Friday, 12 June 2020 15:57

Barnet’s new regional park?

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Just south-west of Arkley is a tract of unspoilt countryside – remarkable for its survival within London’s boundary, and the core of a new regional park being considered by Barnet Council to promote a greener, healthier and wilder Barnet.

It’s also the setting for the third short local walk recommended by Owen Jones, author (with David Ely) of the Society’s Rambles Round Barnet. (The first two walks, around Whitings Hill & Wood and Barnet Gate Wood, were posted on our website on 22 & 29 May respectively.)

There has been a noticeable, and welcome, increase in the number of walkers here and elsewhere since lockdown. But Libby Martin of Ramblers observes that

The fields and woods between Arkley and Mill Hill are astonishingly intact and peaceful, despite being close to the A1 and only 10 miles from Westminster. Almost hidden at their heart are the modest sources of the Dollis Brook, which meanders discreetly but delightfully through Chipping Barnet and Finchley before merging with the River Brent and eventually joining the Thames at Brentford.

One of the more imaginative ideas in Barnet Council’s new Growth Strategy 2019 – 2030 is the creation of a regional park in this locality:

The Council’s Local Plan, if adopted following recent public consultation, would commit it to
…promote the creation of a new Regional Park within designated Green Belt or Metropolitan Open Land in the Brent Valley and Barnet Plateau (Policy GSS13).

The Council has been inspired by the transformation over the last 20 years of the Lea Valley – before the Olympic Games a disregarded network of waterways and wasteland – into a thriving sanctuary for wildlife and people keen to escape the confines of urban life.

It has also been inspired by the following words written in 2012:

…the woodland and farmland of London’s Green Belt; the Thames and other waterways; the city’s parks and open spaces and the trees and gardens…that do so much to gladden the soul and cool the climate in central London [are] increasingly seen as among the most important factors making for civilized life in London and maintaining it a desirable place to live, work and do business, visit or study.

The author of those wise words? The then Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, in the introduction to his All London Green Grid Supplementary Planning Guidance.

At present the Council is only committing itself to exploring the feasibility of the project. If Barnet residents are to support it, this must begin with a rigorous appraisal of the existing environment, and of the impact of any interventions. The thought of this lovely landscape being eroded and exploited for mass leisure would appal many of us.

If, however, regional park status were to bring better protection from inappropriate development, better public awareness – and adequate funding to ensure high design standards and long-term management of the area – the Barnet Society would welcome it.

Short walks in Chipping Barnet – no.3: Arkley to Highwood Hill
(The full walk is 2 miles long, but can be shortened by turning back at any point.)

Owen writes,

The ideal starting point for this walk is The Gate pub at the top of Hendon Wood Lane. For those of us not living in Arkley, that entails a considerable walk along the busy A411 or a 107 bus-ride (which Covid-avoiders may not wish to risk at present), so for most of us a short drive or cycle-ride will be needed before the walk itself.

From The Gate, walk down Hendon Wood Lane on the right side, looking out for the public footpath just before the house ‘Tree Lodge’. Shortly you will come to a division of the ways, the permissive path ahead leading west to Barnet Gate Wood while that to the left is the poorly signed public footpath south to Highwood Hill and Moat Mount Open Space.

This latter path is on the immediate right of a high wooden fence, but soon broadens out into a pleasant woodland trail with, on your right, the remains of a former hedgerow.

Continue south. At a T-junction turn right to share tracks with the London Loop and Dollis Valley Greenwalk, with a field on your left. At the corner of this field negotiate the rather complicated convergence of pathways by selecting the inviting secluded downhill path at right angles to the left (south) towards Highwood Hill. Should you wish to return to Arkley, you can do so by bearing right into Barnet Gate Wood (Walk no.2).

Note the pond on right at bottom of this path with the emerging stream on left which is one of the two sources of the Dollis Brook (the other being a pond in the grounds of Mote End Farm). As a child during the war I set out to try to find its source a few times but never managed to. I guess my mother would have worried if I did not return home promptly when the air-raid warning siren went off.

Now follow path uphill with hedge on left and open fields on right. Near the top this path is joined from right by one from Hyver Hall Farm. Bear half right, then left, and locate on the left a disused kissing gate. Here the London Loop and Dollis Valley Greenwalk leave us to take their own path to the right to Moat Mount Open Space and its Nut Wood.

Now turn left and follow the straight broad cart track ahead over a stile and past Mote End Farm and on to the tarmac surface of Nan Clark’s Lane, which we join by bearing half left. This leads to a T-junction with Highwood Hill.

To return to Arkley without retracing your steps, you can turn east and north along busy Hendon Gate Lane (not recommended). For a more attractive alternative, return to the London Loop and take the Hyver Hall Farm path mentioned above, which leads to Barnet Lane. An alternative is to return via Barnet Gate Wood (Walk no.2).

For further information about local walks, use the button at the foot of our News page.

1 comment

  • Comment Link Monday, 15 June 2020 00:02 posted by Huw Pryce

    Lovely walk.

    The council would be selling us short if a connection with Darlands, south of Totteridge isn't included in this scheme. Darlands is protected but indications are that it is under threat of encroachment, and it's a stunning place to find in the middle of a London borough. To the north of this park area, lies Saffron Green, another gem. Any and all recognition and protection these spaces can be given should be.

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