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North Mymms walk - Additional notes

Compiled by Bernard Spatz and Bob Horrocks

A new footbridge along the route of the first PEAP walk.
A new footbridge along the route of the first PEAP walk.
Camera courtesy of Fujifilm
Question 1 Hawkshead Sidings

The Great North Railway was built in the 1850s. In the late 1920s the company developing Brookmans Park persuaded the railway company (by then, LNER) that enough houses had been built to warrant providing a station. Welham Green station was not built until 1986. Click here for more information.

The East Coast Main Line from London (Kings Cross) to Scotland was used by the Flying Scotsman designed by Sir Nigel Gresley. On this line, between Grantham, Lincs, and Peterborough, Cambs, the Mallard, also designed by Gresley, created the world speed record for steam locomotives at 125 mph (201kph). This 1938 record still stands. Click here for more information. Gresley Court, Hawkshead Rd, Little Heath was named after him, though there is no known connection between him and that particular piece of land).

Until the 1980s, ten years after the introduction of trains running at 125 miles per hour in places, a public footpath crossed the line above where Ray Brook flows beneath the tracks. This path has now been diverted and passes an area shown on pre-1939 maps as "Hawkshead Siding" where goods could be unloaded from trains. The sidings may have been sited here so that coal and wine could be offloaded before duty became payable. A ‘duty’ stone still stands beside the railway, south of the Hawkshead Lane bridge. The Coal Duties Act 1851 imposed a tax on coal within London, bordered by Coal Posts, with the revenue used to finance many of the bridges crossing the River Thames. Click here for more information,

Questions 2 & 3 Ray Brook and the Royal Veterinary College

The fields and all the land between the railway and Warrengate Road are owned by the Royal Veterinary College Click here for more information. Horses often graze in some of the fields, and should be left alone.

The Ray Brook is the small stream running east-west from the ponds to the east of the A1000, through Gobions Wood to Mimmshall Brook. The underlying chalk comes very near to the surface, which is a mixture of London clay and gravel deposits from the southernmost tip of glaciers during the last ice age. Water from the brook has already formed what are known as "swallow holes" in Gobions Wood and further along the walk. The manholes in the fields denote the pipe carrying sewage from Brookmans Park and Little Heath to the works at Colney Heath.

In the RVC fields is an area enclosed with a high fence where the RVC keep deer that they are treating (and, presumably, kangaroos, should the need arise).

At point 4 on the map, Brick Kiln Wood is presumably named after a former industry carried on there. At the north side of the wood was Sheepshead Hall, which "remained a dwelling house until the early 1950s". Just before the path leaves the wood, you will see an RVC "ERG" notice. Click here for more information.

"Wise's, or Vyse's Lane" continues west along the south side of a field. The bridge crossing Ray Brook is the bridge on the front of the walk leaflet, but do not cross the brook here. Go on to the south west corner of the field, where the path turns left, with another bridge across the brook. You can usually see and hear water flowing into the brook just before the second bridge, from the south.

At point 5 on the map, on the bridge over Mimmshall Brook, you can see another bridge just to the south. This is the entrance to the North Mymms Pumping Station of the Three Valleys Water Company. This site pumps water from the underground chalk aquifers and supplies households locally and as far away as Cockfosters with "ultrafiltered" water Originally this plant was built by the Barnet District Gas and Water Company Click here for more information.

Not on the route, but to the left along Warrengate Road, further upstream, is the Mimmshall Brook Flood Alleviation Scheme Click here for more information.

Question 4 Abdale House

King Peter of Yugoslavia and some of his cabinet ministers visited here during World War II. However we were wrong in saying he was a guest of Viscount Trenchard, having now discovered the Trenchard family did not own the house at that time. The house was used as a radio station by the Polish Air Force during the war. Click here for more information and also click here for further background material.

At the junction with Bradmore Lane is signed the Great North (cycle) Way Click here for more information and click here for further background material.

Question 5 Cottage industry

In a local history book, James Chuck related in 1983 how his grandfather, Jimmy Chuck, taught himself to read but his grandmother never did, though you couldn’t twist her out of a ha’penny. They made enough money out of laundry work to have five houses built in Holloways Lane. They had their own house at Water End where they did the laundry, including laundry for Hatfield House. James Chuck’s father used to get up at four in the morning to fetch water from the stream because there was no well at the house then. The 1881 census included James Chuck, aged 39, agricultural labourer, and his wife Eliza, also 39, laundress. She was known as Mother Chuck. Click here for more information.

The Old Maypole purports to date from 1520. The school for girls and infants at Water End was open until 1960 and the paths on our walk, from Welham Green and Hawkshead, would have been used daily by the children to reach the school. Click here for more information and Click here for further background material.

Why were there two inns (and a blacksmith) on this particular road? Its proximity to the direct route from Barnet to St Albans may be a clue. Swanland Road (notice the similarity to the name of Swanley Bar and search for Swanland and swanlond on the web site) was part of the former "Barnet Bypass" (which also by-passed Potters Bar and Hatfield). It was constructed in the 1930s as the A555 and re-designated the A1 in 1950s, so that more traffic would be taken off the "old" Great North Road (the last turnpike constructed in the country), now the A1000. Swanland Road is now itself by-passed by the A1(M), which you can hear, if not see.

