The road ends at a lone house in the woods. Party balloons are tied to the gates: a child's birthday. The autumn equinox is not long past and although it is dry, the warmth is draining from the air, and all the guests are indoors. The forest remains quiet.


A laminated sign requests that chapel visitors follow the footpath. I slow down unconsciously, as if I have entered sacred ground, but Goldings chapel is long converted into a luxury home, now for sale, and purchasers, not pilgrims, are the reason for the sign.


Up a steep tree-covered shoulder, a wide clear strip forms the drive of an unseen house, exactly following the line of the tunnelled railway beneath.


Rivers converge at Hertford: Mimram, Beane, Rib, Lea. London taps the four rivers for their portion not far downstream, at the Gauge House, and the New River is created.

The New River


Housing estates crown the ridges, separated by green floodplains, a handprint pressed through a crust of concrete.


Stopped at a bench overlooking the New Gauge House, I consider the Lea Valley, spread across the scene. The Kingsmead Viaduct bustles traffic across without pause for reflection, and certainly without the patience for pedestrians. My route must descend to the river and continue for another kilometre to the lowly footbridge reserved for our sort. The bell of the Carmelite monastery sounds like a call from a past age, but it is an illusion: the monastery is not twenty years older than the viaduct.


I find myself following a pair of friends bushwhacking across the water meadows. The path has been swallowed by rushes. We take different routes and I struggle over the iron fence to the New River. Finding the gate a few yards further down, they laugh.