It was a dark and stormy night… well no, actually it was a hazy sun and cloud, with a slightly chilly breeze type of Saturday morning, when we started Section 14 Moor Park to Hatch End (3.8 miles / 6.1km). This section was notable for being almost all woodland. And what a beautiful time of year to be walking through ancient woodland! The bluebells! They were absolutely everywhere, literally carpeting the woods with glimmering mauve-blue. When the sun came filtering through the trees they seemed to shine.
And then my favourite colour of the year – the bright lime green of new beech leaves, tempered with a slightly darker shade of shiny new oak leaves here and there. Shimmering and glowing with life as the sun shone through, spring bursting out of the trees and the ground – it made one want to sing!
It’s the best time to go for a walk in the woods, and if you are anywhere near then I highly recommend Oxhey Woods Nature Reserve. This 97-hectare space was originally part of a prehistoric expanse of woodland lying between the river Colne and the Thames. Nowadays it is divided in places by roads, but nevertheless it’s possible to feel deep in the woods, and we hardly saw anyone there.
Towards the end of this section we passed the 18thC Pinnerwood House, home to Edward Bulwer-Lytton in the 1830’s. Did you guess that from the opening sentence?! Bulwer-Lytton wrote several popular novels and became a cabinet minister. Follow the links for more information!
Section 15, from Hatch End to Elstree (10 miles / 16km) also went through woodland and fields. We passed several ponds and a reservoir. Golf courses also seemed to feature, I think we must have walked through around 4 altogether. I am getting better at looking out for people about to hit the ball towards us!
It’s difficult to comprehend that this innocent looking ditch is probably 2000 years old. Grim was the Saxon word for the devil, who the Saxons associated with this strange earthwork that seems to have no defined purpose.
Sir William Gilbert (of Gilbert and Sullivan fame) built a large house in this area, complete with ornamental gardens and a lake. The house is now a hotel, and the lake was drained following a tragic accident when Gilbert died attempting to save a young house guest who had got into difficulty when swimming.
There are several ponds in this area, man made and some dating from Roman times. Indeed one of them is known as Caesar’s Pond, as there was a Roman garrison nearby. The name Stanmore comes from the old words for ‘stony ponds’ – stane meres.
Finally we came to the station at Elstree – home to the famous Elstree studios since 1914! So many films and television programmes have been made in these studios, located around Borehamwood and Elstree it is impossible to name them all. Star Wars, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Eastenders, Strictly Come Dancing….the list goes on and on.
These two sections combined to make a long walk, which felt like a bit of a slog towards the end. We also ended up walking a bit further than the official distance because for the first time (so far) the usually detailed instructions and signage was not consistent, and we did actually take a wrong turning a couple of times and found ourselves a bit lost! However, it was really lovely to walk through so much woodland on such a beautiful spring day.