Watford Junction to Borehamwood (Elstree Studios); 16 November 2014

Patchetts Green, Herts

The Sunday before last, we went for a walk. The clear conditions of the previous evening were replaced by relentless grey skies and a high likelihood of rain, although the BBC weather forecast suggested – inaccurately as it turned out – that we might remain dry if we headed north of London.

In light of the forecast, we decided to go to Watford and walk from there in an easterly direction. We had vague ideas of ending up at Potters Bar, but this was unrealistic given the available daylight, and in the event we only made it as far as Borehamwood.

We began by taking a 29 bus from Harringay to Warren Street, and then a rather crowded train from Euston to Watford Junction.

From the station, we headed east towards the River Colne, but instead of following the path alongside it, north towards St. Albans, as we had done on a previous occasion, we crossed the river by the bridge on Link Road.

After walking a short way south on Park Avenue, we turned off down Park Close and then took a footpath going north-east. Almost immediately, we noticed a small nature reserve, on the site of former allotments, and, seeing a bench, decided to stop for lunch.

After eating our sandwiches, we crossed part of Bushey Hall Golf Course and, at its northern edge, turned east alongside a small unnamed brook. At Bushey Mill Lane we had to continue south-east by road until we reached the Jewish cemetery on Little Bushey Lane, where, among others, the entertainers Alma Coogan, Joe Loss, and Frankie Vaughan are buried.

The graves in the cemetery were tightly packed together on stony ground, with an almost uniform style of headstone and inscription, and I’d have liked to have taken some photos, but it began to rain and I was fearful of getting water on my camera, so we continued on. After descending steep steps at the far edge of the cemetery, we crossed in quick succession an unnamed brook (possibly the same one we’d seen earlier by the golf course), Elton Way (A41), and the M1.

Beyond Patchetts Equestrian Centre we got slightly lost, but we eventually found our way by road to a footpath beginning just by the entrance to the Bhaktivedanta Manor Hare Krishna Temple on Hilfield Lane. The former Piggott’s Manor estate (originally Picot’s, after Thomas Picot, who owned it in the twelfth century) was purchased by ex-Beatle George Harrison in 1973 on behalf of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. It is now said to be the biggest Hare Krishna site in the UK.

Our footpath from the road initially took us across rough ground between a forbidding-looking electricity transfer station and the ‘trident paling’ perimeter fence of the Hare Krishna property. Eventually the path reached a wider expanse of open fields, then emerged onto Aldenham Road. Turning south-east along the road, we soon passed Aldenham School (founded 1597), which in 1968 was used by Lindsay Anderson for some of the interior scenes in the film if….

At Ward’s Lane, we resumed a more easterly course, our walk finally taking on a less suburban, more genuinely rural aspect. However, the mud underfoot, combined with the constant drizzle, was becoming seriously wearisome by the time we crossed Watling Street.

Into the bargain, the light was beginning to fade, so when we reached Organ Hall Farm, on the northern fringes of Borehamwood, we accepted that the latter, rather than Potters Bar, would have to be our finishing point for the day.

After a long and dreary approach in the rain along Theobald Street, we finally reached the equally dreary centre of Borehamwood, where people and cars were streaming out of assorted shopping centres and superstores. At a bus stop near a huge branch of McDonald’s, and opposite Elstree Film Studios, we caught a 107 to New Barnet, and then a 184 to Turnpike Lane, where we repaired in relief to the Toll Gate.

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