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.

Riddlesdown to Merstham, Surrey; 22 November 2014

Pilgrims Way, Tollsworth Manor, Surrey

On Saturday, 22 November I went for a walk. The weather forecast was bad, with rain expected almost everywhere, but I decided to risk it and walk from Riddlesdown, in the London Borough of Croydon, to Merstham, Surrey.

I began by taking the tube from Manor House to Victoria, then a train to Riddlesdown. Outside the station, I followed a footpath south alongside the railway tracks, then approached the entrance to Riddlesdown Common via Mitchley Avenue.

Riddlesdown was acquired by the City of London Corporation in 1883; thus, it escaped the suburban building development that swallowed up much of the nearby countryside in the late nineteenth to early twentieth century.

In the long grass not far beyond the entrance, I spotted some metal railings enclosing what I thought at first was a monument. It turned out to be an old Ordnance Survey triangulation point, with a height inscribed on it – 449.24 feet.

However, I failed to notice on my map that there was an Earthwork nearby. This is mentioned on older maps by name – Newedich or Widedich. Although reduced in size, having been partly covered by the houses built at the northern edge of Riddlesdown, some of the earthwork – thought to be Celtic in origin and agricultural in purpose – still survives, but I didn’t see any mounds as I walked by; I’ll have to look for them the next time I’m there.

After following the higher part of the ridge for a short distance, I descended gradually downhill and south-east towards the Godstone Road. It began to drizzle, and the rain then continued more or less throughout the day, much to my annoyance.

At the road, I turned south-west up Old Barn Lane, crossed a footbridge over the railway line, and continued up New Barn Lane. Then, after climbing a series of steps up the steep hillside, I followed a footpath across Kenley Common, another area of open land owned by the City of London Corporation.

With the rain becoming harder, I skirted Kenley Aerodrome, which was established in 1917 and played an important role in the Battle of Britain in WWII. I was interested to read – on one of a number of information boards dotted around – that, in 1919, Winston Churchill, War minister at the time, flew from here to France to attend the Paris Peace Conference.

On the west side of the aerodrome I saw several preserved WWII ‘blast pens’ – designed to protect aircraft from the effects of bombs exploding nearby – and in one of them was a war memorial. I’d have liked to have taken a proper look at it, but a number of children were using the concrete-paved area to race around on their bicycles, so I decided not to bother.

Continuing on, I took a footpath across Coulsdon Common, past The Fox public house (est. c.1720), and eventually turned south through Piles Wood.

Beyond Piles Wood I stopped very briefly to admire the church at Chaldon (see history here), but it was still raining and the light had started to fade, so I hurried on, crossing muddy fields near Court Farm to reach the woodland of Alderstead Heath.

Near the attractive, partly timber-framed, partly stone Tollsworth Manor, I was struck by the rather desolate, upland nature of my surroundings – now over 600 feet above sea level. The empty fields were shrouded in mist, and although I could hear the hissing of traffic – from the M23 and M25, just to the south and at the foot of the ridge ­– it added to the atmosphere in a way.

I stopped to take a few photos, and would have liked to linger some more, but it was getting quite dark, so at Pilgrims’ Lane I gingerly descended a rather steep, very muddy path south-west down the hill and then crossed the M23 via a pedestrian tunnel.

Still heading for Merstham, I walked west part way along Rockshaw Road, before turning south again down a footpath leading to a footbridge over the M25.

From there it was a short distance to the centre of Merstham, where I caught a 405 bus to central Croydon. After stopping for a drink at the Wetherspoon’s on George Street, I continued my journey home by taking the Overground from West Croydon to Dalston Junction, and finally the 67 back to St. Ann’s Road, Harringay.

Purfleet to South Ockendon; 15 November 2014

South Ockendon, Essex [3]

Last Saturday we went for a walk. The weather was somewhat cold and damp-feeling, but there was almost no wind, and the sun came out towards the end of the day.

We decided to walk from Purfleet, Essex, to South Ockendon, following the line of the Mardyke for much of the way. It was a route we’d not walked before despite having visited this area a number of times in the past.

We began by taking the Overground from Harringay Green Lanes to Barking, then a train to Purfleet.

Exiting the station, we headed east along London Road, turning north on Lockyer Road and picking up a footpath past the Royal Opera House’s High House Production Workshop. After crossing, in turn, the Channel Tunnel Rail Link and the Purfleet Bypass, we reached Armor Road, where we caught a glimpse of a large lake occupying the disused Bluelands chalk pit, overlooked, in the distance, by a Premier Inn hotel.

