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The Woods and Lido of Ruislip

Ancient woodland contrasts with the open space of the popular lido and its enthusiastic miniature railway.

Distance 3.5 miles (5.7km)

Minimum time 1hr 45min

Ascent/gradient 115ft (35m)

Level of difficulty Medium

Paths Mainly non-waymarked paths through woods

Landscape Woodland and large expanse of Lido

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 172 Chiltern Hills East

Start/finish TQ 080896

Dog friendliness Not allowed in children's playground

Parking Young Wood car park off Ducks Hill Road

Public toilets At Ruislip Lido

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1 Enter Young Wood to the right of the car park. At a crossing of paths turn left and, just before the road, cross a stile. Cross the road with care and follow the public footpath, which is signposted 'Hillingdon Trail'.

2 At a wooden post turn left to go uphill. At a T-junction turn right and immediately left, steadily downhill and over a crossing of paths. Pass through a barrier to the wood at another T-junction.

3 Turn right along this straight track that borders gardens. At the end, where a road meets it on the left, turn right along a path that re-enters the woods. After 200yds (183m) turn left along a path that winds through the trees and ends up at a kissing gate. Take the path to the left of the gate, bear left after another gate, and cross a brook to reach the edge of a golf course.

4 Turn right along a narrow path bordering the golf course. This path swings to the left and follows the edge of the wood. Cross a footbridge over a brook and bear right along a path that skirts the nature reserve.

5 The path eventually veers right into Park Wood. Follow this uphill and keep ahead on a reasonably straight path through the woods. You will see the track of the miniature railway line to the right of the wire fence.

6 Continue along this footpath as it skirts the fence, the miniature railway and, on the other side of this, the Lido itself.

7 Turn right past a wooden post to the miniature railway's ticket office. Turn left here, along a wide path that hugs the southern end of Ruislip Lido. Continue past the children's play area and follow the path round to the right, past the Water's Edge pub and the adjacent Woodland Centre. From the car park go through a gate and pick up the Hillingdon Trail footpath again across meadowland.

8 At the next footpath signpost turn left across the grass and enter Copse Wood by the wooden gate. Follow the footpath as it swings round to the left at the end of some fencing. The next waymarker sign you come to is back at Point 2. From here maintain your direction, walking ahead to retrace your footsteps back to the car park at Young Wood and the start.

This is a walk of contrasts. After being cocooned along trails through the ancient woodlands that were once part of the Forest of Middlesex, the extent of the wide, flat, open space ahead, when you reach the lido is impressive. Be ready for a surprise if you've never seen Ruislip Lido before - contrary to the image its name suggests, it is no longer used for swimming. It's best to do this walk on a Sunday if you plan to visit the tea rooms and the miniature railway.

How many men do you know who have bought their children a railway set only to end up playing with it themselves? Moving up the scale, miniature railways are also big boys' toys. They all seem to be driven by men, built by men and largely named after men? but at least this is one toy that can be enjoyed by everyone. The Ruislip Lido Railway began operating in 1945 with a steam locomotive called Prince Edward. At that time the line was about one third of its present length of 1¼ miles (2km). Nowadays the Ruislip Lido Railway Society operates the route, having taken control of it from the council in 1979. Three diesel locomotives, one steam locomotive and 15 coaches are all driven by volunteers, one of whom is actually a high-speed train driver. The railway operates all year and is one of the most successful in the South East. Not surprisingly, January, February and November are the quietest months, but figures increase in December when special 'Santa trains' operate the 25 minute journey, while in August nearly 6,000 return tickets might be sold - not bad going for a big boys' toy. The railway's ticket office is near the beach section of the Lido.

A number of films have been shot here including The Young Ones (1961) and Summer Holiday (1962). Both starred a youthful Cliff Richard who, at the time had not only the Lido but also the world, it would seem, at his feet. It was the pre-Beatles early sixties and, with his able backing group The Shadows, Cliff couldn't put a foot wrong. A couple of years earlier he had played a small part as a juvenile delinquent in the forgettable film Serious Charge which, nevertheless spawned his chart-topping success Living Doll. But The Young Ones, in which Cliff played the leader of a Paddington youth club, was an enormous box-office hit and the soundtrack to the musical secured Cliff's female fanbase, remaining in the top three best-sellers for six months. The eponymous single also reached number one. Strolling around the Lido today, it's difficult not to hum along to the songs of more innocent times.

Where to eat and drink

As the name suggests, the Water's Edge overlooks Ruislip Lido and has seating outside. This large but welcoming pub is popular with families. It has an extensive menu including mixed grills, steaks, scampi and traditional Sunday roast. Expect to find a good supply of Stella Artois. The Queen's Head in nearby Pinner High Street offers good value, fresh food and sandwiches. This traditional pub (with a car park) is friendly and quiet and stocks a good selection of ales.

What to look for

Before you turn left at Point 8 take a detour to Poor's Field. A wide range of plants, including orchids and heather, grow here. Cattle used to drink from its two ponds. You can see the remains of a railway track, once used for carrying gravel from a nearby pit.

While you're there

Next to the Water's Edge pub, but only open to the public on Sunday afternoons, is the new Woodland Centre. Here you can discover a little more about the Lido and surrounding woodland amid a display of old wood-cutting equipment. One glass cabinet contains a bundle of wood dating from 1812, but more up to date is the giant black-and-white poster on the wall of Cliff Richard during filming at the Lido.

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