Making the most of some crisp, bright winter weather I recently explored the most northerly and rural stretch of this distinctive local path.
The Dollis Valley Greenwalk is easily accessed to the south of Mays Lane. Walk down the hill from Barnet and continue south past Underhill School to the end of Leeside. If you turn left onto the path, you head east and south towards Totteridge and beyond. I covered this in an earlier piece. This time I turned right, heading for the source of the Dollis Brook, beyond Arkeley near the A1.
It was biting cold at minus three degrees when I left home in bright sunshine, but being properly dressed and (most importantly) shod, this wasn’t a problem. This turned out to be a long walk as I retraced my steps back home, in total about seven miles. As there a smaller paths criss-crossing it, shorter circular walks might make more sense. However, I was keen to reach the source of the river and give myself a decent workout. It was my first proper walk of the year.
Heading west, it becomes a country walk very quickly. The suburban paving doesn’t last long and you are soon striding through fields and along woodland paths. The low light picked out the frost and skeletal wintery silhouettes and the sky remained bright and clear. All the while I was grateful for our strict Green Belt regulations protecting open land including these veteran trees, ancient hedges and woodland.
Keep following the signs for the Dollis Valley Greenwalk and London Loop and on the right you skim the Old Cholmeleian Sports Club, skirt farmland and pass alongside the Totteridge Fields nature reserve. At Hendon Wood Lane turn right and the path follows the road for a while before turning left and running between past Barnet Gate Wood and Mote End Farm and livery stables. Further along the path turns to the left near the deep-water pool, the source of the Dollis brook. After a few minutes you emerge from the woods at Moat Mount Open Space and a bench tempts you to pause a while to enjoy some eye-catching wide views. Ideal for a drink or picnic lunch.
The final stretch of the path takes you through more woods, part of the historic Moat Mount estate which includes overgrown ornamental gardens (you can spot rhododendrons and Wellingtonia sequoias). The last private owner of the estate was Irwin Cox, barrister, publisher and MP for Harrow from 1899 to 1906. Cox inherited Moat Mount from his barrister-father Edward who acquired the 400-hectare estate in 1866 and later extended it. Irwin Cox died childless and the land was eventually purchased by the local council for public use. The old estate included Scratchwood Open Space (linked by an underpass) and part of Mill Hill Golf Club. The A1 Barnet Bypass was constructed through the estate in 1927.
Strolling through the woods I met some friends coming in the other direction with their dog. They were doing a circular walk from near The Gate pub. I continued my walk in order to reach the end of the Dollis Greenway. This is at the entrance to Moat Mount which has some picnic tables although, with the busy A1 just metres away, it’s not the best picnic-spot. After a quick sandwich and some coffee from my flask, I turned back and retraced my steps. It was fascinating getting a different perspective, looking out for Barnet landmarks in the distance. After about four hours (more than seven miles) I returned home, tired and a bit flushed. The final walk uphill was a bit of a trudge. It was interesting covering the whole distance, but breaking it up into smaller routes would be an easier way to enjoy the countryside on our doorstep.