Harlow Town station is somewhere to be picked up, not somewhere to leave on foot. If you insist on walking out, you must squeeze through a narrow and barely signed alley between an office building and a car park. Next to be negotiated is a busy arterial road which takes no interest in either town or station. Then you are in a large park with asphalt paths splaying in all directions. The town centre is a mystery, a rumour: I will never find it.
A gap in the hedge and a short descent, and I am surprised by a row of Victorian cottages. The hamlets of Netteswell Cross and Marshgate, together with Spurriers Farm, survive encased within Town Park, as in amber. All the fields and farms around are built over.
The station is at the northern limit of Harlow, bounded by the Stort Navigation, so the only entrance is to the south. Back in February I had thrashed though private car parks, CCTV in operation, to find a crossing. The patch of ground beyond looked to be wasteland but the map clearly showed a path. And at the bottom of the slope I found a secret wonder: a graceful footbridge, dilapidated but still futuristic, by turns ascending straight and sharply banking before vaulting the rails, a holding loop above a frozen pond, touchdown on the flat, icy meads. It felt like I had escaped something, a getaway break to the country.