On Saturday 21st May we walked from Cockfosters to Enfield Lock station (9.5 miles / 15km). The weather was a mix of cloud and sunshine, getting warmer and brighter through the day. The train journey was long but the quick crossword and quiz questions passed the time!
Cockfosters tube station was opened in 1933, and has a classic 1930’s architectural style. I tried to take some photos but there were too many people around for good shots. If you are interested in that kind of thing click here for more information and photos.
This section is very rural, with little road walking. Almost straightaway we were in Trent Park, a relic of 12th century royal hunting forest Enfield Chase. We have walked through more than one royal hunting park or chase on this walk, and I know there will be others before we conclude. By the 12th century almost a third of the land in England was royal forest, which was used not only for hunting, but also cattle farming, other farming and gathering natural resources.
Many animals were hunted, in particular deer. Although all walks of society hunted, the poor were limited to small game and birds. This is because the large estates were tightly controlled, owned and run by royalty or the nobility. Hunting was usually on horseback, with dogs, and the weapon of choice generally bows and arrows. Children were trained from a young age (7-8 years old) in hunting, and it was considered an important skill for the nobility. Hunts were conducted according to strict rules and there were ritualistic aspects to the killing of the hart or deer. After the Civil War (aka The English Revolution) 1642-1651 the practice of hunting deer fell somewhat out of favour, and the many of the large deer parks and chases were put to other uses. (More information on medieval hunting can be found here.)
Nowadays Trent Park, like many of the other similar areas we have walked through, is popular with walkers and dog walkers, runners and joggers, families, cyclists etc etc. It’s amazing though how once away from the car parks and more well trodden paths there are so few people. Once we crossed from Trent Park to the farmland of Enfield Chase there was hardly anyone around. The path here has been substantially upgraded and re-routed slightly and now accommodates cyclists much more readily. There has also been a lot of work planting trees – indeed there is a whole new area called Brooke Wood, which is as yet just saplings! Wouldn’t it be wonderful to come back in 50 years and see this whole new landscape!
A little further ahead we came to some glass houses, now used for growing water plants for gardens. Once this area was full of glasshouses growing tomatoes and cucumbers that were sent across the country. There was a little small holding here and we met some goats!
The next green space was Forty Hill, home to 17thC Forty Hall. In the area are some fishing ponds, and the path is lined with rhododendrons, looking their best at this time of year.
The fishing ponds are likely to be from Tudor times (or possibly even earlier) as this is the site of Elsyng Palace where Henry VIII stayed (and used as hunting base), and where Princess Elizabeth and Prince Edward heard the news of their father’s death. As queen, Elizabeth often visited. Nearby is the place where legend would have us believe Sir Walter Raleigh laid his cloak across a muddy puddle so that her majesty could walk across without getting her feet wet. There are no visible remains now, but the estate is protected as an Ancient Scheduled Monument.
Our plan was to stop at Forty Hall and have lunch. For once we hadn’t brought any sandwiches, but sadly the cafe was having problems with its freezer and the choice was so limited that we decided to continue.
It wasn’t far from here to an area called Enfield Wash (the name probably derives from an old English word meaning ‘the place that floods’), and indeed Turkey Brook runs along through here, and there was most likely a ford where it crossed the famous Roman road Ermine Street (now the A10 Great Cambridge Road at this point).
We found ourselves in a lovely Turkish restaurant for lunch, and I enjoyed a feta pide (a sort of Turkish pizza), washed down with ayran (like a slightly salty drinking yogurt or lassi). Suitably refreshed we walked a short distance to Enfield Lock station to start our journey back.
We are excited about the journey back to Enfield Lock to start the next section as it will be the first time we can use the newly opened Elizabeth line to cross the city centre to Liverpool Street!