Sunday 30 October 2016

London Loop 18/19: Enfield Lock - Chingford - Chigwell

View across the Lea Valley from Daws Hill, Sewardstone Hills

You’ll cross two of the region’s most valuable large green spaces along this section of the London Loop: the Lee Valley Park and Epping Forest. Both plunge deep into east London, bridging city and countryside, though most of our walk is outside London, in Essex, the last historic county on the Loop, even though some of it has a London postcode. It passes through the forest gateway town of Chingford with its Tudor hunting lodge, and on out of the Forest to cross the river Roding where it runs between nature reserves and lakes at Buckhurst Hill.

I’ve returned to combining two shorter sections of the Loop for this instalment. The official break point is at Chingford, and the only practical place to stop before this has a relatively infrequent non-TfL bus. From Chingford to Chigwell there are several other transport options along the way.

Enfield Lock on the River Lee Navigation

Enfield Lock

For well over a century, the name ‘Enfield’ brought to mind an image rather less peaceful than that of a sleepy Middlesex market town. Between the 1850s and the 1960s, the majority of rifles used by the armed forces both of Britain and other countries in the British Empire and, later, Commonwealth, were made at the Royal Small Arms Factory beside Enfield Lock. The most famous of these was the Lee-Enfield rifle, of which variants were used in a depressingly long list of conflicts from the Second Boer War of 1899-1902 to Afghanistan in the early 2000s.

The Lee part of the name only coincidentally resembles that of the river that passes the site: it derives instead from the designer of the rifle’s bolt system, James Paris Lee. The name Enfield, though, was applied in whole or part to most of the factory’s products, including the Enfield revolver; the Bren gun, a contraction acknowledging that this was a modification of a Czech machine gun made in Brno; and the Sten gun, combining the place name with the initials of designers Shepherd and Turpin.

The factory was founded in 1816 following the Napoleonic wars, out of frustration with the poor quality of weapons then being supplied to the armed forces by Birmingham gunsmiths. Its location on an artificial island between the River Lee Navigation and the River Lea itself provided a convenient transport route not only downstream to London but to the Royal Gunpowder Mills in Waltham Abbey, just a little upstream (and briefly encountered on the London Countryway), as well as water power from the river. Much adjoining farmland in the valley was requisitioned for testing. The factory expanded significantly during the Crimean War in the 1850s, adopting US-style mass production methods. By the 1880s, 2,400 people worked at the site, which was then producing thousands of rifles a week.

Two world wars prompted further expansion, but in the 1950s production began to decline, and half the site was decommissioned in 1963. The remaining factory was privatised in 1984, soon becoming part of British Aerospace, who closed it in 1988. The site was finally redeveloped as housing between 1997 and 2003 under the name Enfield Island Village, incorporating some of the historic buildings including part of the original machine shop and clock tower, and an interpretation centre which is open by appointment only. A less welcome legacy also persists – in 2000 a survey found evidence of contamination from lead, cadmium, arsenic and copper, and residents are warned not to dig more than a metre into their gardens.

Despite the fame of its brand, during its working life the factory wasn’t technically in Enfield at all. It stood on the east bank of the natural course of the river Lea, and therefore over the county boundary in Essex, in the hamlet of Sewardstone. Over the years, the waterways across the site were re-channelled, and in 1993, several years after closure, the boundary of the London Borough of Enfield was extended to the River Lea Flood Relief Channel which loops to the east, partly to resolve planning powers for redevelopment.

Enfield Lock station, where the short link to this section starts, and the modest terraced houses that line the streets you follow, are all here because of the Royal Small Arms Factory. Then there’s a short length alongside the Turkey Brook again, continuing from the last section, before a foot and cycle bridge rises up ahead. This takes the Loop over the first of many branches of the river Lea, known as the Small River Lea, and the Turkey Brook bends off to the right to join it just before both merge with the River Lee Navigation a little south of our route.

The bridge continues across Mollison Avenue, the A1055 road, built in the 1980s to provide better access to the industrial estates along the Lea Valley, and named after pioneer aviator Jim Mollison. You then walk along the edge of Prince of Wales Open Space, today a rather straightforward recreation ground, but there are plans by the council and the Wildlife and Wetlands Trust to create a wetland reserve here.

The path emerges right opposite Enfield Lock itself, on the River Lee Navigation. There was probably a crude lock on the river here back in the 14th century, and certainly by 1725, predating the Navigation which opened in the early 1770s. The lock cottages and toll office date from 1889 and the lock itself, number 13, was rebuilt in 1922. The path crosses the downriver end of the lock: the row of cottages stretching to the left on the other side was built for gun factory workers, and is known as Government Row. Just beyond, and running parallel to the navigation, is the river Lea itself, with the former factory site beyond. You could explore it by turning slightly left and crossing the first bridge across the Lea, but the Loop turns right, briefly following the Lea Valley Walk along the towpath into the Lee Valley Park.

Lee Valley Park

The Cattlegate Flood Relief Channel, which now marks the boundary of London and Essex at Enfield Lock. The houses with solar cells on the left are in Enfield Island Village, on the former Royal Small Arms Factory site.

I introduced the river Lea or Lee, the River Lee Navigation, the Lee Valley Park and the Lea Valley Walk (see also Transport for London) at length when they were first encountered on the London Countryway at Broxbourne, including an explanation of the variant spellings, so I’ll keep this brief. The Lea is one the Thames’ biggest tributaries and arguably London’s second most important river. It rises on the edge of the Chilterns at Leagrave in the northern suburbs of Luton, runs roughly east and southeast via Harpenden and Hertford to Ware, then turns south via Broxbourne and east London. As tidal Bow Creek, it joins the Thames at Leamouth near Poplar, right opposite the O2 on the North Greenwich peninsula, a total distance of 68 km.

Throughout its history, the Lea has been important both politically and economically. Towards the end of the 9th century, the lower half of the river became the agreed boundary between the Saxon Kingdom of Wessex on the west bank, and the Danelaw, the part of England governed autonomously by Danish settlers, on the east. It remains the boundary between Hertfordshire and the London boroughs of Enfield, Haringey, Hackney and Tower Hamlets, formerly in Middlesex, to the west; and Essex and the London boroughs of Waltham Forest and Newham, to the east. Following various tweaks both to the boundary and to the waterway itself, though, the dividing line doesn’t always follow the course of the Lea today.

Economically, the river was a source of water for drinking and irrigation, fish and power for mills, and also a major transport corridor. One important cargo was grain, and particularly malted barley for the extensive London brewing industry, which was grown in the fields of Hertfordshire and malted in the towns of Hertford and Ware before being shipped south. Wheat was also shipped this way – at one point the abbey at Stratford had a near-monopoly on milling it into flour for London bakers – but barley was more associated with moneyed interests. It was the rich and powerful London brewers who in 1739 led the campaign to establish a board tasked with improving navigation on the river, which had particularly suffered from the abstraction of drinking water to supplement the New River (crossed in the previous section).

This campaign eventually resulted in the construction of the River Lee Navigation between 1767 and 1770, using a combination of improvements to the natural course and 18 km of new cuts to create what was essentially London’s first canal. The Navigation runs between Hertford and Bromley-by-Bow, from where the Limehouse Cut dodges the tight meanders of Bow Creek by heading straight to the Thames at Limehouse. Now used primarily for leisure rather than commerce, its management has passed via British Waterways to the Canal & River Trust.

Development on the Lea’s wide, flat flood plain was restricted by the wet conditions. By the early 20th century, the land use was a mix of water catchment and management, glasshouse nurseries, gravel extraction, remaining fragments of agricultural land, and industry along the lower reaches. The aggregates dug here, deposited in the last glacial period, helped build London, but by the 1940s the supply was nearing exhaustion, leaving an inhospitable landscape behind, and the nurseries and some of the other established industries in the valley were also set to decline.

A vision of the valley transformed into a giant recreational park for east London appears in Patrick Abercrombie’s utopian Greater London Plan of 1944, but no firm steps were taken to achieve it until the early 1960s when the mayor and town clerk of Hackney began building support for the idea among local authorities and other concerned organisations. This culminated in the creation by an Act of Parliament of the cross-council Lee Valley Regional Park Authority in 1966, funded by a modest additional charge to local ratepayers, with most of the early development of the park proceeding in the early 1970s.

Since then, the Lee Valley Park has evolved into one of the brightest of London’s green gems, with 4,050 ha of near-continuous green space stretching over 42 km from Ware to East India Dock Basin. It now includes much of the parkland and several of the venues in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford, and will expand still further with the completion of the Lea River Park project to create a linked series of new public spaces between Three Mills and the Thames over the next decade or so. It’s no longer London’s only regional park – the Loop has already passed through the Colne Valley Park between West Drayton and Harefield – but it’s the only one with statutory backing, and the difference is evident in its quality, prominent identity and sense of ambition.

The 80 km Lea Valley Walk is the main walking trail through the park, essentially following the Lee Navigation towpath, though it also stretches a considerable distance further upriver, all the way to the river’s source. The southern terminus is a little more complicated thanks to access issues along Bow Creek: previously the most obvious route was along the Limehouse Cut, but ongoing work on the Lea River Park is opening up a new route called the Leaway, creating much more pleasant walks to East India Dock Basin, Trinity Buoy Wharf on the confluence itself, and the Royal Victoria Docks.

At Enfield Lock, it provides the shortest and most straightforward link between the Loop and the London Countryway at Waltham Town Lock, around 2 km to the north. A more recently-developed parallel route for cyclists and walkers, the Lee Valley Pathway, either runs jointly with the towpath or follows a more easterly course.

