Walks Along the New River in the Early 1950s
When I first heard the story about how Rick and Joan met by getting partnered up at a dance class when they were teenagers I envisioned some romantic first encounter, where the two young people locked eyes across the dance studio, fate intent on bringing them together. In contrast, when asked why he picked Joan to dance with Rick replied that it was just random chance. You paired up with whoever was free at the time. For Rick and Joan, their love and affection for each other was something that built up over time.
I wanted to explore how it was that random dance partners grew to become husband and wife so I asked the couple what they did while they were dating. One of the activities they talked about was meeting up on a Sunday and going for a nice walk along the New River. Rick explained that the New River was man made, but besides that neither seemed quite sure of the history, so I thought it would be interesting to look some information up.
The New River was built as an aqueduct to bring fresh water from the springs in Hertfordshire into North London in 1613. The name “New River” may be a little misleading seeing as it is actually and aqueduct that it was built over 400 years ago! It was built to solve the issues with contamination from the local wells and the river Thames, which were London’s only sources of drinking water before 1613. Interestingly enough, though its path has changed a little since 1613, it is still a functioning aqueduct, and an important source of drinking water in London today providing about 8% of the city’s water.
When I asked Rick about his experience walking along the New River he responded, “We often followed the path through the Enfield Town park where the river formed two short loops which formed two islands, part of the path through the park.“ When I look at the map today, I can not see the two islands. You can see by the map above that the route of the river has changed slightly, and a lot of the twists and bends no longer exist. I wonder how much of the path that Rick and Joan used to walk exists today?
Regardless to the changes to the park near Enfield, and the New River itself, it is still a popular place to walk. You can find a post here detailing the whole journey. Walking the stretch near Enfield you will find yourself on wide grassy paths between houses and fields. If you find yourself in London, particularly with someone you love, take a walk along the New River instead of going out to the movies. If it worked for Rick and Joan, who knows, maybe it will work for you.
Sources and readings for further information:
Please note: Some names may be changed to protect the individual’s privacy.
Images used with permission