Church of St Mary
Full text description (pdf, 126kb)
Route Map (pdf, 500kb)
Distance: 3 miles (5 kilometres)
Time:approx. 1.5 hours
Bus 206 (Mondays to Saturdays) or 226 to alight at the gates to Roundwood Park. These buses also serve a number of stations: Kilburn Park, Kilburn High Road, Queen's Park, Brondesbury Park, and Harlesden (206) or Harlesden, Cricklewood or Golders Green (226).
1. START HERE
After leaving the bus, cross a small, low-walled green with a rose bed in the middle and enter Roundwood Park through ornate, wrought iron gates. Inside the park, walk ahead to reach a drinking fountain. On the right is a pond covered in white water-Iilies with yellow iris growing on its far side; note also the large weeping willow beyond. From here continue up the middle one of the three paths which fork away from the entrance. Pass a shrubbery and small aviary on the right as you head gently uphill. A number of mature trees can be seen. On the left is a white willow, with a silvery-white underside to its leaves, whilst on the right, beyond the shrubbery, is a pedunculate oak. The shrubberies here are good for small birds like blackbird, robin, dunnock and greenfinch. Continue up the hill and pass two stately Lombardy poplars on the right.
2. From here turn left across the grass and downhill to a fenced area containing picnic tables. This is the Roundwood Park Wildlife Area, details of which are given on the notice just inside the gate. Climb the stile into the nature area to obtain a better look. Return to the gate; a little way along to the right is the Roundwood Lodge Cafe, which has food prepared from organic ingredients. It is open seven days a week. Otherwise head half left up the hill, to the left of a group of four plane trees and past the left hand end of a shrubbery surrounded by a low stone wall. Follow the path ahead. To the left is a dead tree, and immediately to the left of this is an old lime tree. Follow the path up the hill on your left, to reach a circular tarmac area at the top. In the distance to the left can be seen Wembley Stadium, whilst beyond is Harrow-on-the-Hill. Closer at hand ahead are two adjoining Jewish cemeteries (one orthodox and one liberal), with their close-packed graves, whilst just to the left of these is Willesden New Cemetery with its much greyer-Iooking headstones. Nearer at hand you may hear the drumming of a great spotted woodpecker. Descend the hill to the gate in the corner of the park by Willesden New Cemetery.
3. Turn right out of the park to keep the red brick wall of the cemetery on the right. Turn right along Roundwood Road and continue over several other roads to the end, where there are some shops. As you walk along notice the pollarded plane trees; the plane is a tree which can withstand hard pruning.
4. Here turn left and follow round to the right to traffic lights; cross to the far side and turn right along the side of the dual carriageway. Go half left over a grassy mound and across the grass towards a churchyard. Enter through the gate and to the right is St Mary's Church, Willesden. Surrounding the church, but especially extensive on the side where you entered the gate is St Mary's Churchyard.
From this far end of the churchyard walk back and leave the churchyard through an official gap in the wall on the right hand side; a main tarmac path also leaves the churchyard here underneath an oak tree. Follow this path, past a school on your left, and the Church End Medical Centre on your right. Keep along the road with the railway embankment to your right.
5. Turn right to pass under the railway. There is a cafe on the opposite side. Keep left along Gibbons Road with allotments to your right (some overgrown) and a power station to your left. Where the road ends, take the path ahead, but first look up the path on the left which has a colourful wasteland flora alongside it. Continue with more allotments on the right, a red brick wall on the left and some ornate towers ahead, which will be seen in more detail shortly. The allotments along here are rather wilder than the previous ones, at !east near the path. Where the red brick wall ends look out on the left for a verge of flowers including the small blue flowers of germander speedwell and the purple flowers of salsify, a member of the daisy family. Just along here is the entrance to a new park: Brentfield Open Space.
6. After looking round Brentfield Open Space. return to the entrance and the path. Where the allotments end on the right, turn right along another path. This soon crosses over a bridge with a watercourse flowing beneath. This is the Canal Feeder. Beyond the bridge, turn left along a path which is parallel to the Canal Feeder but hidden from it by trees and shrubs. You are heading towards some new houses, on the site of the former Neasden Hospital. Before reaching them though, turn left alongside railings and out to a main road.
7. Cross to the road opposite (Meadow Garth). This very mundane street corner has been transformed in the 1990s by the stunning Swaminarayan Hindu Temple. Continue along Meadow Garth past the temple and then past a school. Cross Homefield Close and at the cross roads turn left for another view of the Canal Feeder. Go back to the cross roads and continue a short distance on the far side to reach the North Circular Road. Turn left and at the footbridge cross over the North Circular Road with a view of Wembley Stadium straight ahead.
8. Descend from the footbridge, turn right, and then turn left after a few metres to follow the path into Tokyngton Recreation Ground, and where the path forks, go straight ahead between small trees to a fence at the far side of an area of mown grass. Beyond the fence is a bramble and elder covered bank with the River Brent almost out of sight below. Turn left to follow the fence. Horse-radish is conspicuous to the left of the path, just before the bridge. When a footbridge across the Brent is reached; cross over this and on the other side head half right to a colourful mass of wild flowers, surrounded by a green fence. Then head back to the Brent and turn left along the nearside. Slightly upstream, the river has a wider section with gravel shoals. Continue until another bridge is reached.
9. Stand on the bridge to look at the view. The river is confined to a concrete channel; little vegetation grows in the water. Trees line the top of the concrete walls but, of course, the whole picture could be so much better, had it not been thought necessary to straighten the channel. Cross to the other side and turn left. The Brent is closer on the left now. Mallow and ragwort are growing by the fence further along. The path leaves the immediate riverside and goes upwards between planted shrubberies. To the left of the path look out for crab apple trees, as well as hawthorn and hazel. In the early years of the 20th century the land you are walking across now was part of Willesden Sewage Farm, which occupied this eastern side of the River Brent.
Continue around the grass between the path and the fence at the top of the riverbank. Beyond some metal posts the path dips down again to continue along the riverside, which is lined by hawthorn and plane trees on the other side. More hawthorn, elder and willows grow to the right of the path, with cow parsley, cleavers, nettle and bramble below. The vegetated bank rising up to the right makes this part of the path quite secluded, as the houses to the right can no longer be seen. Do not take the path up the broken-down steps to the right but continue ahead with the Brent hidden to the left at first.
10. Ignore another path to the right and go on along a narrower path ahead through thick vegetation.
11. Go up the ramp to the road and cross over to the bus stop on the far side.
Bus 92 takes you to Wembley Stadium and Wembley Central stations (both Zone 4), whilst bus PR2 goes to Wembley Park station and, in summer, on to Barn Hill.
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