A Guided tour walk around my neighbourhood

I love to walk whenever I can and I am fortunate that I live pretty much on the last street of the huge sprawl of London. I might not have as much as I want but I do have countryside almost on my door step so when I have time this is one of my favourite local walks and this time I took my camera, well my Ipod touch with its rather limited photographic facility.

The first notable thing I come to on my walk is the Leavesden Green WW1 War memorial which I have previously written about on my special blog on Armistice Day.

Leavesden Green memorial

Lest We Forget – In honoured memory of the Leavesden Parishoners who died for their country in The Great War.

Following that it is a short walk up the street to the first true fields. For many decades there has been a very curious object just feet from the main road and I often wondered what it was. Sadly the very time I wanted to take its photo, it had been removed to make way for new housing adjoining the new WB Leavesden film studios and Harry Potter tour. Happily I found it on Google Street view below:

Leavesden Anti-tank pimple

A remnant of the defence of London from WW2

My curiosity perked I did a little research and found out it was an Anti-Tank defensive weapon. During WW2 when a German invasion was expected, much of the country was fortified by bunkers, ditches and fortifications both to defend London and to bog down invaders on their march northwards to allow time for a counter attack. This strange looking giant golf-ball was packed with explosives and was effectively a giant mine and part of Outer London Defence Line A. For anyone interested in this then I refer you all to the ‘Defence of Britain’ project viewable in Google Earth for many hours happy browsing!

A few hundred yards up the road brings us to Leavesden Country Park. The south side is laid out in more formal gardens whilst the north side is au naturale.

Leavesden Country Park

The park benefits from many exotic trees and is popular with keep fitters and walkers alike.

At the centre of the park though fenced off from everywhere else is a plush set of apartments. However they are actually in the buildings of a Victorian Insane Asylum along with a Canadian hospital for the infirm, injured during WW1.

Leavesden Asylum

Well built Victorian hospital now expensive commuting homes.

150 odd years ago big village Leavesden of today was then little more than a manor house and farm and was considered remote from London even though it is all but connected today. The hospital at Leavesden was where many of those diagnosed as mentally ill ended up, often until the end of their days.

East Lane Cemetery

Resting place of Jack The Ripper?

This cemetery just outside the park is at times of the year beautiful and at others eerie. Inside are the burial places of many mentally ill people from the 19th and 20thC. Most have unmarked graves as they were penniless and usually had families who had disowned them. Some have tiny headstones with labels on them, described in the records as imbeciles, idiots and such other demeaning terms. Of course for their time the Victorians led the world in everything including medicine based on new sciences but also strict old fashioned British and Christian disciplines that would often be thought of as cruel and ineffective today. One of the residents of the cemetery is thought by some to be one of the chief suspects of one of the most famous serial killers of all time, Jack The Ripper.

Old storehouse

Watch out for that first step!

Following the lane round we come to a mill store, notice the beam of wood and the door on the first floor from which grain could be lowered by rope onto a horses cart.

Now we enter the open countryside at last. The air is fresh and a variety of birds from cute little robins, sparrow and black birds to giant Kites circling overhead.

Open countryside

Open fields with young growing crops

The walk starts to take us up a slight hill, we are here on the edge of the Chiltern Hills, some of the highest and most beautiful countryside near to London. Proceeding further though we begin to hear the din of traffic until it is deafeningly loud. Here we cross a pedestrian bridge over the M25.

Quiet M25

Quiet early on a Sunday morning

Once outside the M25 which rings London, we’re considered to be properly in the countryside. The noise of the traffic soon subsides and we find ourselves on a rather picturesque farm.

Tenements Farm

Just 200 metres from the M25

This being so close to London there are security cameras and signs warning people not to be light fingered however as a designated pathway, perhaps centuries or in some cases millennia old, we have the right to walk right through the middle of it.

White Horse

One of many horses in the paddocks.

The walk continues away from London and ever upwards through a meadow that is particularly beautiful later in the spring.

English Meadow

The well worn path I’ve just trodden shows that its not just me who likes this walk.

Suddenly the open grass gives way to woodland, specifically Jobs Wood. It is totally quiet except for the rustle of leaves on the ground and occasional tap tapping of a woodpecker.

