As 20 Poly Ramblers strode out of High Barnet tube station a little boy turned to his father open-mouthed. “What a big family!” he exclaimed.

And so we set off on an unusually mild day, beginning with an ascent through King George’s Field that rewarded us with fantastic views over London. Arriving at the ancient settlement of Monken Hadley, we passed several grand houses with plaques of former residents, including Dr (I presume) Livingstone and author Fanny Trollope. A row of almshouses led towards the church of St Mary where we admired the marble monument honouring their benefactor, Roger Wilbraham, in his fine Elizabethan ruff.

To the woods! Birds were celebrating what felt like the imminent arrival of spring as we walked on a carpet of crunchy leaves alongside a brook. Walkers expressed relief when we crossed the main East Coast main railway line by a bridge (rather than having to scoot across the track). Passing a lake, we reached the Cock Inn.

After refuelling we embarked on the second half of the walk, taking us first through more woods and then past the Sassoon Obelisk high on a hill. The monument was visible from Trent Park House, currently being turned into flats. During World War II it played a crucial intelligence role: talkative German officers were interned here, unaware that it was bugged.

Another lakeside path took us to the Water Garden, a green valley where snowdrops and celandines were peeking out. After a brief stop at a small wildlife centre we processed along a magnificent alley of trees, with sweeping views across Trent Park. Minutes later we were on the Piccadilly Line, heading back into central London from Cockfosters after an invigorating day in what felt like the heart of the countryside.

Alison.  Photos by Jill, Stuart and Meng