8 – High Barnet to Cockfosters 8 miles – 21st March

In short: surprisingly beautiful views on a lovely sunny morning, muddy in places but not impassable. Decent public toilets and lovely cafe at Trent Park, the half way point. 3 hrs 5 mins walking + 30 min pitstop.

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Forced by various domestic duties to walk on a Monday for a change, we found ourselves setting off on a particularly lovely sunny morning to take on one of our current favourite walks.

We start by parking on Potters Lane in Barnet, EN5 5BZ – there is a sort of mini lay-by at the start of this road leading up from Barnet Hill and we park there. We all change into waterproof walking boots at this point – which turns out to be a wise move as at certain points it’s distinctly squishy.

We start by walking up Potters Lane past flats on the right and running alongside the railway line on our left (the Northern line entering High Barnet station), we join the London Loop footpath arriving from the right and this is the path we follow almost all the way. After passing the entrance to the pretty Ravenscroft Cottages cul de sac on our right the London Loop path sets off down a slope to our left and into an open green space.

This is one of the muddiest parts of the walk this week and we keep mostly to the right of this space – albeit just carefully picking our way through the mud and trying not to lose our balance! Halfway across the field there is a hard surfaced path on the right running alongside a fence and we use that to reach the far side and the exit onto the road beyond, Meadway. We take the pavement diagonally to our right and join the main part of Meadway where we turn right and then cross, taking the second turning on the left, Burnside Close. The London Loop is pretty well signposted here so is easy to follow.

We go to the end of Burnside Close and follow the path at the end round to the right; just before reaching the next road we turn left though a gate and into a green space with bushes and trees on the left. We follow the path left through the bushes and across a stream – it’s pretty muddy here too – and then immediately find ourselves at the bottom of a hill. This section of the walk is really gorgeous – a wide green space bordered by trees and bushes with far reaching views – rolling and rural to the right – a distinctly London skyline behind us.

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The path isn’t surfaced at all here but there’s really only one way to go – straight ahead and uphill till finally at the top we come to a gate onto Hadley Green Road where we turn right. The path continues on the far side of the road and runs alongside it to the junction with a narrow road arriving from the left at which point we cross to the right hand side and pass some delightfully pretty almshouses.

The houses along this part of the road are stunning – some with interesting plaques and there’s a glimpse of a village pond across the road on the far left; rounding the corner to the right we come to the Monken Hadley parish church.

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Staying on the right hand side of the road we pass the church to our left and continue past some white painted gates towards Monken Hadley common. We continue straight here, along the pavement past some magnificent houses and cross onto the common just after the pond to pick up the path that runs parallel to the road through the middle, alongside a narrow brook.

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This path takes us into the woods ahead and we follow it for a short while until the thick wet mud defeats us and we cross a small stone bridge on our right and pick up a drier looking path further over to our right. To be honest we are just following whichever path looks the driest at this stage – the woods here are reasonably narrow, bounded to right and left by roads and ahead by the railway line so ultimately it’s pretty difficult to get lost. We keep bearing right however and eventually come to a slight clearing in the trees where we turn right towards a small car park.

We turn left at the car park and picking up the London Loop signs once again we take the path ahead and cross the mainline railway track. The path forks immediately after this bridge and we take the right heading slightly downhill on a hard surfaced path. Walking is definitely easier here and it remains pretty as there are bushes and trees on both sides.

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We stay on this path for some time as it heads towards Cockfosters with suburban streets and JCoss secondary school appearing on our right whilst on our left side it is relatively peaceful and green. After half a mile or so we come to a stone bridge over a babbling stream, just after a sign to the right for the Pymmes Brook trail. On the left here are steps up with signs relating to fishing – it’s well worth a tiny detour here to take a peek at the lake – Jack’s Lake as it is apparently known locally – it’s simply stunning – a most appealing looking picnic site for a lazy summers day!

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We retrace our steps to the bridge and continue along our path skimming the backs of suburban streets until we come to a narrow part of the common running alongside Games Road. We continue along the path which crosses this area – today brightened by clumps of bright yellow daffodils – until we reach the end at the road, in front of some more white painted gates. We pass through the gates and continue on this road bearing left, past the Cock and Dragon pub on our right and a grassy field containing a war memorial, also on our right to the main road ahead, Cockfosters Road. We cross this road at the traffic island and turn right to enter Trent Park almost immediately on our left.

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Entering the park we stick to the lane and bear right at the gate ahead then immediately left to the car park, public toilets and cafe. Believe it or not we are actually so warm at this point – it is the first day of spring after all I suppose – that we are in sleeveless T-shirts and take a table outside on the lovely terrace beside the fountain. After a (semi) virtuous pitstop – just toasted teacakes and coffee today – we head back, retracing our steps.

‘There and back’ walks like this might seem a bit boring on paper – after all there is nothing new to be seen on the return leg – but actually they do offer a different perspective and in the case of this walk much of the outward leg is uphill, especially the start, making the return leg relatively easy.

So we leave Trent Park, turning right out of the gate, cross the road, take a left onto Chalk Lane, bear right onto Games Road and pick up our path across Monken Hadley common from here.

Eventually after crossing back over the railway line we take the ‘proper’ path here – entering the trees just after the car park – as indicated by the London Loop marker. This takes us on a path that runs closer to the lane and then the road at the top, bringing us out up a slope and across the road, Hadley Common, opposite a sign for a footpath to Tudor Road. We continue along the pavement here, past the gorgeous houses with their glorious views, to the church and follow the road round  to the left until we arrive back at the gate to the downward sloping hill back to Barnet on our left.

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At the foot of the hill we cross the stream, following the path out of the open space and back onto suburban streets – Burnside Close, right onto Meadway, cross and down the little spur road by the green and into the last open green space before steps up onto Potters Lane and right back to the car.

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