Haunted Cockfosters and Enfield
Last Christmas I bought my wife the Richard Jones book "Walking Haunted London". It is a great excuse to wander around bits of London that we wouldn't otherwise visit on foot - and luckily for me, many of the haunted locations in this city of ours are pubs.
This weekend we visited some of the haunted locations in Enfield. It is one of the walks in the book that is so spread out that Richard Jones doesn't specify a route, but rather gives a map, and some stories, and lets you plot your own itinery.
We opted to start at Cockfosters Station, and to walk up Cockfosters Road towards Trent Country Park. We've actually been this way before, to see the open-air Chapterhouse Shakespeare Company one of our friends tour manages and (sometimes) acts for, and to go to parties at a house one of my old school-friends was renting during her college days.
We had two slightly disturbing encounters on the walk. The first was peering in the gates of a very impressive house to suddenly see three massive Rottweilers playing with a hunk of meat that looked on first impression like it could have been a small child, and the second was with a strange blue spectral mist that descended across the road. This turned out to be roadworks, as old markings were burnt off the road. The noise and smell were horrible, and for some time our 'quiet country walk' was in fact walking alongside bumper-to-bumper traffic due to the road being reduced to one alternating lane.
Eventually we left Cockfosters Road and turned right towards the haunted Hadley Road. Before we got anywhere near the sites of the haunting though we stumbled upon Ferny Hill Farmhouse Tearoom, so stopped to enjoy a brew. Apart from the tea room, the farmhouse has a shop that sells fresh eggs and ptotaoes, as well as a selection of homemade farm produce. It was very busy though, so if you fancy a breakfast or lunch there on a Sunday you need to get in early - by the time we arrived at around 12:30 there was an hours wait to be served food. They also promise an 'Amazing Maize Maze', but it doesn't open until later in the summer
The Ferny Hill tearoom has a donkey - Toffee - in the field next door. Toffee is an impressive 24 years old. There were notices up in the tea room saying that "It has been bought to our attention that some people do not think we care for our donkey properly", with a long list of when Toffee goes to the farriers, how he is kept inside in winter, and bemoaning that the RSPCA have a lot to do without wasting time on checking up their donkey. Having said that, when we saw him, Toffee had a very bad gash in his foreleg, and the wound was swarming with flies.
We set off further down Hadley Road, heading towards Enfield, and we gradually got to a part over-hanging with trees from the woods on either side, which allowed me to tell the ghost tales associated with the road: of the witch hanged in the 1600's who still walks along it, and of the knight in shining armour still guarding the treasure he hid in the woods to avoid confiscation when he was accused of treachery.
Actually the scariest encounter we had was very much of the flesh'n'blood variety. As we approached the Hadley Road entrance to Trent Country Park, a van pulled in and got snagged on the maximum clearance bar. The driver got out, inspected the situation, got back in the van, put his foot down, and smashed through the barrier. As we walked along I said to my wife that I hoped it was there because somewhere further in the park there was something that genuinely only had 6'6" clearance. A hundred metres down the road a gap in the bushes revealed the same van driver, holding some broken fragments of his roof-rack arrangement, not looking best pleased. My amused face appearing in the gap obviously didn't help his mood, as he started marching towards me demanding "What the fuck are you looking at?".
After quite an undulating walk we eventually arrived at Oak Avenue, passing a pick-your-own farm that advertises itself with a massive inflatable strawberry by the side of the road. Oak Avenue has a ghost story, belong to 'the old house' at the top of the avenue. It was rather hard to tell where this might refer to, as the only thing at the top of the avenue was a modern set of flats. The story here revolved around a dinner guest who spent the entire evening accompanied by unworldly sighs and moans - when he speaks to his hosts about it they dismiss it, saying it always happens to people who change in that particular room.
From Oak Lane we then headed towards the Rose and Crown pub on Clay Hill, via Gordon Hill station. It was our plan to lunch at the pub, then return to Gordon Hill station to get the train back towards Finsbury Park. En route however we noticed that the station was being served by a rail replacement bus service, so we thought we might adjust our travel plans.
We'd underestimated how far it was to the pub on Clay Hill however, and by the time we got to where we expected the Rose and Crown to be we'd passed a perfectly good pub serving food - The Hop Poles (even if the sign outside did appear to be based around a bloke tweaking a naked woman's nipple, who herself was squeezing a bunch of grapes in a bush, that was then gushing out wine into a bowl the same bloke had placed in his nether regions. Tasteful).
However, we decided to press on, thinking how much more satisfying it would be to reach our final goal - notwithstanding the fact that both of us reckoned that once we'd sat down we'd possibly never get up again. Then the drizzle started. The Rose and Crown was some 20 minutes further down the road than the map in the book implied. When we eventually got there we enjoyed a really nice lunch. The pub is full of nooks and crannies, old beams and knick-knacks, and was a very welcome respite from all of the walking, despite it playing a hideous compilation of 80's soul 'classics' as background ambience.
It is, like many pubs in London, supposedly haunted by a very famous ghost. As Jones observes in the 'Walking Haunted London' book:
The ghost of Dick Turpin must be one of the busiest in England! For that matter, with the number of pubs that claim his living self as a previous customer, it's a miracle he was able to stay upright in the saddle
His ghost is said to haunt not only the pub but also the road outside, where, astride a huge and fearsome phantom 'Black Bess', he gallops through the night, en route, perhaps, to one of the many other pubs he has to haunt
We oursleves could have done with a lend of Black Bess, as with the Gordon Hill -> Finsbury Park line out of action, we had a torturous journey home involving three buses that took the best part of an hour-and-a-half. It was a good walk altogether, but if we were doing it again I think we would probably have walked through the Trent Country Park to get to Hadley Road rather than down Cockfosters Road, and with hindsight I would have checked whether the local rail services were working on the day we intended to travel!