Walk 8: Winchmore Hill walk to Crews Hill

 
WINCHMORE HILL walk to CREWS HILL 3 hours
   

This train line is a branch line often called the “Hertford Loop”. It was originally just a suburban spur off the main line and opened in 1871. At the time, it ran only from “Wood Green (Alexandra Palace)” to Enfield as funds were lacking for extending the line. The section between Enfield and Crews Hill was then opened in 1910.

Routing note: Connects with walk 7 at Winchmore Hill.

WINCHMORE HILL station

Winchmore Hill station

The station was opened like Palmers Green in 1871 along with the train line itself. The station building is only half the original size as part of it had to be demolished due to subsidence in 1965. The nicest part are the wooden awnings on the platforms.

The oldest mention of the former hamlet of Winchmore Hill goes back to 1319. It was written Wynsemerhull, a “mer” being some kind of boundary and Wynse being probably a name. Being on a hill with extended views and an excellent train connection to London, it is not surprising that the area has some decidedly upmarket properties.

Winchmore Hill Green

The area is part of an election constituency lost in 1997 by incumbent Michael Portillo. This was very unexpected as Mr Portillo had been seen as a potential leader of the Conservative Party. He was indeed conservative, opposing for example the admission of homosexuals in the Armed Forces, so that the loss of his seat was possibly due in part rather to some local issues such as plans to allow a MacDonald’s restaurant on the grounds of a former Conservartive Club. The seat turned conservative again as early as 2005. The loss of his seat led Mr Portillo to move to a more secure seat in Kensington and Chelsea in 1999.

Pub on Winchmore Hill Green

Exiting the station, you can detour R to see the village green with a few nice old buildings from the turn of the 18th century.

Otherwise, on exiting the station, turn immediately R along the tracks into

Wilson Street

(Ahead) Footpath along the train tracks

(Ahead) Stratfield Park Close (with bends L then R)

Public footpath across Houndsden Gutter

(Ahead) Footpath along the train tracks

At the end of the footpath

L Green Dragon Lane

The Green Dragon has no link with Wales, it is the name of a pub first opened at the beginning of the 18th century. There is still a pub at the lower end of Green Dragon Lane, but the current version was opened in 1935. Being a typical London suburban pub, it serves “authentic Thai cuisine” and belongs to a large chain.

R Landra Gardens

R Vera Avenue passing

GRANGE PARK station

Grange Park station

The station was opened in 1910 to develop a new suburban area. This explains why the train stops on top of such a high embankment with the station building being down a long incline. I actually like the look of the platforms with the white wooden railings as they give a pleasantly rural feeling.

The area was bought in 1906 by a developper from Lord Currie, a City banker and the owner of the local estate. The “Grange” in the name was a hunting lodge converted later into farm buildings. The developper, who lived in nearby Bush Hill Park, paid attention to quality and employed architects attuned to the Arts & Crafts movement. As a result, the area was considered one of the most beautiful and attractive in the northern suburbs and remains very sought after. It is a conservation area.

(Ahead) The Grange Way

L The Chine, turns R

L Old Park Ridings

R Old Park Avenue

L footpath between hedges crossing a golf course

Ahead into Enfield Town Park

The park was bought by the Council in 1902 when the estate was put on the market following the death of the owner. An other part of the land was converted into the golf course you just crossed.

Along the New River in Enfield Town Park

The watercourse bordering the park (amusingly on a raised levee) is an older section of the New River. This is actually not a river but a canal bringing drinking water from the Lea River near Hertford to a reservoir near Angel station in Islington. When it was built in the 17th century, it was necessary for the canal to run in meanders around any gully in order to maintain a constant slope and therefore current at the right speed. More modern technology such as siphons made it possible to build tunnels cutting short many meanders. Many unused old sections became ornamental, such as here where the estate owner had the right to fish from a boat (not normally allowed on a drinking water canal !). You can actually follow the river (turn L before crossing the bridge) if you prefer the water to the park.