Woodland

Woods in early spring. This is Job’s wood but follow the path and you will end up to the creepy sounding ‘Hanging’ Wood.

We’ve reached the highest point of our walk and soon the most distant also. This is the village of Bedmond, birthplace of the only English born Pope, Nicholas Breakspeare. More interestingly for walkers we go right past a very old English pub.

The Bell Pub

The Bell Pub in Bedmond

Taking an immediate left down a lane we start heading back to home but by a different route than what we came. Often the woods around the lane are alive with rabbits, foxes and hedgehogs. Some of the lanes are centuries if not millennia old and often the current road surface is 6 feet or 2 metres below the surround land due to countless generations of dust and dirt and trees and hedges.

Tree roots

For some reason I always like this stretch with all the exposed old tree routes.

Another 10 or 15 minutes walk down the lane and once more the M25 looms. This time though we don’t go over it but instead under it. Sometimes you feel it might be safer to run across the road itself depending who might be lurking inside!

M25 tunnel

Beware all those who enter in

The tunnel is very dark inside and as it has 10 lanes of tarmac above it is quite long. Most times it is perfectly safe but every now and then you encounter some weirdo in it. Mind you, I am sure they think the same about me.

Once back through in the fields again we come to one of several WW2 bunkers. It really is amazing how many of them there are if you know where to look. Many defences have been long since removed but you can still see where they were and how they were once used. This one though is almost entirely intact though I haven’t yet found a way in or more precisely I haven’t gone in as I don’t know how I’d get out again.

Pillbox S0004969

WW2 5 sided pill box

Pillbox from the other side

East Lane near Abbots Langley, part of outer defence of London WW2

Before the M25 was built this WW2 bunker would have afforded great views of the valley and protected by woodland it would been quite an obstacle to anyone using the lane or the valley itself come to that. It is 5 sided with slots from which machine gun and other ordinance could be fired.

We are nearly back home now just a little bit more lovely countryside to enjoy.

Beast of Bedmond Field

This field and nearby farm is said to be the stalking ground of the Beast of Bedmond. A large black predatory cat sometimes seen from the M25 and thought to be behind the death of several sheep.

Finally back in Leavesden itself and I’ll finish this walk off with a photo of a traditional English signpost. These are known as finger posts as they point the way.

Finger post

Show me the way to go home.

Further away from London there are still some very ornate carved finger posts but this one looks like a relatively modern replacement. Many of them were pulled up in WW2 to stop invading troops from knowing where they were going, others were cunningly tampered with so the signs pointed in wrong directions. Most posts were lost or replaced with modern metal signs but happily those remaining are now well looked after and some modern signs are being replaced by old looking finger posts in the country.

I hope that you enjoyed my 2 hour plus walk through 7 or 8 miles of my local countryside.

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About Stephen Liddell

I am a writer and traveller with a penchant for history and getting off the beaten track. With several books to my name including a #1 seller, I also write environmental, travel and history articles for magazines as well as freelance work. Recently I've appeared on BBC Radio and Bloomberg TV and am waiting on the filming of a ghost story on British TV. I run my own private UK tours company (Ye Olde England Tours) with small, private and totally customisable guided tours run by myself!
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27 Responses to A Guided tour walk around my neighbourhood

  1. Thanks for having us along for the walk! šŸ˜€

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  2. Oh, I did enjoy your walk, Stephen. Wow, what a trek and so much history and beauty. Wonderful. Thanks for sharing.

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  3. yepiratehere says:

    What a wonderful idea, makes me want to do the same, though it’s still all snow here..

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  4. Fabulous account, and lovely pictures. I should venture into the outskirts more often. x

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  5. Rosemarie says:

    Very nice walk. Thank you.

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  6. Hello Stephen!

    I have tagged you for a blog hop here: http://jgburdette.wordpress.com/2013/03/21/a-novel-blog-hop/

    It’s a little thing that helps authors acquaint their readers with the book they are currently writing. Also you’re not obligated to go accept it as it is just for fun.

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  7. Very interesting. Today is the first day I’ve had time or taken time to read your articles. Very, very interesting.

