Connecting to the elements; a Santera’s guide to London.

One of the great things about walking this path is the fact that it inspires you and obliges you to connect with nature, even in an urban environment. Hills, rivers, forests and the sea are all quite accessible for us. and if you need a Cemetery there are some fantastically historical ones to go to. Here are some of my tips on where to go in London;

HILL

Me on top of the Hill in Greenwich The Meridian Line
Me on top of the Hill in Greenwich The Meridian Line

London is not a flat City, there are plenty of fabulous Hills to visit. Please note my hill knowledge is quite north London based. Please feel free to add your information to this blog! Alexandra Palace is a great spot. It boasts a marvelous view of the whole of London. A good time to go is mid week, no one is there and whilst you are there,  you can visit the rose garden, the deer sanctuary and go boating on boating lake where there are plenty of wild birds and ducks. There is also Parliament Hill. This is a well known hill for revolutionaries. This is the Hill where Guy Fawkes plotted the overthrowing of Parliament; you can see the Houses of Parliament from this hill, hence it’s name! On a windy day, there is a lot of kite activity to be seen and again mid week day time is a good time to go. It is also accessible at night time, but  a word of caution, this is a well known cruising area.  Be careful that you don’t get lost in the dark and stumble over fumbling bodies. ( this almost did happen to me embarrasingly). Primrose Hill is another delightful spot, but not such a large hill really.  It is really pretty with a nice view of the Post office Tower. Apart from these Hills you could visit Shooter’s Hill and Sydenham Hill in the South, and Harrow on the Hill in the North, in addition to the Hill that is in Greenwich Park, the top of this hill houses the Meredian Line.  Lastly there is Highgate Hill which is a fantastic part of London since it also is home to my favourite woods; Queen’s Woods and Highgate Woods

WOODS

Beautiful Queen's Woods
Queens Woods

Highgate and Queen’s Woods: I just love these woods, they are so green and silent, and beautiful. My favourite time to walk in the woods is at dusk, when the light sparkles through the trees.  When I was a very young girl. My father bought me a book about British Trees. I was strangely fascinated. The book had a picture of each tree, the fruit it bares and the shape of it’s leaves and to this day my recognition of England’s most popular trees is pretty good. The trees in Highgate Woods are mainly Oak Trees and Hornbeam, these trees are particular to South East England and that is why these urban woods are so special. Highgate Woods was part of the ancient Forest of Middlesex whilst it’s neighbour Queen’s Woods is part of ancient woodland dating back to pre-historical times. Queen’s woods is smaller than Highgate Woods, but it certainly has captured my heart. It boasts, a stream, a frog pond and much flaura and fauna and birds of all sorts including the Cuckoo.  The gates of the Woods Close at dusk and open and dawn, and therefore access is limited in the same way as access to most parks. If you are looking for a larger Forest, then may I suggest Epping Forest. Epping Forest houses the Oak Tree, the Hornbeam, the Beech and the Birch, is home to rivers, bogs, Woodland, Grassland and Ponds, and is situated between North East London and Essex, lying in valleys between the rivers Lea and Roding. Queen Victoria named the forest the People’s Forest in 1882 allowing everyone to enjoy it. For those who enjoy a bit of drama, Epping Forest has criminal connections. Highway Man Dick Turpin had his hide out here. Anyone watching the Soap Eastenders,  Tanya tried to bury Max here and it was filmed on location! A most beautiful place to go in Spring time is Happy Valley Park near Croydon. During spring time, the woods become carpeted by beautiful Blue Bells. Me and my friends often used to take our children there on Easter Egg Hunts.

THE SEA 

Southend on Sea, really not far from London
Southend on Sea, really not far from London

I know you are in London, but a trip to Brighton is not so far away. One and half hours drive more or less. Brighton to be honest is not the most attractive beach around, but take a left towards Rottingdean and the walks on the stoney beaches are quite pleasant and one can avoid the tourists.  The nearest Place to London  to visit Yemaya is most probably South End on Sea, where there are seven miles of beaches and even some sandy ones for those of you who don’t enjoy the stones, not sure why. And the best time for me to visit these places is contrary to most people, not when it is not hot and sunny!  I like to go when nobody goes and have some quiet time to meditate. The good thing about England I guess is that you are never to far from the sea, since we are an island, take your pick!  There is some fantastic coastline and if you fancy travelling further, there are some amazing places to visit. The sandunes on the Norfolk Coast, Sandbanks in Poole Dorset, the Rugged coastlines in Scotland, which is your favourite sea spot?

