Hello dear readers and thanks for dropping by to look at the fourth day of my walk round the London LOOP orbital path. This is just over 150 miles of designated and way-marked public right of way which is concentric to the M25 motorway and as always I start with a quick word of advice. This post is one of a series and it will make more sense if you read from the beginning as it will explain what lunacy had compelled me to undertake such a large project.
If you are ready for a bit of armchair rambling then make yourself comfy, grab a brew, click the continue reading button and we’ll go for another walk.
If you have been following this travelogue all the way through you will know that I left you at Cockfosters Tube Station in the last post. Obviously I didn’t leave you physically there as they seem to take a dim view of people camping out in Tube stations, but you know what I mean. I had so enjoyed the walk along Section 16 (Elstree to Cockfosters) that I returned the very next day to get cracking on section 17. This is either 8.5 miles if you believe the guidebook, which is not essential but recommended, or 9.5 if you believe one of the many information boards I encountered. I didn’t have a pedometer and wasn’t overly bothered as I knew I was almost bound to get lost and do more than the required distance anyway, which seem to happen to me and often with wonderful results.
If you look closely at this image you can just make out the skyline of London on the horizon which is why I chose it. I have other images taken very near here in which you literally cannot see a building and this was taken not ten minutes easy walk from a tube station.
Most people associate the Tube with central London but it does extend quite a bit into the country and remember that this walk is completely within the M25 motorway which is the general definition of Greater London.
This is the Southern end of the Trent County Park as it is now known and it is a fascinating place with a huge amount of history both very old and relatively modern and again it was hard to believe I was a mere ten minutes walk away from the main A11 Cockfosters Road.
As you can see the path is flat and level, well-surfaced and uncluttered. The local authority website states that the Park has wheelchair access and also a “blind trail” although I am not sure exactly what that entails. I did meet a lady with a baby buggy who seemed to be moving along quite happily.
Like Hadley Common which we met in the last instalment of this series, the park was originally part of Enfield Chase which was a Royal Hunting Ground dating back to the time of Henry IV. As a Princess the future Queen Elizabeth I was known to have hunted here and it must have been quite some operation as she was said to ride out with a retinue numbering up to one hundred, including ten ladies in waiting dressed in white satin. To go hunting in a muddy forest? Madness.
During the reign of George III in 1777 many areas of common land and chases were enclosed and parcelled out between the Crown, the Church and the local wealthy landowners. The King leased this 420 hectares of land to his favourite physician, Richard Jebb as reward for life of his younger brother the Duke of Gloucester.
Jebb had a house built and named the whole estate Trent Park. I had surmised that this might have had something to do with the British river of the same name but this is not the case. Trent is actually an Anglicised version of the name of the Northeastern Italian city of Trento where he had cured the Duke. I shall tell you about the later history of the house further on in this post.
There is no particular reason why I am including this image. I just liked the look of this tree with it’s oddly shaped right-angled branch and so got the camera out and I thought I would share it with you. Well, I never said that every paragraph was going to have information, did I?
After a short walk I came upon a monument and stopped for a look. The inscription on the plinth indicated that the gardens were begun in 1706 and were subsequently “alter’d and Adorn’d” in 1740 when the monument was erected. I have transcribed this exactly and did wonder why the word adorned merited a capital A whilst poor old altered was only accorded a lower case letter. Who knows, it is just one of those odd things that occupy my mind as I wander along.
I have to say this for walking, especially in quieter areas, it gives you plenty of time to think. I know that is clichéd but like most clichés it has a basis in truth and my mind does take off on some utterly strange and surreal tangents that would not disgrace Terry Gilliam as I put one foot in front of the other.
This next paragraph is intended to be purely practical and is aimed at anyone who may be considering walking the LOOP. I should say that the way-marking along the route is generally good and particularly on this section but at this point it completely breaks down.
I approached this junction and as you can see I had a choice of three ways to go. I searched and searched for a way-mark but could not find one nor was my guidebook being particularly helpful. I retraced my steps to the last one I had seen and searched some more. After a couple of small explorations of all three routes, I worked out that the correct way to go is LEFT. There you go, an insiders tip so you don’t have to waste the twenty or so minutes I did. I did say that it was almost inevitable I would lose the path somewhere and this was no hardship as it was lovely countryside on a half decent Spring day so I wasn’t too downhearted.
