Although there’s some controversy over who actually uttered this well-known quote, with people usually ascribing it to Winston Churchill or Mark Twain, the fact remains that hitting a small ball with a stick over a long distance to a small hole, is a singularly odd pastime and one I struggle to understand the obsession for. I had good opportunity to observe the practice today, as this section of the London Loop fed me a regular diet of golf courses.
With my sheet of the breakdown of the Loop into chunks starting and ending near stations showing that I could be doing as much as an 18-miler today, I got out early with the commuters. I was in Elstree for 8:25 and walked the short stretch of link route to rejoin the main path. It promised to be a hot day so I was lugging a full 3 litre Camelbak, and this was one of those rare occasions when I carried no additional bad weather clothing at all, apart from a sun hat. And I had 3 missions today – to do a decent-sized walk to maintain fitness before my next hills trip; to take photos of trees for my drawing class; and to make some inroads into the London Loop itself.
A short walk through a wood and then through the trees on my left I spotted some open green land with trees dotted around. I stepped briefly out of the wood to snap some treeporn and then continued, finding that the path brought me out onto the open golf course quite soon anyway. Reasonably well-signed to start with, it was easy to follow the main tracks across the course, but soon my mind wandered and I found myself by the clubhouse, which my map said was all wrong. I found myself backtracking a few hundred yards to where the map said I should have branched off left, and there after some looking saw the small sign I’d missed. There then followed some religious following of the map for the next bit – a lesson I’d have been advised to put into practice much later in the day.
I crossed a field with signs warning me I’d be trampled by horses and then found myself at a busy main road junction. But soon I was back in fields heading for Aldenham Reservoir. The map told me that Haberdashers Aske School was close by and this took me back to school morning assemblies and the satisfaction always afforded by hearing that we’d beaten the posh kids at rugby. Haberdashers was one of those we used to play, I’m sure.
Soon I was at Aldenham Reservoir, hardly a mountain tarn, but the lakes are welcome on this walk as they break up the woods, fields and, obviously, golf courses.
I crossed the M1 and was then in an overgrown grassy field alongside. Although there was a clear track showing the line of the path, some work was needed to brush through the waist high grasses, and I was glad that I’d learned the lessons of recent local walks and worn long trousers.
Soon the path did one of those unnecessary “three sides of a square” meanders just so I could walk through some more woods and algaed ponds. I stopped by the first of these as there was a handy bench and had a break. Another main road crossed and then I was crossing the grounds of Bentley Priory, of which I could see nothing due to the work being done to maintain the perimeter fences on my right.
Harrow Weald Common now threw me due to a dearth of useful waymarks that saw me following the northern edge of the wood for too long, and it was only instinct that got me back to the road for a look out from the viewpoint over west London, before plunging back into the next section by Grim’s Dyke.
It was now time for another golf course, which I skirted to bring me round to Carpenders park and a short stretch of road walking that got me across the west coast main line. I briefly enjoyed the strong 4G signal from the masts alongside the railway and considered stopping for lunch here. Were it not for the thundering past of the trains, the lack of shade and the horses in the field, I probably would.
In the next field, some heavy agricultural machinery was approaching and making the noise and bits of flying vegetation unpalatable for a stop anywhere near. So I continued along a lane behind the edge of the residential area of Hatch End and fought my way through some very brambly patches to emerge in another field which was having a bit of a haircut. The far side of the field afforded some shade under some trees, and had already been cut so I would be largely undisturbed if I stopped there for lunch, which is what I did. At the same time I mulled the offer by Paul (@paulgbuck) of a meet-up in Uxbridge for a post-walk (or post-work, in his case) pint. It remained to be seen whether I’d make it the full 18 miles that such a plan would involve, and I told Paul I’d see how I went and let him know later.
Next up I skirted a couple more fields with horses in and found myself at something of a crossroads…
This really didn’t make much sense compared with what was on the map. Clearly it had to be left or right, but the left sign was puzzling me as there appeared to be no London Loop path in that direction. Left looked like the least wrong option so I decided to put my faith in the waymarks, which to tell the truth hadn’t been bad so far. Up along tracks past yet another golf course and already it felt wrong as I was straying too far from where I needed to be. But I’d gone too far to be bothered to retrace my steps, so I decided to recover the route by other means.
The remedial route chosen also had the good fortune of taking me right over a London Borough top (Hillingdon), and this mitigated the disappointment at missing the chunk of the Loop through Oxhey Wood. I bagged the top and then headed back to rejoin the Loop as soon as I could, enjoying once more being in the woods.
But, I don’t know how this happens, as soon as I lose the way or make a mistake that requires extra walking to correct, I start to feel a lot more tired, and this was no exception. Now starting to flag, my body was beginning to tell me it didn’t want to do another 8 miles, pint or no pint.
Across the road was a big grassy field that was clearly not a public park, and across which the line of the Loop was difficult to discern. The mystery was solved soon after when it became clear that the field is owned by the adjacent golf course. Peppered with stands of trees here and there and not overlooked, it also looked a reasonable bet for a future wild camp, albeit a stealthy one.
I emerged onto the road and grabbed an ice cream from the garage there, flopping on a grassy bank while I reviewed progress so far. Deep down I knew I’d not make Uxbridge today, so I let Paul know. Moreover, I decided that there was little to be gained from carrying on much more today, as stopping now would leave a sensible chunk for next time. I headed along the lane that leads to Moor Park station, and stayed on the Loop across the final golf course of the day, before jinking to the right by the railway for the final walk to the station.
Moor park was also a sensible stopping place as I could get on a train here which would take me direct to Aldgate at the other end of the Metropolitan Line, and leave me just around the corner from Fenchurch Street. I got on the train and settled down for a long ride.
That night at art class, trees were drawn using inspiration from the walk.