HADLEY WOOD TO BROOKMANS PARK – 8 MAY

The weather forecast was for heavy rain until midday and when 10 Polyramblers set off at Hadley Wood station it was absolutely tipping it down.  I was impressed that everyone had turned up and no one had cried off because of the weather.  It goes to show just how tough we Polyramblers are.   It takes more than a drop of rain to deter us.  The footpath from the station took us into the village of Hadley Wood where we came out on to a road lined with neat and individual homes built to look like miniature palaces which I had heard were popular with some north London footballers.  Someone pointed out that they did not have enough privacy for footballers.  I said that may be these footballers were championship rather premier league players.

The first part of the walk took us across fields and over busy roads and, until we got beyond the M25, we were conscious of the constant drone of heavy traffic in the background, even in the midst of an otherwise tranquil wood.

By now the rain had eased off and we were able to put our umbrellas down.  We stopped for lunch in the peaceful Northaw wood and although the ground was sodden it was a lovely place to have our picnic.  The path out of the wood led into the charming quiet village of Northaw.  It was a good thing we had not relied on the pub for lunch as it was not open though an Indian gastropub further up the road seemed to be doing a roaring trade.

After a short stretch of road walking we turned off on to  a footpath.  This was the footpath that was so muddy and slippery when I did the walk-over in January.  After heavy rain it was muddy still.  Probably the most unusual feature we encountered on the walk was a folly arch.  Built in the eighteenth century to look like a medieval castle, it was in fact a gated arch.  This is all that remains of the buildings of the Gobions estate which once contained a large manor house and a pleasure garden.  The Gobions estate is now a nature reserve with a very pleasant lake and wood.  Emerging the other side, it was a short walk into the town of Brookman’s Park and the end of our walk.  A number of us decided to treat ourselves to liquid refreshments in a nearby pub garden before going to get train back to London.

Mary King

 

EPPING FOREST CIRCULAR – 2 MAY

As anyone who has walked in a forest knows, every time is different. It depends on the weather, the time of year. The paths can be different, the trees, the birds, the ground, the sky, the traffic in the background, the planes flying overhead.

This time the leaves were just coming out – that special springtime green. The birds were singing to each other. It hadn’t rained for ages so the ground was cracked and baked hard like concrete and the beech leaves looked less colourful than in autumn. We paused in Loughton Camp, the dip in the crest of the hill where the Romans, medieval farmers and even, allegedly, Dick Turpin had, in their time, camped and kept their animals rounded up  or hidden from the law! The trees can’t have been as impressively tall then as they are now! The birds were more in evidence than in the autumn chirping to each other, not that we spotted any of them. There were fewer planes flying overhead because of the coronavirus lockdown, perhaps a helicopter from the nearby police depot going out on patrol. Blue sky, not even a breeze to rustle the leaves. And no people came by to disturb the peace! We stood and soaked up the atmosphere. Refreshed, we walked on, over the Epping New Road, with caution and speed, and made our way off the path, amongst the trees, kicking through the carpet of last autumn’s leaves, to High Beach, where there were more people, cars, facilities and hurly-burly. We found some large logs on the green in front of the King’s Oak where we could sit and eat our picnic lunch, observing the socially distanced queues at the pub and take-away cafe, the families and scouts going about their Sunday activities, picnicking, walking their new dogs, packing up their camping gear, getting back on their lambrettas or Harley Davidsons, speeding past, making as much noise as possible.

Rested and restored, we set off again back into the peace and quiet of the forest. We didn’t see many other walkers all day, considering it was a Sunday. Then the promised rain started to fall, first of all a few drops and more and more. It wasn’t torrential but it brought out the forest aromas, the beech leaves sprang to life, the birds sang more enthusiastically. We crossed a forest road near the bikers’ tea hut, thronged with leather, shiny metal and petrol fumes, into a part of the forest where the trees are not as tall and imposing. More grassy open spaces. More cyclists powering past. No horned cows munching the grass this time. We stopped at a pond with several colourful friendly  mandarin ducks and a grumpy, outshone mallard.  And so back to Loughton High Street and the Wagon Boulangerie where we were given a warm welcome and two tables under the awning, in case the rain came back, so that we could round off the afternoon with tea and delicious cakes! The ideal way to complete a walk!