The fenced-off body of water, with sheer chalk sides surrounded by dense scrub and woodland, was interesting, but it was hard to get a good look at it. Palaeolithic flint tools have been found here (mentioned in this report), but it seems there is a plan, announced in 2011, to fill in the pit and build a hotel and commercial buildings on it.

After crossing Arterial Road, we headed into Watts’s Woods, emerging by electricity pylons into open land by the Mardyke. Here a footpath ran along the south side of the river, while to the north were flooded grasslands and more pylons.

Having spotted several horses grazing, we started taking photos, but a woman wearing wellington boots soon made her way across the muddy, partially waterlogged field and, from the other side of the river, asked us what we were doing.

She explained that grazing of horses by the Mardyke in the winter months is prohibited by the council, but the horses had managed to escape temporarily and were due to be rounded up again shortly. She seemed suspicious at first that we might be snooping for the council or the local newspaper, but we managed to convince her we were only taking photos because we liked the view.

Ship Lane, Mardyke Valley, Essex
Above: View west from Ship Lane

Mardyke Valley, Thurrock, Essex
Above: Underneath the M25 bridge

Continuing east, we crossed Ship Lane and, shortly afterwards, passed under the M25. There was quite a bit of flooding and at one point we were forced to make a detour up into Brannett’s Wood to avoid the water.

At Stifford Bridge, we emerged briefly onto a road, but then continued east along the Mardyke path until we reached a footbridge south of the Mardyke Valley Golf Course.

As we turned north, uphill and across the golf course, it began to rain rather hard, but it stopped after a while and the sun came out at last.

South Ockendon, Essex

The rest of the way across farmland to South Ockendon Hall was pleasant in the fading light, and we began to see mist rising atmospherically from the damp earth in the ploughed fields.

From South Ockendon Hall, it was a shortish walk west to the main road, and then on to Ockendon station, where we took a train back to Barking.

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.

Upminster Bridge to Shenfield; 25 October 2014

Emerson Park, Havering, London

On Saturday, we went for our first walk since returning from a week-long trip to the Brecon Beacons. Since the weather was dry and relatively mild for late October, and it was the last day before the end of summer time, we were particularly eager to get out.

Our plan was to walk from Upminster Bridge to Shenfield, Essex, so we started by taking the Overground to Barking, and then switched to the District line. Along the way we saw quite a few West Ham fans heading for Upton Park and a big game with Manchester City; the ‘Hammers’, riding unusually high so far this season, would win, 2–1.

Exiting Upminster Bridge station, we crossed the road and quickly found the turn-off to take us north to the open land by the Ingrebourne River. This first section of our walk followed the London Loop, but we soon turned west past Emerson Park Academy, then north along Wingletye Lane, before heading north-east down another footpath which eventually emerged onto the Southend Arterial Road.

After traversing, with some difficulty, the busy dual carriageway (and its central reservation), we entered Mount Pleasant country park, crossed the Ingrebourne, and continued east to Great Tomkyns. I had hoped to catch sight of the house there, which is marked as an antiquity on the OS map, but it was nowhere to be seen, apparently shrouded by trees. A pity, as subsequent Googling revealed it is a very old half-timbered house of some size.

Still walking east, the next point of interest was an Ordnance Survey triangulation pillar on a hill near Howards Farm. This unnamed hill is marked on the map as having an elevation of 74 metres (242 feet) above sea level. That’s nothing compared to the various peaks we scaled in the Brecon Beacons, but visiting ‘trig points’ has become a minor obsession of mine, so I was disappointed when we were unable to locate the pillar.

It turns out, having looked it up subsequently on trigpointing.uk, that the pillar is not on the public footpath but in an adjacent field. (We suspected this was the case at the time but could see no sign of it when we peeked over the hedge.)

Descending the hill, we had some trouble finding our way across the M25, as some of the footpaths in the woodland adjacent to the motorway didn’t quite seem to correspond to what was shown on the map, but we finally found the footbridge, crossed it, and headed for Hole Farm.

In this vicinity, the views southward from the high ground to the distant Thames were quite expansive, and various landmarks could be seen, such as the Dartford Bridge, structures at Tilbury Docks, and the tops of the chimneys of Tilbury Power Station.

