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A Straight Line Walk Across London
by Paul K Lyons
82 - Enfield Chace (also known as horseland?) - Trent Park, Merryhills, Camlet Moat
A left turn into Lowther Drive brings me to Enfield Road, and to a very definable edge of London and its suburbs. In a direct line north from here, on the 300 easting, there is no more residential housing for nearly five miles, until Cuffley, a village completely surrounded by countryside. Enfield Road, and its extension westward, Bramley road, forms the southeast limit of the area still known as Enfield Chase. Most of it is privately owned and farmed, although there is an open area, awkwardly called 'Trent Park Country Park', and a wooded area around Middlesex University criss-crossed with bridleways.
At the time of the Domesday Survey in 1086, Edmonton and Enfield Manors were owned by Geoffrey de Mandeville, one of the most important of all the Middlesex landowners of that period. Domesday Book mentions a park in the area suggesting it had already been established for hunting during Saxon times. However, it may be that de Mandeville gave it the name 'Chace'. The De Bohuns inherited the land through marriage, and then, in the 14th Century, passed it on to Henry Bolingbroke, who was to become King Henry IV. From then, until its enclosure in the 18th century, the land stayed with the royal family, although local people enjoyed limited rights for hunting, pasture and wood gathering. After enclosure, a plot in the centre of the old Chace was retained as a hunting park for deer. This was bought by Richard Jebb, George III's physician, and named Trent after the area in the Austrian Tyrol - Trento - where Jebb had acted to save the life of the King's brother. A house, which still exists although much altered, was built during the 1780s, and the grounds landscaped either by Repton or someone following his style. During World War Two, the Trent Park buildings were used as an interrogation centre for German generals, and, after the war as a teacher training college. They became part of Middlesex Polytechnic in 1974.
I walk west along Enfield Road, and find a south-north path (not marked on my Ordnance Survey map) just past South Lodge Farm, and within 200 yards of the 300 easting. The track takes me along the side of Trent Park Equestrian Centre. Through the trees and hedging I can see dozens of horse boxes lined up in a car park, and stables beyond. The Centre says it offer classic horse riding in the same woods once used by King Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth in the medieval period. It claims to be the largest riding school in England, with over 100 horses and ponies 'from old favourites to new young animals, from Welsh cobs to Warmbloods'. Horse names range (on the centre's A to Z list) from 007, Arnold and Avignon to Troy, Tsar and William. For adults and children over 12 years of age, the centre charges the following prices for one hour: beginner lesson - £24.00; intermediate lesson - £27.00; advanced lesson - £30.00. For hacking in the woods, the cost is £27.00 an hour; and for a three hour pub ride to Whitewebbs, the cost is £55.
This is definitely horseland. After 50 yards or so, both the farm on my right which has several horse paddocks, and the equestrian centre on my left, have entrances to the track I'm on. There's several bundles of hay here, providing a tasty snack bar for busy horses. And underfoot, there's 20 horseshoe prints for every footprint. The track continues north, bounded on the east by an open field, and on the west by Trent Park Golf Course. Before the current course was built in 1974, there were nine holes here which, the owners say, were used by monarchs and dignitaries in the past as well as by an American Ryder Cup team for practice. Membership costs £99 a year, and there's a joining fee of £150 (with various concessions for juniors and seniors). Members get a discount on green fees but they still have to pay £11.00 or £15.00 (midweek and weekend respectively).
The track dips downward for a 100 yards to cross Merryhills Brook, one of several watercourses that drain Enfield Chase into the Lea River. Merryhills Brook is not even two miles long, rising in Trent Park and feeding into Salmon's Brook not far from Merryhills Library and Merryhills Primary School further east along Enfield Road. This brook occurs occasionally in postings by birdwatchers, with ring ouzels, banded demoiselles, peregrines and kingfishers sighted. Beyond the brook, the track rises gently towards the north end of the golf course and along the edge of Shaws Wood. This name is curiously tautological, since 'shaw' is a word with the same meaning as wood (i.e. copse) and is used frequently instead of wood - as in Grascuts Shaw, Rockshaw and Roundshaw (further south on the 300 easting).
I arrive at a t-junction of bridleways. There's a robin here sitting on top of a rusty metal post. Middlesex University is only a few hundred yards away through the pine trees (although I can't see it). But I turn right to skirt around the eastern edge of Williams Wood, very close to the 300 easting. Occasionally pairs of horses scamper past. At the northeast corner of the wood, I would like to go directly north to Hadley Road, but there is no public footpath, and so I must swing west again, along the third straight side of the squarish Williams Wood. In fact, there are few rights of way across the Chase. This is probably due to its relatively late parliamentary enclosure and partitioning. The geometric pattern of the fields and their size (medium to large) can also be traced directly to the enclosure period.
The track dips down again to Leeging Beech Gutter where Williams Wood
meets Ride Wood. Like Merryhills Brook, Leeging Hill Gutter isn't very long.
It rises a few hundred yards to the west of here in the fish pond and Icehouse
Wood, both on the north side of Trent Park. As I climb once again, I'm still
on a wide bridleway. There are open fields on my right and woods on my left,
just as there have been since I left Enfield Road. Oak trees, with blackthorn
and hawthorn shrubs, often mark the boundary between the track and the fields.
Apart from pine wood copses, Enfield Chase does also have some ancient semi-natural
woodland, mostly of hornbeam but also oak and ash. A group of young children,
all in bright yellow tops, are jogging or orienteering through the woods.
They veer off towards Camlet Hill, Moat Wood and Camlet Moat, while I take
a short slip path out of the wood and onto Hadley Road (once called Camelot
Way). I would like to go to Camlet Moat (once called Camelot Moat) myself,
but I'm already too far west and must now go back east to find a way north
across Cuckolds Hill. Camlet Moat is thought to date from the 14th century,
when Humfrey de Buhun was given license to fortify his manor houses. Today,
it is preserved as a Scheduled Ancient Monument. Archaeological excavations
have uncovered 14th century Herts Glazed Ware as well as 15th century floor
tiles, leather shoes and coins.
A Straight Line Walk Across London - along the 300 easting
by Paul K Lyons
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