Enfield Town Park

The park is mostly grass expanse with a ball game court, tennis courts and a children playground. In the middle of the park, there is a former toddler fountain which is now an ugly, enclosed concrete bowl with scraggy bushes trying to hide it shamefully from view. There is a nicer section at the north-west end near the main exit, featuring a lavender bed and a rose garden. It is the most central park in Enfield and it is large and clean, but that is about it in terms of appeal.

Aim for exit at the NW corner near the rose garden

(Ahead) Cecil Road

(Ahead, do not cross the bridge)

Gentlemans Row

Enfield Registrar Office on Gentleman's Row

Nearly all houses along this street are listed buildings as this is an older part of Enfield, built around 1700. Fortunately, there was no main road nearby and therefore less incentive to convert the houses to garish shops. The houses are not extraordinary, but this is a pleasant, quiet backwater of an area. The most imposing house is the first one, just after the church; it houses council offices and is also a popular location for weddings as the registrar’s office.

New River

The road turns L at the end towards a footbridge over the New River. You can detour R along the New River for about 100 yards to reach a pub with a very nice beer garden. Otherwise:

L on footpath along the river.

New River in Enfield Chase

On reaching the more open green space, look at the fountain. It is actually a sundial, but the sun does not shine very often high enough to light it from above the tall trees. Aim now for the traffic lights. On the other side, you can see a sober-looking war memorial with a very nice background of mature rhododendrons.

(Uphill) Windmill Hill leading to

ENFIELD CHASE station

Enfield Chase station

The railway opened the original station in 1871. The station was a little higher up the hill and was a terminal for the suburban line from King’s Cross, the train company intending to capture traffic away from a competitor at Enfield Town station, half a mile down the hill. Enfield Town remained a busier station for passenger traffic, but Enfield Chase had significant goods traffic due to the better connection with the railways towards the industrial towns in the Midlands.

By 1910, the train company had built the line further towards the north and moved the passenger station to the present location.

Turn around and go back under the railway bridge

L Chase Green (a minor street)

(Ahead) footpath across Chase Green (the park)

Chase Green

Chase Green is a park with a distinguished history. The “chase” (from the French word “chasse” or hunt) is mentioned as early as 1325, when it was used for a hunting forest extending on a considerable area from present-day Hamsptead Heath all the way to the Lea Valley near Ware. Some sections were cleared in Tudor times and the current Enfield Chase corresponds more or less to the southeastern end of the “chase”. It had long been owned by leading aristocrats, the De Mandeville and later the De Bohun, but it was owned by the Crown under Henry VIII. Parliament allowed the chase to be broken up in 1777 and the parish authorised development.

Enfield war memorial

The present Chase Green corresponds to the part of the chase that was given to the parish as a compensation for the loss of the common rights over the chase. There is a row of very imposing trees at the foot of the railway embankment and you already passed before the war memorial with the rhododendrons and the small flower beds.

Aim for the NW corner near the next railway bridge

Cross the street into Conical Corner

R passage between houses leading to Christchurch Close (named from Christ Church, built in 1875 in a very gothic style)

L Chase Side

L Holtwhite’s Hill

R Kirkland Drive

Follow signs along the railway tracks towards

GORDON HILL station

Gordon Hill station

The station was built on an ambitious pattern with a third track to be used for suburban trains terminating here. It is still used for a few rush hour services. The station is located in a very deep cutting and it is an interesting experience to walk all the way to the platforms. I somehow wonder why it was deemed easier to build the awkward oblique incline rather than a plain long staircase perpendicular to the station building like in Alexandra Palace. The incline is particularly enjoyable in freezing fog or icy drizzle, a not uncommon occurrence as this station is one of the highest in Greater London in terms of altitude.

Cross the main road into

Lavender Gardens

Main route:

L into the cemetery, keep L going towards the railway tracks, then across the valley into the new part of the cemetery. There is an exit at the NE corner near a nursery.