The Loop’s dalliance in the Park is, rather sadly, a brief one, and its time on the Walk is even shorter. Soon you pass a fishing pond, the picturesquely named Swan and Pike Pool, squeezed between the two watercourses, and turn away from the navigation to follow the river Lea itself into grassy wetlands, passing an old bridge that once connected the Royal Small Arms Factory to the rail network.

The course of the river here was diverted around 1910 to facilitate the construction of the massive 170 ha King George V reservoir, its grand red brick and Portland stone pumping station soon looming ahead. This is the northernmost of 13 reservoirs in the valley dating from the early 20th century, and still making a major contribution to London’s water supply today. The King George, named after the monarch who opened it, and its immediate neighbour to the south, the William Girling reservoir, together form the Chingford Reservoirs Site of Special Scientific Interest due to their popularity with wintering wild fowl, though admission is restricted to permit holders only.

Just before the reservoir perimeter, the Loop dodges across the Lea on a footbridge and crosses another rough grassy area. There’s something curious about these verdant but still oddly desolate patches, defined by their exclusion from the civil engineering that surrounds them, the reservoir and the various watercourses, like offcuts of cloth. Of course they’re now valued for their wildlife and recreational function, but they retain that slight feeling of being forgotten about. Soon the Loop crosses yet another linked watercourse, the River Lee Flood Relief Channel mentioned above, also known as the Cattlegate Channel. This was commissioned after bad flooding in 1947, although only completed in 1976. The high water levels of recent years have undermined its effectiveness, and still further work will soon be needed in the valley.

Crossing the Cattlegate Channel, you reach the current boundary of Greater London and enter the Epping Forest district of Essex, the Loop’s last historical county. As the channel deliberately followed the eastern perimeter of the Royal Small Arms Factory, it was the obvious option when the boundary was realigned in the 1990s. I also introduced Essex in some detail when the London Countryway crossed into it at Waltham Abbey. Its name commemorates the fact that in the early middle ages it was the kingdom of the East Saxons, and it was once much larger, including most of what later became Middlesex and Hertfordshire. As mentioned earlier, the boundary along the Lea dates back to the treaty that created the Danelaw in 878, but persisted after the final defeat of the Danes in 991.

The London Loop enters Sewardstone Marsh

On the other side of the channel is Sewardstone Marsh, which looks like a good example of the wet, flat meadows that once characterised the valley floor, although it’s been heavily restored. Prior to World War II it was used for grazing, but during the war it was quarried for road construction materials, and then used as a dump for ash and rubble from Brimsdown power station a little further downriver. Acquired by Lee Valley Park in the mid-1980s, it’s now a delightful patchwork of woodland, grassland and grazed flood meadows that provides a home to the rare early marsh orchid. There are many more wonderful sites like this in the park, as you’ll discover along the Lea Valley Path, but the Loop is eager to push on east.


Sewardstone is a straggly hamlet on the old road between Waltham Abbey and Walthamstow. Originally it was a small manor in the south of the parish of Waltham Holy Cross, centred on the powerful abbey to the north, and was once the residence of the abbey’s ‘pittancer’, the person responsible for managing pittances or charitable donations to the abbey. There are still some historic buildings, including Netherhouse Farmhouse, almost opposite as you emerge on the road: although the front wing is 18th century, the rear is certainly earlier, and it forms an attractive group with surrounding barns. The nursery and glasshouse industry in the valley later spilled into Sewardstone and there are still several nurseries along the road to left and right. To the south is the Lee Valley Campsite, operated by the park authority, the only official camping site close to the London Loop

Sewardstone holds another curious distinction: it’s the only place outside Greater London with a London postcode. The anomaly is less puzzling once you understand that postal addresses and postcodes have always served the operational convenience of the Royal Mail above popular or official geographies.

As mentioned many times here, the development of local government in London lagged a long way behind the physical development of the metropolis. The London Postal District, the area where correct postal addresses end in ‘London’ and a compass point postcode, dates back to 1856, long before the creation of the London County Council (LCC), the first true London-wide authority, in 1889. Back then, the District included substantial rural hinterlands that were serviced from post offices in adjacent urban centres: for example, post to Sewardstone has been delivered from the Chingford office since 1813.

The LCC area, when it was finally defined, was substantially smaller than the Postal District, so there were once many more places technically outside London that nonetheless had London addresses, from Brent Cross to Wimbledon. The much larger area of Greater London defined in 1965 subsumed practically all of these, and much more, but the Royal Mail stuck rigidly to its policy of ignoring official boundary changes.

This is why all the London locations we’ve previously passed through on the Loop have addresses and postcodes that refer to other towns: for example, back on the west side of the Lea you’ll find EN postcodes, for Enfield. Some of the ‘post towns’ used in outer London are even outside London itself, so Erith, where the Loop began, has DA postcodes, for Dartford. Except here, where a peninsula of the London Postal District defiantly pokes out beyond the Greater London boundary. As in neighbouring Chingford, which is now within London, the last line of the correct postal address for all the buildings you see begins ‘London E4’. Between here and the river Ching is, incidentally, the only stretch of the Loop within the London Postal District.

Sadly, Transport for London takes a less inclusive view of Sewardstone. As attested by the infrequent service, this is not currently one of those places just outside the boundary graced with red buses and Oyster readers. The 505 bus, which passes through on its way between Chingford, Waltham Abbey and Harlow, is a commercially-operated route that was almost withdrawn completely in 2015, but instead had its frequency drastically reduced.

Dark hills rear up on the other side of the valley, topped by a smudge of forest green. These are the Sewardstone Hills, and the Loop now leaves the road to turn directly towards them, crossing fields and climbing Barn Hill on a farm track. Just after the Loop joins the track, it re-crosses the Prime Meridian back into the eastern hemisphere, after entering the western at Coney Hall near Hayes (Bromley).

Rewarding the climb are the fine views across the Lea Valley that soon appear on the right. As well as admiring the extensive green swathes and the wide blue waters of the Chingford reservoirs offset by the chimneys of Brimsdown power station, you can appreciate from here quite how wide and flat a flood plain the Lea has smoothed for itself. In the distance rise the hillier parts of north London, and off to the north you may be able to work out some of the ridges the Loop has already traversed. Then, reaching the top of the hill, the trail unexpectedly diverts from the farm track at a turning that’s easy to miss, heading for the trees of Epping Forest.

Epping Forest

Carrolls Farm, Sewardstone, surrounded by Epping Forest, just a few hundred metres from London.

It seems almost unfair that, by a quirk of geography, two of London’s most extensive and impressive green spaces are so close together. And despite their proximity, the Lee Valley Park and Epping Forest are contrasting environments in a variety of ways. The former is a recent innovation in a broad, flat valley, highly accessible and well-interpreted for visitors. The latter is a more rugged place with a much longer history and sections that feel genuinely wild. The management tradition is different too, with a cautiousness about ‘urbanising’ nature that is sometimes off-putting to visitors, although this has softened a little recently. It’s still easy to get lost in Epping Forest, and although the Loop takes a relatively straightforward path through it, there are places where you need to read the directions carefully and look hard for waymarks.

I discussed the Forest in more detail on the same section of the London Countryway that introduced the Lee Valley Park, so once again I’ll summarise only briefly here. In the 11th century, it was part of the Forest of Essex, a royal hunting forest like the Forest of Middlesex on the other side of the valley, although considerably bigger, covering nearly the entire county. Like other hunting forests it included open areas as well as woodland: it’s been estimated perhaps only 20% was wooded. The forest was split up in the 13th century, with several much smaller successor forests covering more densely wooded areas. One of these was Waltham Forest, which occupied the southwest of the county between the Romford Road (originally the Roman road from London to Colchester, now the A118) in the south, and Harlow in the north.

By the early 19th century, patchwork inclosure and development had significantly reduced the tree cover and split the forest further into two discontinuous patches, Epping Forest in the west and Hainault Forest in the east. In the early 19th century, the government removed Epping’s royal forest status and sold off the remaining woodland to the lord of the manor of Loughton, whose successors attempted to inclose and develop it. This triggered a campaign of resistance which culminated in the Epping Forest Act of 1878, preserving the 2,476 ha of forest which remains today.

By then, the City of London had become involved, as the closest thing to an official expression of the public interest of Londoners prior to the creation of the London County Council. The 1878 Act confirmed the City as the official conservator, a position it has held ever since. The legacy of the City’s role in preserving countryside as a public amenity has already been encountered on the Loop, when it crossed parts of the Kent and Surrey Commons (in sections 3, 4 and 5/6), but Epping Forest is by far the biggest among its portfolio of green spaces, many of which are a long way from the ‘square mile’ itself, including considerable swathes outside the modern boundary of Greater London.

The little triangular woodland at the top of Daws Hill is only connected to the rest of the historic forest by a thin strip, though the forest lands now extend into the fields and meadows to the north, bought by the City in the 1990s. Then a short stretch along a country lane passes Carolls Farm, where there are two Grade II listed buildings creating an attractive group: a mid-16th century timber-framed and weatherboarded barn, and the farmhouse itself, largely dating from 1767 though with earlier sections. You could follow the lane, Bury Road, all the way to Chingford, but as it’s that rarity on the Loop, a country road without a pavement, you’ll likely be grateful for the U-shaped detour through Gilwell Park and Hawk Wood that shortly follows (also incidentally dipping briefly back into the western hemisphere), though it does miss out the cluster of posh houses at Sewardstonebury.

