London: the step-by-step guide Michael Leapman takes his valentine down Lovers Walk on a stroll to Totteridge

Distance: Five miles Time: Two-and-a-quarter hours Underground: Woodside Park (Northern Line) Car Park: At Woodside Park station (pay and display)
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The Independent Culture
On the run-up to Valentine's Day I sought a Lovers Walk and my A-Z offered three thoroughfares with that name. This route includes one of them, as well as a romantic path by a meandering stream and some lovely views across north London's wide open spaces - though I couldn't find a kissing-gate. More practically, it is a suitable walk for a wet winter because most of it is on hard-surfaced paths, though there are soggy patches in the middle section.

From the station car park cross the footbridge to the northbound side (platform 1). At the end of the station approach turn right, then left into Tillingham Way and left again at the T-junction, passing prosperous two-car houses.

Opposite Woodside Park Club turn left down a tarmac path by a red poop- scoop bin, following the bank of Dollis Brook as it flows fast towards the River Brent. Here catkins hang from hazel bushes and, under the trees, drifts of spring bulbs will be in flower before too long. Keep to the right of the brook, ignoring bridges, and go straight across the first road.

At the second road, Fursby Avenue, you have to deviate slightly to the right, down a footpath marked by white arrows on red-and-green discs and a sign: "No Horse Riding". This takes you between some productive allotments, their leeks and winter cabbages still cropping prolifically.

At the junction of paths do not cross the brook but follow the red route to the right, then take the middle path through trees. This is Lovers Walk, whose gravelly surface crosses Finchley Golf Course, with the club house on the left. At the end of it fork right to reach a surfaced road, passing Partingdale School on the right.

Cross the main road and turn right to walk alongside a housing estate. Where the main road bends right, bear left up Partingdale Lane. Just after a sharp right turn, keep ahead on a path to the left of a metal gate, marked with another white-on-red arrow and signposted as a bridleway.

The path, muddy in places, goes downhill at first, the large electricity sub-station on the left interfering with the open view. At the T-junction turn left, still following the red arrow and now walking up a gentle slope.

Just past Burtonhole Farm turn right down a surfaced path, soon passing a garden centre. Follow the path right up to the gates of Folly Farm, then turn hard right down a narrow path between a fence and a stream.

Soon you reach a stile on your right. The most direct path to Totteridge lies over it and across a field, but that looked forbiddingly muddy. Instead we veered left in front of the stile, up a drier uphill path between fences, signposted to Long Ponds. Near the top of the slope, stop and look back for the view over Mill Hill. The large building with the green roof is the National Institute for Medical Research.

The path ends with a stile that leads out past a pond to the main road. Cross the road and turn right, passing large detached houses with elaborate security systems. At Copped Hall on the right, just after a pronounced right-hand bend, you will see the exit from the shorter but muddier path.

Just beyond, on the left, a plaque marks the old Totteridge village pound, where domestic animals were penned in Tudor times.

Next to it is St Andew's church, built in 1790 but with a wooden tower that probably dates from the 16th century. The yew in front, with its enormous trunk, may be as much as 1,000 years old. Cross the road and, just before the Orange Tree pub, take a path on the right between two white posts, passing behind some buildings. Keep on this path, though if it is too muddy you can soon switch to the road a few yards to your left.

Road and path eventually join at a crowded duck pond. Keep to the left of it, stooping to pass through a curious low portico made of three logs, on to a surfaced path. This leads out to a road, Southover, with a school on the right. Walk downhill and keep ahead at the roundabout to turn left up Tillingham Way, then right and left for the station.

Three other walks around Totteridge and Mill Hill, using several of these paths, are in a 20p pamphlet issued by the London Borough of Barnet. For a copy phone 081-466 8511, ext 4478

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