RIVERS

River Lee
River Lee
Old Man River; Old Father Thames
Old Man River; Old Father Thames

I have researched most thoroughly into London’s Rivers. In particular Rivers where you can go up close and personal. You cannot seriously be in communication with Oshun from the top of a Major Bridge many miles away form the water ( ie Waterloo, Blackfriars, Tower and Westminister Bridges) surrounded by thousands of tourists. There are so many intimate spots in London where you can sit on the banks of the river in silence and away from the madding crowds. Indeed London is built around and on top of Rivers; most of which are now running underground. Everywhere in London holds clues to the fact that there was some river activity; Eg the word Byrne/Bourne is an old name for River. such and such Bridge road, signifies that at some point there was most probably a bridge there over a river. Have a look at this information that I collated a few years ago.

SUBTERRANEAN RIVERS IN LONDON

Incomplete List:

The subterranean or underground rivers of London are the tributaries of the River Thames and River Lea that were built over during the growth of the metropolis of London. Since it is difficult to stop water from flowing downhill, the rivers now flow through underground culverts.

Many London localities started their existence as small villages along these rivers, and their place names reflect their origin. Bourne is an old name for river so anything that has bourn or burn in the name is most likely to reflect that there is a river near by ie:Westbourne, Kilburn, Tyburn ( Oxford Street and Park Lane used to be called Tybrun Road and Tyburn Lane respectively)

River Thames – north bank from east to west:

The Langbourne

The Walbrook

The River Fleet (see Fleet Street)

The Tyburn

The Tyburn Brook

The River Westbourne

the River Westbourne is a river in London, England. It flows from Hampstead down through Hyde Park to Sloane Square and into the River Thames at Chelsea. The river was originally called the Kilburn (Cye Bourne — royal stream, ‘Bourne’ being an Anglo-Saxon word for ‘river’) but has been known, at different times and in different places, as Kelebourne, Kilburn, Bayswater, Bayswater River, Bayswater Rivulet, Serpentine River, The Bourne, Westburn Brook, the Ranelagh River and, the Ranelagh Sewer. It is of similar size to the Fleet.

The River Westbourne rose in Hampstead and flowed south through Kilburn. Kilburn was the name of the river at that point. It ran west along what is now Kilburn Park Road and then south along what is now Shirland Road. After crossing what is now Bishops Bridge Road, the river continued more or less due south, between what is now Craven Terrace and what is now Gloucester Terrace. At this point, the river was known until the early nineteenth century as the Bayswater rivulet and from that it gave its name to the area now known as Bayswater.

Originally, however, Bayswater was the point on the river where it crosses Bayswater Road, which was called Bayards Watering in 1652 and Bayards Watering Place in 1654. It is said that there is a reference to Bayards Watering Place as early as 1380. There were a few houses at this spot in the eighteenth century, and, it seems, a man called Bayard used or offered it as a watering place for horses on the main road to Uxbridge which is called Bayswater Road at this point (formerly Uxbridge Road).

The river enters Hyde Park at what is now the Serpentine, which was formed in 1730 by building a dam across the Westbourne at the instigation of Queen Caroline, wife of George II, in order to beautify the royal park. The Westbourne ceased to provide the water for the Serpentine in 1834, as the river had become polluted, and the Serpentine is now supplied from water pumped from the Thames.

The Westbourne left Hyde Park (both before and after it had been dammed to form the Serpentine) at Knightsbridge which was originally a bridge over the Westbourne itself. It is recorded that, in the year 1141, the citizens of London met Matilda of England at this bridge. The river ran from Knightsbridge south west through Chelsea into the river Thames.

The river leaves the Serpentine by the cascade at the eastern end of that lake. From there it flows roughly due south. It gives its name to Bourne Street, SW1 and follows very closely the boundary between the City of Westminster and the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. This can be seen very clearly in the meandering purple line down the middle of this map.

The waters of the Westbourne or Bayswater were originally pure and in 1437 and 1439 conduits were laid to carry water from the Westbourne into the City of London, for drinking. In the nineteenth century, however, the water became filthy and impure by its use, in effect, as a sewer.

When Belgravia, Chelsea and Paddington were developed, it became necessary to drive the river Westbourne underground in order to build over it. The river was therefore directed into pipes in the early part of the nineteenth century, work which was completed in the 1850s. Since then, the Westbourne has been one of the lost rivers of London, running underground in a pipe.