Just before this, another trail joins from a track across the golf course on your left, which the Loop follows for a while in reverse. This is the Greenwich Meridian Trail, devised by walking writers Hilda and Graham Heap to follow the line of the meridian as closely as possible through England while still providing a pleasant and varied walk. It starts at Peacehaven on the south coast, crosses the South and North Downs, passes through Greenwich and east London, runs close to Cambridge and continues across the Fens and the Lincolnshire Wolds to the Humber Estuary, with a short continuation on the other side from Spurn Head to Tunstall, a total distance of 439 km. This section launched with a self-published guidebook in 2011, and you might spot the occasional waymark installed by volunteers.

The Leopard Gate at Gilwell Park.

Gilwell Park is known to keen woggle wearers and jamboree attendees throughout the world as the home of the international scouting movement. Back in the early 15th century this was a farm, and later a smart country estate: a handsome mid-18th century farmhouse, the White House, still stands at the heart of the complex. By the early 20th century, the estate had fallen into dilapidation, and in 1919 it was bought by the Scout Association for £7,000, donated by a wealthy Scottish Scout commissioner, William Maclaren, to provide a nearby campsite for members in the East End. It’s since evolved into the Scouts’ main training, conference and events venue, with camping for up to 3,000 and events facilities for up to 10,000 people.

It houses a museum, a volunteer-run hospital, places of worship for five different faiths, and a collection of monuments and memorabilia, including a buffalo sculpture in honour of the ‘unknown Scout’ who brought Scouting to the USA, a sala containing a 1,000-year old Buddha, and Baden-Powell’s Rolls Royce and caravan. Since 2001 the site has also been the main administrative centre of the Scout Association with several hundred staff based here. It seems like an idyllic place to work, and appropriate given the organisation’s outdoor tradition, though I suspect most employees reach the office by car.

The Loop doesn’t venture into the site beyond the carved wood Leopard Gate, constructed to mark the main entrance to the site in 1928, but you can catch further glimpses into the park as you circumnavigate it, and if you’re interested, some areas are open to visitors. On the other side of the path is a covered reservoir that takes advantage of the elevated location. After a while the trail turns south, descending Yardley Hill to a valley floor. Crossing a ditch which forms an old field boundary, you walk back into London, this time into the London Borough of Waltham Forest, its name a deliberate echo of the old royal forest.

The trail climbs again towards Pole Hill and then turns off along a ridge, close to the edge of Hawk Wood. On the right here you’ll glimpse a golf course, the Loop’s first for a while. This is Chingford Golf Course, founded in 1888 as the Royal Epping Forest Golf Club but taken over in 1901 by the City, which still runs it today. Several different clubs share the facilities. For most of its existence, as if typical golfing clothes weren’t loud enough, players were required to wear a red item of clothing so they’d be clearly visible to other Forest users. The rule was only abolished in 2014.

The rather odd conifer at Jubilee Retreat.
Eventually the trail arrives back on Bury Road, briefly crossing back out of London, but now there’s a broad path on the other side, parallel to the road just inside the trees of Bury Wood, which takes it almost immediately back across the boundary. This is also the route of the Holly Trail, one of the official Epping Forest circular walks. Look out on the right for Jubilee Retreat, across the road, now used as a clubhouse but once one of several forest ‘retreats’ – late Victorian temperance tea rooms that aimed to persuaded visitors away from the local pubs. Look closely at what appears at first to be a very tall conifer in a compound next door – it’s actually a mobile phone mast disguised as a tree.


The trail soon arrives at the wide, undulating grassy expanse of Chingford Plain, the first piece of Forest land immediately to the north of the built-up area, occupying a plateau that forms part of the clay ridge between the Lea and Roding valleys. On a fine day, especially in early summer when the grass is deep green and dotted with flowers, there’s an exhilarating sense of space here. On windy winter days it seems like one of the bleakest places in London.

The original Anglo-Saxon settlement of Chingford was likely quite a long way from here, to the southwest, by an ancient crossing of the Lea at Cooks Ferry which now carries the North Circular Road. The name is thought to mean ‘ford of the stump dwellers’, the ford referring to the Lea crossing and the stumps the foundations of pile houses built to cope with the marshy ground. The rest of Chingford, away from the river, was then covered in forest, but large parts of this were cleared in the 13th and 14th centuries to create a scattered parish of three manors and various small settlements, with a single parish church on high ground at Chingford Mount.

Chingford Plain is yet another site on the Loop, after Nonsuch, Bushy Park and Forty Hall, that owes something of its current appearance to Henry VIII and his insatiable appetite for hunting. By 1544, Henry controlled two of the local manors, and set about converting parts of these and the adjacent forest into a hunting park to be known as Fairmead Park, appointing Richard Rich, one of his then-favoured cronies, as keeper. Much of the grassland was probably created at this time through woodland clearance, and one of the original ‘standings’, lodges built for hunt spectators, still commands a view of the plain today, as we shall soon see. The project proved short-lived and the site was ‘disparked’ by 1553.

Rather like the area around Forty Hall, Chingford’s development was restrained by its relative lack of transport access, although a number of upmarket country houses appeared in the 18th and early 19th centuries. Encroachments on Forest land also continued: in the 1860s the local lords of the manor inclosed and ploughed up parts of the plain, but following the Epping Forest Act in 1878, they were ordered to return this land to open space.

The arrival of the railway in 1873 triggered development around the stations, particularly just to the south of the plain around the terminus close to Chingford Green, one of the original hamlets. By 1894, the area was populated enough to become an urban district. But it only achieved its current near-completely urbanised state between the two world wars, when development sprawled north to link it to Walthamstow, incorporating it decisively into the metropolis. Technically it still remained in Essex, until finally becoming part of the London Borough of Waltham Forest on the expansion of London in 1965.

You may divert from the Loop here not just if you want to break your walk at Chingford station but also to take advantage of the shops, cafés, pubs and restaurants that line Station Road, linking Chingford Green, the station and Chingford Plain. The official route heads off across a car park just after entering the Plain and then follows the road. But it’s more pleasant just to keep ahead across the springy turf, on a path that doesn’t pass that much further from the station.

The first station in the locality was opened in 1873 on Kings Road, closer to the Green, as an extension of the Great Eastern Railway’s (GER) branch from Clapton to Walthamstow. In 1878 the line was extended to a grander terminus on the present site, then less convenient for local housing but closer to the Forest, which the GER saw as an important potential stimulus to the growing leisure travel market. The plan was to extend through the Forest to High Beach, already a popular Forest honeypot (visited on the London Countryway).

Although this scheme was never realised, Chingford met all expectations as a gateway to the newly-preserved green resource. It was at Chingford in 1882 that Queen Victoria arrived by train to declare the Forest open to the public forever. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, regular fairs on the Plain attracted huge crowds, reaching a peak on Whitsun bank holiday Monday 1920 when over 100,000 people passed through the station. Interwar development increased the railway’s importance as a commuting route and the line was subsequently truncated slightly to make way for the bus station, but the Victorian fabric is largely intact. It’s now part of Transport for London’s London Overground network. Look out for the plastic owl under the canopy of Platform 2, placed there to deter pigeons.

Queen Elizabeth's Hunting Lodge, with new improved
Tudor monarch-resistant deer.
Back on the trail, you walk across the Plain right in front of what’s now the most historic building in Chingford, and indeed one of the finest surviving Tudor buildings in London, so it’s worth making a minor diversion for a closer look. This is the old Great Standing constructed for Henry VIII’s Fairmead Park project, now known as Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge.

The Grade II* listed building and scheduled ancient monument with its exposed timber frame and plaster infill has been much restored over the years, including a rather fanciful rebuilding in the late 19th century that resulted in the current window layout. When built, it was the only such structure in England to boast three floors, and would have had open galleries overlooking the Plain. You can imagine what a fine view it commanded from the top of the slope of the bloody entertainment below as deer were driven out of the woods.

The walls were filled in by 1608, as by then the Manor Court met on the top floor, and by the early 19th century a Forest Keeper lived on the floors below. When the court stopped meeting in 1851, the Keeper and his wife converted the space into a tea room to cater for the growing number of leisure visitors. Between 1895 and 1960, the Essex Field Club used the building as a natural history museum, after which the City of London took it on. A more sympathetic restoration between 1989 and 1993 put right some of the damage done in Victorian times, and the Lodge is now open as a museum again, with exhibitions about life in Tudor times.

Next door is a smart City of London visitor centre, the View, opened in 2012 in a late Victorian building. As its name suggests, this boasts its own spectacular (and more accessible) view of the Forest as well as exhibitions and information on forest life. And next to that is the Royal Forest, a sprawling early 20th century ‘Brewer’s Tudor’ pub-hotel that now houses a Brewer’s Fayre and Premier Inn, another of the handful of accommodation options along the Loop.

The trail finally climbs from Chingford Plain beside another celebrated venue, the Butler’s Retreat, a timber-framed, weatherboarded early 19th century building that may once have been a barn. This takes its name from its 1890s proprietor, John Butler, and is the last surviving Forest retreat still open for public refreshment, although it now has an alcohol license. It was restored as part of the same project that created the View and is currently operated by a small upmarket café chain, the Larder.

Reaching Rangers Road, the Loop meets another trail from the northeast, the Centenary Walk Epping Forest, unsigned but shown on Ordnance Survey maps, which runs for 24 km through the whole length of the Forest from Forest Gate in east London to Epping. It was devised as part of the centenary celebration of the Epping Forest Act in 1978 by the late Fred Matthews, a prominent Ramblers campaigner in Essex and a prolific originator of walking trails.

