A Straight Line Walk Across London

by Paul K Lyons

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Brighton Cross

Kip Fenn
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81 - Oakwood poplars and putting; flower beds and garages in Piccadilly Line suburbia

I follow the western edge of the park for a few yards, along Queen Elizabeth's Drive. I turn left into Raleigh Way, a suburban road lined only with garden fences and without any facing houses. Exactly on the 300 easting, it crosses a road called Wynchgate, and then leads to Winchmore Hill Road opposite Southgate Leisure Centre. The Centre is an unsightly 1960s building of concrete and metal panels. It provides 'Leisure for the community' not least a swimming pool, a sauna/steam room, a fitness studio and creche facilities. From Winchmore Hill Road I turn left into St Thomas Road, which takes me to Oakwood Avenue. To the west, behind the houses, Piccadilly Line underground trains run overground, partly along a viaduct.

This is a residential area, laid out in the 1940s, of good quality semi-detached houses. Two hundred years earlier it would have been part of Enfield Chase, the royal hunting ground. The whole of the Chase was partitioned after the 1777 enclosure act, most of it staying with Enfield. However, a significant area, bounded by Chase Side to the southwest (where the south gate was) and by the line of Winchmore Hill Road to the south, was given to Edmonton, and used for common land. This was then enclosed by large estates in the early 1800s, and turned into suburbia in the mid-1900s.

At number 64 Oakwood Avenue, there's a brilliantly-coloured taxi standing in the forecourt. It sports elephants and a logo 'Incredible India'. A few yards on, Oakwood Avenue curls to the east and becomes Oakwood Park Road. A short alley leads between the suburban houses to the wide expanse of Oakwood Park.

The area that is now Oakwood Park was also part of Edmonton's allocation from the partition of Enfield Chase. The northern part became the property of William Tash, who lived at Broomfield House and was one of the largest landowners in the area at the time. The southern part became the property of Mary Bowles an Edmonton resident, who sold it soon after. In 1870, Samuel Sugden, a homeopathic chemist, purchased the land. He renovated a farm house, calling it Oak Lodge (long since demolished), and added a walled garden and orchard. He also created an igloo-shaped ice well in the northwest corner of the park which is still there. Southgate Council purchased the 64 acres in 1927 and turned it into a park.

A line of trees and shrubs run along the park's middle from east to west, and the ground is higher to the north, giving some modest views - nowhere near as good as those of Alexandra Palace - across north London. The park contains an excellent adventure playground, as well as a pond for model boats, sports grounds and tennis courts. The Borough of Enfield says the park is suitable for 'walking, jogging, dog walking and other casual recreation', but reminds dog walkers of the 'voluntary Poop A Scoop Scheme'.

I walk north across the park in a line as close as I can to the 300 easting, but I need to veer east to exit via one of the few gates. I pass an old lorry container that has been planted in the tarmac and fitted out as an office cabin for a pitch-and-putt course. The course rules include: 'only 7 irons and putters may be taken on to the course, any other irons, even if in a golf bag, must be left at ticket office prior to starting play'; 'when a flag is removed it must be placed lightly on the green and not stuck in the turf, and it should be replaced in the cup after use'; 'to prevent damage to greens players may not wear high-heeled shoes'. To the east, there's an attractive line of poplars planted over 60 years ago to commemorate the birthday of Queen Mary. Elsewhere in the park there is also an avenue of scarlet oak trees, planted annually from 1945 until recently.

I leave the park, through a near-bower of cherry trees, to turn left into Prince George Avenue. There's a lot of traffic along here. Further on, along the road, is St Thomas Church, with a copper spire, built in 1938-41 to a design by Romilly Craze. And, beyond that, to the north, Prince George Avenue turns into Snakes Lane which leads directly into Trent Park and Middlesex University.

But, before reaching the church, I turn right into Kenwood Avenue. Like most other streets round here, this one is lined with semi-detached houses. These suburbs grew up around the Piccadilly Line extension, opened in 1933, to Southgate, Oakwood and Cockfosters. And, as with most streets in the area, these houses were built without garages. Consequently, many of the properties have been extended or enlarged to include a garage. Sometimes these alterations have been carried out sympathetically, and it's hard to spot the join, so to speak, but often an extension has been tacked on with little regard for design. The process continues today. In 2001, for example, number 22 Kenwood Avenue applied to erect a garage in its rear garden. In early 2004, number 41 put in a more elaborate planning application to enlarge its garage and to reconstruct the whole roof to provide a loft conversion with patio doors and balustrade at the rear.

At the end of Kenwood Avenue, I turn right into Lonsdale Avenue, and then, almost immediately, left into Brantwood Gardens. Instead, I could have gone along Curthwaite Gardens and Brayton Gardens and arrived at the same place on Merryhills Drive. Many of the streets here have a Cumbria connection: Brantwood, Clifton, Culgaith, Curthwaite, Greystoke, Lonsdale, and Netherby. Lonsdale Avenue and Brantwood Gardens have flower beds - densely planted, and full of mature and well-clipped shrubs (yew, holly, privet, mahonia among others) - running alongside the pavement. I've not seen this attractive street feature in any other London borough. From Merryhills Drive, I go north northeast along Greystoke Gardens, crossing the 300 easting half way along, by a small circular green with daffodils and a mature sweet chestnut.

 A Straight Line Walk Across London - along the 300 easting

by Paul K Lyons
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