The route continues through the ancient Oxhey Woods. The foreboughs of these tightly packed trees first put down roots at the end of the last Ice Age. An otherwise oppressive canopy is lightened by the ubiquitous rhododendrons currently in full bloom. We passed nobody, and the only sign of humanity was the occasional burned-out motorbike and the distant hum of Sandy Lane. And so on into a stretch of farmland to the North of Hatch End before climbing up to the second golf course. At the top of this space we encountered Grim’s Ditch, a pre-Roman earthwork that once stretched for many miles, but is now only visible in this short tract. The trail leads on to Grim’s Dyke house, designed by Norman Shaw and previously occupied by WS Gilbert, the non-Sullivanic moiety of Gilbert and Sullivan. He died in this spot, trying to save the life of a struggling swimmer in the now dried-out lake. The woods are particularly gloomy here and its a relief to emerge onto weald land and the spectacular view south to Harrow-on-the-Hill.
View London LOOP in a larger map
The remainder of the trail takes in further woodlands and meadows, before diving beneath the former RAF base of Bentley Priory where rabbits outnumber humans by 10,000 to 1. Continuing with the lagomorphic theme, we crossed into Warren Lane, where the trail passes through one of the most blatant dogging hotspots this side of Lancashire. A few miles on and we reached the more refined airs of Aldenham Reservoir. This artificial body of water was built in 1797 by French prisoners of war, to control the level of the River Colne, which was under strain from the newly constructed Grand Union Canal. Three more fields and a third golf course later and we reached Elstree station and the end of the walk.
Read other entries in this series.