It’s still the basis of an annual walking event organised by the Friends of Epping Forest and the Ramblers. It provides another convenient link between the Loop and the London Countryway at High Beach: the latter trail actually shares the alignment of the Centenary Walk from there to Epping. The Greenwich Meridian Trail, which has pursued a slightly different route, again converges with the Loop here, then heads decisively south with the Centenary Walk towards Walthamstow and Wanstead Flats.

The Loop now keeps eastward on the other side of Rangers Road, through an area known as Hatch Forest, to encounter a pretty stream, the river Ching. This rises at Connaught Water, a lake not far to the north, and flows roughly south between Woodford and Highams Park, then curves east between South Chingford and Walthamstow to meet the river Lea just north of the Banbury reservoir, a distance of about 9 km.

As you may guess from my previous comments about the origin of the name ‘Chingford’, the river’s name is a ‘back formation’ from the place rather than the other way round: it used to be called the Bourne. Much of the Ching’s course once formed the eastern and southern boundaries of Chingford parish, and here it still represents the edge of London. As confirmed by the county sign beside Rangers Road a few metres away, once across the Ching the Loop is back in Essex, where it stays for the rest of this section.

Buckhurst Hill

Folk etymology in picture at Roebuck Green, Buckhurst Hill
The area of Epping Forest immediately to the east of Chingford is known as the Warren, as by the end of the 18th century there was a large rabbit warren here. The Loop enters it along a broad grassy strip, climbing again to reach Epping New Road, a turnpike driven through what was then deep forest in 1834 as an improvement of the coaching route between London and Newmarket.

In the 1920s this road was designated part of a major trunk route, the A11 from London to Norwich, but since the opening of the M11 it’s been detrunked and renumbered A104. The pub here, the Warren Wood, was opened shortly after the road, in the 1850s. The house known as the Warren, once one of the Tudor ‘standings’ and now the Forest Keepers’ headquarters, is some distance further up the road to the north.

The Loop continues on a footpath through another stretch of Forest and alongside a cricket ground to emerge at Roebuck Green, which still preserves some of the atmosphere of a rural hamlet in an airy hilltop location. Since crossing the Ching, you’ve been in the area known as Buckhurst Hill, once a remote and wooded western part of Chigwell parish. It was bisected by the old highway on which you now stand, running roughly north-south from Woodford to Loughton, with only a rough footpath running east-west to connect with the parish church at Chigwell. Remarkably, there wasn’t a proper road between the two until 1890.

As a buck is a male deer, and a hurst a wooded hill, the place name seems evocatively rural, but it was originally the more prosaic-sounding Bucket Hill, probably ultimately derived from the fact that beech trees grew here. A straggle of houses lay along the road, which increased in importance in the 17th century when it was extended at its northern end to Epping, becoming an important link in the coaching route from London to Newmarket. But the climb up the hill was a cause of frequent delay, and the road was eventually superseded in 1834 by the Epping New Road, which the Loop crossed earlier.

Dog rose at North Farm, Buckhurst Hill
While the various road improvements stimulated enough development to necessitate the building of a church in 1837, Buckhurst Hill only really became a significant settlement with the opening of the railway in 1856. Much of the building was on inclosed Forest land, with the most expensive and desirable properties up on the ridge, and denser housing further east into the Roding valley, closer to the railway.

You can still see this pattern today: up here there are big villas overlooking the attractive green, with Victorian semis down the hill around the station, and interwar private and social housing and flats filling in the gaps. Today, the more desirable bits are very desirable indeed: along with Chigwell and Loughton, Buckhurst Hill forms the so-called Golden Triangle of affluent vulgarity featured in ‘reality’ TV show The Only Way is Essex.

The grass and scattered trees of Roebuck Green are another fragment of Forest Land, as are the fields of North Farm which you pass on a half-hidden path between the houses overlooking the green. Once these fields were covered in a wood known as Plucketts Wood, later inclosed, largely cleared and farmed. After World War II the owner, Charles Linder, allowed local people to use the fields on the right of the path for events, and in 1956 handed their management over to Chigwell Urban District Council, since succeeded by Epping Forest District Council. The 3.6 ha site is now managed as a Local Nature Reserve, with hay meadows that are particularly attractive in early summer, and a few remnant patches of ancient woodland.

It might not be London, but they have the Underground. Crossing the Central Line at Buckhurst Hill.

The Loop descends through fine green meadows, finally leaving the Forest lands to cross the railway. This was originally opened by the Eastern Counties Railway, predecessor of the Great Eastern, as a branch from Stratford to Loughton, providing through services to Bishopsgate and later Liverpool Street. It was extended in 1865 to Epping and Ongar, and in 1948 electrified and incorporated into the eastern extension of the London Underground Central Line, thus the familiar London Tube trains you’ll see plying the route today.

The remainder of the Loop through Buckhurst Hill is amid interwar development, though part of it makes good use of the Green Walk, an old footpath retained as a feature of the surrounding housing estates, which crosses close to the shops on Loughton Way. By now you’ve descended from the ridge to the flat flood plain of the next major Thames tributary east, the river Roding, and the Green Walk heads straight for the water, its surroundings soon opening out into Roding Valley Recreational Area.

The Roding Valley

The river Roding at Roding Valley Meadows, between Buckhurst Hill and Chigwell
The river Roding rises near Dunmow and flows for 80 km, initially roughly south through the Essex Rodings, villages which are suffixed with the river’s name. It works its way southeast from Ongar to Redbridge then slightly southwest through Ilford and Barking to join the Thames at Creekmouth – or Barking Riverside, as it’s shortly to be renamed once it’s redeveloped into a massive new residential estate -- as tidal Barking Creek.

Like the Lea but on a smaller scale, the Roding has a broad, flat valley, which as you’ll by now expect has been kept largely undeveloped for water management reasons. There have been various plans for a Roding Valley walking trail but currently following the river for any distance on foot is a rather disjoined experience.

Following World War II, the riverside land here, once used for farming, was designated as an open space for the much-expanded settlement and is now known as the Roding Valley Recreational Area (RVRA), an extended swathe of recreation grounds and sports fields which straddles the London boundary. In truth it’s one of those green areas along the Loop which, though undoubtedly valuable, is currently under-utilised, and would benefit from a more varied texture. Potentially it could become almost as attractive as the Lea valley.

Roding Valley Lakes, a legacy of the M11
This section of the RVRA is owned by Epping Forest District Council, but since new parish councils were created in this urbanised area in the late 1990s, the District has been negotiating to transfer its management to them. The Loop bends round the edge of one of the recreational area’s most prominent and attractive features, one of a pair of lakes used for fishing and boating. In another echo of the Lea valley, these were converted from gravel pits used for the construction of the nearby M11 in the late 1970s.

The trail then crosses the Roding itself and follows it briefly upriver through Roding Valley Meadows Local Nature Reserve, the largest remaining area of water meadows in Essex. This ancient landscape with its small meadows divided by traditional hedgerows was preserved into the later part of the 20th century as much of the land was requisitioned as an RAF base, RAF Chigwell, in 1938.

The base was a centre for barrage balloon operations in the early part of World War II, and part of the nuclear early warning system during the Cold War. Decommissioned in 1964 and largely demolished in 1968, part of the base was buried beneath the M11, while the rest was passed to Essex Wildlife Trust in 1986. It’s particularly noted for wild flowers like the southern marsh orchid, yellow watercress and devil’s bit scabious, as well as butterflies and other invertebrates.

The trail meets a concrete track of RAF origin, and if you detour left here, you’ll find one of the few substantial remains of the site’s wartime career, a concrete apron equipped with rotundas from which barrage balloons were launched. But the main route winds in the opposite direction out of the site, past a huge private David Lloyd leisure centre that also occupies part of the old base, and along a drive first towards the M11 and then parallel with it. The trees to the north conceal one of the hidden secrets of the motorway, but we’ll shortly enjoy a better view of this.

On the right, near the end of the drive, is the former Buckhurst Hill County High School, built in 1938 and closed in 1989 when it merged with Roding Valley High School and moved to a different site. The building is now an independent Sikh faith school that goes by the rather cumbersome name Guru Gobind Singh Khalsa College.

On to Chigwell

The M11, looking north from Roding Lane bridge at Chigwell. Sliproads lead to and from the never-built Chigwell Services.

The rest of this section is alongside the road into Chigwell, which crosses the M11 motorway, the last of the family of ‘Great North Roads’ the Loop encounters, and so far, the last of the major motorways built out of London. This section opened in 1980, superseding both the A10 and A11 as a through route to Cambridge and East Anglia, and providing a convenient exit northward from east London. It also serves London’s ‘third airport’, Stansted near Bishops Stortford, which was massively expanded in the mid-1980s.

Look left northwards along the motorway from the bridge and you’ll see unsigned slip roads on both sides. These and the overbridge just visible ahead are the only obvious clues on the ground to a curious instance of unfinished infrastructure hidden behind the trees. Aerial photographs are more revealing, showing that the slip roads loop around two large semi-circular areas of open grassland. As planned in the 1960s, the motorway was intended to extend much deeper into London than its current terminus on the North Circular at South Woodford, continuing through Hackney to Islington as part of the London Ringways plan. The land here was set aside for the motorway service area that would therefore be required, to be known as Chigwell Services.

