It was my first venture out of town since having back surgery and the 1.5 miles flat walking from St Margaret’s to Rye House seemed a good step towards rehabilitation. But as is so often the way, a misreading of the guide-book meant a stroll in the wrong direction and a detour to the eponymous Norman church and picnic lunch in the quietude of the churchyard. A later turnoff under the A414 through a woodland walk finally brought us into the clearing…well it looked right; there’s a river, and running in the easterly direction, a grassy trail passing an old pumphouse.
The runes of the sky spelt clear weather, reflecting in the still waters where long-haired weeds flow downstream, fish rise to flies, and the brilliant dragons and damsels skim the surface or linger in the wildflower verges.
I was daydreaming along and then a train rushed past on the left, alerting us to the fact that something was wrong with the location. Noticing the man-made bulwarks of the watercourse confirmed our doubts. A quick look at the guide-book established that although heading in the right direction we were walking up the wrong river – actually it was the New River, neither new nor a river but an aqueduct originally built in the 17th century to provide clean Hertfordshire water for London.
With the power station and recycling plant visible ahead we were evidently on the home stretch to Rye House. Little known these days but it was once the infamous base for a cabal of plotters intending to assassinate King Charles II and his brother, as they passed by on their way back from the horse races at Newmarket. The plot failed, the plotters met their grisly fates and all that remains of this fortified mediaeval moated mansion is the gatehouse.
Feeling cheated of our intended promenade along the Lea, we decided to push the rehab boundaries further and walk the 1.5 miles back – this time along the right river path on our left.And it was worth every step of the way, in a winding setting of overgrown banks and trees
Too soon, civilisation and the end of the road came into view. Passing beneath the A414 and visible through the graffitied pillars, the woodlands we’d walked through earlier, on the other side of the New River. At St Margaret’s, boats moor all along the North bank and a riverside pub provided rest and refreshement before the 30 minute train ride back to the city.
The Lea Valley Walk: St Margarets to Rye House
Joining Jo and others for her regular Monday Walk