You can conveniently visit many of Enfield's parks on a bike, riding mostly along country roads and residential suburban streets as well as paths through some of the parks.
The total length is about 23 km (14½ miles). Although you could complete the whole ride in half a day, it is more likely to take a whole day if you stop to look at a few of the sites along the way.
The ride starts and ends at Enfield Chase station. Outside the peak hours, you can take your bike free of charge on the trains serving this station. If you intend to travel on a Sunday, it is advisable to check on www.nationalrail.co.uk that the line is not closed for engineering works. You cannot take your bike on the Piccadilly Line, unless folded.
A large part of the London Borough of Enfield was the royal hunting ground of Enfield Chase from 1136 till its enclosure in 1779. From the 17th century onwards, the gentry were attracted to Enfield and built houses both in the town and in the surrounding countryside. The grounds of several of their country estates are now parks, where the original landscaping and buildings have survived to varying degrees.
Another feature of the Enfield landscape is the New River. Sir Hugh Myddelton's project to bring water 38 miles from Amwell Springs in Hertfordshire through Enfield to Islington was completed in 1613. The course has since been altered several times, with the result that the loops through the Whitewebbs and Forty Hall estates were abandoned.
Leaving the forecourt of Enfield Chase station, turn right into Windmill Hill and pass under the railway bridge. Go past Chase Green Gardens and the war memorial on the left and straight ahead through the traffic lights as far as the bridge over the New River. New River Green is on your left. Immediately after crossing the river, turn left into Gentleman's Row.
When Enfield Chase was enclosed in 1779, a portion was allotted to Enfield villagers as compensation for the loss of their common rights. This portion was itself then enclosed in 1803, except for five hectares which were placed under the management of the church before being transferred to Enfield Urban District Council in 1898. As such, Chase Green constitutes the first public open space in Enfield.
In 1890 the portion of the New River around Enfield village was piped underground, thereby making this stretch redundant. It was saved from being filled in by a public campaign to preserve it for its ornamental value and it is essentially a linear lake. With the aid of a Heritage Lottery Fund grant of £1.8 million in 1997, the New River Loop Restoration Project has since 1998 restored the historic watercourse, listed bridges and railings, reinstated the timber banks of the New River and provided new seating and a new fountain in Chase Green Gardens.
At the end of Gentleman's Row, follow the path on foot and cross the New River on a small bridge. Turn right and walk along the river to the Crown and Horseshoes pub. Re-cross the river and follow the right-hand side to the next bridge, where you cross back to the left-hand side to join a road (Parsonage Gardens).
The New River is a feature of the Enfield landscape. Sir Hugh Myddelton's project to bring water 38 miles from Amwell Springs in Hertfordshire through Enfield to Islington was completed in 1613.
In 1890 the portion of the New River around Enfield village was piped underground, thereby making this stretch redundant. It was saved from being filled in by a public campaign to preserve it for its ornamental value and it is essentially a linear lake. With the aid of a Heritage Lottery Fund grant of £1.8 million in 1997, the New River Loop Restoration Project has since 1998 restored the historic watercourse, listed bridges and railings and reinstated the timber banks.
Take the first right (Riverside Gardens), at the end of which you turn right into Chase Side Avenue. Follow this road round the bend to the left and then turn right into Parsonage Lane. After the signal-controlled junction with Baker Street, take the next turning left into Churchbury Lane and follow it for about 700 metres. After passing Chace Community School on the left, take the second right (Canonbury Road). Follow the road round the bend to the left into Inverness Avenue. At the busy Myddelton Avenue, turn left and right into Hallside Road. Since the entrance to this road has been blocked, you may wish to walk across to it, using the refuge. Cross Russell Road into Old Forge Road, following the signpost for Forty Hall. At the end, turn half right into Forty Hill. The entrance to Forty Hall is on the left after about 350 metres. After entering the grounds of Forty Hall, follow the drive in an anticlockwise direction, passing a car park on the right and enjoying a view of the Hall on the left across the lake. Refreshments and toilets are available in front of the Hall.