I told you earlier about the origin of Trent Park House and it’s grounds but I think that it is in the 20th century that the most interesting history takes place and certainly the most fascinating owner. After a period in the hands of the Bevan family the property was eventually acquired by Philip Sassoon or Sir Philip Albert Gustave David Sassoon, 3rd Baronet, PC, GBE, CMG to give him his full title even if it is a trifle unwieldy. If you recognise the rather unusual surname it is probably because he was a cousin of the noted First World War poet Siegfried Sassoon M.C.
Sassoon was born in 1888 and was the original “child born with a silver spoon in his mouth”. His father was one of the influential Sassoon family and his Mother of the famous Rothschild banking clan. At the relatively tender age of 24 he was elected Member of Parliament for Hythe and was known as the “Baby of the House” due to him being the youngest Member. Two years later the First World War began and he volunteered to serve. I must say that I cannot imagine an MP volunteering to go to war in this day and age. Commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the East Kent Yeomanry and served most of the conflict as private secretary to Field Marshal Haig.
The East Kents, or the Buffs as they were known, have a particular place in my heart merely because I spend a lot of time in that beautiful part of the country. You can read about some of my exploits there in other posts on this blog. Interestingly, their motto was “Liberty, Loyalty, Property” and I suspect it was the latter that may have been uppermost in the mind of the young Sassoon if Trent Park is anything to go by.
With the war ended he returned to politics and served two periods as Under-Secretary of State for Air. This is hardly surprising as he was a keen aviator and had his own ‘plane and a private airstrip here although I found no evidence of it. Not content with his airstrip he set about completely re-modelling Trent House itself to the design of Philip Tilden who also remodelled Chartwell House for Sir Winston Churchill.
It really must have been some mansion in the inter-war period. My guide book said I could catch a glimpse of while following the LOOP although I didn’t manage to do that but photos of it do look stunning. Sassoon entertained lavishly and house guests included Churchill, Charlie Chaplin, Rex Whistler (the painter), Lord Balfour, the Duke of York and George Bernard Shaw. I can just imagine them “taking the air” in these tranquil grounds.
Sassoon was promoted in 1937 to First Commissioner of Works but he did not enjoy the post for long as he died in 1939 at a relatively young age from complications of influenza and even in death he was fairly remarkable. Having been cremated his ashes were scattered over Trent Park from an RAF plane thereby combining two of the great loves of his life. You never know, I could have been walking all over the poor man and so can you. This is one of the many advantages of the LOOP in that it is entirely on public rights of way which means it is free and makes for a great budget activity in a city which can be prohibitively expensive.
With the outbreak of the Second world War the house and grounds were requisitioned by the War Department and it is here that the story gets really interesting. It is no less than the stuff of novels or Hollywood scripts. Early in the conflict it was used as a Prisoner of War camp for captured Lutwaffe personnel but they were soon moved out and this is where the best bit lies. The authorities moved in all the very highest ranking German officers they had taken prisoner.
Once in the very luxurious surrounds they were afforded every luxury. They were given excellent food and even alcohol, allowed numerous recreational activities and even taken for dinners at Simpsons in the Strand restaurant in London (which is still there). At one point there were no less than 59 generals in the facility and one of them even wrote to his family joking that he wished they could join him as life was so good. So were the British just being extremely polite as their captives were the cream of the German officer class? Not a bit of it. Military Intelligence had bugged the entire place and the prisoners were monitored constantly by a team of about 100 “listeners” who were all fluent in German. Many of this group were German refugees who had fled the country in the 1930’s.
Amongst the pieces of intelligence gleaned were the presence and location of the V2 rocket bomb facility at Peenemunde and the first mention of atrocities being committed against the Jews. It is interesting what people talk about when they feel comfortable.
De-bugged after the war the house eventually became part of Middlesex University (originally Polytechnic) although they left in 2012. The grounds have been a public park since 1973. I wrote in 2013 that the house had been bought by the University of Malaysia but the pulled out shortly thereafter and it was sold to private housing developers.
The house was destined to become a gated upmarket residential development but after much local lobbying, the developers have agreed to lease the basement and ground floor to a charity and there is now a plan to re-open those portions of the old house as a Museum in 2022. There is an interesting website here. I for one can’t wait as the whole subject fascinates me and well done to Berkeley Property group for agreeing to it.
