"An Eleanor Cross in a suburban shopping mall" Waltham Cross by CatherineReichardt
Waltham Cross Travel Guide: 2 reviews and 2 photos
(work in progress)
Waltham Cross has particular significance for me, as it's in this half forgotten part of London's commuter belt that I started my working career over half a lifetime ago.
Waltham Cross is effectively a suburb of London, since the sprawling urban development of London's north west suburbs has long since engulfed the open land that would once have separated the two. However, for administrative purposes, Waltham Cross is part of the county of Essex, which is much ridiculed in the tabloid press as being the UK equivalent of New Jersey, notable for its permatanned, big haired, cosmetically enhanced young women and irresponsibly libidinous young men - a sterotype that has only been enhanced by the wildly popular (un)reality show, The Only Way Is Essex.
But Waltham Cross was once far more isolated and a good deal more genteel. It lies in the Lea Valley - one of the northern tributaries of the Thames - and is on the fringe of the flat plain that extends north and east towards Cambridge and the Fenland of East Anglia beyond. The River Lea was in fact my reason for working here in the first place as I was conducting a research project for the then Thames Water Authority centred on various pumping stations that they owned along the Lea Valley.
Waltham Cross was originally part of the fascinating nearby town of Waltham Abbey which is (in)famous for having 'mislaid' a monarch. At that point, it was deeply rural, being located on the edge of Epping Forest - a vast expanse of woodland that was preserved for is exclusive hunting pleasure (although lesser mortals were allowed to perform more mundane tasks such as collecting firewood and allowing their pigs to forage).
However, it straddled one of England's main highways - the Great Cambridge Road (now the A10), which is what lead to it being given its current name: Waltham Holy Cross (although the Holy has since been dropped, one would hope on the grounds of convenience rather than moral conduct). England's most formidable medieval king, Edward I, erected a series of twelve crosses to mark the places where his beloved wife Eleanor's funeral cortege of Queen Eleanor rested here overnight on its way to Westminster for her burial. This Eleanor Cross is one of only three remaining crosses still standing and is far and away the town's most notable attraction.
- Pros:The Eleanor Cross is exquisite and one of the Greater London region's hidden gems
- Cons:The modern town centre is utterly soulless
- In a nutshell:Worth visiting just to see the Cross, in which case, be sure to also visit Waltham Abbey
(work in progress) Aside from the Taj Mahal, history is hardly brimful of monuments erected by widowered husbands to... more travel advice
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