Tuesday 9 February 2016

London LOOP - Day 8

Clamp Hill, Stanmore to High Barnet

15.15 miles

Although mooted as the better of the two days weather-wise, the forecast for Sunday had still been poor, with rain and gusty winds threatening. But it was dry and bright with sunny skies as we set out to re-join the LOOP, so again lady luck seemed to be smiling on us.

Entering the woods of Harrow Weald Common

Picking up again from where we left off last night, we entered the woods of Harrow Weald Common, skirted the cottages originally built for the servants of Grim’s Dyke House, and headed on to cross Common Road and enter Bentley Priory Open Space, where morning constitutionalists, dog-walkers and joggers were much in evidence. Bentley Priory was once used as the HQ for Fighter Command in WWII, and is now home to the Battle of Britain museum.

After a short stretch through some more salubrious housing, we crossed into Warren Lane and entered the woods through the car park, stopping for a short coffee break at a handy bench. The woods make for a pleasant place to walk by day, but there was evidence that the car park may be used for a different purpose after dark.  

By and large, though, the scenery was a distinct improvement on yesterday, and the route that wound its way between ponds and beside the playing fields of Harrow RFC was very pleasant.

By Caesar's Pond

Passing the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital without recourse to treatment, we left the woods behind and entered farmland scenery once again, gradually climbing across a wet and muddy field to meet Elstree Road and pass under the M1. Further on, we skirted the edge of Aldenham Reservoir, and took a short break for a quick bite to eat.

Aldenham Reservoir

Beyond Aldenham Reservoir, we crossed more farmland. The sight of a wide, muddy line across the vast field in front of us filled us with dismay, but we battled on, ankle deep in sticky, slippery mud. At least the next three fields were different: this time, there was just wet, sloppy mud to contend with across their broad acres.

Mercifully, someone had built a golf course, and stabilised the quagmire. We felt a huge surge of relief at the prospect of dry land once again, and I can just imagine what Hereward the Wake must have felt on returning to the Isle of Ely after repelling invaders across the fenlands – terra firma at last!

Soon, we reached the road again, and made our way into Borehamwood for tea and cake – the end of Section 15. But not the end of the day for us: having pushed on last night and made an early start today, there was still plenty of daylight left. So we set off again in the sunshine, with High Barnet tube station our goal.

After half an hour or so of road walking, we picked up a path into Scratchwood Open Space. To be honest, I only knew the name Scratchwood from the services on the M1, but the woods are an altogether better experience than the roadside catering.

We negotiated a bit more mud as we dropped into a dip and climbed out towards the A1, where a lengthy southward loop was required to cross the six lanes safely. 

Signpost at the entry to Moat Mount Open Space - Barnet 4 miles away

The Moat Mount Open Space provided a welcome return to quieter walking, with a lovely woodland path rising to farmland followed by a roadside stretch along Hendon Wood Lane.

Totteridge Fields Nature Reserve is special for the variety of its wildlife. Judging by the underfoot conditions, much of it will be amphibian. Roughly two miles of watery slop ensued as we sploshed our way towards the appropriately-named Ducks Island. Now I know it has done little other than rain this winter, so all this mud should come as no surprise, but it does become a bit tedious at times. I’m sure it’s very nice in better conditions, but when solid ground hove into view in front of us, I must say we were somewhat relieved.

Whose turn is it to clean the boots?

The final half an hour took us on tarmac paths through recreational areas on the fringes of Barnet. For the second day in a row, we took our last few steps in the half-light of oncoming evening, finally reaching High Barnet tube station as darkness fell. Despite the mud, we’d had a good day again; the weather had been kind, transport had run to time and we didn’t waste much of the available daylight either. We even managed not to leave too much mess on the train.     

After a spot of dinner at Euston Station, we caught the very busy train home, and somehow managed to bag the last two available seats. Sometimes luck is on your side, and when it is you should never look a gift-horse in the mouth.

You might want to check if its going to be knee-deep in cack beforehand, though ….

1 comment:

  1. "but there was evidence that the car park may be used for a different purpose after dark" - sounds ominous?