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Date : 11th September, 2020
Time : 55’ 39”
Number of runners (total to date) : 1 (7050)
Run map and details : https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/5520375013
I know this is going to come across all Billy-no-mates but I don’t have any contacts in the London Borough of Havering. Which meant I was going to have to come up with my own route. No worries. A quick glance at Google maps should do it I told myself.
Turns out that it’s no easy matter to look at a map of a 111.4 km2 borough and work out the best place to run….Three hours later I finally settled on Havering-atte-Bower (‘atte-bower’ means ‘at the Royal residence’).
If you’re not familiar with H-a-B (if you’ll excuse the acronym), it’s a village with three adjacent green spaces. Surely the perfect place for a run? A place which would also, I hoped, provide sufficient material for yet another of my notoriously entertaining blogs.
I couldn’t work out how to get there by public transport so drove and ended up parking by the equestrian centre. And then spent the next five minutes luxuriating in the fact that the parking was free. No having to pay by cash if you’ve only got a credit card on you. No having to pay by card if you’ve only got cash. No having to download a new parking app – since they couldn’t possibly use one of the 24 parking apps you’ve already downloaded and painfully entered your credit card details, date of birth, inside leg measurement and full address. All via a phone keypad.
No having to enter your car licence plate number – which includes a zero or an ‘O’ – I can never quite remember which. So that if you pay for two hours, but don’t use them, you can’t pass the ticket on to someone else. Even though the time has been paid for..
The second bonus was that my parking space happened to be next to one of the entrances to Havering Country Park – one of the aforementioned green spaces. HCP – to continue the acronymous theme – is an extermely nice wooded area full of walkers, one of only two redwood plantations in England, and horse riders.
Loyal readers of this blog – or at least those with elephantine memories – will know that I don’t like horses. In fact I suffer from equinophobia as a result of one or two unfortunate ‘falling off horse ; head hitting ground’ accidents in my childhood. Which was a touch inconvenient when it came to the show jumping, cross country and dressage legs of my Olympic challenge.
But that’s a story for another day. Back in the present, let’s return immediately to the action in Havering.
I trotted off into the forest (please note use of clever equine metaphor) with a ‘I didn’t have to pay for my parking and it doesn’t matter when I get back to the car‘ smile on my face. Eek. Two horses were coming my way. Not wanting any trouble of the ‘it’s not the horse’s fault that it reared up and crushed your skull with its hooves – you shouldn’t have scared it’ variety, I stopped running, I also stepped off the path. Straight into a bunch of nettles.
Horses. They always get me in the end.
I came out of HCP onto the B175 and noticed some concrete blocks on the other side of the road.
H-a-B didn’t strike me as the kind of place where people fly tip concrete blocks so I figured they must be there for a reason and stepped onto one of them. To be rewarded by a sweeping vista to the south-east. (Havering is 300 feet above sea level and consequently has views over chunks of east London, Essex and Kent. The views are, I promise you, much more impressive than my photo below would indicate.)
From there I ran down Broxhill Rd searching for the way into Pyrgo Park. Which I never found. I did, however, find the famous local water tower
and the rather lovely Broadlands Park
which contains open spaces for walking (or running in my case); a deer enclosure
; a walled garden ; and more striking views.
By now I’d run about 8km so I turned back to the village passing the cricket ground ; a hospice ; the village green ; a church
; a village pub or two ; a ducking pond ; a village sign which was unveiled by Boris Johnson (then Mayor of London).
And a whipping post and stocks.
What more could anyone want – or indeed need – from a country village?
Thank you, H-a-B, for hosting my Havering borough run. It’s a fine place to run and it’s no doubt an even better place to live!
Facts & Stats
Havering-atte-Bower is a village and outlying settlement of Greater London, England. It is located in the far north of the London Borough of Havering, on the border with Essex, and is 15 miles (24 km) northeast of Charing Cross. It was one of three former parishes whose area comprised the historic Royal Liberty of Havering.
The name is recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 as HaueringasThe last syllable is the only clear difference in pronunciation as v was written as u in Middle English and Anglo-Norman orthography. It is an ancient folk name meaning settlement of the followers of a man called Hæfer. The name is recorded as Hauering atte Bower in 1272. The atte Bower suffix means at the royal residence and refers to Havering Palace, which was situated here. The West London equivalent to Havering-atte-Bower is Old Windsor in Berkshire, which had a Saxon Palace that predated Windsor Castle. Edward the Confessor would have travelled to and from his palaces at both Havering-atte-Bower and Old Windsor. Both villages are situated on high ground and have great views into London.
The village is steeped in royal history. Edward the Confessor was the first royal to take interest in the area. He established a hunting lodge here, which over the years would become a palace or ‘bower.’ It is believed, though disputed, that he may have died in the house that he had loved so much before being buried at Westminster Abbey.
The surrounding areas, including the parishes of Hornchurch and Romford, formed the Royal Liberty of Havering from 1465 to 1892. Until the 17th century, royalty used the house of Havering Palace for various reasons, adding the architectural style of the day to the expanding palace.
Another palace, east of the village, called Pyrgo, was purchased by Henry VIII to relieve the now ageing Havering Palace. By the 17th century, the Royal Palace of Havering was in decline, and it was eventually pulled down. Pyrgo was also demolished later, in the 18th century. Only one set of plans exists from the original Havering Palace, courtesy of a survey by Lord Burghley in 1578.
Dame Tipping School in the village was founded by Dame Anne Tipping who was daughter of Thomas Chief, a governor of the Tower of London. The school opened in 1891 and is still operating today with the same main building that was used when the school was founded, although the school has had various changes and extensions through the years .
Immanuel School, on the site of the old Havering Grange, at the bottom of Orange Tree Hill, is a Christian school operated by Immanuel Ministries for children ages 3 to 16.
The village green still has on display its original village stocks, while on the opposite side of the road is a pond known as “Ducking Pond”, rumoured to have been used for trials of witches. Though the name of the pond suggests such a history, hard evidence is yet to be uncovered. However, there are currently plans to construct a replica ducking stool at the site.
The history of the area dates back to Saxon times and archaeological finds in and around Havering Country Park suggest a Roman villa or similar structure in the area.
The village sits on one of the highest points in London, in the far north of the borough and near the M25 motorway. It is situated 344 feet (105 m) above sea level with striking views of east London, Essex and Kent. To the north is open countryside and to the south are the large suburban developments of Harold Hill and Collier Row.
The village is surrounded by three large parks: the dense woodlands of Havering Country Park (site of one of only two redwood plantations in England, imported from California); Bedfords Park; and Pyrgo Park. The most notable residence in the village now is Bower House, built in 1729 by John Baynes, using some of the materials of the former Havering Palace. The area is on the route of the London Loop long-distance footpath.
In 2011, the borough had a population of 237,232 over 43 square miles (111.4 km2). Havering has a lower population density than other London Boroughs as large areas are parkland and 23 square miles (60 km2) (more than half the borough) is Metropolitan Green Belt protected land. Those areas of development are extensive but rarely intensive. It has, at 4.5%, a below average unemployment rate for Greater London, and one of the lowest crime rates.