In 1624 Sir Nicholas Rainton, a wealthy haberdasher and later Lord Mayor of London, purchased land in the area. Between 1629 and 1636, he built Forty Hall at the top of the hill, south of the medieval Elsyng Palace, which was demolished later in the 17th century. The name apparently derives from Sir Hugh Fortee, the owner prior to Sir Nicholas.
In 1951 the estate was purchased from Derek Parker Bowles by Enfield Urban District Council, who subsequently opened the grounds to the public and in 1962 began restoring the house and outbuildings. In 1966 Forty Hall was opened as a museum containing items of local historical interest. The house is surrounded by four hectares of ornamental grounds, the fragmentary remains of the 17th-century garden overlaid with 18th-century and later developments.
Return to the road (Forty Hill) and turn left. The entrance to Myddelton House (entry now free) is about 800 metres further on, on the left.
Myddelton House, named after the architect of the New River, Sir Hugh Myddelton, was built in 1818 by George Ferry and John Wallen for Henry Carrington Bowles, the last Governor of the New River Company, replacing an earlier Elizabethan house.
Edward Augustus Bowles (b. 1865) lived here and, from the 1890s, was largely responsible for creating the magnificent gardens, although the overall design, paths and much of the structural planting pre-dates Bowles' work. A member of the Royal Horticultural Society Council from 1908, and vice president from 1926, Bowles has been described as ‘the greatest amateur gardener of this country, and the most distinguished botanist and horticulturist serving the Royal Horticultural Society’.
After Bowles' death in 1954, the gardens and house were transferred to the Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine and the University of London's School of Pharmacy. In 1968 the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority purchased the house and gardens and use Myddelton House as their headquarters, although the School of Pharmacy and the Royal Free Hospital retained parts of the estate.
Further information on www.leevalleypark.org.uk.
After Myddelton House, continue along the road, now called Bulls Cross. If you are visiting Capel Manor, turn right into Bullsmoor Lane, where the entrance to Capel Manor (paid entry) is on the left. Otherwise continue along Bulls Cross.
The present Capel Manor was built in the 1750s, supplementing another house built on the estate in the 1740s (since demolished), which in turn replaced an earlier manor house.
The estate was acquired by Enfield Council in 1968 and opened as an agricultural college. The house became the Institute of Horticulture and Field Studies in 1980, later becoming Capel Manor Horticultural and Environmental Centre. The original garden has been much overlaid and extended by the College, with a series of modern demonstration gardens to the east.
Further information on www.capel.ac.uk.
From Bulls Cross, follow the road around the bend to the left into Whitewebbs Road. After about 1.4 km, you will come to the entrance to Whitewebbs Park on the left, just after the popular King and Tinker pub.
To reach the house (now a pub), follow the drive to its end.
Whitewebbs Park, containing a public golf course and areas of woodland, is situated on former parkland laid out after the 1803 enclosure of the former Enfield parish common land, which had been created from Enfield Chase in 1777. The present house was built in 1791 by Dr Abraham Wilkinson, a notable agricultural improver.
In 1931 the estate of approx.100 hectares was purchased by Enfield Urban District Council and Middlesex County Council and made into the public golf course, which retains much of the parkland character.
To continue the ride, take the track diverging on the left immediately after the golf centre. Follow this track across the golf course. Just before the end of the golf course, there is an informal café on the right. Go straight ahead along a quiet road (Beggars' Bottom). At the end, you come to a junction with Clay Hill. On the other side of the road to the left is the corner of Hillyfields Park. The ride continues to the right, however, along Clay Hill.
Enfield Urban District Council purchased 62 acres of farmland owned by Archdeacon Potter and opened Hilly Fields as a public park in 1911. This was part of their policy of acquiring land for public open space as the area was being developed for housing. A bandstand was provided to the east of the park in 1921 and was a popular attraction. On August Bank Holiday in 1927 it attracted an audience of nearly 5,000, but it later became derelict.
