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BOSTON MANOR Piccadilly Line (Heathrow)   
A circular walk of about four miles along the  River Brent/Grand Union Canal from Boston Manor Tube station, taking in the famous Hanwell flight of locks and Brunel's amazing Windmill LaneThree Bridges. Can be extended to visit Boston Manor Park 

From the station turn left and walk about five minutes until the Capital Ring sign at Haslemere Avenue (unmarked at this point). Go down the tree-lined road, cross Southdown Avenue to Wyke Gardens and pass through the wooden gate ahead.
Take the left hand track signed Capital Ring and follow this fenced way, continuing straight on at a crossroads. The route is now a pleasant woodland wander leading down to where the River Brent  has been canalised. Turn right on the tow path, away from the noisy M4 and go over a footbridge.   Soon you will be at Osterley Lock. Continue along the tow path - in summer the vegetation is very lush, with a great variety of wild flowers.

Further along there are some factories on the other side of the river. Look out for the large plaque commemorating a 1959 pile driving competition next to the tow path, and just after Trumpers Way Bridge note the old factory chimney. After the next bend houseboats are moored. It's always fascinating to see how river folk live, but please respect their privacy - I did ask the owner of Sweet Dreams permission to publish his photo.

The next place to pause is Green Lane where you fill find some pretty Victorian cottages and a pub (The Fox Stop).  At this point the River Brent turns north west, away from what is now the Grand Union Canal, and you are at the Hanwell flight of 6 locks.  Running alongside the locks for a considerable distance is a  high  tall wall which marks the boundary of the old Hanwell Mental Hospital famous in its time for treating inmates with kindness in an era when this was by no means the norm. There are several rectangular holes through which water from the canal could be pumped by hoses in the event of a fire, and an arch (bricked up) where the coal supplies were delivered to Asylum Dock. The hospital used to be self-sufficient in fruit and vegetables  - and ale (the building by the wall was the brewery). Anything over would be sent to market via the canal.      

Glancing across the lock you will see a rather creepy pair of steps leading right down to the canal. The shallow steps in the water on the tow path side were to enable horses that fell into the canal to be rescued comparatively easily.

About ten minutes after the last lock is a unique engineering feat of considerable interest to Brunel fans. Called the Three Bridges, and one of his last projects, there are actually only two crossings. A bridge already existed over the canal before Brunel decided to take the GWR line in a cutting under both the canal and Windmill Lane bridge. Thus the railway runs at the lowest level, then the Grand Union Canal crosses it, last comes the road bridge - all intersecting at different angles. Not a visually elegant solution to a difficult problem, it has nonetheless stood the test of time and is still in use after 150 years. It's a bit strange standing on the canal bridge where the water and the path on which you are standing  are contained in a giant trough. In the photos below you can see the the iron girders which support the road above the canal and tow-path, while far down below is the railway line.

From Windmill Lane  turn back and walk as far as Trumpers Way bridge, noticing how much the ground level drops (about 50 feet in half a mile ) - the reason for all those locks.  Immediately after the bridge are some steps leading up to a broad gravel trail.  This return route* takes you up through Elthorne Park Extension. It leads away from the canal, but is an attractive trail with lovely views down to the water. At the top of the steps take the right hand fork and at the intersection take the lower right hand track and stay on it as it bends to the left, following the line of the river. At the next fork continue ahead, downhill. When you see the tow path again do not join it, but cross the concrete/grass area left to reach a fairly steep hill (There's a bench half way up).  At the top is another bench and a large statue of a deer. Take the narrow path to the right, skirting the playing field.  At the end go left to pick up the path back to Boston Manor Road. Turn right to return to the Tube station.

If you wish to visit  Boston Manor Park, continue past the station for about five minutes. The handsome Jacobean house itself is only open on summer weekends and Bank Holidays, but you can access the park every day and it has some magnificent cedar trees, as well as ornamental lawns and a children's play area.

*Although it is possible to continue all the way along the tow path to Boston Manor Park from here, the canal further east is quite noisy from both the motorway and adjacent industry. Also, access to the park is a bit tricky, involving passing under the M4 bridge - not a particularly enjoyable experience.

Safety note: Please watch out/listen for cyclists along the tow path. This route is not recommended for small children or wheelchair users.               

Photos(to enlarge, click on image)
'Sweet Dreams'
Old factory chimney at Trumpers Bridge/ Hanwell Flight
Old asylum wall/firehose hole
General view of Asylum Dock
Steps at  Asylum Dock/horse ramp
Three Bridges - view from towpath
Three Bridges view from Windmill Lane
Boston Manor house
Heron at Lock No. 93

This is just one route from the many to be found at London Tube Rambles. There are architectural gems, beautiful country views, historic places and quirky buildings to be found in the area covered by the outer London Underground stations. Usually the discoveries are within a mile of the Tube - often only five minutes walk away. If you reached this as an individual page via a search engine, you might like to click on the link above and see the other destinations explored. You'll be amazed at what's out there!

© DR