But public opinion was turning firmly against such disruptive intrusions into inner cities, and plans for the final section of the motorway were finally cancelled in 1994. This is the reason why the southernmost junction on the M11 today is numbered 4, as junctions 1-3 would have been on the continuation south. A descendant of the scheme, the M11 link road to the Blackwall Tunnel approach via Leytonstone, was belatedly completed in the face of much local opposition as a diversion of the A12 in 1999. So Chigwell Services was now surplus to requirements. The site enjoyed a brief useful life between 2009 and 2012 as an off-site logistics depot during the construction of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, but is now redundant again, as if awaiting a new golden age of motorway building.

At first, fields on both sides relieve the road walk, but soon, chains of interwar houses snake up Chigwell Rise as the Loop descends into the valley of the Chigwell Brook to a roundabout where the Rise meets Chigwell High Road. Chigwell is another of those hydra-headed suburban villages, where the railway has created a secondary centre. The historic core is up the hill to the north, along the next section of the Loop. But the railway builders preferred the lower ground, so if you’re breaking your walk here, you’ll turn right through an area of more recent development. The High Street here is lined with 1930s shopping parades, now boasting retailers upmarket enough to match the well-heeled locals’ aspirations. Another attraction is the well-kept village green, now a little park with a colourful ‘millennium garden’.

Chigwell station dates from 1903, when the Great Eastern Railway opened a branch line known as the Fairlop Loop from its main line at Ilford to Woodford on the Epping and Ongar branch, encountered earlier on the Loop. Like the Epping line, this became part of the London Underground in 1948, with a new tunnel from Newbury Park to Leytonstone completing the now-familiar Hainault Loop on the Central Line. The connection to the main line was finally severed in 1956. The original red brick station still sits on the road bridge over the lines, recently refurbished but largely unaltered. With its elegant vaguely Dutch-looking twin gables, it provides a modestly attractive location at which to end this typically varied section of the London Loop.

Modestly elegant and decidedly above ground: Chigwell Underground station.

Friday 7 October 2016

London Loop 17: Cockfosters - Enfield Lock

Top London Loop beauty spot: crossing the Turkey Brook in Hilly Fields Park

TRENT PARK, ONE OF THE FINEST PRESERVED COUNTRY ESTATES in London, opens this section of the London Loop in grand style. The trail continues through the fields of the former Enfield Chase alongside the Salmons Brook, then hops to the next river valley north, tracking the Turkey Brook through delightful parks and green spaces and past the site of a vanished Tudor palace. It crosses the New River and the route of Roman Ermine Street through the northern part of Enfield to stop just short of the Lee Valley Park.

This is a single longish official section of the Loop, though with several opportunities to break at bus stops. There’s an intermediate station right on the route too, but it’s a relatively short distance from the end.

Trent Park

Rolling parkland in Trent Park

Trent Park is one of the London Loop’s undisputed gems. This 3.2 km2 site with its swathes of parkland, woodland, lakes and sculpted vistas still reveals layers of ancient forest, mediaeval hunting park, Georgian country seat, post-Jazz Age confection and late 20th century municipal amenity. It has a rich past and rather an uncertain future.

As mentioned in the previous section, this part of the old Forest of Middlesex evolved into an extensive hunting park. Its boundary was first marked out in 1136 by its then lord, the Earl of Essex, Geoffrey de Mandeville, who once held sway over much of Essex, Hertfordshire and Middlesex. The name Enfield Chase first appears in 1322, and by 1421 it was a royal forest. The future Elizabeth I hunted deer here in 1557, having been escorted on horseback from Hatfield House by 12 ladies in white satin and 120 green-clothed yeomen. But though hunting on the chase was strictly reserved for the royals and their guests, local people, or commoners, were traditionally free to use the land for other purposes, such as grazing and gathering timber.

The first attempt to break up the Chase was in the 1650s under Oliver Cromwell’s Protectorate, when the government began selling off patches of it to cover arrears in the army payroll. This provoked violent resistance from the commoners, and ceased following the restoration of the monarchy. Ultimately, though, it proved impossible to regulate unauthorised use of such a large open area, and by the mid-18th century, the combination of a growing local population that needed feeding, and illegal activities like unauthorised timber cutting and poaching, swayed the argument in favour of inclosure. So in 1777, the area, which then totalled 34 km2, was legally ‘afforested’, with part becoming Monken Hadley Common, crossed in the previous walk.

As well as a multitude of smaller plots, two large estates were created. One was Beech Hill Park, also mentioned in the previous section. The other, to the east of Cockfosters Road, was intended to remain as a hunting park in miniature. George III gave this to the royal physician, Dr Robert Jebb, in gratitude for successfully treating his younger brother, William Henry, the Duke of Gloucester, for mental illness. It appears poor mental health ran in the family: as is well known, George himself suffered from it, developing dementia at a relatively early age. When Jebb treated him, William Henry was recuperating in what was then the prince-bishopric of Trento or Trient in the Südtirol, now the partly German-speaking region of northern Italy that borders Austria. Thus the new estate became Trent Park.

It was Jebb that built the first iteration of the mansion, and engaged a landscape gardener, most likely Humphrey Repton, to remodel the grounds. The work included a lake created from three streams, one of which eventually flows into Salmons Brook, which we’ll encounter later. The original house was modest and undistinguished by the standards of the day and the setting, and was progressively extended and remodelled by subsequent owners, including the Bevans, a family of Quaker bankers, who lived here between 1833 and 1908.

Trent Park mansion, viewed from the Sassoon obelisk
The subsequent owner, Edward Sassoon, died in 1912, not long after buying the property, and it was his son, Philip, who was to become its most famous private owner. The Sassoons were a wealthy Jewish trading family, originally from Baghdad via India, and closely related to the Rothschilds. Philip, a cousin of celebrated war poet Siegfried Sassoon, was the epitome of the millionaire playboy, a stylish socialite and aesthete who also happened to be the Conservative MP for Hythe in Kent and held several important government and military offices. He had already remodelled the estate at Port Lympne, in his constituency, as a lavish and decadent playground. In contrast, he reworked Trent Park with the help of architect Philip Tilden in more conservative style, using recycled 18th century red bricks to recreate it as the grand Georgian mansion it perhaps always should have been.

A keen pilot and sometime government air secretary, Sassoon built a private aerodrome in the grounds to hold his own aircraft collection. He also added a golf course, a Japanese water garden, various statues and monuments and a menagerie of exotic birds for the lake. Trent Park became a social focus for the great and the good of the day, and guests included Charles Chaplin, Winston Churchill, T E Lawrence (of Arabia), George Bernard Shaw and Rex Whistler. Tory politician Robert Boothby recalled:
The summer weekend parties at Trent were unique, and in the highest degree enjoyable, but theatrical rather than intimate. He [Sassoon] frankly loved success, and you could be sure of finding one or two of the reigning stars of the literary, film or sporting worlds, in addition to a fair sprinkling of politicians and, on occasion, royalty…. I remember one weekend when the guests, who included the present King and Queen, were entertained with an exhibition of ‘stunt’ shots at golf by Joe Kirkwood after lunch, with flights over the grounds in our host’s private aeroplane after tea, with a firework display over the lake after dinner, with songs from Richard Tauber, which we listened to on the terrace by moonlight before going to bed.
Sassoon always remained one of the most eligible bachelors of his day. His response when pressed on this was to say that he would only marry when he found someone as lovely and perfect as his sister Sybil. In reality it’s likely he preferred the young airmen he befriended through his government work and entertained at Port Lympne, although Sybil discreetly destroyed all his papers following his death from influenza at age 50 in 1939, so the exact truth about his private life remains obscure.

World War II broke out only a few months after Sassoon’s death, and events at Trent Park were about to get even more extraordinary. Most of the site was requisitioned as what appeared to be a prisoner of war camp, but was actually a top secret interrogation centre under the direction of a unit codenamed MI19. Prisoners were assigned large and comfortably furnished rooms with numerous home comforts, and given access to parts of the beautiful gardens and grounds. Some inmates were even treated to days out at the seaside.

But all the rooms were secretly bugged, and connected to listening and recording equipment, in the hope that the prisoners, most of them high-ranking officers who had been deliberately selected for their likely strategic knowledge, would lose their guard and open up to each other and to staff. Other techniques including circulating fake newspapers with stories intended to provoke potentially divisive or informative discussion, and employing civilian welfare staff who were actually intelligence officers trained to gain the detainees’ trust. By no means all the captured officers were enthusiastic supporters of the Nazi regime, and over time the prison community split into factions, tacitly encouraged by MI19.

Among the intelligence gained this way was the location of the V2 rocket development site at Peenemünde, prompting a series of Allied bombing raids, and much information about submarine movements. Trent Park was also one of the first places where evidence began to emerge of the looming Holocaust, as the Nazi party moved from persecution of Jewish people and others regarded as ‘degenerate’ to deliberate mass extermination. The activities of MI19 are said to be at least as important to the war effort as the better-known codebreaking work at Bletchley Park, and have provided the subject of both a TV documentary and a radio and stage play written by the son of one of the secret listeners.

Following the war, the house became a teacher training college, and in 1951 Middlesex County Council compulsorily purchased the whole of the surrounding grounds to preserve as Green Belt. After the estate passed to the Greater London Council in 1965, it was designated as a country park, which opened officially in 1973 and has since been inherited by the London Borough of Enfield. Educational use of the house expanded, and in 1974 it became a campus of Middlesex Polytechnic, which was converted to a university in 1992. So during the 20th century the site has provided not only one of the country’s most beautiful settings for a prison, but one of its most beautiful settings for a university too.

