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9 January 2016: Brookmans Park and the Mymmses

Event led by Martin T; route planned by Peter O in September 2014.
Weather: overcast throughout, occasional light rain showers.
Attendance: 16 men
Distance: 7.7 miles
Time: start 11:12, end 15:05
Terrain: pavement and road, stone track, grass, including lots of surface water, bridleway, mud.
Elevation: start 92m, high 136m, low 75m
Number of sewage works on the route: 0 🙁
Number of golf courses on the route: 0 🙁


This was a circular route of 7.7 miles from Brookmans Park, W to Water End, NW to North Mymms, S to South Mimms, ENE to Potters Bar and N to Brookmans Park.

Starting from Brookmans Park railway station, we followed a road towards a hamlet called Water End (not to be confused with Water End near Hemel Hempstead or Waterend near St Albans), diverting from the original plan of visiting Water End Swallow Holes, a Site of Special Scientific Interest, due to flooding. The road crosses Mimmshall Brook, which at some point flows underground (via the swallow holes) to join the River Colne. The hamlet contains a former pub (The Old Maypole) that was built c.1520, and a current pub (The Woodman Inn), which appears less interesting than the other but their carvery menu looks inviting.

We crossed the A1(M) and made our way to North Mymms. The route to North Mymms took us over, and then along, the very old former Great North Road, a clue to its history being the name of the now-minor road to a war memorial: Tollgate Road.  The Great North Road in this area runs parallel with the A1(M) northbound from South Mimms, crossed the now-A1(M) at Water End and headed towards Colney Heath before veering northbound again.  The A1(M) takes a somewhat more direct route.

We took our group shot at the North Mymms war memorial. Opposite the memorial are the entrance buildings to North Mymms Park, which is apparently owned, since 1992, by GlaxoSmithKline, but the whole site can trace its history from 1066 and the house itself to the late 16th century, but sadly, from our path, we could not see it. St Mary’s Church (Grade II* listed) is within the grounds and we stopped there for a break and were able to go into the church.

We then followed a very long bridleway through woodland to South Mimms. Much of this path was essentially stream-like - recent heavy rain resulted in continuous run-off downhill, for which the bridleway appeared to be the water’s preferred route, riding over a mixed gravel and leaf mulch - with some large muddy puddles at the bottom of the hill.

South Mimms is merely a village nested between a V-shaped configuration of two motorways, the A1(M) and M25.  The motorways took the easiest geographic route, naturally by-passing the village.  The service station on M25 J23 is now the attraction for which the village's name is famous, even though the station is ½mi away from the village church.  Less well-known is that this part of the M25 was the first built, opening in 1975 as the A1178, re-opened as part of the complete M25 in 1986, with an opening ceremony cruising between London Colney J22 to South Mimms J23.

At South Mimms, a road took us across Catharine Bourne, a tributary of Mimmshall Brook, past a couple of pubs, over the B556 - the old A6 -  and onto the church of St Giles (Grade I listed), where we stopped for lunch. This was where the umbrellas definitely needed to go up, but not for long.

On leaving South Mimms, our route crossed the A1(M) again, giving us another view of the old Great North Road (now part of national cycle route #12).  We entered a field next to Mimmshall Brook, which was bloated and fast-flowing. This part of the brook is a classic example of soil and cliff erosion, in a very small scale.  The meandering of the brook has cut into the relatively soft soil, resulting in sheer sides on the outside bends of the river.  The sides were sometimes punctuated with holes, presumably kingfishers' nests.

We walked through Mymms Hall Farm, and through some very waterlogged fields, where a band of playful horses decided to pay us a visit, inspecting us at a distance, but getting close enough to unnerve us a bit.  The horses looked and behaved like young males, galloping around the fields and twice straight towards us!  Our plan was to walk in some sort of formation - not quite as a tight as a Roman phalanx, but something good enough - so as to intimidate the horses; the plan worked and the hacks soon galloped away.

We continued along Potters Bar Brook, another tributary of Mimmshall Brook, into an industrial estate - the Devonshire Business Centre - and then along the railway between Potters Bar and Brookmans Park (the main line from Kings Cross to The North).  Walking alongside this railway was a novel experience, because the footpath ascends relative to the railway.  Within a few short spaces, the railway moved from being above our heads to being at head-height, then way below us.

Our final descent into Brookmans Park led us to Bluebridge Road, giving us a good chance to have a right nice rubbernecking at all the posh houses.  In fact, many of these houses are ordinary houses that the owners have done-up, in some way: attic conversions, side extensions, even one example of selling off half a garden to be a separate, new dwelling.  We saw none of the celebs that others’ allege live here (thankfully).  

We finished the walk at Brookmans, the imaginatively-named pub at Brookmans Park, its own little monopoly.  Inside, the pub was more of a higher-quality niche gastropub than traditional suburban pub one would have expected from the outside.  The barman had the standard Herts-Essex border accent and syntax - in common with a fair few of the wedding party hanging by the bar as an alternative to being inside the wedding party - but it’s pretty clear that the suburb has money in it.  At £4.80 a pint (!!), it’s likely that well-paid celebs probably do live at Brookmans Park.  

Photographs by Peter O'Connor.  Satellite imagery courtesy of Google Earth.  Words by Peter O'Connor and Martin Thornhill.

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