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  8. Dave says:

    Thank you for bringing back some great childhood memories! I lived in bedmond as a young boy and would spend my days trying to get in ( and OUT ) of the bunker and could spend hours on the rope swing in the woods.
    Didn’t know the woods were called the hanging woods though, I remember pretending that the trenches in the woods had been dug by the soldiers during the war, and of course now as an adult I realise that they were!!

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    • I’m glad you enjoyed it. I can’t believe someone has read it who is actually from around here. Is there anything in the bunker at all. It’s in such a great position, any kid with some imagination and an imitation gun has endless hours of army games fun waiting for them.

      Do they even have imitation guns anymore. When I was little, all the boys had cowboy guns or army rifles but I guess it isn’t PC anymore.

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  9. Keith Williams says:

    Stephen, thanks for taking the time to write about your walk and promoting the wonders of this beautiful area to a wider audience. I am the local Councillor for the Leavesden area and although I know many of the landmarks you visited well, I learnt a few new things from your description. Sadly the giant golf ball like WW2 mine you mention was later revealed to be nothing more exciting than a discarded prop from the film studios. Never mind, as you noted Harry Potter lives in Leavesden and your walk would be a very good addition on a day out for anyone visiting the area for the tour.

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    • Hello Keith, I am glad that you enjoyed it. There are so many interesting things to see around here, I keep meaning to write another article.

      Oh that is a shame about the WW2 mine, I saw it on the Defence of Britain website and thought it was plausible and that they would know better than I.

      Yes, especially with this run of nice weather, it would be a great way for a visitor to spend an hour or two exploring the natural beauty of the area.

      Thanks for commenting!

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  10. Alison Amer says:

    Hi I live in summer house way abbots Langley and was wondering if you have seen the field by East lane and the grave yard have you seen the large hole in the middle of the field people say it’s an un exploded bomb I have lived here all my life and I’m 40 and it’s always been there do you think this is correct or just here say..

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    • Keith Williams says:

      Stephen

      Thanks for this.

      I have e mailed Martin Brookes who runs the Leavesden Local History Society to see if he can shed any light on this, and will come back to you if I get any further information.

      Regards

      Keith

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      • Thank-you Keith. I noticed that the hole in the field has now appeared to have vanished and has been turfed over and the farmer never ploughs it. There seems to be quite a lot of Radio Controlled aircraft activities there too.

        I did hear a long time ago that a large hole developed somewhere in the area related to the construction of the M1 motorway and that the engineers of the time were not really able to fill it in properly but I don’t know if this is the same hole.

        Many thanks,

        Stephen

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        • Keith Williams says:

          Stephen

          I have now heard back from Martin Brooks of the Leavesden Hospital Histroy Society and he has replied as follows:-

          *If I have the location correct that would be part of the original 42 acres of farming land that was used by the hospital so it as been farmed for some time. Which means that if it was an unexploded bomb a farmers plow would have hit it by now.* *I have checked all my collected history records and can find no references to any bombs, unexploded or other wise, in the area of the old hospital. There is a record of one falling and leaving a large whole in Sarrett.*

          Looks like it is not a UXB.

          If anyone wants to know more about the history of Leavesden Hospital site, Martin’s e mail is mtbrooks57@yahoo.co.uk .

          Hope this is of interest.

          Regards

          Keith

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  11. Matt Jones says:

    Interesting. I posted a picture of that giant golfball at Leavesden studios on a cycling forum. Still not sure what it was tho’

    http://www.cyclechat.net/threads/i-go-past-this-every-morning-what-the-fook-is-it.73437/

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    • Thanks Matt, that is a really great page. East Lane is such an unusual and atmospheric place. The rubbish in the first of those photos has gone as I went their a week ago but there is new debris further up the road.

      I had the same experience the first time I went in the graveyard. It was a Sunday afternoon in November and there was no noise except for orange and yellow trees falling to the grown. We literally tripped up over a headstone.

      It seems the industrial complex is in the process of being replaced with something else and the nearby house slowly being repaired. A number of other graves are now visible near the complex, best seen from the footpath that links to Leavesden Country Park.

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  12. Pingback: Jack The Ripper Breakthrough: Identified as Aaron Kosminski | Stephen Liddell

  13. Pingback: Leavesden Asylum – A Victorian Hospital with a modern twist! | Stephen Liddell

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