#156: Cheshunt 24/01/2023

Cheshunt Station

It’s a return to Cheshunt in Hertfordshire. I was last here in October 2018 when I followed the end of the overground. But today, it’s courtesy of Greater Anglia on a cold frosty day travelling as far as I can on the West Anglia Main Line from Liverpool Street station.

I’m at the stage of my ‘end of the line’ travels where I’m returning to stations previously visited, and I’m trying to remain objective without retracing steps. For larger stations and locations, it’s easier as there’s more to explore. But for places like Cheshunt, I spend a lot of time trying to capture trains in motion.

The first station, albeit temporary, opened in 1840 just north of the current station’s location. But this wasn’t the first railway in Cheshunt, as the world’s first passenger-carrying monorail was built here in 1820 by Henry Robinson Palmer. It was less than a mile long, but it carried passengers from the high street to the River Lea, close to where today’s station is.

The station, and railway line, run parallel with and almost on the Prime Meridian, and I suspect that may have influenced the naming of the new station down the line at Meridian Water. You can see as far as the eye can see in both directions from the platforms as the tracks run straight for over five miles through Cheshunt. 

The view north from platform 1 is like looking through a tunnel of lamp posts and stanchions, and the focus in the photo below is on the two pedestrians walking over the crossing. What are they looking at?

Looking south, you can see the Overground line curving to the west as it heads towards Theobalds Grove and through North London before terminating at Liverpool Street station. 

The station sits on Windmill Lane, where the road crosses the track as it reaches the River Lee Country Park. The crossing is quite busy as walkers alight at the station and head to the river for a day’s walking. There are car parks to the west, and passing traffic is steady, with trains every ten minutes or so which meant I didn’t have long to wait between trains to capture their passage through the station.

There’s a disused signal box south of the station. It was built here in the 1930s, and following the line’s electrification, it closed in 2003. It would have had 63 levers to operate the points and signals in its heyday, a vision now only replicated in living museums and heritage railways. So, the graffiti artists have inevitably moved in to deface the boarded signal box.

River Lee Country Park and Navigation

I made a brief sojourn into the park as I had walked the length of the Navigation channel to Waltham Cross during my last visit. But you can’t come to Cheshunt without peering at the waters. It’s only a five-minute walk from the station, and if you’re a regular visitor, you’ll know that things constantly change.

As you approach the Navigation channel and make your way through the car park, look around, and you can see the early signs of spring. Catkins, to me, are one of those signs, and they bring back childhood memories of being taken for walks and sharing the delight of waving fallen branches of catkins around and seeing the ‘dust’ fly around. But, of course, I didn’t realise that I was spreading the pollen at the time.

The avenue of trees shows signs of growth.  Branches heavily pruned by foresters the year before are now sprouting twigs, stretching up to the sky in anticipation of a new year of growth.

At the water’s edge, there’s an array of narrow boats moored along the western bank. The residents have done a sensible thing on a cold and frosty day. They’ve lit their stoves and are staying indoors as the towpath is drenched with smoke and the smell of burning wood. Each narrowboat has its name and licence plate, and ‘Mallards Way Way’ is the prominent one here.

The Navigation channel curves ever so slightly at this point, so as I walk a little north, I can capture the narrow boats from an angle that makes it look like I’m in the water. But the angle also gives me a good view of the few water birds on the water. Here’s a swan (and a coot if you can spot it?) weaving in between the narrow boats, with the boat’s colours creating a ripple effect on the water’s surface.

Cheshunt to Waltham Cross

Cheshunt is a sprawling town that runs about a kilometre from Turners Hill and northwards along the High Street. There’s a collection of shops around the crossroads at Windmill Lane and Turners Hill, with a more extensive selection of independent shops along the High Street.

It’s not a destination location, but more one serving its local community, as I lost count of the number of barbers and hairdressers along the way. But, alas, the town has the unenviable reputation of being the 20th worst place to live in England during a recent ilivehere poll.

From the top end of Cheshunt, I stretch my legs and head down through Theobalds Grove and into Waltham Cross. There is not much to report en route besides a brightly coloured restaurant close to Theobalds Grove Overground Station.  El Curioso is a Spanish and Cuban restaurant; you can’t miss it as its brightly yellow painted walls have taken over the Coach and Horses pub.

Onwards into Waltham Cross, I’ve arrived at a depressing concrete 1970s-style shopping precinct that seems to struggle to survive. I suspect this may be since the arrival of the Pavilions Shopping Centre, and no doubt built on a promise of adding diversity to the town centre. But in my view, the town’s heart and soul have been stolen, leaving a concrete jungle devoid of people.

I digress.

Waltham Cross gets its name from one of the twelve stone crosses built by Edward I to commemorate the resting places of his late wife as he led her funeral procession from Harby in Nottinghamshire to Westminster – a 200-mile journey. The cross here is one of only three original crosses that remain.

There’s a sad tale that goes with my passage through the town. The cross sits in a square overlooked by an HSBC bank. Outside the bank, I’m beckoned over by Ozy, a homeless gentleman resting against its wall. He’s polite and engaging, and we chat about the merits of handouts to individuals and charitable donations to organisations that can help. But, unfortunately, he tells me he chooses not to use these organisations.

Sunset over Waltham Cross

Picture of the Day – Windmill Lane Crossing

I knew from my previous visit that a footbridge crosses over the level crossing at Windmill lane. So I’d set out to make this my target destination as I’d envisioned it to be ideal for train spotting and, hopefully, for photography. I wasn’t disappointed; at either end of the footbridge, the side was low enough to lean over and rest my camera for some great shots.

Of all the images I captured, I’ve selected this one as it best represents the colour landscape of the day’s freezing conditions. I was on a mission to create a blurred image with a slow shutter speed and high aperture to get as much in focus as possible. I have several in Black and White, which has, of late, become my mode of choice. But whilst they captured the movement, they didn’t quite convey the scene.

I wanted to create an image showing the Windmill Lane Level Crossing name, so it transpired it would have to be with a London-bound train arriving on platform 1 as trains travelling north hide the crossing sign.

Patience was the name of the game, and thankfully there were frequent trains, so I didn’t have long to wait between attempts. There’s a subtle homage to the red colouring of the Greater Anglia train as it slows down approaching the station, and I’ve filtered the colours to match the wintry conditions.

  • Location: Cheshunt Railway Station
  • Date/Time: Tuesday 24th January 2023, 2.59 PM
  • Settings: Camera – Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture -f/18; Shutter Speed – 1/6; Focal Length –  33mm; Film Speed – ISO100

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