Today, the country park continues in use, for now at least, as a popular and much-loved public amenity, but a question mark hangs over the house and its immediate surroundings. Middlesex University relocated to a big new building at its Hendon campus in 2012, and the next year a private Malaysian university, Allianze University College of Medical Sciences, bought its old site, but went bankrupt only a year later. The site is now in the hands of developer Berkeley, who are shortly expected to make a planning application for conversion to 262 homes.

The developer has promised to restore many of the historic features, get rid of the ugly annexe buildings added in the 1960s and 1970s and open part of the mansion as a museum. In response to concerns raised by the local Friends group and others (and perhaps bearing in mind the situation at Bentley Priory back along the Loop, another country mansion that played a historic wartime role), the plans don’t include gating the residential areas but instead seek to integrate them better into the surrounding country park. So this could be a good outcome for a remarkable site which is currently languishing into dereliction behind fences and hoardings, but time will tell.

There’s much more history to read: I recommend the pamphlet A Concise History of Trent Park by Alan Mitellas, published by the Friends group and downloadable from Enfield council’s website, which I’ve drawn on extensively here.

The Loop enters the park immediately on leaving Cockfosters station, along a green strip beside Trent Park Cemetery. This was opened on former farmland attached to the park in 1960 by Islington council as an out-of-borough facility, and is still managed from Islington today. A path then runs through the woodlands of Church Wood and along the side of meadows dotted with mature trees to reach the main drive. If you decided to miss out Cockfosters, you’ll follow this drive all the way from the main road. One of the routes in Enfield council’s work-in-progress Greenway cycling and walking route network also runs along the drive, taking an alternative route from Cockfosters Station. The entire remaining part of this section is also designated as part of the Greenway network.

At the junction where the main drive bends off towards the house along a grand avenue stands one of the park’s three obelisks, two of which are on the Loop (the third, known as the Emma Crewe Pineapple, is at the opposite end of the main drive). None of them is actually native to Trent Park: all three were moved here by Sassoon in 1934 from Wrest Park in Bedfordshire, home of the Grey family, whose members they commemorate.

This one, a rather dumpy pyramidal structure known as the Duke of Kent obelisk or the Duke’s Pyramid, is dedicated to Henry Grey, who died in 1740: the inscription also refers to the creation of gardens in 1706, but this actually applies to Wrest Park. In the 1970s the GLC proposed to move this and the pineapple back to their original site, but Enfield council successfully argued that, together with the tallest and best-known of the three which we’ll encounter later, they had become an integral and well-known feature of their current home.

The Sassoon  obelisk in timey-wimey Trent Park.
The Loop doesn’t follow the house drive, but continues towards what’s now the busiest part of the country park, where a car park, a commercial Go Ape ‘treetop adventure’ and a rather good park café attract family crowds on fine days. Beyond this are the rich woodlands of Oak Wood, then the rolling parklands open up as the trail runs parallel to the banks of the lake. Soon, off to the left, you’ll see the tallest obelisk at the top of an open strip cut through the trees, known as the Vista. In the other direction, you should be able to glimpse the house. In Sassoon’s day, pheasants would be driven out of the woods here so that guests could enjoy a little shooting.

The trail now climbs Camlet Hill, and heads off into the trees of Moat Wood. Both names refer to a Scheduled Ancient Monument, Camlet Moat, just off the path on the right approaching the woodland edge. It’s the site of a mediaeval manor house or lodge, which may have been Geoffrey de Mandeville’s original Enfield manor house, and/or the headquarters of the chief forester, or ‘cock foster’, of the Chase.

It was demolished in 1439 and its materials sold to raise money for repairs to Hertford Castle, and only the moat and some earthworks are visible today. Though there’s little evidence for this, the name is widely believed to be a corruption of Camelot, prompting all sorts of fanciful speculation about the site’s connection to King Arthur and its supposed location on a ley line. This explains the charms, ribbons and other mystical paraphernalia you might spot on nearby trees.

Reaching the edge of the wood, a short detour for a close-up view of the obelisk is well worth your time. The ingenuity of the Vista becomes apparent, as the structure is in direct line of sight from the house. The 20 m pillar, known as the Earl of Harold obelisk or Sassoon’s Obelisk, commemorates the birth of George Grey, son and long hoped-for heir of Henry, who died only a few months afterwards, extinguishing the family line.

Fans of the BBC’s long-running time travelling TV series Doctor Who may find the setting looks familiar. It was used as a principal location in ‘Mawdryn Undead’, one of the key stories in the era of fifth Doctor Peter Davison in 1983. Scenes were filmed not only at the obelisk but around the mansion, which took the role of a fictional public school. Perhaps the mason who engraved the inscription also went through a time warp, as he’s recorded the date of poor baby George’s birth as 1702 when it was actually 1732.

Salmons Brook

The field paths of Enfield at Park Farms.
A fine swathe of London’s agricultural countryside lies on the other side of Hadley Roaad, the road which runs around the back of Trent Park. The arable fields of Park Farms, separated by ancient hedgerows dotted with flowers, sweep downhill into the valley of the Salmons Brook. This was one of the Enfield Chase plots assigned as farmland after 1777, now owned by the London Borough of Enfield and leased out commercially. The path the Loop follows through here is known as Jubilee Path, as it was opened in 1977, the year of Elizabeth II’s silver jubilee. Reaching the brook itself, another section of the Greenway network from Hadley Wood will eventually join from the west.

The brook rises just over the Hertfordshire boundary in Spoilbank Wood, to the northeast of Hadley Wood suburb, and runs roughly southeast via Bush Hill Park and Edmonton to join the Pymmes Brook just south of the North Circular Road near Angel Road, not long before the latter reaches the Lee Navigation at Tottenham Lock. The origin of its name might sound obvious, but it’s actually most likely named after the Salemon family, who were prominent in Edmonton in the 13th century. The Loop turns east to follow it, but you’ll need to look carefully as it’s hidden behind hedgerows for most of this stretch.

Finally, the path heads up the other side of the valley, climbing Cuckolds Hill and crossing a small and relatively young community woodland, Brooke Wood, planted in 1991 in commemoration of Roger Brooke, a prominent local councillor. Then make sure you admire the view to central London before a stile provides an exit onto the aptly-named Ridgeway, the narrow but rather busy road linking Enfield and Potters Bar. The construction of this highway along the gravelly ridge between the Salmons Brook and the Turkey Brook was stipulated in the 1777 legislation that divided up the Chase. When I last walked this way, the council had already installed a Greenway sign pointing back the way I’d come, optimistically including a cycling symbol, though the path certainly wasn’t suitable for the average cyclist.

A little along the Ridgeway is one of the few hotels directly on the London Loop, and once again it’s an upmarket one, the Royal Chace Hotel, in a generously-proportioned 1930s mock-Tudor building. The suburban sprawl of Enfield laps at its door, and a little further down, just across the road, are two big hospitals, the private Kings Oak and the NHS Chase Farm, on a site that was originally developed as a municipal children’s home in the 1880s. But the Loop deftly dodges all this to stay within the Green Belt, following the drive of Rectory Farm down into another valley.

Barns near the Turkey Brook at Rectory Farm

Past the farm, now a clay shooting school with a rather derelict-looking clump of old barns, the track crosses the Turkey Brook on the valley floor. I’ll say more about this watercourse later, as the trail leaves it behind for now, continuing uphill again. An old red brick bridge then takes you under the Hertford Loop railway line. This was opened in 1910 as an extension of the Great Northern’s branch line from Alexandra Palace to Enfield Chase station. At first it terminated at Cuffley, not much further north, though was later extended via Hertford North to re-join the East Coast Main Line at Stevenage, creating a relief route that avoided the restrictions of the Welwyn Viaduct.

Crews Hill

Some of the few remaining commercial glasshouses at Crews Hill.

The cluster of development known as Crews Hill is surely one of the capital’s most curious edgelands. It’s officially the most northerly settlement in Greater London, though completely isolated by the Green Belt from adjacent built-up areas. As it was part of Enfield Chase, and therefore within Enfield parish, it was included in the Municipal Borough of Enfield in the 1850s and passed on to the London Borough of today.

Once this was a far-flung corner of the open chase, though some of the land was farmed after being annexed to the nearby Theobalds Park estate, just over the Hertfordshire boundary to the north, by James I in 1607. One of the gates to the Chase used to stand just a little further on from where the Loop now turns off into Hilly Fields, where Flash Lane, which marked the eastern boundary, meets Strayfield Road. Following the 1777 inclosure, the rest of the land became cultivated: the name most likely refers to the family that lived here around this time.

Like parts of the nearby Lea Valley, Crews Hill became a centre for market gardening, and towards the end of the 19th century, glasshouse nurseries began to appear. These developments were further encouraged by the opening of Crews Hill station on the Hertford Loop Line in 1910, and for the first half of the 20th century the neighbourhood was a major supplier of fruit, vegetables and flowers for the London markets. By the 1970s, though, the nurseries were becoming uneconomic, so their owners began to switch to the retail trade, converting them into garden centres catering to a growing leisure market.

Since then, Crews Hill has grown into something of a gardening phenomenon, claiming the title not only of London’s but the UK’s garden centre golden mile. You won’t see much of this if you stick to the Loop, which just grazes the southern edge, passing some of the few commercial glasshouses left around here, which now grow aquatic plants. But by continuing to the crossroads and turning left up Theobalds Park Road, you’ll soon find yourself on a horticultural promenade of unbroken garden-related businesses. There are plants and flowers, of course, most of which aren’t actually grown here, and gardening tools and materials. But there’s all manner of other stuff, some of it only tangentially related to gardening, including fencing and decking, exotic fish, wood burning stoves, upcycled furniture and even fake grass.

