Finally, FINALLY, after weeks of bad weather and back pain and traveling, I was able to get back on the LOOP yesterday. I walked a 10-mile section from Hatch End to Elstree.
Can you believe it was almost two months ago when I last stepped off the trail and had lunch at The Moon and Sixpence pub (above) in Hatch End? Seriously, time flies. I didn't get a shot of it then but I photographed it yesterday as I headed back to the trailhead.
From Hatch End I walked through some marginal woodlands, across fields and along a busy road before coming to this peculiar bit of land. The trail was prominently labeled with warning signs advising us that asbestos was present. (Apparently asbestos doesn't bother the teasels!)
Turns out this plot is known as Valley View Farm, a former piggery -- closed in the late '90s -- where people dumped construction waste and other debris for years. There was a plan to build houses here (!) but that sensibly got scrapped. Apparently the waste is still hanging around. I know asbestos in the ground isn't going to hurt me, unless I get down on my hands and knees and dig in it and inhale it, but still -- it felt a little unsettling to walk through this area.
And clearly dumping is still a problem. Kitchen cabinets, anyone?
From there, I walked through a wooded area near the "Grim's Dyke," an iron-age ditch that was constructed for a purpose we apparently don't fully understand today. The woods here were beautiful, with ponds and rhododendron and towering redwood trees.
At the center of it all was the Grim's Dyke Hotel, once the elegant and stately home of William S. Gilbert, of Gilbert & Sullivan fame. In fact, Gilbert died on this property, while swimming in one of the ponds in 1911. The hotel looks amazing -- I'd love to stay there with Dave and Olga! (The web site says they take "small dogs." Is Olga small? I'm not sure.)
From there I walked to a scenic overlook known as the Harrow Viewpoint. It wasn't very scenic on this particular morning, which was foggy and gray, and the place was strewn with an incredible quantity of litter. (Dave theorized that it's probably a Saturday-night hangout for local teenagers, and he's probably right -- so Sundays may be particularly messy.)
I found a memorial to "Fabian," which I think must be related to this incident, in which a young man and his girlfriend were recently found dead at the overlook. (Typical of some news articles, that one raises more questions than it answers -- the two "were found asleep," it says, with the cause of death still under investigation. How they went from "asleep" to dead I'm not sure, unless "asleep" is meant in the euphemistic sense.)
From there I passed a peculiar pub called "The Case is Altered." Strangely, it's one of several pubs in the UK with that name. Why it's called that I'm not sure -- there's a Ben Jonson play by that title from the early 1600s, but the signs showed soldiers in some kind of military campaign. It didn't appear to be open.
From there the path wound along roads and across farmland. What is that contraption?
I passed some contented-looking horses munching, and reclining on, their hay.
I stopped at a park near the Aldenham Reservoir for a completely tasteless egg and mayo sandwich. Then I pressed on to Elstree and Borehamwood, the home of film and TV studios where "Star Wars," the early Indiana Jones movies and "2001: A Space Odyssey," among others, were filmed. There's a big mural outside the train station commemorating the show-business history of the area, featuring the faces of Elizabeth Taylor, Spencer Tracy, Roger Moore and Christopher Lee.
From there I took the Thameslink train back to West Hampstead -- a straight shot and just four stops away! Probably the easiest commute to or from a trailhead I will ever have during this LOOP adventure.