London Loop: 4. Moor Park to Elstree

M@
By M@ Last edited 104 months ago
London Loop: 4. Moor Park to Elstree
Aldenham Reservoir. Built by the French.
Aldenham Reservoir. Built by the French.
A series of pools above Stanmore, known as Caesar's Ponds.
A series of pools above Stanmore, known as Caesar's Ponds.
Almost on the home stretch. Approaching Elstree as hawks circle overhead.
Almost on the home stretch. Approaching Elstree as hawks circle overhead.
Somewhere in this tangled undergrowth, WS Gilbert drew his last breath - largely made from water.
Somewhere in this tangled undergrowth, WS Gilbert drew his last breath - largely made from water.
WS Gilbert: going swimmingly
WS Gilbert: going swimmingly
You can't really see it in this pic, but Grim's Dyke is a pretty impressive bit of land scooping. Those early Britons knew how to make a ditch.
You can't really see it in this pic, but Grim's Dyke is a pretty impressive bit of land scooping. Those early Britons knew how to make a ditch.
Grim's Dyke: you could call it a last-ditch effort.
Grim's Dyke: you could call it a last-ditch effort.
Harrow, on its hill.
Harrow, on its hill.
13214_loopsign.jpg
And we're off. Starting with a short trek through silent woodlands.
And we're off. Starting with a short trek through silent woodlands.
The fields below Bentley Priory would be Elma Fudd's idea of heaven.
The fields below Bentley Priory would be Elma Fudd's idea of heaven.
Rhododendrons are to Oxhey Woods what chicken outlets are to Holloway Road.
Rhododendrons are to Oxhey Woods what chicken outlets are to Holloway Road.
Elstree golf course does a good line in creepy trees.
Elstree golf course does a good line in creepy trees.
The Case is Altered pub on Harrow Weald.
The Case is Altered pub on Harrow Weald.

Moor Park must rank as one of the more obscure Tube stations, out in a place called 'Hertfordshire' on the Zone 6/7 border. Our Oyster Card had a nose bleed. Exiting to the North of this sleepy stop, we plunged into a scrap of menacing woodland leading onto the first of three golf courses. The signage is, frankly, appalling and we hiked several miles before spying the first Loop fingerpost - and then many came in quick succession. This stretch highlights a general case on these walks: when there's a choice of paths there's ne'er a signpost in sight; but as soon as the way becomes obvious the pointers are as abundant as nettles. Never attempt to walk the London Loop without a guide book.

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.

Last Updated 15 June 2009

SallyB

Lagomorphic? Hm.
Londonist compelled me to use my dictionary today.
I shall now spend the rest of the week trying to drop it casually into a conversation ;)