Dave Sergeant

Counter's Creek is one of the lesser known hidden rivers in London and even this walk found very little sign of it. It flows from Kensal Green down to the Thames at Chelsea and like the others much of it was culverted many years ago. I followed the route in David Fathers' Hidden London Rivers.

I started the walk at Kensal Green underground station and entered Kensal Green Cemetery a short distance away. The creek source is an unmarked well somewhere in the cemetery. Kensal Green is one of the larger cemeteries in the capital and buried there are Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Harold Pinter, Charles Babbage among others.

Out of the cemetery into Scrubs Lane with Wormwood Scrubs to the side. A large sign advertises Mr Scrubs Carwash. Soon the Grand Union canal and the Great Western main line are crossed. My walks take me to all sorts of places and at this point I am at the North Pole, or rather the Hitachi railway maintenance depot of that name which formerly handled the Eurostar trains but now deals with their new 800 series. Real Time Trains features a Santa special each Christmas Eve which travels from here to every station in the UK delivering presents in the few minutes around midnight.

So along Scrubs Lane and down to the A40 Westway, the first major road. Here it changes to Wood Lane and towards the former BBC Television Centre in White City. Although no longer used by the BBC most of the building is grade II listed so remains more or less unchanged. White City is named after the former White City stadium which no longer exists.

Opposite Television Centre is the big Westfield shopping centre and the walk went round this to reach a huge roundabout with multiple pedestrian crossings on a busy intersection of roads in Shepherd's Bush. In the centre is an unusual artwork, a blue and clear plastic and steel water tower, which is actually part of the London Ring Main completed in 1994, nothing to do with Counter's Creek. While I was waiting for the pedestrian lights to change I suddenly noticed a huge plume of white smoke and a puffing noise the opposite side of the roundabout. I was just in time to catch a snap of the steam train special over the parapet as it sped through Shepherds Bush station. It turned out to be the 35028 Clan Line on its way down to Chertsey. It is worth noting that the railway largely follows the route of the creek as it follows its valley.

After conquering the roundabout the next part of the walk is back to rather quieter residential streets. Here Hansard Mews with its very steep incline maybe is a sign of the former creek valley. Further on, now in Kensington, the Olympia exhibition centre puts in an appearance. Olympia is also where the former Kensington Canal started. Built in the 1820s it was a commercial failure and by 1859 was filled in and the railway line built over it. Lower down is Earls Court, the site of another exhibition centre of the past, now being developed as residential and retail space.

After Earls Court, and crossing the busy A4, Brompton Cemetery is reached, another one of London's 'Magnificant Seven' cemeteries. It is huge and formally laid out with the central path forming a long nave framed by lime trees leading to the 'altar' in the form of the chapel. Samuel Cunard and Emily Pankhurst are among the famous people buried within its grounds.

From the cemetery the route leads to Lots Road and what is now all that remains of Kensington Canal and the creek. Now named Chelsea Creek it was used to supply coal to Lots Road power station for many years. The power station is currently being redeveloped. The canal went east at this point, the original creek continued southwards and probably reached the Thames near Chelsea Harbour. Here the walk was finished and I took the train from nearby Imperial Wharf station back to Waterloo via Clapham Junction where I had lunch in the adjacent Wellington before heading home.

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