One of the best things that you do on your own in London is to take a long walk. For my money, one of the most rewarding hikes is the under-the-radar Pymmes Brook Trail in North London.
Named after William Pymme, a 14th Century landowner from Edmonton, this riverside trail runs through the London Boroughs of Barnet, Enfield & Haringey andconnects with both the Lea Valley Walk and the London Loop. It encompasses woodland, parks and open spaces, passing places of cultural and historical interest on the way.
PYMMES BROOK TRAIL AT A GLANCE
Distance: 13 miles (approximately 6 miles for cheats)
Waymarkers: Signs showing a white willow tree on a blue background
Difficulty level: Easy. This is a flat, hard surface route, although there can be some muddy paths early on.
Start: Hadley Green, Barnet (nearest Tube station High Barnet)
Finish: Tottenham Lock (nearest station Tottenham Hale)
Pymmes Brook Trail for cheats: As the more interesting section of the walk is before you hit the North Circular Road, come off the trail at Arnos Park from where Arnos Grove Tube station is accessible. Alternatively, continue to the shops, cafes and mainline station at Palmers Green.
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Pymmes Brook Trail Overview
This walk slices diagonally through North London, following the course of Pymmes Brook from its source in Barnet to where it joins the River Lea at Tottenham Lock.
It is a walk of two halves.
The first part is the most rewarding, taking in historic sites and woodland and following the brook through suburban parks. At the halfway point at Palmers Green, the brook becomes less accessible and the walk is more urban.
As this is a long walk, escape at Palmers Green or Arnos Park if you feel that you’ve had enough. There are good transport links from both of these locations.
Map of London’s Pymmes Brook Trail
To get a better idea of the ground covered by this walking trail, take a look at this map annotated with key markers along the route. Click the image for more information.
For the most part, the Pymmes Brook Trail is clearly signposted and you shouldn’t need a map. But if you feel more comfortable tackling the trail armed with a map, get your hands on Ordnance Survey (OS) map 173.
For detailed information on the Pymmes Brook Trail, you can order a copy of the official guidebook here.
Walking the Pymmes Brook Trail, London
From High Barnet station, walk through Chipping Barnet town centre to Hadley Green, close to the site of the Battle of Barnet. This is London’s only registered battlefield site and was the setting for one of the most decisive engagements of the Wars of the Roses, waged between the House of York and the House of Lancaster.
The Battle of Barnet was fought on the morning of Easter Day 14 April 1471 between Edward VI and the Earl of Warwick. On the morning of the battle, there was a thick fog, Mistaking their badge for that of their enemy, Warwick’s army attacked their own side. The Earl of Warwick’s army then panicked and fled, losing him both the battle and his life.
The Pymmes Brook trail then drops down through Monken Hadley Common but it’s worth stopping at the Church of St. Mary the Virgin.
This Grade II listed church was rebuilt in the late 15th Century, possibly after incurring damage during the Battle of Barnet. At the top of its bell tower is a signal beacon, part of an ancient series of signal beacons.
After skirting the southern edge of the common, walk along a peaceful woodland path to Jack’s Lake, or Beech Hill lake. Formed by damming Pymmes Brook, this is one of London’s lesser-known beauty spots.
If it is more convenient, you can also reach Jack’s lake by following signs from Cockfosters Tube station.
Retrace your steps, and follow the signs for the trail through quiet suburban streets and past a leisure centre until you reach East Barnet Village. With a decent selection of cafes, this is a good place to stop for a coffee or something to eat.
At East Barnet Village, turn onto Brookside – faithful to its name, this runs alongside Pymmes Brook – which will lead you to lovely Oak Hill Park.
After the park, follow the brook along East Walk and Waterfall Walk to the Arnos Park Viaduct. This is one of London’s marvels of civil engineering, carrying the Piccadilly line above our heads.
If you are feeling weary, this is a good place to end your walk. Arnos Grove station is near the park.
It is at this point the trail leaves the brook. It passes through Broomfield Park and Palmers Green. With its shops, cafes, restaurants and train station, Palmers Green is another good escape point for the Pymmes Brook Trail.
Staying on the trail, cross the busy North Circular Road to Bowes Meadow and Tile Kiln Lane Open Space, where Pymmes Brook reappears, bigger and scruffier. Cross back over the North Circular Road to Silver Street, through the grounds of the Millfield Arts Centre and into Pymmes Park.
After crossing Pymmes park, the trail follows Tottenham Marshes to the brook’s confluence with the River Lea at Tottenham Lock. From here, it’s a short walk to Tottenham Hale station.
Older information and OS mapping may still show the original route from Pymmes Park to Pickett’s Lock. The Pymmes Brook Trail is due to be re-routed through the Meridian Water development which will avoid the more urban section beyond Edmonton, although this may be some way off.
Can You Cycle the Pymmes Brook Trail?
Although some of the Pymmes Brook Trail takes you through suburban streets, it is possible to cycle. However, bear in mind that if you continue the trail to its end, you will need to negotiate the busy North Circular Road.
If you are looking for other great walking trails in London, check out these fabulous walks in Epping Forest