Pam

HAMPTON COURT TO OXSHOTT – 3 MAY

Ten Polys and the leader set off from Hampton Court station on a bank holiday Monday which promised gales and rain! The leader was so busy chatting that we missed a turning but quickly returned on our tracks and passed the quaint Bell Inn (1550) with its crooked architecture. The first part of the walk took us along the Mole and Ember rivers and across Molesey Heath. Here we missed some steps but we were helped by Stephen’s OS map app which saved the leader from having to get the paper version out! By the time we arrived at West End, the sky was looking ominous. We ate our picnic lunches on the pretty green and visited the facilities at Garson’s farm shop. It was a little chilly so nobody fancied an ice cream from the van on the green and we moved on. The second half of the walk took us through woods alongside the River Mole until we turned off onto Oxshott Heath, passing the picturesque Black Pond. We emerged from the woods directly in front of Oxshott station. We congratulated ourselves on finishing before the rain started. We did a little more than the original distance, due to the odd detour, but it was altogether an enjoyable walk with varied scenery and wildlife. Thanks to Kim for the information on the flowers along the route and to Ida and Meng for the lovely photos.

Susan

HERTFORD AND WARE TOWNS – 1 MAY

The leader met a few members of the group on the train, but Danny was conspicuous by his absence.  I told them that it was his birthday the previous day and they said: “ Say no more!”.  But he got off the train in Hertford North and, after the obligatory loo stop and briefing, 10 Polyramblers set off towards Hertford town.  We walked through the castle grounds; only the gatehouse of the Royal Castle remains but it is quite impressive.  The route then visited several of Hertford’s other sights: Parliament Square, Shire Hall, the Salisbury Arms and the blue-coat Christ’s Hospital School.  We then reached the River Lee Navigation which we followed to Ware.  We stopped from time to time to feed the ducks, coots and moorhens and saw a pike laying in wait on the edge of the river.  The path along King’s Mead water meadows went around the New Gauge building and under the A10.  After passing Hertford Lock 1 and reaching Ware, we saw the gazebos along the river, a unique feature of Ware.  Another of Ware’s claim to fame is its Great Bed now housed in the V&A.  You can find some information here:  Heritage Trail V4 (waretourism.org.uk)

It was time for lunch and some had a picnic by the river and others went to the Waterside Inn.  Danny left us after lunch because he was feeling lazy (his words).  We continued along the high street where many of the buildings were inns in a former life; they are characterised by the wagonways for coach and horses.  Ware was a crossing point over the river Lee on the old road to the north.  We passed the huge site of GlaxosmithKline and, after a small climb, crossed the A10 bridge.  We followed a lane along and across pasture into woodland and descended to the valley before going up again to reach St Leonard’s Church, Bengeo, the oldest building in Hertford dating from the early twelfth century – but it was shut. After passing a lovely thatched cottage, we followed a path downhill on the edge of Hartham Common.  Back in Hertford, we passed an art galley with tables and chairs outside and the group rushed in at this sight hoping for a cup of tea.  After a relaxing break with a cuppa, we made our way along the river Beane (the fourth river we met today after the Mimram, Lee and Rib) back to Hertford North Station.  It was lovely to see fellow Polyramblers after such a long time.  Let’s hope we won’t have any more interruptions to our programme of walks.

Dominique

RICKMANSWORTH CIRCULAR – 24 APRIL

On a bright sunny morning, fourteen Polyramblers met up at Rickmansworth railway station. Following the mandatory safety briefing, the group walked round Batchworth and Bury lakes to cross the Grand Union Canal at Stockers Lock for Stockers Farm. This is where not only Black Beauty the ITV series of the early seventies was filmed but bits of Midsomer Murders, Withnail and I, Bridget Jones The Edge Of Reason, etc, as the leader then did not know.
Up and down the first of the promised gentle ascents and descents, the group made its way to the outskirts of Harefield, where an enterprising resident had just opened her garden as a teashop also selling icecreams, which a handful of members could not resist. Others were concerned it might spoil their lunch, unsuspecting that that would be another two hours off!
Over several stiles, past a desolate U.S. army truck and an apparently abandoned Chinese (?) taxi (?) or police car (?), we crossed Woodcock Hill and ambled on through Bishop’s Wood Country Park. From there we headed down to French Grove, where the more intrepid traversed a field with horses while the rest were led around it.
We crossed Ducks Hill Road into Copse Wood and reached eventually, at last, the covid-secure lunch spot of spaced-apart logs, which allowed social distancing.
Afterwards we skirted Ruislip Lido and Northwood golf course to reach Northwood itself and after some pavement plodding a footpath to Batchworth Heath. Here we entered Moor Park golf course and proceeded to cross it, witnessing some truly abysmal golf shots on the way.
Now in Batchworth proper, we made our way mostly in the shade of trees through Ricky back to the start, having covered the 11.5 miles (other estimates are available) at 2mph, somewhat short of the British Standard’s and the club’s standard 2.5mph [not sure the Club’s standard is that fast!-Ed]. The unseasonably warm weather didn’t help. On the other hand, the going was very firm and fast.

Andrew King (Photos by Ida)