The last of our long walks and it’s a strange one: we are walking out to Heathrow airport.Yes you read that right. Walking. To. An. Airport.
However before we see the hallowed halls of Heathrow terminal 4, we have to start somewhere more familiar, like Acton Town. But this time we are not partaking of hot breakfast/cold coffee at Jungles cafe. No, this time we set off walking immediately, leaving Jungles well behind us.
We pass by Gunnersbury Park which seems to be busy with some kind of running event today. We pass by a pub that has closed down but has not been turned into flats. Instead it has become a retail outlet for building supplies merchant, Travis Perkins. We pass a Russian Supermarket called CCCP before finding that the greasy spoon café in which we had hoped to partake of breakfast had now become a hipster coffee place.Luckily just across the road was an alternative café – again, more of the coffee and pastry type – but they did have a sign for English Breakfast, and so we ate there.South Ealing come and goes and we carry on down houses that look very lovely, with olde worlde street lights, to arrive very quickly at Northfields. We’re feeling pretty smug now, three stations in not very much time at all (breakfast time excluded).After a pleasant diversion through lovely Blondin Park, we hit Boston Manor, with a lovely art deco tower.We get some more green as we pass through Boston Manor Park, under the M4, along the River Brent before emerging at the side of the A4 where we have no doubts about out proximity to Heathrow as planes are passing by over our heads with great regularity.
The buildings along this stretch of the A4 hark back to a time when people built buildings with a sense of style. There are some beautiful art deco buildings along here, with simple, clean lines. But otherwise the road is ugly, until we pass by the Gillette building, also a beautiful building from times gone by, now seemingly boarded up and unused except for a film crew.
The Great West Road does as its name implies, head West and great speed, and our early enthusiasm is dampened by boredom. But here comes Osterley station, also with a fabulous art deco tower! We have a little sit here before continuing. This was our longest interstation walk for the day, but not the most boring. That was to come.Through an underpass and out the other side of the Great West Road and we weave our way through suburbs. The neighbourhood has changed demographic, and by the time we reach Hounslow East, it is distinctly Indian. There are even people selling the Watchtower in Hindi!From here we took a short side trip to Hounslow High Street, where the noise and colour provided us with distraction and more importantly, the opportunity to have passport photos taken for a visa application for a forthcoming trip.
Back up to Hounslow Central and the demographic changed again. This time the Watchtower was available for sale in Romanian.
Hounslow Central had an older villagey feel about the station building – perhaps this used to be the main street in Hounslow many years ago, before the development of the shopping strip down the way.
But no time to ponder that, we had another long walk ahead to Hounslow West. (How many stations does Hounslow need?)Hounslow West was a pleasingly box-shaped station, and still had its original ticket office in the station concourse, along with some angular lights that harken back to the 1920s. (At least in my eyes.)
We bought some chocolates here (when was it that all stations acquired little shops in them?) as a reward for tackling this next long and very boring stretch of walk.
We ate one of our chocolates en route for Hatton Cross, where we left the Great West Road for the Great South West Road. I can assure you there is very little great about either of these roads. Long, straight, noisy. This is not somewhere that anyone would walk for pleasure. Planes were getting lower and lower overhead and we started to see more airport related businesses along the road. But there was very little of interest along this road, just cars and trucks whizzing by, housing giving way to factories and logistics and car parking companies servicing the airport. It was deadly dull and tiring.
And then, just as Hatton Cross station was coming into sight, we pass by a field of horses. Thoroughly unexpected in such an otherwise industrial envenvironment.
Another short rest (and a second chocolate bar) in the unattractive Hatton Cross station and we head out again, for the short walk to our final stop, Heathrow Terminal 4!
As we leave Hatton Cross, we se a man with binoculars watching the runway and we speculate on what kind of people are drawn to hobbies like plane spotting (or train spotting or bus spotting for that matter). We are no longer walking under the landing approach for the airport, but we are beside the start of the take off runway, and our walk is regularly punctuated by the high pitched whine of plane engines gearing up to hurl themselves at great speed down a narrow strip of asphalt and up into the air.
Very quickly, almost too quickly, we can see the Premier Inn Heathrow Termin 4 in the distance. And then closer. And then we’re there. As we struggled to find a way to walk up to the front of the terminal, we instead opted to take the covered walkway through the Premier Inn, which joined up with walkways from other hotels on the way, and which delivered us suddenly and unexpectedly into the hurly-burly of the departures area of Heathrow Terminal 4.
And now for the good bit, the chance to sit down for an hour or so as we ride the Tube back through where we just walked, and back home.
Only one more walk to do and this project is complete!