I’ve been meaning to write this since early September and I have a bunch of other stuff to get through that’s queued behind it. The trouble is, this is a piece about the area I just moved from and there’s just so much to cram in.
I can remember now how we discovered Enfield. Some friends of ours, Maddy and Steve, had recently moved to a flat there and were having a new year’s eve party. We had visited before, but only to buy furniture from the shops on the A10 and sadly for us that was about all we knew about Enfield (a large dual carriageway out of London with retail parks on it!).
The next day, we decided that I needed a few hours to “rest”, and so we set out for a futile look for coffee around Chase Side. What really struck us was how green and pretty it was (and that the house prices seemed reasonable too). I remember walking across Chase Green and marvelling it was only a few miles down the road from Southgate Road in Hackney, where we lived at the time.
So that was that, and after a slightly less traumatic move than our most recent one, we moved to a semi-detached house near Chase Farm hospital, on a street called Ridge Crest. The thing I first noticed after we moved in was the relative quiet compared to our previous home. Of course Enfield wasn’t some kind of rural idyll, and we did have our fair share of mad things happen (the crazy man who attacked our letterbox and front door being a highlight). But what it did have was a great mixture of being comparatively quiet (compared to central London), “stuff” on hand and great access to Central London.
One of the slightly mad things about Enfield was the number of mansions and stately homes around the place (this used to be countryside outside London, not part of it). Many had been demolished or turned into flats but just a few had been preserved. Forty Hall and Myddleton House are grand old houses run by the local council. Trent Park, formerly the home of Middlesex University, is another prime example.
Forty Hall is open to the public (though it’s really more of a venue than a museum) and Myddleton House has amazing gardens that are well worth a visit.
Slightly terrifyingly, Myddleton house also has some (managed) Japanese Knotweed, which looks pretty formidable if you see it, and can invade stone and concrete. Forty Hall also has some nice gardens and a public park around it. We had some great fun visiting for a music concert (complete with Morris Dancers) a few years ago.
But I’m ignoring the core of the town. The area to the west of the town centre is actually older than the majority of the town centre itself, which was mainly built in the 20s-30s (despite the town having been occupied much earlier). I always enjoyed a walk down Gentleman’s row, which dates from at least as far as the 17th century.
Gentleman’s row leads to the New River, a water channel used to bring fresh water from the River Lee to Central London. In the centre of town you can still see the core of town as it would have looked in the first half of the 20th Century, with some older buildings mixed in with Edwardian and later additions (although these days you have the obligatory malls plonked in the centre too).
Some of the later additions are interesting too. The extension to the town library and the related landscaping of the garden in front was a scheme I found coherant and impressive (my photo of it maybe less so 😉 ). The other modern building, that dominates the town, is the Civic Centre, the office of the local council. I love the “Chrysler building” type view you could get of it.
Another quirky claim Enfield has to fame is that it is the site of the world’s first cash machine (ATM), which was located in the local Barclays Bank Branch and is marked in a blue plaque on the side of the building.
Which brings me to the town park, great for a Sunday stroll, particularly after our son was born. I think he always enjoyed the birds, even before he became duck obsessed as a toddler 😉 . We had some fun here too watching the local firework display over the years.
Another feature of Enfield, more hidden these days, is the fine architecture from the late 20s and early 30s, particularly the Art Deco buildings. One building in particular stands out as a remnant of times passed in this regard, the old Ripaults Factory. I imagine it would have looked spectacular when all the metalwork was painted red. Sadly, many similar buildings were demolished in the 60s and 70s. Another Art Deco building I enjoy is the Queen Elizabeth II stadium in the Playing Fields just off the A10 which I discovered a few years after we first moved in.
The other reason I visited the Playing Fields was the Pageant of Motoring, which is always a treat if you like cars. More on that here and here.
The Pageant is run by the Whitewebbs Motor Museum, which is also well worth a visit, particularly when they have a brand or model event on at the museum.
Which takes me out of the centre and back up the Ridgeway to Chase Farm hospital. An amazing Edwardian hospital with impressive buildings left to decay by a shortsighted management.
For us, sadly, it will always have some negative memories around the birth of our son. Its brooding presence at the end of the road was never something we could get rid of while we lived in Enfield. The fact that visitors to the hospital kept parking over our drive became a bit boring too…
From there I would again move on down the Ridgeway to the lane down to Rectory Farm and cattlegate road. Rectory Farm is abandoned, though a neighbouring farmer uses some of the fields, and it’s quite odd to look at the stages of decay from the first photos I took of the abandoned farm buildings back in 2009.
All in all, some really beautiful but sometimes earily desolate landscapes and abandoned buildings. At the end of this walk down Cattlegate Road was the Fallow Buck pub, where we enjoyed a pint or several over the years. Sadly it’s now closed and the last I heard it was going to be converted to flats.
The last but one place on my whistlestop tour is Trent Park, down Hadley Road and towards Cockfosters. I’m going to include within this (for dramatic license) the fields that border the path down to the Obelisk from Hadley Road.
Trent Park is a huge and impressive park with wonderful landscapes and an animal rescue centre that our son loved to visit, the place was really uplifting, but the crowd there was sometimes very mixed. The guy who thought I wasn’t allowed to take landscape photographs if he and his family walked into shot was a particular low point. That said, once you left the ornamental drive behind, the views and woods were fantastic to see and walk in.
So that leads me back to my starting point, Ridge Crest, a street of 1920’s semis which will always have a special place in my heart. It could be magnificently beautiful in the late evening light, when the cherry trees were in bloom or when snow fell and many of the people there were lovely.
I’m struck my how many of these photos are of green spaces and/or old buildings and its fair to say the whole of the borough spans areas that are ultra inner city urban, through to the green spaces and town centre, but this is about my memories of the place, where I would go, not an accurate portrait of the borough as a whole. I will miss living in Enfield, but luckily as we’ve only moved about 15 minutes away I will still be able to get back from time to time. Life moves on, but it’s still great to remember.
Taken with: Fujifilm X-Pro1, Fujifilm X100S, Nikon D600, Nikon D800E, Nikon Df, Nikon D810, Leica M9, Leica M typ 240, Olympus E-P5, Sony DSLR-A900, Sony RX1 (too many cameras, many since sold) and some lenses…
Thanks for the wonderful tour, Simon!