Distance: 7.5 miles
Terrain: Mostly flat, with steps at some points and a few inclines (especially if you want to climb up to Ally Pally at the end). Some parts of the path are muddy, especially if it’s been raining
Start: Turkey Street station
Finish: Alexandra Palace
Species of bird seen: 24
This (sub)urban walk follows part of the course of the New River, which isn’t new and isn’t exactly a river either. The man-made waterway opened in 1613 to supply London with fresh drinking water from the river Lea as well as various springs and wells along its course.
Over 400 years later, it still performs this function and is maintained by Thames Water. Members of the public can access the New River’s banks for much of its route, although it’s worth bearing in mind that it isn’t a public right of way — the kissing-gates through which it can be reached from various roads are locked at night.
This means that the New River Path, which follows parallel roads where stretches of the river are inaccessible, doesn’t appear as a dotted line on Ordnance Survey maps — the best thing to do is download the 15-page booklet as a PDF from Thames Water’s website.
On the plus side, signage is pretty good — look out for the green signs with the words ‘New River Path’ on them.
The New River Path starts between Ware and Hertford and ends at the New River Head in Islington (a total of 28 miles), but this walk covers only the bit between Enfield and Ally Pally, starting at Turkey Street station in the outer reaches of suburban Middlesex (zone 6).
On leaving the station, turn left onto Turkey Street and then right onto Winnington Road; here, we’re on the London Loop which passes under the railway line and runs alongside Enfield Crematorium before reaching the A10, which it crosses via a footbridge.
From here, we soon encounter the New River although here it’s underground (the hump in the path is a dead giveaway). Take the left turn to head south on the New River Path (an alternative, the New River Link, follows the path, looping around Forty Hall Country Park and rejoining the path just before Enfield town centre).
Within yards, the New River emerges. The grassy path (as the New River isn’t a canal, it doesn’t have a towpath and the banks can be muddy after wet weather) follows it along its right bank, although a footbridge soon takes us to the left side.
The walk runs alongside housing, although there are plenty of trees along the banks and you can hear the birds as well as cars from the nearby roads.
Every time the New River runs underneath a road (it does this a lot), pass through the kissing-gates, cross over the road and rejoin the river.
There’s plenty of bird life on the river — exotic mandarin ducks as well as mallards, coots, moorhens, geese and swans; we even saw an enterprising coot using a partly-submerged shopping-trolley as a nesting-site.
At Carterhatch Lane, the New River Path briefly diverges from the New River itself; turn left and then turn down Ladysmith Road, meeting the river again via Lambourne Gardens.
We’re not with it for long, though, as we soon cross over and head through a series of alleyway between suburban streets and back gardens when ends at Churchbury Lane.
At the bottom of this, turn right and follow Parsonage Lane until you spot the footpath on the left, opposite Monastery Gardens. This footpath – gravel, now – heads back to the river, now feeling rather tranquil with back gardens on one side and playing-fields on the other. Follow the river again, crossing a little footbridge to reach the Crown & Horseshoes pub.
From the pub, follow the river along its right bank — after a pretty (paved) side-street, there's a park which ends at Church Street.
Enfield town centre, with numerous refreshment options, is just along to the left.
To continue on the path, cross Church Street and follow the river. We’re soon skirting Town Park on our left.
When you get to the point where there’s a choice between a footbridge over the river and a path running alongside it through the park: take the footbridge. This takes us away from the river and along a tree-lined path running across a golf course; follow the path until emerging onto Bush Hill.
Bear right here, and follow the road as it becomes Bush Hill Road until you spot the New River Path sign pointing right. Here, rejoin the river, walking on grass again but only for a short time; the path soon diverts from the river down onto a road running parallel to it. That road ends at the junction of Green Lanes and Green Dragon Lane. Turn left, and rejoin the river just after the parade of shops ends.
After another crossing, there are sports pitches to our left (the Paulin Ground, home of Winchmore Hill Sports Club). At Ford’s Grove, there’s a brief diversion as we need to cross two roads rather than the usual one to rejoin the river, although anyone fancying a break at this point can go and check out the cafés and pubs of Winchmore Hill.
The river is now running parallel to Green Lanes, an ancient drovers’ road along which cattle were walked from Hertfordshire to Smithfield Market.
The path leaves the river again at Barrowell Green, briefly running along Green Lanes before turning left onto the appropriately-named River Avenue, rejoining the river at Hedge Lane, leaving it at Hazelwood Lane and following Chimes Lane before linking up with the river once again by the sports ground next to Palmers Green Mosque.
At the next road crossing — Oakthorpe Road — we cross the Pymmes Brook Trail. There follows another short diversion around Palmers Green Library (plenty of refreshment options nearby) before following the New River over Pymmes Brook itself and then down to the North Circular. Cross this using the pedestrian crossing to the right.
We’re then walking alongside the New River again, through Bowes Park now and passing from the London Borough of Enfield into Haringey.
Stick with the river all the way down to Myddleton Road which is named after Sir Hugh Myddelton (1560-1631; the spelling of his surname varies). He was the man behind the construction of the New River; there’s a statue of him on Islington Green. After Myddleton Road, the New River goes underground until it gets to the treatment works in Hornsey.
Don’t be fooled by the small park on the other side of Myddleton Road – that’s a small community garden and you can’t get out at the back.
Go left and then right, down Palmerston Road to the junction with Truro Road. Then through a series of little parks that are above the New River – Finsbury Gardens, the Hidden River Path (yes, really) and Nightingale Gardens.
As we come close to the end of our walk, Alexandra Palace station is close at hand. If you want to end your walk with a nice view, cross over the railway and walk up to Ally Pally itself.
If you prefer to end with a celebratory drink, the Starting Gate pub is across the road from the station. For the really keen urban wanderer, the New River Path continues all the way to the river’s original terminus at the New River Head in Central London – another seven miles.