Distance: 10.3 miles
Terrain: Mostly flat and on hard surfaces, although there are some muddy paths early on and a few ramps
Start: Cockfosters tube station
Finish: Pickett’s Lock (nearest station: Edmonton Green via the W8 bus route)
Species of bird seen: 30
This walk cuts a diagonal swathe across north London, following the course of Pymmes Brook from close to its source in Hadley Wood to near where it joins the River Lea. It's indicated by signs showing a white willow tree on a blue background (although some of these are faded to the point where they are unreadable) and is a walk of two halves — the first part mainly follows the brook through a series of suburban parks, while after Palmers Green it gets decidedly more urban and the brook itself is less accessible. It's a long walk, but there are a couple of escape points along the way if you feel like you've had enough.
We start at the end of the Piccadilly line at Cockfosters. Opposite the station, Chalk Lane is part of stage 17 of the London LOOP as well as the beginning of the Pymmes Brook Trail. This runs past Christ Church, playing-fields and a pub before the road becomes a footpath as we enter Monken Hadley Common. Before long, we cross a footbridge – our first encounter with Pymmes Brook, which flows out of a nearby lake called either Jack's Lake or Beech Hill Lake, depending on which map you're reading. Just after the bridge is a signpost that indicates the point where we leave the London LOOP.
There's a road which we can either cross or follow a path that runs under it. Then we walk alongside the brook until we reach a quiet suburban back-street; there follows a diversion through a recreation ground. After this, follow Crescent Road which runs parallel to the brook, taking us to Brookhill Road. Here, the brook runs underground – to rejoin it, we need to turn left (passing a library) and right down Cat Hill (for anyone in need of refreshment at this point, East Barnet has a number of cafés and pubs). We then take another left onto Brookside which, true to its name, runs alongside the brook until we enter Oak Hill Park.
Here, the brook is shallow and fairly tranquil. After the park, we follow the brook along East Walk, and then along the peaceful Waterfall Walk towards the Arnos Park Viaduct which carries the Piccadilly line over us (the road here is Waterfall Road; our brook doesn't have a waterfall as such but there are several man-made weirs along its length). We continue through Arnos Park, walking alongside the brook until the park ends at Wilmer Way. At this point we can’t follow the brook because it runs between back gardens — we take a left turn, heading up to the mini-roundabout with Powys Lane. Here, we enter Broomfield Park. Bear right, following the path and crossing through the gate in the wall, then turning left at the first of four duck ponds. Here we pass Broomfield House (derelict since the 1980s). At the far end of the park there's a crazy golf course (open at weekends and during school holidays) and we can see Alexandra Palace on the distant horizon. Turn right along Alderman's Lane – this takes us to Palmers Green which has cafés, pubs and, should you decide that you’ve walked enough (it's 5.8 miles since Cockfosters), a train station and several buses.
At the junction with Green Lanes, turn right and then take a left onto Oakthorpe Road; we cross over a stretch of water but it's not our brook — it's the New River. Our walk then takes a turn for the less salubrious as we find ourselves alongside the North Circular. Once you get to the subway running under the North Circ, take it – this brings us to Chequers Way which we follow past a food distribution centre until we reach Tile Kiln Lane, which is where we rejoin the brook, now looking both bigger and untidier. Tile Kiln Lane ends up becoming a footpath running past a playing-field.
Then we come to the point where the North Circ and the A10 meet. This crazy junction has a clever network of cycle paths and footpaths that run under the A10 but over the North Circ — we need to end up on the north-eastern side, and although there are Pymmes Brook Trail signs, they're very faded so follow the signs to 'A406 (East)' and 'Edmonton'.
We emerge onto Kendal Parade, which turns into Silver Street. Follow this — passing St Aldhelm's Church and a modest parade of shops before meeting with the brook again at Pymmes Park. Go through the park, crossing the white footbridge over the pond and passing the playground to reach the (working!) drinking fountain and the public toilets by Victoria Road. Just to the south of here is a last chance to see Pymmes Brook before it disappears underground, but we need to continue along Park Road (past the large, boarded-up pub), under the railway and onto Fore Street.
This leads up to Edmonton Green, and if you like, the walk can end here. No-one would blame you, as we’ve done 8.5 miles so far! To continue to the end, turn right at the police station along Plevna Road — this takes us round the back of the shopping centre to a gravel footpath which follows Salmon's Brook, another Lea tributary. After passing an allotment, we reach Montagu Road; Salmon's Brook continues through the recreation ground opposite, but don't follow that as you’ll hit a dead end (in the form of a railway line). Instead, turn left and follow the road until the right-hand turn onto Pickett's Lock Lane; follow this over the railway and the A1055, passing the sewage treatment works and then continuing to follow the road as it bears to the right. This eventually brings us to the eponymous lock on the River Lee Navigation, where in walking terms we join the Lea Valley Walk. The grassy bank (which can’t be accessed) leads up to the William Girling Reservoir and the big chimney to the south is the Edmonton Incinerator (Britain’s largest don't you know).
Assuming we don’t want to walk any further, the quickest way home from here is to retrace our steps along Pickett’s Lock Lane to the bus stop, from where we can get the W8 bus back to Edmonton Green, where there’s a train station and plenty more buses.
Discover more Weekend Walks.