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Wormwood Scrubs

There is something evocative about visiting a place that is empty and bleak, where on a cloudy day a huge expanse of lumpy grassland invites you to start walking across it - and to keep walking and walking because the scrubs go on and on. There are trees in the distance that seem to stay so far away no matter how many steps you take. But at last, you are near enough to hear the birds in the trees and to decide to enter the woodlands in the hope that there will be a path to follow.

Woodlands on Wormwood Scrubs

But once inside the woods, the winter sun may disappear, leaving just grey and brown hues and soggy paths along with a feeling of isolation and anxiety.

A winter walk around the scrubs

Then the sun reappears to lighten and brighten the way.

Just a few moments later

And then you notice that there are some bright green patches of moss, clinging to the base of trees as though they are keeping them warm.

Moss on tree trunks

On a winter's day, the scrubs are soggy underfoot and it may feel strange and eerie. But later there will be lizards and butterflies to see here - one of the largest areas of common land in the capital, and yet so close to the city centre that its tallest building can be seen from here.

This was woodland until nearly a thousand years ago when it was cleared for animals to graze. Centuries later, war horses were exercised across the scrubs. Perhaps the ghosts of the mounted warriors are riding across the scrubs now, as the grasses sway in the wind.

East Acton underground station or walk from The Paddington Branch of The Regents Canal


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