Enfield Lock to Waltham Cross via Gunpowder Park, Cornmill Stream, and Waltham Abbey; 4 January 2015

Waltham Abbey, Essex

On Sunday, 4 January 2015, we went for a walk. The weather was dry, but dull and overcast. We planned to walk from Enfield Lock station to Epping, but exceptionally muddy conditions slowed us down and we were forced to turn back to Waltham Abbey and finally Waltham Cross.

We began by taking a 41 bus to Tottenham Hale station and from there a train to Enfield Lock. Exiting the station, we headed south down Bradley Road, then turned east along the footpath by Turkey Brook to the River Lea and Enfield Lock itself. Having passed the semi-derelict shell of Rifles (formerly the Royal Small Arms Tavern), we crossed a footbridge leading into Enfield Island Village, a recent housing development built on the site of the Royal Small Arms Factory, which closed in 1988.

After briefly following a tarmac path north under a line of electricity pylons, we turned east again between houses, crossed the River Lee Flood Relief Channel, and reached the entrance to Gunpowder Park. The latter was until the 1980s part of a military research facility (Quinton Hill Farm) but has now been redeveloped into a pleasant tract of rough grassland with some artificial-looking hillocks – perhaps traces of the former use of the land for testing explosives.

At the north-eastern corner of Gunpowder Park we emerged on to Sewardstone Road and walked a short distance north to a roundabout, where we intended to turn east along Dowding Way (A121), the most direct route to a footbridge over the M25; however, the road – apparently built fairly recently following the closure of Quinton Hill – had no pedestrian footway and the traffic seemed to be racing along rather too fast for our liking. Cautiously, we made a detour instead up the northern continuation of Sewardstone Road and approached the footbridge via Lodge Lane.

On the other side of the motorway, we passed through an area of suburban housing, part of the town of Waltham Abbey, and eventually reached a footpath by Cobbins Brook, a tributary of the Lea. According to Wikipedia (but not mentioned, as far as I can see, in any historical source published online), a ‘local legend’ has it that Queen Boudica used hemlock gathered from the banks of the brook to poison herself following her army’s defeat by the Romans at the Battle of Watling Street in c.60–61 CE. It’s the kind of story I like, but the current view is that the battle took place far away from here – in the Midlands – so it seems rather implausible.

At Honey Lane, we had to leave the brook and continue our progress via the oddly named Stonyshotts. This suburban street is not shown on an Ordnance Survey map of c.1893–1913, at which time the locality, with the exception of Honey Lane, was still fields. Although there seem to be many different interpretations of the meaning of shott in British place names, one is that it comes from the Old English sceot, meaning a steep slope (in this case, perhaps, a stony slope) and it occurs to me that the road, which does wind noticeably downhill to the brook, then uphill again, might be named after one of the fields it was built on. It doesn’t sound like a name concocted in the mid twentieth century, which is when the houses on the street appear to date from..

After skirting the grounds of a school and making our way through more residential streets, we reached Upshire Road. Here, we turned up Pick Hill and, where this bent sharply to the right, took a footpath leading north-west.. After a short distance, we encountered Cobbins Brook for the third time, crossing it via a footbridge to enter a boggy field.

At this point, our progress uphill towards Dallance Farm became painfully slow. There was so much mud that getting anywhere near Epping before dark was clearly impossible. Instead, having finally arrived at the farm, we elected to turn west towards the Crooked Mile (B194) and follow the Cornmill Stream into Waltham Abbey.

At first, the footpath west from Galleyhill Road took us uphill across relatively dry fields, but when we joined Claygate Lane and began to descend towards the Lea, the track – much used by people on horseback – became a quagmire. We were relieved to reach the Crooked Mile at dusk, but much worse was to come.

Rejecting the dark, dangerously twisting road in favour of a path leading into the Lea Valley Park, we found our way to the Cornmill Stream, an artificial channel branching off from the Lea and thought to have been constructed in the eleventh century to provide water for the mills owned by Waltham Abbey.

The path by the stream was easy to follow, despite the lack of light, but it was atrociously muddy. With great difficulty we slithered and stumbled our way in almost total darkness the final half mile or so to the abbey, passing the (reputed) grave of Harold Godwinson before emerging on to Highbridge Street, from where we walked by road to Waltham Cross bus station and took a 217 back to Turnpike Lane.

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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.