Lee Valley Park Sculpture trail (North)
This walk describes northern and eastern sections (starting from Cheshunt station) of the Sculpture Trail set up at the time of the 2012 Olympic Games. The southern section is described in another article. Some of the sculptures were taped off at the time the photos were taken in April 2020; there were restrictions in force due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
Go through the car park next to the level crossing at Cheshunt station and head north along the path next to the railway. On the grass area before the Cadmore Lane footbridge you’ll find the Stag Beetles sculpture. The beetles, made of metal, look fierce, but remember they’re harmless to us. Make sure you look at the carvings under the tree trunks, depicting a larva, wood lice and a centipede.
Continue along the path till you reach the Play Boulders. Gravel and quarrying were features of this area.
There’s now quite a walk to reach the Wildlife Benches, so do make sure you enjoy the atmosphere and the sounds of the area. At times you may wonder if you’re on the right path, but be brave and enjoy the woodland.
There are two benches, representing two of the rarer creatures to be found in the Lee Valley park. A member of the heron family, the bittern was once common in Britain. It likes the reedbeds. You may be lucky to see one in winter (there is a Bittern Watch hide at Fishers Green), but they are masters of camouflage. A friend once told me that if you know where one is and see some reeds moving, that could be all you see of it. The other bench has carvings of fish and otters, but next to it is a lovely wooden statue (for want of a better word) of that elusive creature – the otter.
Head north a little, then cross the river and double back. The track is quite bendy, but at last you’ll reach the car park (with hopefully the cafe and toilets open). A nearby clearing is called The Glade. Look for the sculpture of an ant on a log with a metallic daisy sprouting. The effect of the daisy varies with the way the light catches it. The log is carved with fungi. Not far away there’s a seat carved in the shape of a swan.
Our route now starts us on the way back. Again the path is bendy, through wooded areas and past lakes. At the next car park there’s a carved block of stone. Entitled Bird Transition it represents various birds to be found in the park. Included are heron and great crested grebe. I must admit they’re two of my favourite birds for completely different reasons. It’s a bit of a challenge trying to identify all the other birds shown.
Crossing the bridge and heading westwards towards the railway will bring you to the Viking Signpost. As for the Viking ship, the idea is the historic boundary between two kingdoms. Two arms indicate the Sculpture Trail. The other two point to Wessex and the Danelaw (Saxon and Viking kingdoms respectively). The post is intricately carved. I think the words say ‘Aelfred Meh Hect’ (Alfred made me), reminiscent of a jewelled reading pointer from his time kept in the Ashmolean Museum. See https://www.ashmolean.org/alfred-jewel (site accessed April 2020). Incidentally, Alfred wasn’t the first king of England; that was Athelstan, his grandson. Alfred ruled Wessex and is famous for fighting back against the Vikings.
That’s the end of this part of the trail. The sculptures to the south of Cheshunt are described in another article. All in all, I’d say these sculptures were a very pleasant and interesting discovery and the walk round most enjoyable.
For further information please see visitleevalley.org.uk
There are of course various other possible routes. Take a look at https://www.visitleevalley.org.uk/en/content/cms/outdoors/walks-walking/walking-routes/ware-to-waltham-abbey/artworks-route-one/, https://www.visitleevalley.org.uk/en/content/cms/outdoors/walks-walking/walking-routes/ware-to-waltham-abbey/artworks-route-two/ and https://www.visitleevalley.org.uk/en/content/cms/outdoors/walks-walking/walking-routes/ware-to-waltham-abbey/artworks-route-three/. These pages contain links from which route maps can be downloaded.