Chapel in Lavender Hill Cemetery

The cemetery was opened in 1872 on land owned by the parish where lavender had been grown. It has listed chapels that are actually exactly identical. But one was Anglican and the other was Nonconformist. I wonder if you can call the situation an unncessary expense ? The Council seems to think so because one of the chapels is now a store for the park rangers. There are very nice mature trees in the old part of the cemetery and there is a moving series of memorials for toddlers along the road to the new part. The new section is still a bit dreary.

Scenic route (expect 20 minutes more walking):

Follow Lavender Gardens as it turns R. It becomes Cedar Road and later Phipps Hatch Lane. Continue until you reach a church

L into Hilly Fields Park on a paved path going downhill

The park was developped on farm land when the Council decided to buy the local farm in 1909 in order to prevent development. The decision was very controversial with the decision being passed by the thin margin of 5 to 4 councillors; the local landowners and the construction lobby were of course highly interested in developping the area now that the new train line made it so convenient for commuters.

Train on Rendleshall Viaduct

The bandstand at the bottom of the park was built in 1920 at a time when people had no television and often went to the parks to hear a band or to dance. Times have changed and the bandstand was only saved from demolition because a group of local residents paid for the renovation in 2001 and took a lease on the amenity.

You will find a crossing of paved paths where you can join a marked long-distance path, the London Loop (green roundels with arrows and a kestrel logo). Turn L on this marked path and follow the signs across a brook (Turkey Brook, from the family name Tokey) and a wood. This will lead you to a road near a nursery where you rejoin the main route.

Unique unprotected train crossing

L Strayfield Road (unpaved at the end)

(Ahead) muddy footpath along the hillcrest, crosses the railway tracks at an unprotected pedestrian crossing (DANGER ! Check carefully for trains !)

This is a public footpath continuing across a small wood and then across a golf course. Crews Hill golf course is a particularly renowned venue and is considered to be a very good example for the style of Harry Colt. It was launched in 1915. Trivia lovers will be pleased to hear that a Scottish National Player got killed by lightning on this course in 1964 after taking shelter under a tall tree on the ridge.

View from Crews Hill Golf Course

What I do find interesting is that you can hardly believe that you are actually within the M25 and in train zone 6. There are superb views in several directions and all views show rolling countryside, fields and forests with hardly a house.

At the clubhouse parking lot

R Cattlegate Road (also called Crews Hill)

L after the railway bridge for station access to

CREWS HILL station

Crews Hill station

The station was opened in 1910 but the train company soon realised that no significant development was taking place. As a result, it remains a particularly quiet station with some trains not stopping. As it has no staff at any time, it is one of the few train stations in London that were not penalty fare stations as late as 2009.

The station has some passenger traffic at rush hour, primarily staff working in garden centres in the valley below the station. Crews Hill can namely boast an inordinate number of nurseries and garden centres, to the point that it is advertised as the garden centre capital of the nation. I have no idea why this happened and why a garden centre could even wish to be close to a dozen competitors.

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4 Responses to Walk 8: Winchmore Hill walk to Crews Hill

  1. Highlands School student says:

    I would like to request copyright permission to use your image of Enfield Town Park to use in my GCSE coursework. Please reply as an indication of your decision.

    Regards,
    Sanjana

    • Hi and thank you for acknowledging the copyright. You are very welcome to use the two pictures of Enfield Town Park for your GCSE work assuming it is not published outside of your school. Best regards

  2. anne Beer says:

    I lived in Crews Hill in the 1950’s and have not returned since. I was interested to see a picture of the bridge which I remember used to have a road running through it , I have a photo of it covered in snow.
    I used to work in a nursery by the station called Lindakay Nursery, and can recall pushing boxes of carnations to the station to be sent to Spitalfields Market in London.
    Why was the bridge filled in?

  3. sufia says:

    I would like to request copyright permission to use your image of Enfield Town Park to use in my GCSE coursework. Please reply as an indication of your decision.

    Regards,
    sufia

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