when walking in a beautiful place. Some of us love walking so much that we want to share the experience. One such walking enthusiast was Stephen Springall. He enjoyed walking around Uxbridge in 1907, so much that he wrote a book. Some copies of his ‘Country Rambles Round Uxbridge’ survive. He clearly saw himself as an ‘evangelist for the walking experience’ it’s not so much a route guide as a dramatic, flowery, evocation of walking. See the extract below, which begins :

‘Avast! Ye detractors of the beautiful! Avast! If even it be true that the old town of Uxbridge is not an aesthetic town, yet can we but with little labour, find around Uxbridge an abundance of natural charm…’

Another of his quotes succinctly expresses the long standing importance of the Colne Valley :

‘The Colne Valley in summer-time is by many simply worshipped…. Why the jaded chap of London looks weekly to this Colne Valley as the reviver of his hopes and healthfulness.’

Converting Edwardian Prose to Practical Modern Walks

Referring to Springall’s book enables us to compare the changes to the landscape over a century. But before we could establish where exactly his walks went, the walks had to be ‘stripped back’. This task has been taken up by Fiona Brewer, Events and Interpretation Officer, as part of the Walks through a Changing Landscape project. Her update below explains more …

‘We have made considerable progress ‘translating’ some of Springall’s 100-year-old walks into today’s world. Currently, we have eight walks incorporating Springall’s rambles and hope to squeeze in a few more.

Paul Graham, Colne Valley Park Director and volunteer, has been a great help, walking and transcribing the routes.

What have we discovered?

Well, interestingly, while the landscape of some of Springall’s rambling routes has changed quite dramatically, some of the routes themselves, have changed very little. In fact, some are so tried and true that they have lasted the test of time and make up parts of the Hillingdon and Colne Valley Trails, today. But of course, with increased urbanisation and the changes to the way people travel some of Springall’s routes have since been buried under housing, office buildings and busy roads.

Time has also brought other aspects which have tarnished the landscape of Springall’s once rural rambles such as littering, fly-tipping and graffiti. Yes, while testing the walks we did encounter such atrocities, which are sadly too commonplace in today’s world, but that aside there is plenty to enjoy and glorious views to take in and admire. The thought that we walked routes that Stephen Springall rambled over 100 years ago is quite magical.

Of course, during this unusual circumstance we are currently experiencing, some things have to be put on hold. But we are adapting and working through these challenging times and hope to have something for you to enjoy in the not too distant future.’ As Stephen Springall himself said :

Now do we again seek the pleasant ways of nature, and amid the softness of the green grass, the shade of the green trees, and beneath the azure of the blue skies, go boldly forth to ally ourselves with unfailing charms.’

The book itself and an extract.

Walking along the Slough Arm Canal : the Canal (constructed in 1882) would have been relatively new in Mr Springall’s time.

Some littering beside the Slough Arm Canal, of course the World War II pillbox would not have been present.