Saturday : Streatham, the River Falcon, Dining with Des and the Impeccable Goose Island

The morning started with the views from the back of Oxford Street YHA, which isn’t the quietest of locations, but I liked the general noise of London.

The YHA occupies the top few floors of this building.

Oxford Street is much more tolerable in the morning. I popped out to get breakfast and supplies for the day, as our little Norfolk group was taking part in the walk led by the formidable Des which was tracing the route of the River Falcon in London. The city is truly beautiful at this time of the day, especially given that blue sky. The shopping mania of Oxford Street all gets a bit much for me when it’s busy, not least when people walk slowly.

The walk started in Streatham, which worked well as there was a direct bus starting in Oxford Street which went to the start point. As an aside, Streatham means ‘hamlet on the road’, which was the Roman road which went from London to Brighton.

Being the first to board meant that I got a seat on the top deck at the front. I have a childlike excitement at that, every single time.

Much cheaper than the city’s tourist buses, I saw many of the capital’s highlights en route to Streatham. I’ve seen these highlights hundreds of times before, but I didn’t let that impact on my enjoyment.

Brixton Bridge and its ‘come in love’ message.

And safely at the start point of the walk, which meant that it was time to look for Steve, Bev and Susanna who were getting there separately. It transpired that Steve and Bev had got to the start of the walk about six hours early, so they had gone for a hot drink and a place for Bev to sit and moan that she couldn’t get her fancy phone to connect to anything. Susanna sent a message saying that she’d be late and Bev excitedly explained to everyone why she thought that was. I didn’t get involved.

Then we had Aldigate (not Aldgate). After a debate, which was quite informed given some local knowledge from the Ramblers group, about where the best toilets were, it was decided that Aldi was better than the station facilities. We go in the shop and then Bev decides she’d better get more food and that seemed a sensible plan. The rest of the group were waiting for Susanna and someone else on the train, which meant that ten minutes later we were all ready to go. Well, we would be if Bev and Steve weren’t faffing about in Aldi having joined the longest queue they could find. Only fifteen minutes after the walk was meant to start, Des could start us off. We didn’t say anything.

Des explained that of all of his river walks, this was the worst one. We were delighted with that news, that’s the sort of introduction that got us all suitably excited. The author of the book, London’s Hidden Rivers, was on the walk, David Fathers. Anyway, our exploration of the Falconbrook then began, which I also informally called the Falcon. There’s more information about this lost river at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falconbrook.

This is all we saw of the river. Look carefully, it’s under that manhole cover. Des made it sound as exciting as he could and then a bus pulled up thinking that our group wanted to get on. But, we didn’t need to see the river to know that it was there, and Des traced the route as best as he could along its course.

Des took a short break to give some information about Tooting Common. This was a beautiful walk though, not just the green parts, but also the urban exploration in an area that I’ve never really walked in before. I’m more engaged in urban walking than countryside walking, there’s just so much more to look at.

A peaceful spot. This was also near where Zizzisgate took place. This is a long story, but in short, Susanna forgot to book the restaurant for a meal back in Norfolk, so that required a lot of rearrangement. Bev, Steve and I supported her and we agreed that she did book the restaurant and they messed it up, but we didn’t want to get too involved for fear of being associated with this debacle. Susanna would like to point out that she absolutely did book the restaurant, and she booked the taxi on St. Cuthbert’s Way as well.

Having already passed a lido, Bev was itching to jump in the water for an outdoors swim, but we managed to stop her. She’s a bit more out of control now that she’s been released back into the wild after so much time indoors.

The lunchtime spot. There were toilets here that some of us used, whereas others in the group were more creative. Once again, I didn’t say anything.

There was no particular point to why we were here, but I think Des was adding another statement about the rich and poor into his walk. He mentioned that the reason he stopped was that so when the people at the back got there, then we could all go again. My friend Richard is very good at this.

Approaching the end of the walk, that’s the large new JD Wetherspoon outlet at Clapham Junction.

As we reached the area near the Thames, there were many signs of the Falcon river, not just the road sign, but also many local businesses.

And the River Thames. We didn’t see where the Falcon came out, but it’s here somewhere. It really was a lovely walk and I think everyone enjoyed it from what I heard, certainly our little Norfolk did. The weather helped, but exploring a new area is always exciting, especially when there’s some heritage to look at on the way.

Then we went back into Clapham Junction to go into the Falcon pub, which Des chose because of its appropriate name.

The beer selection was a bit generic, but the staff were friendly and the service was efficient. I didn’t quite understand what happened with the table that we got, it seemed to me that a customer told us we could have a reserved table. I’m not sure that we were meant to have that table, but no-one complained at us. It was a very busy pub given that the rugby was showing, something that as usual I’d forgotten.

With that, it was time to go back to central London, once again getting a top deck seat looking out the front.

Susanna went back to Hangar Lane, whilst Steve and Bev went to their hotel in central London. I did the short jump on the Underground to get to Mile End Travelodge, rushing to ensure that I wasn’t late for Goose Island.

The room was clean and comfortable, but I’m glad I spotted the heap of glitter that the cleaners had missed on one of the seats. It’s a new hotel and everything seemed ordered and organised, well, other than the glitter.

Back on the Underground to get to Goose Island. I rushed this as quickly as possible, I didn’t want to be late.

I’ve written many times before about Goose Island, there is relatively little more that I can say here. It was lovely to meet the manager’s baby girl, she seemed quite at home in the bar environment. I could tell he was a childcare professional by looking at his daughter’s happy little face. The rest of the staff were incredibly engaging, the usual knowledgeable, personal and attentive service. With discounts offered off the bill, I thought that the value was excellent as ever, and the Barley Wine was a delight. Oh, and also, I was given the table by the front window again, which is my favourite table. I appreciated that, this is a quite marvellous bar. I might have mentioned that.

Our group was actually five people, as we were delighted that Des came along with us, primarily so that he and I could gossip about people that we knew. Des is getting very good on his beer knowledge, although I noted that he stuck to his usual favourites, rather than feeling the need to explore the menu and cross-reference everything on Untappd to check what to order next. He’s very old school like that. Des made such a good impression that we’ve decided to launch a new annual “Dining with Des” walk and meal in London. We come down and Des leads a walk for us (he knows about this bit) and then I’ve decided he can choose a bar or restaurant that he likes, then we’ll go there for post-walk gossip. I haven’t told Des that I’m planning this yet, but I think he’ll be pleased with the attention.

The chicken tenders and the Aggy fries, which is my go to order here, I’m not very adventurous sometimes. Perfect as ever. I may have mentioned, I love Goose Island.

And the evening ended with my getting the Lorelei from Omnipollo, which was liquid gold as far as I was concerned (or dirty sump oil as far as Bev was concerned). So much depth of flavour, there was coconut, chocolate, coffee and all so smooth, absolutely hiding its 10.5%. Beautifully decadent.

I decided to walk Steve and Bev home, as I wasn’t sure they’d get back on their own, before walking the thirty minutes or so back along the Commercial Road to my Travelodge. I was glad that I didn’t mention Zizzi’s during the meal though, that might have led to unbearable tension. Pleased with the new creation of the annual Hike Norfolk “Dining with Des” walk I have decided we’re having, that was the end of a really rather lovely day. I must tell Des about this great new idea of mine now, although I might not bother, he’ll see it on Facebook and Twitter soon enough.