Great Warley, Essex
Above: Buildings east of Hole Farm

Beyond Hole Farm, we continued east, eventually reaching the woodland of the Warley Gap, where we had to dodge several mountain bikers descending at rather high speed the hill we were climbing. There were actually signs here warning motorcyclists to be considerate towards other path users – not too surprising as south Essex tends to be prime territory for youths careering around on ‘mini-motos’. Luckily, we didn’t encounter any.

Emerging from the Warley Gap, we saw a huge c.1970s Ford Motor Company building, and nearby the Grade II Listed (but ugly) 19th-century Essex Regiment Chapel, a reminder of a big army presence here before the erection of the Ford building.

Here we also saw a Trampoline & Activity Centre and, a little further on, at a tennis club near Scrub Hill, teenage girls practising cheerleading routines in the late afternoon sun.

With the light beginning to fade, we debated whether or not to cut short our walk and head for Brentwood station, but we decided we had just about enough time to reach Shenfield by nightfall, and we pressed on towards Thorndon Park.

As we entered the huge country park, cars were streaming out, their occupants having spent the afternoon at yet another activity centre. About a mile or so further on, we got a good view of the imposing Thorndon Hall, built c.1770 for the Petre family but now converted to luxury apartments.

Exiting from Thorndon Park, we hurriedly took Middle Road through Ingrave. The sun was setting impressively as, by now rather tired, we trudged north through deserted fields, then well-to-do suburban streets, to Shenfield, where we took a train to Stratford, switching there to the Overground home.

Ingrave, nr. Shenfield, Essex

West Drayton to Wraysbury; 5 October 2014

Colnbrook, Berks

Yesterday we went for a walk. Following persistent rain for much of Saturday, the weather on Sunday was dry, sunny, and pleasantly milder than forecast, with only very light winds. We took the Tube from Manor House to Paddington, via King’s Cross. Chelsea was playing Arsenal that afternoon, and we spotted a number of ‘Blues’ fans heading for Stamford Bridge.

At Paddington, we took a train to West Drayton, intending to walk west, then south, to Magna Carta Island, on the Thames, near Runnymede. But time (and light) ran out and we only got as far as Wraysbury.

Exiting from West Drayton station, we quickly found the Grand Union Canal and walked north-west along the towpath, stopping after about five minutes to sit on a bench and eat our sandwiches in the sun. Sadly, the avocado and herb wraps we bought at Pret a Manger at Paddington were not up to their usual standard.

After our lunch, we continued along the towpath but had to dodge numerous cyclists – quite an inconvenience given the narrowness of the path.

Crossing a footbridge near Packet Boat Marina, we turned sharply west and followed the Slough Arm of the canal. Then, not far from the M25, we were unable to pick up a path marked on the OS map as running off to the south by a junkyard or rubbish dump. There were signposts still in place indicating where the path had been, but it appeared to have fallen into disuse or been closed. We concluded this was because a nearby footbridge, also shown on the map, had been removed.

Forced to backtrack, we turned south on an evidently new stretch of path (not shown on the OS map) called the Colne Valley Walk. At some point this joined up with the disused path and we were able to resume our intended route, across the railway line and through Thorney Farm (now a golf course).

Following the Colne Brook, we passed underneath the M25 and headed north then west to Old Slade Farm, then south across a bridge over the M4. Continuing south, we reached Colnbrook, where we saw a pub – the Ostrich Inn – advertising itself as the third oldest in England.

Beyond Colnbrook, the path south to Horton passed underneath or near several of the flightpaths out of Heathrow, and loud aircraft noise became particularly noticeable in and south of Horton.

There are lots of small lakes, ponds, and streams in this vicinity, in addition to a number of huge artificial reservoirs, and the path from Horton to Wraysbury passed through woods between several of these lakes. It was quite pleasant in the fading light, albeit spoiled by jets thundering overhead about once a minute.

By the time we reached Douglas Lane, Wraysbury, it was obvious that, with little daylight left, we’d not be able to make it to Magna Carta Island before dark.

Instead we headed for Wraysbury station, but just missed a train and had to wait an hour for the next one. When it arrived, the guard announced that ‘an intoxicated gentleman’ was ‘threatening suicidal behaviour’ at Ashford station, and that we would be delayed until the situation was resolved. After about twenty minutes, a further announcement came that the man had been ‘apprehended’, and we were able to continue, arriving at Waterloo about seventeen minutes later than scheduled.

Tired, and rather hungry, we picked up a 68 bus to Euston, where we took full advantage of the all-you-can-eat £6.95 buffet at Chutney’s on Drummond Street.