68 – Forty Hall, Whitewebbs Woods, Hillyfields Park, a return visit 5.8 miles – 14th June

In short: a return to walk number 25 which we did last July – an ideal one for hot weather as there is so much wooded shade. A couple of variations through the woods. Lovely edge of London parkland and woods; toilets in pretty poor condition but delightful cafe as ever – albeit pretty slow service. 2 hrs 20 mins walking + 50 mins pitstop.

It’s hot hot hot here in London and so we decide to head for a return visit to a lovely walk we know to be shady as well as delightful. We drive to Forty Hall – postcode EN2 9HA – parking is abundant and free here but shade is at a premium. Unfortunately the state of the public toilets on site leave a lot to be desired – in particular the sink is blocked albeit just about useable as we head out.

After making use of these rather unsavoury facilities we head away from the main building (stunning as ever) left around the gardens, past the farm shop to the path on the far side of the pond and the path left through the gate heading down to the woods and Turkey Brook which runs through it.

At the woods we bear left to take the path beside the ponds on our right until we come to a path arriving from our left which cuts across the ponds to run beside the brook now on our left as we turn left.

At this point we have joined the London Loop path with its distinctive signs. After a couple of minutes we take a path off right signposted for Whitewebbs Road. This path runs alongside a couple of fields at one point parallel to another path following the New River until eventually we reach another signpost for Whitewebbs Road which leads us out onto the road itself.

Here we turn left and just after the lay-by we take the bridlepath option of the two adjacent paths. Here we are walking alongside a golf course and then round the back of the King and Tinker pub. Just after the pub we enter the woods and decide to veer left away from the bridleway on a path through the woods.

Initially the path heads south – away from the road at the top towards the golf clubhouse – but we then bear right and find ourselves on the track that runs down through the woods to the clubhouse and carvery. We cross this track to a lovely pond on the far side and keeping the pond to our left we continue straight on following a well trodden path through the woods again.

We are broadly speaking bearing slightly left on this path; downhill until we meet up with a wider path/bridleway arriving from our right which we join to head more directly downhill towards the New River Aqueduct on our left.

This path soon becomes a track and then a lane, Flash Lane, which brings us out to a road junction – where Theobalds Park Road becomes Clay Hill, with Strayfield Road opposite.

We cross the junction carefully and enter Strayfield Road opposite to the left of the church, immediately turning left on a path towards Hillyfield Park.

After passing through a small meadow we are in the park and it really is just as lovely as last time – in fact lovelier as I made some comments about dog mess last year which doesn’t seem to be an issue at all today.

We follow the path downhill towards a line of trees and the brook at the bottom where we turn left to walk with the water to our left. Views uphill to our right are delightful and we are charmed to spot a little muntjac deer which quickly vanishes – too quickly for our cameras anyway!

We stay on this path all the way to the exit from the park – passing the picturesque bandstand as we go.

We cross the road, Clay Hill, and take a footpath straight ahead on the far side, signposted to Forty Hall.

After a short while we pass the New River old course path and come to a signpost – here we carry straight on (2 directions are indicated for Forty Hall) – but after about 10 minutes we realise that we have rejoined our path out and that wasn’t our intention. So we retrace our steps to the signpost and take the alternative route to Forty Hall. In other words we should have turned right at the post and now have to turn left.

This path leads to a gate into the Forty Hall Estate on our left – in fact the main path is closed for repair works at just this point. We bear left and walk beside the Forty Hall Farm on our left till we reach the lovely old brick wall on our right which marks the boundary of the gorgeous walled garden – as we know from our past visits.

Even with this prior knowledge the sheer scale of the colours on display takes our breath away as we pass through the gate into the garden. Wow!

Inevitably photos don’t do it justice – but we do try anyway!

We turn right and follow the path round the outskirts of the garden, drinking it all in.

We finally drag ourselves away – the call of our rumbling stomachs becomes too intrusive! Leaving the garden we turn left to the cafe where we enjoy a really delicious homemade vegetable tart and salad and cold drink. The food and setting are both delightful but it has to be said, service is extremely slow. We follow this with a fab coffee. The return visit to the toilets is really pretty grim but hopefully this is just a short term, one day only problem as it would be a shame to let this spoil such a lovely spot.

All in all, fab walk, gorgeous weather and wonderful, free, underused public park. We round it all off with a visit to the farm shop which is really lovely – organic fruit and veg for sale plus a few other items including cards, local craft beers and preserves. What a great place – I’m torn between everyone should know about it and let’s keep it to ourselves…

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