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.

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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.

Brookmans Park to Potters Bar via Water End, North Mymms, and Ridge; 8 November 2014

On Saturday we went for a walk. The weather was mostly grey and overcast, and rather windy. Although heavy rain had been forecast only from around 5:00 pm onwards (and it duly arrived, in style), there was quite a bit of drizzle earlier in the day as well.

We caught a train from Harringay station, north, to Brookmans Park, Hertfordshire, and walked to Potters Bar, the next station to the south. Our circuitous route took in the hamlets of Water End and North Mymms, and the village of Ridge.

Exiting from Brookmans Park station, we headed south-west on a footpath through fields, turning due west alongside an unnamed stream that joined the larger Mimmshall Brook. At Water End – so-called because the Mimmshall Brook disappears just north of here into several ‘swallow holes’ – we crossed the A1 (M) motorway and soon reached the church at North Mymms, where we stopped for lunch.

It began to rain as we sat in the churchyard and I cursed the weather forecasters who had predicted it would stay dry until after sunset. But, mercifully, the rain stopped temporarily and we continued south through North Mymms Park. The scenery was pleasantly rolling and wooded, but there was no glimpse to be had of the park’s large Jacobean house, North Mymms Place, which since 1992 has been owned by Glaxo and operated by the pharmaceutical and healthcare giant as a corporate training centre.

Emerging from North Mymms Park onto Blackhorse Lane, we headed west to St. Albans Road and a crossing under the M25. Just beyond the motorway, we took a footpath south and quickly reached a gate where a badly written and punctuated sign warned of elderly and infirm animals on the loose.

Here, at the RSPCA’s Southridge Centre, a variety of animals rescued by the charity are kept and cared for, pending being rehomed. As we crossed a succession of muddy paddocks, we saw several women putting dogs through their paces, with horses looking on.

Catherine Bourne, nr. South Mimms, Herts.
Above: Ford crossing Catherine Bourne

Further south, we got slightly lost, and also had to contend with a brook – the Catherine Bourne – which our footpath crossed by means of a ford. Luckily, we were able to find a detour leading to a footbridge across the water, and we continued past Deeves Hall to the churchyard at Ridge. As we sat down on a bench for a short break and an Eat Natural bar, the rain began again, but this time in earnest.

Ridge, Herts.
Above: St. Margaret’s Church, Ridge

From Ridge, we trudged east towards Potters Bar, passing the Old Guinea pub and a preserved WWII pillbox. As we were walking along Crossoaks Lane, we spotted a rather poorly looking rabbit huddled at the kerbside. It seemed reluctant to move, but we eventually succeeded in encouraging it to relocate itself across the lane into the relative safety of a hedge and the woods beyond.

Having crossed the M25 and A1 (M) again, in the process passing through parts of South Mimms, we had trouble finding our way in the near-dark to the Mimmshall Brook and Bridgefoot Lane. We had walked this part of the route before, but have got lost on both occasions for some reason.

With the rain now bucketing down relentlessly, we finally hit the outskirts of Potters Bar, continuing to the railway station and a train home to Harringay.