Monday 14 March 2016

London LOOP - Day 9

High Barnet to Enfield Lock Station

15.00 miles

And so to March’s instalment of the London LOOP diaries.

With memories of last month’s mud-fest still lingering in our minds, we’d penciled in this weekend as a possible for the next section of the LOOP. The week beforehand, we’d checked the forecast for the Saturday, found it to be promising with spring-like weather predicted, and booked rail tickets in preparation.

Then, mid-week, we’d had some of the heaviest rains of the winter, with fields awash, roads running with water, rivers breaking their banks to flood acres of low-lying ground, and transport chaos. As they say where we come from: “bugger”!

Setting off across the fields behind High Barnet station

Still, we persevered and hoped for the best, optimistic that the early train-and-tube trip to High Barnet via Euston would be rewarded.

It’s been said on many occasions that you make your own luck. Well, to paraphrase golfer Gary Player’s anecdote, it seems like “the more we plan, the luckier we get”.

Although it was still a touch overcast as we set off from High Barnet tube station, the day was set to brighten up nicely. Before long, we had regained the LOOP, crossed the fields behind the station, negotiated a few residential streets and entered King George’s Fields.

King George's Fields

Truth to tell, it was muddy. But muddy in a totally different league to last time round, and although we wouldn’t see the day out unsullied, it was at least manageable and we weren’t calf-deep in the stuff.

Hadley Green

Hadley Green proved to be a delightful surprise, and there were plenty of people pottering around the open spaces. We passed some 17th Century almshouses, rows of beautiful 18th Century houses, the former home of Dr. Livingstone (I presume) and the attractive church of St Mary the Virgin.

Church of St Mary the Virgin

Moving on, we walked across Monken Hadley Common, edged by more fine properties, stopped briefly to chat to a bird-watcher who asked if we were doing the LOOP and warned us of muddy paths ahead (not that bad, actually) and continued down Baker’s Hill into the woods. 

Path into Monken Hadley Woods

Interesting trees

We had a brief stop for coffee and a snack, took a short detour to see Jack’s Lake, then continued to Cockfosters and the end of Section 16 of the LOOP.

Jack's Lake

Mandarin Duck - these birds were introduced into Britain from
East Asia, where the species is now in decline 

Beyond Cockfosters tube station, the LOOP headed into Trent Country Park. We had been looking forward to this part of the walk ever since we had begun – not because of the undoubted attractiveness of the parklands, or because of its association with the Sassoon family (Siegfried’s cousin Philip bought the estate in 1909), or even because of its use as an “information gathering” centre and POW camp during WWII. 

Entering Trent Park

No, the reason for our interest was because after the war the house was turned into a college of arts, humanities and teacher training, and my father spent a happy time studying there during the 1950s.

The drive to the main house

Much has undoubtedly changed in the intervening six decades. The park is currently used for recreational purposes, with cafés, walks, nature trails and other activities provided for local residents, and is much used if today’s showing of families, runners and dog-walkers is anything to go by.

The main house

The house, though, seems unoccupied, the college buildings (latterly the Trent Park campus of Middlesex University) have lain unused since 2012 (despite being bought and sold a couple of times) and are tending towards dereliction, and all is cordoned off by miles of metal fencing.

A few of the many daffodils that flower each spring

Even the famed show of daffodils couldn’t quite work their golden spring-time magic and, to be honest, I think my father might have been slightly saddened if he’d seen what we’ve seen today. We have since discovered that there is a new owner in place with plans for a major renovation, so all being well there is a happy ending to come.

We stopped for morning coffee at the café by the car park, and afterwards detoured from the route of the LOOP to look round the grounds. Rejoining the route from where we had left off, we followed the path through the estate grounds and past the lakes, and I phoned my Dad to let him know what we were up to.

Rear of the main house from across the lakes

Beyond the lakes, the path climbed through woods, crossed the road by the Sassoon Obelisk and entered the fields opposite. A muddy descent brought us out beside Salmon’s Brook, which we followed eastwards for a while before climbing towards the A1005 Ridgeway road. A handy bench provided the opportunity to break for sandwiches.

It was just shy of 2.00pm as we set off again, past the Royal Chace Hotel and along Rectory Farm Close. We crossed over Turkey Brook and under the railway line, and entered Hilly Fields Park near the cricket ground by St John’s Church at Clay Hill.

Cricket field with St John's church Clay Hill to the rear

Hilly Fields Park is another of the pleasant open spaces that this walk connects. Turkey Brook winds slowly through it, and again there were plenty of locals out and about enjoying it.

Hilly Fields Park, complete with bandstand - all rather "Trumpton"

Then it was on along the Mile & A Quarter Footpath towards Forty Hall, with Turkey Brook to our left, fishing ponds to the right and rhododendrons either side.

We crossed Forty Hill by Maiden’s Bridge. This is the spot where Sir Walter Raleigh is reputed to have lain down his cloak over a puddle so that Queen Elizabeth I would be able to keep her feet dry. Whether that's true or not, I don't know. What I do know is that there are muddier places in the vicinity, places where shoe protection would be more appropriate – we know, we’ve been through them! Perhaps that’s why he was later imprisoned and beheaded.

View east from the footbridge over the A10

Crossing the main A10 by a metal footbridge, we passed the station at Turkey Street and continued on towards Enfield Lock station. After a day that had seen us walk through some lovely villages, parks and rural areas, this last mile-or-so was a bit of an anticlimax. Of course, we’d have to do it next time if not now, so in that sense it was fine. But I must confess to feeling a touch ill-at-ease on these streets, and was glad when we had reached the station at the end of Section 17 of the LOOP.

Overall, though, it had been another excellent day – good weather, and quite warm, with more than a hint of Spring in the air. And the end is in sight for our LOOP adventure – just a couple more days to go to reach Purfleet – but that’ll have to wait until next time.

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