Walking towards the Hadley Road and the exit to the park, I noticed this obelisk up to my left. I didn’t really fancy slogging up to it so I have looked it up on the internet and apparently it bears the inscription “To the memory of the birth of George Grey, Earl of Harold, son of Henry and Sophia, Duke and Duchess of Kent.” So now you know. A short distance on and I exited this very pleasant portion of the walk.
I realise that this post is already turning into a bit of a War and Peace. For example I have not walked more than a mile and a half on this section and have taken up paragraphs for just one park. Ah well, I am committed now so I might as well get on with it. Let’s move on.
We will cross Hadley Road but we only have to follow it for a few yards before diving off into a field that had rape planted when I was there. I always find this a bit odd as I never remember seeing this crop when I was a child and you cannot easily miss it. I am not sure if it is really easy to grow or there is some daft European subsidy attached to it or some other reason but it seems to be just about everywhere in the UK now.
Passing Ash Wood and Duke’s Wood you drop down to follow the line of the delightfully named Salmon’s Brook although looking at it I doubt there are any salmon in it now. Ash Wood (along with multi-millions of pounds worth of other property) is administered by the Duchy of Lancaster which is an archaic institution that manages property on behalf of the Sovereign in their role as Duke of Lancaster so it is the Queen’s land. I wonder if that is why Duke’s Wood is so named?
Carrying on we come to the Ridgeway (a very busy major road) by way of Brooke Wood which was planted in 1991 in memory of a local Councillor called Roger Brooke. Mr. Brooke apparently was a great lover of Nature and conservation so it is a fitting tribute. Incidentally, I have discovered since that there is a geocache here if that is your thing, one of many along the entire route of the LOOP. Personally, I’d rather search for pubs than run the risk of getting arrested and yes, it has happened often to people geocaching or claiming to be.
Wandering happily along I saw a large hotel called the Royal Chace (sic) and I considered my self-imposed mission to have a drink in every open licenced premises I came upon. I considered it for all of about 30 seconds. I was wearing slightly muddy walking boots, jeans and a fairly scruffy fleece. One look at the place, the flashy cars in the car-park and specifically the top-hatted doorman convinced me it probably was not a good idea. It is always very embarrassing to be turned away at the door. This image is about as close I got to the place.
Wandering down a quiet farm lane I came upon this sign. I must say, having denied myself the chance of a pint I most certainly did not feel much like galloping anywhere. I was keeping up a good pace though, probably more in the hope of finding a pub that would serve me than for any other reason!
This delightful watercourse is in the equally delightfully named Hilly Fields Park and is Turkey Brook. Why it is called that I have no idea but it will feature quite a lot over the next few pages as the LOOP follows it fairly closely all the way down to where it joins the Lea River. The Lea has it’s own designated footpath, which I have also walked and may well be my next project to write up.
Apart from one point where the path inexplicably goes up a hill only to come back down again it is fairly level and well laid out as you can see. You could just as easily walk round the hill as there is plenty of room and I suspect they were just trying to give me a bit of extra exercise as I did see several people out jogging here.
If you look closely at the image you can probably see what put an extra inch to my stride over the last few yards of the park. Yes, it was the tantalising view of what appeared to be a pub and I suspect I may have almost broken into a slow trot at one point.
Here it is and what a gem to boot. The Rose and Crown dates from 1700 and looks like it hasn’t changed appreciably in the intervening years. I wandered in and didn’t feel out of place in my relatively scruffy gear as the clientele (entirely male) appeared to be about an equal mix of older gentlemen and blokes wearing working clothes. They turned out to be very friendly as well. Duly stocked up I took a bit of a look round and found some information about the very lively history of the establishment.
Local legend would have it that the cottages here, prior to it being an inn, were a safe house for Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder plotters. Fast-forward over one hundred years and we have a close association with Dick Turpin the notorious highwayman. I have read varying accounts of his association with the premises with some claiming he had actually run it at one point and others suggesting he hid out here after his robberies as his grandparents ran it. Other stories suggest he used to hide in the moat in nearby Trent Park which we visited a moment ago to wait for his victims on the road and then escape back here on Black Bess. Whatever the truth of it there is no doubt that he is linked to the place one way or another.
Suitably refreshed, I set out towards Enfield once again.
Reluctantly leaving this excellent if somewhat villainous place behind I walked up the little path at the side of the pub which is pretty easy to find. Almost immediately I came upon the sight you see in the image. It was the path obviously being refurbished and / or widened.