The Friends of Hillyfields were set up in 1998 with the aim of restoring the bandstand, raising funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund and restoration was competed in 2001. Hillyfields has been described as ‘one of the most interesting grassland areas in the borough’ and the Council continues to strive to maintain its diversity. There are many mature trees, including large old pollarded trees and numerous oaks scattered over rough grassland.
Where the road bends right, after the former Fallow Buck pub, turn left into Strayfield Road. Following the direction signs for Cycle Route 12, turning left after about 600 metres. Pass under the railway and follow the road left at Rectory Farm. On reaching the main road (The Ridgeway), turn right and immediately left into Oak Avenue. At the bottom, turn right into Hadley Road. After about 1.7 km, you come to the entrance to Trent Country Park on the left.
Entering the park, follow the rough road straight ahead. The road goes down a hill (take care on the loose surface), forks slightly right past the Fish Ponds and then turns slightly left up a hill. You emerge onto a drive near a small café. (The toilets and main café are by a car park at the end of the drive to the right. If you use these, come back afterwards to this point.)
Trent Park is on land formerly part of the royal hunting forest of Enfield Chase, which in 1777 was enclosed and divided by Act of Parliament. A small part was earmarked as a miniature hunting park, the principal portion of which was granted to the King's physician Dr Richard Jebb, as a reward for saving the life of the King's brother, the Duke of Gloucester, at Trento in the South Tyrol, hence the present name of the estate. A deer park of 81 hectares and lake were laid out and in c.1777 one of the old Enfield Chase lodges was converted by Sir William Chambers into a villa known as Trent Place.
The house was extended at various times and was then largely rebuilt between 1894 and 1931. Philip Sassoon, who inherited the estate in 1912, laid out the formal gardens and pleasure grounds around the house, and these contain various fine monuments and sculptures.
When Sassoon's cousin Hannah Gubbay died in 1968, most of the land became a public park, Trent Country Park, which was officially opened in 1973. In 1947 the house with approx. 81 hectares of land became the Trent Park Teachers Training College, itself becoming Middlesex Polytechnic in 1974 and then Middlesex University in 1992.
The university has now moved out of Trent Park and the house sold. The house is unfortunately cordoned off, so that visitors can no longer enjoy the view from the terrace. See savetrentpark.org.uk
Turn left along the drive, passing a small café (on the right) and a column, and follow the anti-clockwise traffic system around the former Middlesex University campus. (You are advised to go round rather than under the rising barriers.) Stop at the house to enjoy the view from the terrace at the back, if it is not cordoned off. Return to the column and then back towards the house. Turn immediately sharp right into Snakes Lane, towards the Oakwood exit. Take care crossing the road humps along this road. The road ends at Bramley Lane, nearly opposite Oakwood Station.
Turn left into Bramley Road, continue down Enfield Road and up Slades Hill, using the cycle track (which crosses the road a couple of times) and passing the Jolly Farmers pub on the right. At the mini roundabout, go straight ahead down Windmill Hill to reach Enfield Chase Station on the right near the bottom of the hill.
Ride prepared by Colin Wing for the London Parks & Gardens Trust, 2006.
Much of the historical information above comes from the London Parks & Gardens Trust's London Inventory of Historic Green Spaces, a database of over 2,300 sites.
The ride is recommended for use in daylight hours only. Please cycle safely. Ensure that your bicycle is roadworthy and that you can be seen. Follow the Highway Code and use lights in poor visibility. Use a detailed cycle map (see www.tfl.gov.uk/cycling) in conjunction with this material.
Unless otherwise stated, all the parks and gardens are open during daylight hours and entrance is free.
Please show consideration to other park users and walk along paths where cycling is prohibited.
All due care has been taken to ensure the accuracy of information in this ride, which is offered in good faith. Please advise us of any changes or inaccuracies you may encounter by writing to LPGT, Duck Island Cottage, St James's Park, London SW1A 2BJ, or email us.