In the middle of it all stands one solitary residential area, a small estate of bungalows built in the 1930s before further development was halted. Without the Green Belt it’s certain that all the nurseries would ultimately have been redeveloped for housing too. What we’ve ended up with may not be to everyone’s taste, but it’s certainly unique in London.

At Crews Hill, the Loop encounters another walking trail, shown on Ordnance Survey maps though mainly unsigned on the ground. This is the Hertfordshire Chain Walk, here slightly overstepping the parameters of its name by dipping into London and former Middlesex. Devised by the East Herts Footpath Society in 1987, the trail runs south-north across the largely rural eastern part of Hertfordshire, cheating at its northern end too as it nudges into Cambridgeshire at Ashwell.

In an ingenious response to the frustrations of those walkers who won’t countenance leaving their cars at home but still want to complete linear long distance trails, it’s designed as a series of linked circular walks, thus ‘chain walk’. The Loop briefly shares the southernmost arc of the southernmost link in the chain. It’s 63 km from Crews Hill station to Ashwell by the most direct route, but much more than double that if you walk every circuit individually. The Chain Walk also provides a couple of options for linking the Loop with the London Countryway at Newgate Street or Broxbourne Woods.

Turkey Brook and Hilly Fields

Bandstand at Hilly Fields, with Turkey Brook beyond.

In 1908, with the opening of the Hertford Loop railway through Gordon Hill and Crews Hill imminent, there was much local concern about the impact of the intensive development that would inevitably follow. In response, Enfield council bought 25 ha of farmland along the Turkey Brook, between the two projected stations, which opened in 1911 as Hilly Fields Park (not to be confused with several other similarly-named parks, including one in Lewisham). As recounted on the park friends website, this was a controversial move, particularly among eager local builders, and ultimately proceeded only on the basis of a one-vote majority.

Thankfully the park remains an attractive and well-used space today, and the Loop makes good use of it. The trail descends through a strip of woodland known as Kings Wood to encounter the brook again at a footbridge, a picturesque spot where the river sparkles under a thick, dark canopy of gnarled mature trees.

The Turkey Brook rises not too far to the northwest, in Pond Wood just over the M25 and the Hertfordshire boundary. From Hilly Fields it runs fairly straightforwardly east towards the River Lee Navigation at Enfield Lock. Like many of London’s rivers, it’s the core of a green corridor left largely undeveloped due to flood risk, and acts as a near-constant companion to the Loop for the rest of this section, which ends just short of its confluence. As with the Salmons Brook, the obvious explanation for the Turkey Brook’s name turns out to be the wrong one, as it has nothing to do with the bird or the country. It’s most likely taken instead from the settlement of Turkey Street, further downstream, which in turn was named after a local family, Toke or Tokey.

In 2012-13, the riverside path was improved as part of the Enfield Greenways scheme, and for much of the way you’ll be walking on broad and accessible crunchy gravel tracks shared with cyclists, though not too busy and still comfortable to walk on. The Loop is still signed along its original route, though, which climbs a little away from the brook on narrower paths across the grassy hillside. You could take the slightly more direct option of sticking to the greenway here, but the old route has the advantage of wider views over the valley.

Shortly, a traditional park bandstand appears between the river and the path, dating from the early 1920s. Back then, as many as 5,000 people attended brass band concerts here. But interest in such music gradually dwindled and by 1997 the stand was so badly decayed that the council decided to demolish it. The proposal prompted the formation of the Friends of Hilly Fields campaign group, which was ultimately successful not only in resisting demolition but also in securing a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to restore the structure, and since 2001 there’s been a regular programme of summer concerts and other events.

Rose and Crown pub, Clay Hill.

The park and the surrounding streets now form part of the Clay Hill Conservation Area. The interwar suburban growth of London reaches immediately to the southeast here, but the scene in front of you as you leave the park still almost looks like a country lane. Here, the road known as Clay Hill dips into a hollow, Beggars Hollow, to cross the Turkey Brook, creating a dramatic setting for the Grade II-listed Rose and Crown pub, made from a low-slung and delightfully irregular string of rustic cottages.

The oldest part, on the left with the dormer windows, is a timber-framed building from the 17th century or earlier, with a 18th century brick front. The taller building was tacked on in the early 19th century. The interior has been altered many times, and for much of the early 21st century the pub was neglected and seemed likely to be lost, but when I last passed by it had been spruced up under new management. Almost opposite is the ornamental Gothic-flavoured early 19th century Clay Hill House Lodge and there are more historic buildings along the road and off the trail to left and right. The character of this area is partly due to its relative remoteness from public transport into the early years of the 20th century, but also to the old Enfield council’s foresight in conserving land like Hilly Fields Park in advance of the post-war Green Belt.

Forty Hall

Tudor-era ponds adjacent to the site of the lost Elsyng Palace

On the other side of the road and behind the pub, the Loop enters Forty Hall Park, another fine remnant of a country estate with links to the Tudors and their sporting enthusiasms. Back in the 14th century this was a separate manor on the edge of Enfield Chase known as Elsyng, after the family name of its lords. Among its occupants was Thomas Lovell who in the 1490s held a variety of important posts including Chancellor of the Exchequer and Steward of the Royal Household, and the first Tudor king, Henry VII, was a regular visitor.

In 1539 Lovell’s successor swapped the estate with Henry’s son, the notorious Henry VIII, who saw it as an ideal base for hunting on the Chase. So the manor house beside the Turkey Brook was expanded into a royal palace known as Elsyng Palace, the third of Henry’s palaces encountered on the Loop (after Nonsuch and Hampton Court near Bushy Park). Henry’s daughter Elizabeth, later Elizabeth I, was staying here when she heard the news of her father’s death in 1547. By the end of the 16th century, though, Elsyng had fallen out of favour, with Elizabeth preferring to stay with her close adviser William Cecil at Theobalds House a little to the north. Theobalds itself became a royal palace when James I acquired it, and Elsyng was part-demolished in 1608 to provide materials for it.

In 1629, a fine new house began to appear on the modest prominence of Forty Hill, a little to the south of Elsyng, on what was originally a separate estate. This was Forty Hall, built for Nicholas Rainton, a wealthy London mercer (textile merchant) who later became Lord Mayor. His nephew and heir expanded the estate by annexing Elsyng sometime in the 1650s, at which point what remained of the palace was demolished and replaced with barns. These had gone too by the early 18th century when the site was re-landscaped as parkland, with a grand avenue of lime trees running down the hill between Forty Hall and the brook. By the 20th century, even the exact site of the palace had been forgotten, until it was rediscovered by archaeologists in the 1960s.

The estate continued as a country home until 1951. The last in a succession of private owners were the Parker Bowles family, who now have royal connections through Prince Charles’ second wife Camilla. They sold it to the council, completing an extensive swathe of public green space on the London fringe. The house, which is now Grade II listed, became a museum, a function that has been reinvigorated by a refurbishment completed in 2012. The site of the former Elsyng Palace is now a Scheduled Ancient Monument.

The remains of the original course of the New River at Forty Hall.
After following the Turkey Brook around a meadow behind the Rose and Crown, the Loop enters the Forty Hall estate at a complex intersection of waterways and ditches, where it crosses the original course of the New River. This is neither new nor a river but an artificial waterway constructed to supply clean water to London in 1613, when the palace was still standing. A signed walking trail, the New River Path, follows the watercourse and, as I plan to cover this in future posts, I won’t say too much about it here.

The current course starts at Chadwell between Ware and Hertford, and ends at Stoke Newington, although originally it continued to New River Head near Sadlers Wells in Islington. The ditch here was once part of a lengthy loop following the boundaries of Forty Hall Park and neighbouring Whitewebbs Park, along which the New River originally negotiated the valley of the Turkey Brook. It fell out of use in 1859 following the construction of the Docwra Aqueduct, a little further along the trail.

The trail continues alongside the brook through increasingly attractive surroundings. Soon, it’s running through shady woodlands and then there’s water on both sides as you reach the long and narrow artificial pond, fed by the brook. This is one of the few visible relics of Elsyng Palace, for which it would have provided both a decorative and a practical function as a fishpond. It’s been much remodelled, though, and is now surrounded by a particularly large collection of rhododendrons which burst into colour in summer.

The artificial island at the far end could date back to Tudor times or earlier. Had you been standing here before 1650, looking across the island to the opposite side of the pond you would have seen the palace looming ahead, as its site is just across the water here. Nothing of it is visible today, but there are extensive buried remains, including foundations of rooms and courtyards, drains and water tanks.

Beyond the pond, the woods give way to open parkland, and soon the trail passes the end of the double avenue of lime trees which still provides a dramatic viewpoint up to the Hall. As part of the early 18th century landscaping, the brook here was dammed to create a reservoir, and the avenue continued on the other side to create the illusion of trees marching across a large body of water, but today only the southernmost section of the avenue remains.

Maidens Bridge near Forty Hall.
The bridge that carries Bulls Cross road over the brook, just to the left as you leave the park, is one of several places claiming to be the location where Walter Raleigh placed his cloak over a puddle so Elizabeth I could walk over it without getting the royal feet wet. Thomas Fuller has a typically picturesque account in his Worthies of England (1662):
Captain Raleigh found the queen walking, till, meeting with a plashy place, she seemed to scruple going thereon. Presently Raleigh cast and spread his new plush cloak on the ground; whereon the queen trod gently, rewarding him afterwards with many suits.
The bridge is known as Maidens Bridge because of its connection to the supposedly virginal queen, and the brook is also sometimes known as Maidens Brook. There’s likely been a bridge at this site since the 11th century, and Elizabeth would certainly have been familiar with this location, but there’s no factual evidence to substantiate the cloak story. The current bridge dates from 1824, though has undergone extensive repairs since. It carries an old Middlesex County Council plaque discouraging its use by heavy vehicles. The road here, incidentally, is part of the same old drove road that runs through northeast London as Green Lanes, now one of the capital’s longest streets.

