A Straight Line Walk Across London

by Paul K Lyons

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A novel about
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84 - Botany Bay, balloonists, monster trucks and an ugly, possibly dangerous, ending

As The Ridgeway takes me northwest into Botany Bay, I pass Bay Farm which advertises, on various boards, an impressive range of produce: free range eggs, speciality preserves, potatoes, hand-made sausages and cakes, locally-produced ham and bacon, as well as horse feeds, coal logs and kindling. Before reaching the centre of Botany Bay village, I turn right, to go northeast along East Lodge Lane back towards the 300 easting. However, there are two significant Botany Bay locations along East Lodge Lane. The first is the cricket club, with two grounds, one on either side of the road. It has several teams competing in the Herts County and Chess Valley leagues. The club's pavilion is also a well-known venue for jazz. Signs advertise Googlies Jazz Supper Club every Thursday evening ('appearing next - Jim') and Bay Jazz Club on Tuesday evenings. Opposite, there is a bungalow shack, with its exterior plaster cracking. It houses Botany Bay Chapel. A poster appeals for me to 'Have faith in God'.

Further along the road on the right is East Lodge Antiques Centre. It is situated on the site of one of the original Chace keeper's lodges. North Lodge, which today is the site of St Nicholas House, was a mile away to the west. This is green belt land, and, according to newspaper reports, there was some dispute over whether the antique centre was developed without proper planning permission. As I walk between two large car parks and past a security cabin, I'm promised over 20 shops and an antique centre 'with a difference'. I enter through a garish gateway (dated '1856' - ha ha) built into an old brick wall to find welcome refreshment at the Copper Kettle. Other outlets in this oldy worldy shopping centre are Reiths Handcrafted Pine Furniture, Period Style Lighting, Elegant Clutter, Periwinkles and Tassels Vintage Handbags. I continue along East Lodge Lane following the line of the old estate wall, now smothered in ivy. To the north of the East Lodge development there's a public footpath through a field which contains a closed-up caravan advertising 'Monster Trucks'. Behind it I can see an old cedar of Lebanon crowded in by younger trees.

There are at least three monster truck events planned for East Lodge in 2004, each of them within the '2004 ProMT Monster Truck Racing Series'. For one of them, for example, the promoter promises six trucks (to include Welsh Champion and Blown Thunder) and 12 races. 'Monster Truck Fans are sure to see a spectacular event never before seen in the UK,' it says. In 2003, East Lodge also began to host balloon festivals. For 2004, 'mass launches each AM & PM' are promised by the organiser Skypower, as are a 'nightglow', a firework display and competitions. Balloonists are encouraged to participate with free gas, free refreshments, free meal and drinks after the nightglow, free camping, free entry 'for balloons attending all briefings', and 'loads of goodies and prizes'. In between the monster trucks and balloons, the East Lodge fields also play host to Enfield Festival of Steam.

Continuing along East Lodge Lane, I cross Holyhill Brook, which rises a mile to the west, in the vicinity of Holly Hill Farm, and joins Turkey Brook in the middle of Crews Hill Golf Course. I can see the sandpits of the golf course through the trees as I walk north to a t-junction with Cattlegate Road. It's a very tight and busy junction with no room for pedestrians. A large blue and yellow police notice carries the following message: 'Kidnapping/lorry hijacking. We are appealing for witnesses. Can you help us?. On Monday 9 February 04, at about 9:30pm, a man who had been kidnapped was released by his captors at this location. Contact police at the number below in strict confidence.'

I turn left, in a northwesterly direction, to head back to the 300 easting for the last time. It is dangerous walking along Cattlegate Road. The road is narrow and busy with fast cars and there is no pathway on either side. Moreover, the trees and hedging have been clipped so close to the line of the road that every now and then, to avoid being scratched by thorns, I'm forced out into the line of traffic. Oddly, this is the most dangerous road I've walked along, and it's the very last of the whole route. And, as if to confirm my impression of this road, while walking along a muddy grass verge (where there is no hedging) I'm suddenly brought up sharp by a square manhole - without any cover. Three or four feet below it's full of water and a range of rubber-covered pipes and wires. It's bizarre enough to find a manhole in the middle of nowhere, let alone one without a cover. Falling in would have been no joke.

I cross Turkey Brook and then pass an entrance to Owls Hall Farm and a sign, for those going south, indicating the start of the London Borough of Enfield. I walk right up to the concrete square tunnel that takes Cattlegate Road underneath the M25. There's a litter infested layby just to the south of it - there's even a full wheelie bin here, lying on its side, with rubbish spilling out.

But how can I be too distressed about this unpleasant ending (which somehow complements the noisy beginning) since the walk has left me feeling overwhelmed at the riches and variety of this great city called London.

 A Straight Line Walk Across London - along the 300 easting

by Paul K Lyons
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