Question 6 Dips in the ground

At point 7 on the map the bridge crosses what is left of Mimmshall Brook. Most of the water from the brook has usually been "swallowed up" before arriving here. At times of very heavy rain, Mimmshall Brook will flow under Swanland Road and the A1(M), past North Mymms House and into the River Colne (as in Colney Heath and London Colney) and thence to the Thames. Streams originating to the west of the Brookmans Park Transmitting station flow into the River Lea.

On the way to the glade, you will pass two depressions where the ground seems to have fallen away - first indications of potential "swallow holes". There is a sign in the glade saying that work on the path was "completed by volunteers from the East Herts Ramblers and East Herts Footpath Society, supported by the Countryside Management Service and Hertfordshire County Council".

Further on near the second marker post, you will normally see a good example of a swallow hole. The stream flows into a large depression in the ground and disappears into a small hole within the depression. Here the chalk has come close to the surface and the water has worn some of the chalk away to flow down into underground caverns and streams.

Unlike the streams on the surface, the underground water here makes its way to the River Lea, but much of it comes to our taps via the North Mymms Pumping Station. The walk route does not include the path to the right, after the small stream gully, but that path to the right leads to the large area of swallow holes to the north east of the Woodman Inn. This area is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest Click here for more information (note, this is a .pdf file).

Question 7 Potterells

Just before point 10 on the map, you come to a wooden bridge and rope swing across the stream, you can see a weir over which water is often flowing. Continue north-east out of the wood and along the edge of a field with the lake and bogland formed by the damming of the stream on your left. Potterells Lake was part of the estate of Potterells - the mansion no longer in existence Click here for more information.

Potterells became the home of Dame Martha Coningsby in 1658, remained the ancestral home of the Coningsby family for more than 200 years. Her husband, Sir Thomas, had been a staunch cavalier and was imprisoned in the Tower of London during Cromwell’s rule. Click here for more information.

Potterells had a carriageway through its own grounds to within half a mile of the parish church. It wound its way between highly cultivated fields and skirted a "lake" where the stream from Brookmans widened out before joining the Mimmshall Brook at Water End. Little rustic bridges spanned the "lake" at its narrow ends, and although very shallow it was an attractive feature of the park and was a favourite skating place.

Potterells was lived in until 1933 and then became a furniture store for bombed out victims of the WW2. The outbuildings were converted to factories for the manufacture of small arms and then precision instruments. The buildings were sold in 1965 and left unoccupied becoming derelict and then demolished in the mid 1990s. The site has since been re-developed into a group of private dwellings retaining some aspects of the old stable roof styling.

The path alongside the stream is not a right of way but the owner allows the public to use it for the time being. The public footpath goes across the field to Station Road. The stream goes under Station Road at what was once a ford at Watersplash Cottage. Click here for more information.

Now you are at the North Mymms Youth and Community Centre and the Catholic church named after Thomas More who had connections with the Gobions Estate Click here for more information.

Question 8 Wartime defences

Station Road (Welham Green) was named before Welham Green station was built. Along the road you pass the former entrance to Potterells and Bradmore Lane on your right. A few yards down Bradmore Lane, on either side of the road, you can see remnants of a concrete tank trap that formed part of a "stop-line" of defence during the 1939-45 war Click here for more information.

You can see other tank traps concrete blocks about 100 yards down Woodside Lane, Bell Bar, which is next to the petrol station. There is also an Anti-tank block in the woods at the corner of Swanley Bar Lane, Potters Bar. (Grid ref: TL 2613 0314 )

Notes compiled by Bernard Spatz and Bob Horrocks

November 2005.


The walk was devised and designed by a team of local volunteers and the leaflet was produced thanks to an initiative led by the Countryside Management Service and the North Mymms Parish Council, in conjunction with North Mymms and District Green Belt Society, the Gobions Woodland Trust, the North Mymms Local History Society, the North Mymms Scouts, the Royal Veterinary College and this site.

The walk starts and finishes at Brookmans Park station via Water End and Welham Green. The leaflet includes a map, a dozen directions along the route, and eight points of interest with links to more information on this site.

Click here to see the front page of the brochure, or click here for the back page. Alternatively, you can click here to download the leaflet as a .pdf, although this file is large and will take time to download. You can also download the notes connected to the walk by clicking here and saving them to your computer.

There are another ten walks on this site with maps, points of interest, and directions. Click here for the local walks index.

You can also discuss this issue and add your thoughts and suggestions about what could be done locally in a special thread on PEAPs in this site's forum. Alternatively, click here to join a disussion about local walks.

7 November 2005

Related News
Boots and grey cells tested on quiz walk - 8 November 2005
North Mymms Quiz Walk - 31 October 2005
Local walk leaflet delivered to all parish homes - 18 August 2005
Environmental action plan proposal - 31 March 2004
Paths the priority of parish plan - 19 January 2004
North Mymms PEAP up and running - 25 September 2003
First meeting for environmental action team - 6 September 2003
Parish launches environmental action plan - 18 July 2003
Community action plan for the environment - 25 June 2003

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