Far from The Madding Crowd

London life is often pursued at a frenetic pace, so where can one go to avoid all this human activity?

Least populated

Havering is one of London’s largest boroughs, and being on the capital’s most north-east peripheral is one of the least populated. Much of it also has an Essex postcode, and due to the TV diet of vain wannabes, has ensured that the borough isn’t the first choice for many to set up home.

East London grime

For desolation look no further than Aveley Marshes an area alongside the Thames separated from the rest of Havering by acres if squelchy bog. Head for Coldharbour Point, an isolated promontory whose name is probably referenced to the bleakness of its location which curiously has a postcode – RM13 9BJ. But the nearest place to find a postman making a delivery is Erith on the opposite bank of the Thames.

While in this forgotten piece of London, walk Section 24 of the London Loop between Rainham and Purfleet. Depart from Rainham Station and follow the waymarked track parallel to Ferry Lane. After admiring the industrial units located in an area liberally coated with industrial grime and pass under the A13, leaving the Loop route and take off across the marshes to admire The Diver. Make sure the tide is out otherwise this fine piece of sculpture is submerged.

Concrete barges

Check out the nearby World War II concrete barges before taking in the polluted landfill hillocks, lorries covered in concrete dust and the odd gravel dredger rippling past on the grey water.


Should you need solace without talking exercise, I can recommend the Overground shuttle between Romford and Upminster. During the day the train is almost empty, but to be sure, choose the rear of the train because this is never adjacent to a platform entrance. As a bonus, you have the opportunity to enjoy the scenic view of the back of houses and fox-infested cuttings.

Topdeck solitude

Another way to discover East London enjoying your own company is upon the upper deck of the D8 bus. Due to the over-optimistic contract specifications, you should be able to travel between Stratford Station and the Isle of Dogs Asda rarely troubled by fellow passengers. While in Docklands let me direct you to the Emirates Air Line.

Experience magnificent desolation

Buzz Aldrin’s description of the moon could be a metaphor for the Emirate Air Line, that Boris vanity project offering overpriced cable car trips from one deserted East London location to another wasteland.

With only one regular commuter, with luck, you’ll miss the queues before alighting this solitary experience.

No excessive footfall

After all the solo travel a little shopping therapy might be felt necessary. But one place human contact is never a problem is the new outlet mall at the nearby former Millennium Dome, whose branded units are rarely bothered by excessive footfall. Ride the escalator to the upper floor where empty floors gleam and numerous shop assistants can be seen readjusting the merchandise on the off chance that a potential purchaser might wander by. Hundreds of handbags, designer jackets and deluxe saucepans lie untouched on the shelves because the backside of the Greenwich peninsula is not yet on the capital’s retail radar.

Featured image: RSPB Rainham Marshes.
River Thames: Abandoned ferro-concrete barges. There are 16 of these ferro-concrete barges beached and abandoned on the muddy foreshore next to Rainham Marshes on the Erith Reach of the River Thames. The general consensus of opinion is that they were built to assist in the Normandy D-Day landings of June 1944, and were constructed of concrete reinforced with steel because of the wartime shortage of steel plate. By Nigel Cox (CC BY-SA 2.0)
The Emirates Cable Car. One of the gondolas of the Emirates Cable Car, looking towards Stratford by Christine Matthews (CC BY-SA 2.0)

3 thoughts on “Far from The Madding Crowd”

    1. According to Blanch – a well known Victorian historian of Camberwell – the name “Coldharbour is taken to have originally signified a place of entertainment for travellers and drovers, who only required rest and fodder for their horses and cattle, as distinguished from the warm lodging and provisions of an inn.”
      I found this at: https://www.google.co.uk/amp/s/knowyourlondon.wordpress.com/2015/10/30/coldharbour/amp/
      Here there is also reference that 1348 John Pultney let Coldharbour (a house in The City) to Humphrey de Bohun, Earl of Hereford and Essex, for one rose at Midsummer to be given to him and his heirs for all services. Could that be why Coldharbour is also in Essex?

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