In these days of austerity and local Government cuts I was glad to see that Enfield Council are taking their statutory obligations in respect of public footpaths seriously so well done to them again. The LOOP passes through the jurisdiction of many authorities and Enfield seemed to be amongst the better of the ones I encountered along the way.
Obviously this entire section of the path running alongside Turkey Brook again as far as the A10 Great Cambridge Road was getting a serious makeover and the standard of the work really was impressive. The entire length should be now be navigable for wheelchairs or prams and it is certainly a charming place to go for a walk. Running alongside the brook it is also fairly flat which helps.
At one point I noticed this expanse of water which I took to be natural although subsequent research names it as possibly a fishpond for the long gone Elsynge Hall. This building was an important location in Tudor times and for many years it’s precise location was lost until archaeological endeavour re-located it in the grounds of nearby Forty Hall.
Elsynge was much patronised by royalty and both King Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth I were known to have stayed there. This whole portion of the LOOP really does have a lot of historical royal connections.
As well as Royal connections it has far more modern and far less regal (although just as rich) connections. Had I but known it at the time I was a mere couple of hundreds of yards from the training ground of Tottenham Hotspur F.C. of the English Premier League. I suppose some die-hard fans might suggest that Spurs players are football royalty but I am not so sure.
When you exit the park you will cross the road and please do so using the pelican crossing as it is very busy. Turn left then and you will see this rather modest structure which looks like nothing more than a nuisance and potential bottleneck for the heavy traffic as it bridges Turkey Brook. Like so much else on the walk a little research turned up very interesting associations and again this one is Royal.
I am sure you have probably heard the story about sir Walter Raleigh laying down his cloak so that Queen Elizabeth I would not dirty her shoes and local legend has it that this is where it happened. The bridge is called Maidens Bridge to this day if that is of any relevance in view of the fact she was known as the Virgin Queen. I have heard similar claims for Deptford in Southeast London so who knows?
The next bit if the walk is pretty uninspiring if truth be told. First you walk along a path with a fencing on both sides and nothing to see as you follow the line of the Turkey Brook and all the time the roar of traffic gets louder and louder. All this a few hundred yards from the delightful park you were in just a few minutes before. The reason for the noise soon becomes apparent as you emerge onto the A10 Great Cambridge Road which you must cross via a footbridge The image is a view from that bridge. On checking my images I noticed that it was taken eight minutes after I had left the park alongside the Brook and I had stopped to take other photos!
Once you navigate the maelstrom of the A10, turn left and then immediately right down a path which skirts the Enfield Cemetery and Crematorium. I had never been to this place until less than six months previously when I sadly attended the funeral of the Mother of a very dear friend. Then, about a week before I was doing this walk, I went there again for the funeral of the Mother of a couple of mates of mine. It had been a bad winter one way and another, I had attended four funerals in six months. Readers of my other pages will know that I do like wandering about graveyards and cemeteries but I had seen far too much of this place recently and decided to give it a miss.
I include this image not because it is of the slightest interest but it is another necessary pointer for anyone proposing to walk this section of the London LOOP as the waymarking becomes a bit sketchy here. When you come to this point, having walked along the outside fence of the cemetery, you need to turn LEFT. A short walk will take you to Turkey Street, named for….. well, I shouldn’t need to tell you by now.
I did tell you that the portion of the walk between leaving the park before Maidens Bridge and Enfield Lock is not one of the prettier portions of the entire route. I know this cannot be helped and the very fact that they managed to engineer a complete circuit of outer London at all is testament to their planning skills so I really am not criticising. I hope the reader will have understood by now that I thoroughly enjoyed the LOOP.
When you get into Turkey street, you will be greeted by a dismal sight, the all too familiar one of a closed down British pub, in this case the Turkey. When I walked the LOOP it was merely boarded up but has now gone the way of so many others and been converted into flats (apartments).
A combination of a totally ill-thought out smoking ban (prompted by the EU on the basis of worker’s health and an inexplicable desire to embrace anything American), a “beer escalator” tax and a general recession brought on by bankers greed and politicians incompetence led to the disgusting situation where over 36 pubs in England and Wales were closing per week at that point. You have probably guessed that I was not very happy then and am still not happy as I edit this in 2020! I dread to think what the current coronavirus pandemic is going to do an already decimated industry.
Well, OK, nothing to do but to keep walking. At least I had a half an idea where I was going, having been there before. I should add a little directional advice here. If you are tired or short of time you should do this. The LOOP turns right down Turkey Street but if you turn left you have Turkey Street station a very short distance along and it runs back into Liverpool Street.
