A Straight Line Walk Across London

by Paul K Lyons

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Brighton Cross

Kip Fenn
A novel about
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83 - From Hadley Well to champagne romance via a witch and George Hall's black mare

Directly opposite I can see the buildings of Botany Bay, but I must go three-quarters of a mile east before I can swing north towards the oddly named village. On my left I pass Parkside Farm, which specialises in soft fruit, such as strawberries and raspberries, and operates a pick-your-own business in the summer. I cross a bridge over Salmon's Brook. Also to my left is a 100 year old pumping station, on a hillock screened by trees, and a half-timbered property called Hadley Well Cottage. The name recalls that once upon a time there was a well, called Hadley Well, here and not a pumping station. Vicarage Farm is to my right. It includes two cottages listed as important for local interest.

While still on Hadley Road I should mention the ghost of a witch and Oliver Williams' acquittal for horse stealing. A woman who once lived along here on Hadley Road was executed in the early 1620s for being a witch. Nearly 400 years later, there are still those who says she haunts the road on cold and misty nights.

According to Old Bailey records, a man named Oliver Williams was tried in July 1755 for stealing George Hall's black mare, worth £5. In his testimony, Hall, who lived at Hadley, explained to the court that he was accustomed to grazing his mare on Enfield Chace; but, one morning when he sent his servant to fetch her, she was gone. On making enquiries, Hall found several of his neighbours had also lost their horses. He advertised in all the evening papers, and, about a week later, was informed that his mare was at Nuneaton in Warwickshire. He sent Thomas Adkerson, who knew the mare, to bring her back to Hadley.

In his evidence, Adkerson said he had gone to Nuneaton and acquired the mare from a Mr Peak, who had swapped her with one offered by the defendant Williams. The recorded cross-examination then goes like this: Question: 'Do you of your own knowledge know that this mare was in custody of the prisoner?' Adkerson. 'No, I do not. . . I asked him if he knew any thing of a black mare, and a dun gelding; he fell a crying, and said, he did very well; he begg'd for a little time, and I gave him two hours. He sent for his father, but he did not come.' Question: 'Did he say he stole the black mare, and dun gelding?' Adkerson. 'No; but he had a dun gelding there, which one of our neighbour's lost.' Question: 'Did he or did he not say he stole them?' Adkerson: 'He did not say he stole them.' And, on this, the trial transcript notes that Williams was acquitted.

A 30mph speed limit sign indicates that I'm returning - albeit briefly - to a residential area. On the corner of Oak Avenue, there's a large house called Gosmore. It's faced with pebble-dash between the half-timbering, and, somewhat shyly, carries the date '1926' embossed on the metal side of a first floor gutter tray. All the other houses on Oak Avenue are much newer, some are bungalows, and others, such as one called Upgot, have hideously ostentatious porch columns. At the top of Oak Avenue I turn west into The Ridgeway. A few hundred yards to the east, but not in view, are the many buildings of Chase Farm and King's Oak Hospitals, and beyond them are Lavender Hill Cemetery and Hilly Fields Park next to each other.

The Royal Chace Hotel, on The Ridgeway, has specialised in wedding receptions for 30 years. These days it is also licensed to hold civil wedding ceremonies, and can cater for over 200 guests in the Queens and Mandeville reception rooms. The honeymoon suite costs £150 a night, while a celebration package of champagne and flowers costs another £45. Appropriately enough, the hotel is used occasionally as a venue by The Social Club for single people. The club holds events such as 'Let's Party Night' with a 'moonlight welcome', three course dinner, and dance music selected from 'through the decades'. There are modest views from the hotel across the fields of Enfield Chace, but residents should be warned that Cuckolds Hill lies to the west!.

For a short while along The Ridgeway, I follow the London Loop, the long distance footpath that goes all around the city. I crossed it once, near the start of my walk, on Farthing Down, where its route was far more pleasant than it is along The Ridgeway. Traffic rushes along here incessantly, so the noise takes away all pleasure of the bright flowering daffodils that have been planted along the banks, and of the slight views back across the fields and woods on either side of Hadley Road. I notice all the mature oaks along here are heavily covered in ivy growth. A large signboard tells me to turn right at the next junction for East Lodge Antiques Centre. A tiny isolated notice, embedded in a roadside tree trunk a long way from houses in either direction, insists 'dogs must be on leads'.

 A Straight Line Walk Across London - along the 300 easting

by Paul K Lyons
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