New River Path at the Dell, Enfield.
The informal green space on the other side of the road is known as the Dell, and has been preserved partly because it accommodates the New River. You’re soon crossing the pipes of the 1859 Docwra Aqueduct, mentioned above, which now conveys the New River across the brook, substantially straightening the formerly convoluted route around Forty Hall Park.

But more is going on here than just the aqueduct, as you may realise from the sounds of pumping and rushing water often heard here. Although about a third of the water still continues to Stoke Newington, since the 1990s the rest has been diverted at this point through underground pipes to the Walthamstow Reservoirs in the Lee Valley. The New River Path runs alongside the eponymous watercourse here, northwards to Broxbourne and the London Countryway and on to Hertford, southwards to Alexandra Palace and the Capital Ring at Stoke Newington and on to Islington.

Enfield’s highways

1920s car-friendly planning: the Great Cambridge Road near Turkey Street.

In mediaeval times Enfield was the second-largest parish in Middlesex after Harrow, occupying the county’s northeast corner. Besides the Chase, the parish was characterised by three linear features running roughly north-south, one natural and two artificial. The first was the river Lea, which we’ll encounter in the next section: this important tributary of the Thames formed not just the eastern boundary of the parish but of the county too. West of it, just clear of the surrounding marshes, ran the Roman road, Ermine Street, the first of London’s Great North Roads. And west of this, on higher ground, ran the old drove road, the northward continuation of Green Lanes which we’ve already crossed at Maidens Bridge, now variously named as London Road, Silver Street, Baker Street, Forty Hill and Bulls Cross.

Like several Middlesex parishes, Enfield was rather scattered. The closest thing to a centre was on the higher ground just to the southeast of the Chase, where the drove road crossed the east-west route to Barnet. The parish church stood there since at least 1086, and a market, still held today, began on the green adjacent to the church in 1303. By the 17th century, this area had become a small but dense and busy market town. Its proximity to the Chase attracted wealthy inhabitants to properties like the fine 18th century houses that still stand on Gentlemens Row, which once overlooked open ground.

But the bulk of the population and of the economic activity were always concentrated further down the Lea Valley to the east, along the old Roman road. Even by the 18th century this part of Enfield was showing signs of ribbon development, as small roadside hamlets gradually expanded and merged into each other, a process accelerated by the arrival of the railways, which also followed the grain of the valley. This continued into the postwar period when large council estates were built adjacent to the road, perpetuating an east-west divide along class lines. As you travel along the main road today, it’s difficult to tell exactly where you pass from Ponders End to Enfield Highway, Enfield Wash, Turkey Street and Freezywater.

Ermine Street was built between the years 45-75, originally linking London and Lincoln and later extending northwards to York as Roman rule advanced in the same direction. We don’t know how the Romans referred to the road: its modern name dates from Saxon times and refers to the Earningas tribe, who lived around Royston. Though there have been various realignments over the millennia, much of Ermine Street can be followed today: it runs via Bishopsgate, Shoreditch, Dalston and Stoke Newington and once over Stamford Hill begins to track the Lea Valley via Tottenham, Edmonton and Enfield before continuing into Hertfordshire.

For well over a millennium the road was the main link between London and northern England, but by the 13th century, it was suffering from flooding and erosion. One particular problem was the crossing where the Lea valley curves westwards but the road continues north. Originally Ermine Street deflected slightly west at Cheshunt and bridged the river near Ware Priory, but this bridge was lost prior to the Norman invasion. The London Countryway briefly follows part of this old alignment, now a footpath, at Wormley West End.

Subsequently the neighbouring towns of Hertford and Ware competed to provide the crossing point, and to secure the lucrative trade associated with it. The competition sometimes became violent: in 1191 a party from Hertford deliberately destroyed a new bridge at Ware. Ultimately these issues prompted the creation in the 13th century of a new Great North Road via Islington and Highgate, crossed at Barnet in the last section of the Loop, which re-joined the original route at Alconbury in Cambridgeshire.

The old road, now known as the Hertford Road or the Enfield Highway, now took on the slightly lesser role of linking London to Cambridge and Ely. It was turnpiked in 1713 by the Stamford Hill Turnpike Trust, and labelled A10 in the road classification scheme of the 1920s, although by 1923, what was now the congested stretch of high streets from Tottenham to Turnford was superseded as a through route by a lengthy dual carriageway bypass. This runs to the west, between the drove road and Ermine Street, and is known as the Great Cambridge Road. In 1980 this too was superseded when the M11 opened as the main link between London, Stansted Airport and Cambridge, this time further to the east. So you’ll no longer see Cambridge named as a destination on the Great Cambridge Road. The original route, meanwhile, has since been renumbered A1010.

Approaching from the west, the Loop first crosses the Great Cambridge Road at a substantial footbridge. Elsewhere, interwar semi-detached houses line the road, but the Turkey Brook has kept them at bay here. There’s green space on one side and the substantial Enfield Crematorium, opened in 1938 by the Tottenham and Wood Green Burial Board, on the other. The trail runs along the north site of the crematorium, then passes under the railway known as the Southbury Loop (originally the Churchbury Loop), opened in 1891 between the Great Eastern Railway’s branch line to Enfield Town at Edmonton Green and Cheshunt, on the same company’s line to Cambridge, now known as the West Anglia Main Line.

Originally the financial returns from this short stretch of railway were lower than expected, as the residential developments the company had hoped for were slow in appearing. Passenger services were withdrawn in 1906, though the line remained open to goods traffic and as a diversionary route, and a service for munitions workers operated during World War I. It was only reopened permanently as a passenger railway in 1960 after much of the former Great Eastern was electrified. Since 2015 it’s been operated as part of Transport for London’s London Overground network.

The Turkey Brook Guardian with its folk-etymology egg.
Now the Loop is forced back on to residential streets, emerging onto Turkey Street itself right opposite the station of the same name, originally known as Forty Hill but renamed for the 1960 reopening. The street, like the Loop, roughly parallels the brook between Ermine Street and the area around Forty Hill. It’s of some antiquity, forming the basis of a linear hamlet at least since 1572, when there were ten houses along it.

The small green area in front of the station, previously known as Waltham Gardens, was refurbished in 2013, and renamed Turkey Street Gateway Open Space. Despite the sort of cumbersome name that could only have been dreamed up by a council planner, the refurbishment is rather pleasing.

Its most striking feature is the Turkey Brook Guardian sculpture which greets you at the entrance, designed by artist Tim Shutter in collaboration with local schoolchildren. It portrays a mythical creature which combines features of a fish, a bird, a squirrel and a dog, all creatures you’re likely to see in the park, unashamedly embracing folk etymology by sitting atop a giant turkey egg studded with pebbles from the brook.

The official Loop route simply follows Turkey Street here, but I suggest that instead you brave the Guardian by crossing the brook into the park and walking for a short distance along a pretty riverside path in front of houses. You’ll soon return to Turkey Street anyway for its final stretch to the Hertford Road. The current alignment of the road is likely a little to the east of the original course of Ermine Street, which has been lost beneath subsequent development. The point where the road crosses the Turkey Brook was originally a ford, and the area is still known as Enfield Wash, although a pedestrian bridge existed by 1675, supplemented by a carriage bridge in 1827. Today it’s a fairly uninspiring outer London high street, lined with betting shops, fast food outlets and convenience stores.

The Hertford Road at Enfield Wash. Roughly the course of Roman Ermine Street.

On to Enfield Lock

Beside the Turkey Brook at Albany Park, Enfield Wash.

On the other side of the Hertford Road, the Loop heads off-road again on the Prince of Wales Footpath. You’ll once again find yourself beside the Turkey Brook, though it now runs in a concrete culvert and is almost devoid of wildlife. Soon, Albany Park opens up on the right. This is a further fruit of the old Enfield council’s forward-thinking open space policy, opened in 1902 on a site that was previously farmland known as College Farm, belonging to Trinity College Cambridge, but which otherwise would have been built up. It was named after the Duke of Albany, Leopold, Queen Victoria’s youngest son, who died in 1884. The space was subsequently enlarged several times, most recently in 1935 as part of the King George’s Fields initiative.

Another steep footbridge takes the trail over the West Anglia Main Line, opened in 1840 by the Northern and Eastern Railway, which later became part of the Great Eastern. Originally it was a branch from the Eastern Counties Railway at Stratford, from where it ran along that company’s lines to its first central London terminus at Bishopsgate. Northwards the railway originally initially terminated at Broxbourne but was subsequently extended to Bishops Stortford and Cambridge. In 1872 it was connected by a more direct route to the Great Eastern’s new terminus at Liverpool Street via Clapton and Hackney Downs, though some trains still follow the original route to Stratford.

This section of the Loop stops just short of the River Lee Navigation and Enfield Lock itself, just over a little humped footbridge across the brook. A short street link from here takes you to Enfield Lock station on the West Anglia Main Line, opened a few years after the railway itself in 1855. Its original name was Ordnance Factory, as it main purpose was to serve the Royal Small Arms Factory close by – but that’s a story for the next walk.