Walk right down Turkey Steet until you come to the main road, you won’t miss it as it is very busy and it seemed light years away from where we started today. The path turns right and you will walk past Tommy’s EN3 pub, and that is exactly what I suggested you do when I originally wrote this all those years ago.
I have lived in London for over 30 years now, before that I lived in Northern Ireland when things were perhaps not as relatively quiet as they are now, and I know all about rough pubs. To be perfectly honest, I like pubs that are a bit edgy as I don’t do posh very well. I don’t tend to mix with the beautiful people, probably due to the fact that I am not one. Three steps into this place and I knew it was a “wrong ‘un”. I know this is a fairly hard working class area and every pub has a right to be a bit “tasty” but this place just abused the privilege!
It was not yet 1800 hours and it appeared that they all had been in there since opening time, even if it had opened at 0700 that morning. I would also suggest that alcohol was not the only drug of choice in there as I listened to some of the completely frenetic and idiotic conversations going on. A word to the wise here. If you have walked into a bar far enough to be noticed, and I was instantly as being not a regular, the worst thing you can do is turn round and walk out. A female would get away with it but a bloke will be marked out as a soft touch and probably mugged half a mile down the road when he left.
I knew I had some footpaths to go away from main roads at that point. OK, I thought, only one thing to do and that is to front it. Fortunately, I am physically quite tall and I speak with a pronounced Northern Ireland accent which seems to help, so I thought I would brazen it out for one pint and then hightail it.
I readjusted my body language appropriately, turned my accent up by about 15% and increased the volume by about the same amount. I ordered my pint whereupon I engaged anyone within earshot in the same sort of banal conversation that seemed to be the lingua franca of the establishment. OK, I was thirsty as I had walked a fair bit but I swear that pint went down in double quick time and I tactically withdrew in good order as I believe the military phrase is.
As you can see from the image it was taken in haste and from the other side of the road just before I disappeared round the corner on the principle that they were all too drunk and / or stoned to even bother following me.
I do not want anyone to get the wrong idea of London in general or Enfield in particular. I know a couple of great little places up that way as I shall explain in the next paragraph. Thankfully, you’ll not have to suffer Tommy’s (I use the word advisedly) as it is thankfully closed down and is now supermarket. Never thought I’d say I was happy to see a pub closed.
The last part this section of the walk is equally dismal. You still follow the line of the Turkey Brook which is culverted in here on one side with a sturdy fence keeping you out of Albany Park on the other. The reason for all this is that you have to walk for a bit to get to the footbridge over the railway and, having crossed, come right back on yourself to get to your escape hatch, also known as Enfield Lock train station which, like Turkey Street, runs back into Liverpool Street.
You”ll no doubt be glad to know the end is nigh, as adherents of certain religious sects are prone to telling us and so it was. I had checked my guidebook, walked down Newbury Avenue, turned left into Ordnance Road (that road name is significant as you’ll see in the next post) and there was the station. No problem, I was home and hosed. Or was I? Nature, karma, kismet, fate or just sheer bloody happenstance has a way of throwing things at me, and so it was then. Not 30 yards from my destination, what did I stumble upon but what you see in the attached image.
In I wandered (slowly), still a little apprehensive after my last experience and had a very good scan of the place. All pretty regular blokes, good so far. I ordered my pint and sat at the bar, as is my wont. Still all good as nobody had said I was sitting on their stool. Fairly typical working man’s bar which is fine with me. I should add that I was to find out later that anyone with a lady friend goes into the other, larger bar where the jukebox is, but I was happy where I was. After that other place I was just glad that my mind was not going over whether or not I had kept my life insurance current!
The Railway is a very friendly place, if a little worn and rough round the edges but I was as happy as a pig in muck there, so happy in fact that I managed to miss several trains. Whilst out for a smoke (we had the appalling smoking ban I mentioned above then) I wandered the very small distance to the train station and memorised the times. No problem. A couple more pints and then it was the short dander to the station to deposit me at my “home” station which is ten minutes walk from my actual home. It was a very contented Fergy that was on the train that night, having had two brilliant consecutive days walking.
In the next post I’ll explain why ordnance is so important to Enfield, we’ll meet Queen Elizabeth again (the first one) and even take in a bit of her beloved falconry so stay tuned and spread the word.