A Straight Line Walk Across London

by Paul K Lyons

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78 - Pymmes Brook, a baobob oak and dog benches but no carpet beating

A few yards further north I cross, almost unknowingly, a small bridge beneath which a narrow channel of water is rushing eastward. This is Pymmes Brook. An Environment Agency notice informs me that the channel forms part of a 'flood defence asset management'. A footpath - called Pymmes Brook Trail - follows the watercourse some 10 miles from Monken Hadley Common (once part of Enfield Chase hunting forest), through Pymmes Park (in Edmonton) to Lee Valley Park. At this point, though, where I cross it, the Trail has swung north and only returns to the water's side more than a mile to the east. The brook and the Edmonton park are named after William Pymme, a landowner in the 14th century. He built a mansion near a track called Watery Lane (presumably because of its proximity to the river) which is now called Sterling Way and forms part of the North Circular Road.

Apart from Pymmes Park, highlights of the Trail include Pymmes Parade, where once a gate marked the boundary between Hertfordshire and Middlesex; the old Great Northern London Cemetery, which used to have its own station receiving funeral trains; and Oak Hill Park, haunted by the ghost of Geoffrey de Mandeville. Geoffrey's grandfather was a bold Norman knight who had fought alongside William at Hastings, and consequently won large estates. Geoffrey's father, though, lost many of them, and in trying to recover them (including, presumably, the land now including Oak Hill Park) Geoffrey himself became a cruel and greedy man. His persecution of religious groups led to excommunication; and treason against King Stephen led him to a bloody death. He was denied a Christian burial. In consequence, or so it is said, a ghostly image of Geoffrey on horseback can sometimes be seen galloping restlessly around Oak Hill Park.

I continue along Wilmer Way, past number 34 which has a very loud high-pitched burglar alarm. I know this because it's deafening me as I pass by. No-one seems to be dealing with it - me neither. The house name 'Brookside' is painted on a wooden sign that hangs down from its own twee (not-so) miniature porch planted in the front lawn. Several hundred yards north, Wilmer Way melds into Powys Lane, an old track that bends around Broomfield Park (and meets up with Brownlow Road further south).

Broomfield Park opened in 1903, after Southgate Urban District Council purchased it from the Powys family. Here on the western side there's a large open space. Nearer the centre are various features such as the baroque water gardens, a Victorian conservatory, a bandstand, the Garden of Remembrance, the Sensory Garden, an aviary, and the Coronation Gates. All of these cluster around Broomfield House which burnt down in 1984, and is now - partly thanks to television publicity - the subject of a restoration programme with heavyweight patrons such as Lord Puttnam and Lord Winston. The house certainly dates back to the 1620s, when it was already a large property (with 14 hearths). It's possible that James I used it as a hunting lodge. A fine staircase was built in the early 18th century. And, in the 19th century, the estate passed to the Powys family. From 1907 to 1910, it was used by Southgate County School which converted the kitchens into science labs. Subsequently it housed a maternity centre, a dental clinic, and a museum.

Although the 300 easting does not cross the park, I decide to walk through it along a path that runs parallel to the pavement on Powys Lane. There's a magnificent oak at the southwest corner of the park, which must have a girth of nearly 15 ft. Because some of the major branches have been lost, it looks strangely akin to a baobob tree. Playing court to King Oak are blooming daffodils, young silver birches and several holm oaks. Along the path I encounter two canine spirits, remembered by the placement of park benches: 'In loving memory of Soks - the dog. 1988-2002' and 'In loving of our dog Shaktee. 1991-2003. Much loved never forgotten. Rattan family'.

On exiting the park, I stop to read a few of the London Borough of Enfield bylaws. Fines not exceeding £20 may be levied for a wide range of offenses including the following: 'Defacing, injuring or climbing any fence, wall, post, seat, erection etc.'; 'bringing into the park any cattle unless authorised by the Council for pasturage'; 'bathing, wading or washing in any lake or stream unless set apart for the purpose'; 'beating, shaking or cleaning any carpet or hanging or depositing any linen or other fabric'; and 'delivering any public address without permission of the council'.

 A Straight Line Walk Across London - along the 300 easting

by Paul K Lyons
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