Chessington South to Epsom Downs; 6 December 2014

Ashtead Park, Surrey

On Saturday, 6 December we went for a walk. The weather was moderately cold, but bright and clear, and there was almost no wind.

We decided to walk from Chessington South in a roughly south-easterly direction and then take a train and/or buses back into South London from wherever we ended up. Because we started out rather late, we only made it as far as Epsom Racecourse.

We began by taking the tube from Manor House to Victoria, then a train to Chessington South. A short distance from the station, we picked up a footpath that took us uphill and east, by the side of a golf course, to Green Lane.

Turning south on the lane, we passed an outpost of early-twentieth-century suburban development – a string of houses with fanciful names such as Hybola, Windy Dene, and Sunny Field. These petered out after a while, and we continued through a narrow belt of woodland, stopping briefly at one point to observe a squirrel dragging a plastic bottle high into a tree.

At the junction with Chalky Lane, near Park Farm, the footpath turned south-east across fields and then skirted the northern perimeter of the former West Park mental hospital; however, as we advanced along the narrow path between two metal fences, the way ahead became waterlogged and impossibly muddy. Luckily, we were able to pass through a gap in the fence and instead use a road through the old hospital grounds, now partly redeveloped as housing.

Beyond Christ Church Road, we entered the woodland of Epsom Common, where some of the paths were well trodden by horses, leading to further struggles with mud. At length, we crossed a railway line and shortly after emerged onto Dorking Road.

Epsom Common, Surrey
Above: Epsom Common

A little further on, we found the entrance to Ashtead Park and continued south through the landscaped grounds; however, at Rookery Hill we were forced to make a long and rather tedious detour around Park Lane, as the area containing the eighteenth-century mansion is inaccessible to the public. Since 1924, this has been the home of the City of London Freemen’s School. Of the people mentioned on Wikipedia as being former pupils of this public school, the two names that jumped out were Simon Cowell and Joe Strummer.

At the eastern end of Park Lane, we took footpaths along Greenslade Avenue and Chalk Pit Road, then descended in the fading light to Langley Bottom. At this point, lack of time and light meant we had no alternative but to change direction and head north to Epsom, so we climbed uphill, crossing various gallops, and finally reached the racecourse and Epsom Downs not long after sunset.

Emerging onto Tattenham Corner Road, we were still a mile or so away from the centre of Epsom, but we spotted a bus stop just by the huge racecourse grandstand. The fare for our short trip on the local 480 bus was a rather steep £2 each, but the blow was softened somewhat by the windfall of a pound coin we found on the empty seat in front of us.

From the traffic-choked town centre, we took a 470 London bus to Colliers Wood, and then the tube to Turnpike Lane.


Crews Hill to Waltham Cross; 29 November 2014

Rammey Marsh, Waltham Cross, London/Hertfordshire border

On Saturday, 29 November, I went for a walk. Although the weather was rather cold, it was pleasantly sunny and there was very little wind.

Making a late start, I decided to take a train from Harringay station, north to Crews Hill. My plan was to walk south-east, then pick up a path alongside Turkey Brook and follow it east, all the way to the River Lea.

Quite a few people alighted from the train at Crews Hill, but they all turned left after leaving the station, perhaps heading for the various garden centres that lie just to the east. I went in the opposite direction – right, up Cattlegate Road – then turned off down a footpath leading south-west across Crews Hill Golf Course.

Here, on 21 July 1964, during a thunderstorm, the twenty-seven-year-old Tottenham and Scotland footballer John White took shelter from the rain under a tree but was killed by lightning. Later that year, on 11 November, a crowd of 29,375 turned out at White Hart Lane to see Spurs play a Scotland XI in a testimonial game for White’s family.

Near the southern edge of the golf course, in a wooded area known as King’s Oak Plain, I stopped by a pond, where a bench by the algae-infested water seemed like a good spot for me to eat the sandwich I’d bought earlier in Tesco on Green Lanes. Although it was very nearly December, I could still just about feel the warmth of the midday sun on my neck.

Clay Hill, Enfield, London

Continuing on after my lunch, I traversed the railway tracks via a pedestrian crossing and shortly after emerged onto a lane leading to the hamlet of Clay Hill. Just by a Victorian church, I turned south and quickly reached the Turkey Brook. This tributary of the Lea takes its name from the hamlet of Turkey Street further to the east. (First recorded as Tokestreete in 1441, apparently named after someone called Toke or Tokey, this had become Tuckey Street by 1615, and by 1805 Turkey Street.)

The path by the meandering brook took me through Hilly Fields Park and past the Rose and Crown public house (reputedly associated with Guy Fawkes), then between Whitewebbs Park and the Forty Hall estate.

At the Great Cambridge Road, I crossed the highway by a footbridge and then skirted the grounds of Enfield Crematorium, before reaching Turkey Street – no longer a hamlet but an urban street in a much-enlarged Enfield.

Still following the line of the brook, I walked through Albany Park, where there was rather a lot of gang-related graffiti on walls and also on a footbridge crossing a railway line. I was intrigued by some of the graffiti, which along with frequent mentions of EN3, the local postcode, featured some derogatory references to the DA9 postcode. This is nowhere near here and is in fact on the other side of the Thames at Greenhithe, near Dartford.

Later I tried searching Google to see if there was anything online that would explain this apparent enmity, but all I could find was a news story about a big drugs case in 2013 involving gang members who lived in far-flung places including Greenhithe, Enfield, Chingford, Ilford, Crouch End, Gallion’s Reach (Beckton), Poplar, and High Wycombe, so the graffiti I saw remains a mystery.

At Enfield Lock, I noted that Rifles, a boarded-up pub – originally the Royal Small Arms Tavern – seen on a previous walk on 10 September 2011, seemed to have vanished. It turns out the derelict building was severely damaged by fire on 1 May 2012.

I considered finishing my walk not far from here, slightly to the east at Enfield Island Village, from where I could have taken a 121 bus back to Turnpike Lane, but since there was still just about an hour of daylight remaining, I decided to press on, north to Waltham Cross.

After a while, I took a detour through Rammey Marsh, partly because it seemed more appealing than the somewhat monotonous towpath, and also because I had hopes of finding a more direct route into Waltham Cross. But the M25 – running east to west – presented a barrier, and I was worried that continuing further west into the marsh might lead only to a dead end, so I reverted back to the towpath, crossed the motorway via an underpass, and then took a slight short cut through the Holdbrook industrial estate.

Having reached Station Road at around dusk, I trudged the final mile west along the busy road to Waltham Cross bus station, where I picked up a 217 back to Turnpike Lane.