diamond geezer

 Friday, June 24, 2022

Just north of the Broadfields estate lies the hamlet of Edgware Bury.
It's a tiny cluster of farms and bungalows set amid open fields.
It'd be quite normal for the Home Counties but it's utterly abnormal for North London.
And they'd rather you didn't visit.

This is Edgwarebury Lane, an ancient track that still connects Edgware to Elstree. It starts amid the shops on Hale Lane, just up from the station, and heads north across the Edgware bypass. The first mile is full-on suburbia, culminating with the Thirties semis and detached piles of the Broadfields estate (of which we spoke yesterday). Then abruptly the houses cease and the road becomes a narrower lane bounded on one side by hedges and on the other by a Jewish cemetery. At the junction with Clay Lane, a similarly ancient bridleway, are three isolated cottages with rambling non-idyllic gardens and a remarkably high number of occupied parking spaces. And at the point where the streetlighting finally ceases come the red signs... Edgwarebury Farm. Private Road. Private No Parking. Residents Only. No Turning. No Through Road. It must rile the locals that there's also a green sign confirming Public Bridleway to Elstree.

Stepping through into the environs of the farm transports you instantly to the countryside. A chain of telegraph poles leads down the lane to a collection of barns and other indistinct outbuildings. To the left is a low barbed wire fence and beyond that open fields, or rather open paddocks because these 400 acres support a successful sprawling livery stables. The luckier ponies have a lot of room to roam, plus lone trees to shelter under during the heat of the day. Others are tucked away in wooden stable blocks or segregated in their own private enclosures. The customary rural whiff is present.

The farmhouse is 17th century with a weatherboarded upper storey, a later wing with a pitched slate roof and a prominent dovecote. Originally it was called Earlsbury Farm before they dropped the first part to become plain Bury Farm (after which the hamlet of Edgware Bury is named). Dick Turpin once dropped by and robbed the place, back when he was working with the 'Essex Gang' before he broke out solo. I would have taken a photo of the farmhouse to show you here but an important-looking lady in wellies came out to feed a horse and it seemed unwise to try.

Among the outbuildings is a single single-storey prefab called The Bungalow, which looks very much not grade II listed and would be the ideal place to hide away for anyone preferring horses to mod cons. The only other residence in the hamlet is a posher pile which covers the footprint of a former farmhouse, again with a cluster of agri-outbuildings round the back. A sign on the fence reminds non-residents which way the public footpath goes lest anyone be tempted to stray. Another sign urging passers-by Please Do Not Feed The Horse's is on display in both apostrophe'd and non-apostrophe'd versions. Entrepreneurs intend to build a luxury 18 hole golf course across several of the outlying paddocks, alas, the only upside being that planning permission was granted five years ago but they haven't started yet.

Beyond the final bend the road out of Edgware Bury become increasingly less well maintained and starts to climb. The embankment isn't natural, it's spoil from a serious building project close by which so far has only been heard but not seen. The M1 motorway was driven through Bury Farm's fields in the 1960s, but civil engineers kindly veered slightly north in a deep cutting rather than taking what would have been a flatter route through the farmhouse instead. For those on foot it's quite a jolt to reach a bridge and suddenly find a seething six lane highway beneath you with streaming traffic and electronic signage. The elevated crossing allows you to look back across rough greenspace towards an extensive spiky skyline.

The far side of the bridge touches down in Hertfordshire, because the border with Middlesex shifted south after the motorway was built. Here a locked gate blocks the road to prevent the lane becoming a ratrun, although shortly afterwards I had to step to one side to make way for a van driven by someone who clearly had the key. The remainder of Edgwarebury Lane is a steep climb up what can only be described as a bolthole cul-de-sac for extremely wealthy people. The half-timbered Dower House has nine bedrooms and slightly fewer tennis courts. The Manor offers a country club hideaway suitable for dream weddings and appeared in at least three episodes of The Avengers. The Leys has security gates so elaborate they've had to put up eight signs confirming they are not the hotel. I see from the public footpath sign at the end of the lane that Hertfordshire County Council can't spell Edgware either.

Edgwarebury Lane is a walk of extraordinary contrasts... suburban/rural, flat/steep, avenue/lane/motorway, semis/farmhouse/mansion, tabby cats/ponies/guard dogs, public/private/exclusive. It's a medieval lane passing through a hamlet that somehow still exists inside 21st century London. But it would have been brutally wiped away had the proposed Northern line extension to Bushey Heath ever been built, indeed the nearest station was originally going to be called Edgwarebury until bosses plumped for Brockley Hill instead. All these neighbouring scrappy fields and paddocks were due to be suburbanised and the old farmhouse surrounded, but the Green Belt did its job and ended the dream. For a reminder of what much of Middlesex used to look like, come to Edgware Bury.

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