The pipe can still be seen running above the platform of Sloane Square tube station. It is located just below the ceiling towards the end of the platforms closest to the exits. The pipe is the original one constructed in the nineteenth century. Although the station was badly bombed during the Battle of Britain in November 1940, the old iron pipe was not damaged.

The river falls into the river Thames about 300 yards west of Chelsea Bridge. This outfall, from a pipe now called the Ranelagh Sewer, can still be seen at low tide.

The finest and most intelligible map of the whole course of the Westbourne, superimposed over the Victorian street plan, is found in an article by J. G. Waller, published in the Transactions of the London and Middlesex Archaeological Society, vol VI (1882) pp 272–279.

The map shows that the River Westbourne never ran as far west as even the easternmost extremity of Westbourne Grove (which ends at Queensway). The areas called Westbourne were to the west of the river, as is Westbourne Grove itself. That is why they were called “Westbourne” — because they lay west of the bourne or river.

Counter’s Creek

Stamford Brook

River Thames – south bank:

The River Neckinger

The River Effra

The Falconbrook

The River Peck

River Lea:

Hackney Brook

The River Moselle

River Moselle

The River Moselle visible above ground on its way through Tottenham Cemetery. This now-modest stream once posed a significant flooding threat to the area. (November 2005)

The River Moselle, also referred to as Moselle Brook, is in North London and flows through Tottenham towards the Lee Valley. The river was originally a tributary of the River Lee, but it now flows into Pymmes Brook, another Lee tributary.

The name derives from ‘Mosse-Hill’ in Hornsey, the high ground containing one of the river’s sources, and bears no direct etymological relationship to the major continental Moselle River.[1] The hill area also gave its name to the district of Muswell Hill and for a time the river was known as the Moswell.

Unlike the Hackney Brook further south, the Moselle is not a “lost river”. Although long stretches have been culverted (Moselle Avenue in Noel Park runs above the culverted river), it does not disappear into the London sewer system and much of its route can be easily traced. It can be seen flowing overground in Tottenham Cemetery (right) and Lordship Recreation Ground, and gave its name to the Broadwater Farm area between the two.

MY BELOVED PYMMES BROOK:

My Beloved Pymmes Brook
My Beloved Pymmes Brook

I absolutely love Pymmes Brook, this river has so many areas which are unspoilt, untouched, full of wildlife and remarkably people free! There is such a thing as the Pymmes Brook trail, if you follow it you will find some beautifully hidden spots, but it did take me years of visiting to find the good places, so set yourself a task and an adventure, discovering nature in London is most exciting! Have a look at this link, if you are local to Barnet, Haringay and even Islington and Camden. http://www.bertuchi.co.uk/pymmesbrook.html otherwise find out which river is closest to you and explore.

NEW RIVER, REGENTS CANAL:  Ok so these are indeed bodies of water but technically they are man made Rivers not natural ones. However the water supplying the New River comes from the River Lea. The New River is an important in London’s Water Supply. It is good to understand where your water comes from.

CEMETERY

HIghgate Cemetery; Peaceful, Historic
HIghgate Cemetery; Peaceful, Historic

Well you won’t find me here often since I have a taboo and am restricted in visiting cemeteries, but I can highly recommend a visit to the Historical Highgate Cemetery.

This of course is the burial place of many well known figures of history, literature and culture including Karl Marx. It is also a Grade 1 listed park. It is indeed a beautiful and fascinating place. For more information and photos please see this link:    http://www.highgate-cemetery.org/  Oya is the Orisha that guards the gates of the Cemetery, but she also is the Orisha of the market place. My next blog will look at where to buy necessary products and some of my favourite markets and shops!

So these are some of my favourite spots. You don’t have to be an Orisha Worshipper to appreciate the nature around you; but to me my path is amongst other things the ability and desire to connect with the natural elements around you, feeling their energy and warmth. It is about seeing the beauty in nature and appreciating it. Being fascinating and full of praise at the Sunset and Sunrise every morning ( Olorun) marvelling at the sound of thunder and force of lightning, ( Chango), being impressed by the power of the wind, and opening your eyes at miracles like the Rainbow ( Oshumare). This religion and path has been demonised, exotisiced, and put in boxes shrouded in mystery and fear; but to me personally, this path has just showed me the beauty of what is around me.

Rainbow over London
Rainbow over London

 

One Comment

  1. Thank you for this! I have just arrived and I was in desperate need of tips!

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