Dave Sergeant

The Green London Way is a walking route of 110 miles length around London split into 18 sections. It follows much of the route of the 78 mile long Capital Ring but has some new sections. The Green London Way is largely the work of one man, Bob Gilbert, who is a supporter for the protection of urban open spaces and public access. His book, The Green London Way, outlines each section with detailed description of the historic and wildlife aspects of each section and is being used as I walk the route.

Green London Way Walk 14 - Brent Cross to Hampstead - June 3rd 2021

This 6 mile section of the Green London Way partially follows section 11 of the Capital Ring but then branches off on the Dollis Valley Greenwalk ending in Hampstead. It is a particularly rural walk in a largely built up part of London. It had a few surprises in store.

Out of Brent Cross underground station the beginning of the walk starts noisily as the North Circular is crossed via a longish footbridge. The complex interchange is what I avoided last week by choosing to end my walk instead at Hendon Central. Then after a few quiet suburban streets Hendon Park is reached. Originally farmland it was turned into a park in 1903. The Children's Millennium Wood now has matured trees and the Holocaust Memorial Garden has a commemorative fountain.

After some more suburban streets the route of the Capital Ring is joined on the upper reaches of the River Brent. When I last did this walk the bridge had been closed and there was a diversion route which took me right along the North Circular. But now there is a splendid new footbridge which avoids that pleasure. However the North Circular and then the A1 is ever present for the next mile or so. The Decoy Pond, built originally to supply fish to the Manor in Brent Park in the 14th century and later turned into a duck decoy, looks a bit worse for wear.

The Brent and then its tributary Mutton Brook is followed for a while, passing the busy North Circular/A1 junction, until it leaves the Capital Ring at the entrance of Little Wood. Little Wood then Big Wood, which are relic Oak woodlands, have extensive areas for walking together with play areas. After the woods is the first surprise.

Hamstead Garden Suburb was founded by Dame Henrietta Barnett in 1905 with the vision of creating a place where people of all walks of life could live alongside each other in quality housing and in pleasant surroundings. Unfortunately the plans stipulated that apart from the two churches, one free church and one Anglican, in the central square, all other shops, cafes and cinemas were to be in the outer fringes out of reach of those without transport so it rapidly became one for the upper class which is reflected in the properties in the suburb. One of the first experiments in New Towns which didn't quite work out as intended.

The Central Square area is pedestrianised, has the two churches, one each side, an ornamental lantern and memorial stone to Dame Henrietta. A very pleasant oasis away from the not that distant noisy fringes of the North Circular

After Hampstead Garden Suburb the route goes across the large areas of grassland of Hamstead Heath Extension which seems a popular area for dog walkers. Then afer passing some lakes not visible due to vegetation woodland is reached, part of Hamstead Heath west and backing on to properties in the outskirts of Hampstead. This area is known as Pitts Garden after William Pitt the Elder who moved here in 1767 after resigning as Prime Minister after a mental breakdown. Then the next surprise comes into view.

The Hill Garden and Pergoda is called one of the best kept secrets of London. Well away from the main parts of Hampstead and not even signposted from the road it was the work of William Lever, Lord Leverhulme, who bought the adjacent mansion and created ornamental gardens, raised walkways and pergodas. It went into ruin after he died in 1925 but was bought for the public in 1963 after which it was restored to some extent.

It is also available for weddings and other occasions and that seemed to be going on when I visited with some parts closed off and various groups posing for photographs on the pergoda. I missed finding the long staircase leading to the loggia with magnificent views towards London but I think I saw most of it and it made the highlight of the day.

Then down initially through woodland then narrow lanes to the centre of Hampstead where I had a pleasant, it somewhat expensive, lunch before catching the tube back to Waterloo after another very pleasant, and warm, day.

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