THE UNLOST RIVERS OF LONDON unnamed stream Southgate → Winchmore Hill (¾ mile)
[→ Hounsden Gutter → Salmons Brook → Lea → Thames]
London has so many rivers that some of them don't have names. This one used to be the Bourne,, before it was relandscaped and part buried, and has recently been partially daylighted. It runs through Grovelands Park on its brief journey through the N21 postcode. I never even knew it existed until yesterday, and now I've walked it. Didn't take long. [map][map]
As usual the best clues are street names and contours, in this case a very obvious dip in Bourne Hill, which is the road connecting Southgate to Palmers Green. At the foot of the slope is a set of very impressive gates, donated by Lord Inverforth in 1925, signalling that thepark beyond is no ordinary recreation ground. A wealthy brandy merchant called Walker Gray bought the estate in 1796, got John Nash to design him a house and Humphry Repton to lay out the gardens. His landscaping dammed the existing stream to create an ornamental lake, which survives, and that's probably why the former Bourne stream no longer has a name.
The lake is fed by several underground pipes, and also a tiny rivulet flowing down through the pitch and putt. Stop by at the clubhouse, which is actually a shipping container, for a £2 Ice Lolly or some £1.50 Microwave Chips. Don't expect to get inside the former mansion as that's now a private hospital, and has been known to house the occasional Chilean dictator. But the lakeside's good for watching swans, geese and other waterfowl, or picnicking near, and is also a good length for walking your dog round. The dam on the northern side is a 20th century addition, with an outflow that looks a bit like a bobsleigh run except you wouldn't get far sledging down a dozen concrete steps.
At the foot of the descent the water enters a proper wiggling earth-banked stream. The council have made this into an adventurous play area for children, complete with logs and trunks to scramble across, although apparently much of the original equipment has subsequently been removed for tedious health and safety reasons. And beyond that comes a buttercup-bordered boardwalk as the stream suddenly becomes muddier and shallower. Five years ago this 320m section was underground, but Enfield council decided to daylight it to create a sustainable drainage system which could intercept pollutants piped down from neighbouring streets and ease the risk of flooding. I would not have guessed any of this before I got home and did someresearch, so natural does it now look.
A culvert then leads the stream out of the park and underneath Church Hill, one of the oldest lanes in Winchmore Hill, before disappearing between the back gardens of two prime 1930s suburban avenues. Somewhere round the back of number 50 Broadfields Avenue our tributary merges with the brilliantly-named Hounsden Gutter, a short waterway of ancient provenance feeding in from the Oakwood direction. This too hasn't long to go before merging with the Salmons Brook up the side of Grange Park station, remaining dutifully out of sight so as not to lower the tone of this somewhat upmarket suburb. It might have been more fun to blog the Hounsden Gutter, but I suspect not quite so interesting.