Memories of Coldfall Wood

Audio reminiscences

Local historian Jack Whitehead, shared with us his memories of Coldfall Wood when growing up on the Coldfall Estate when it was first built in the 1920s.

Listen here

Other reminiscences

Here are some lovely comments sent to us via our website – thank you!

If you would like to share your memories, we would love to hear from you.

I’m pleased to tell you that I, my husband and dog paid a visit to Coldfall Woods last week and all enjoyed our visit.

I was amazed that although it must be almost 45 years since I last regularly walked around in the woods that I remembered almost every part of the area, as if it were yesterday. The only things that had changed – apart from the height of the trees which now appear enormous! – were the bridges and walkway that have been erected, and the birdlife as I honestly cannot ever remember seeing crow’s in the woods and definately no parakeets back in the day. Lovers lawn appeared much less open than years ago, but lovers lane was less overgrown, as I remember it, however as stipulated on the information posters it would appear that some woodland management will be carried out to re-establish it back to its former state.

The only ‘blot on the landscape’ for me – and I appreciate that in this modern age things have to be this way for security reasons – was the perimeter fencing around Coldfall Primary School, as in the days of my childhood there was a rustic wood fence which ran the whole length of the school land and included a wooden gate which on the occasion of very hot days would allow us as a group of schoolchildren to have the occasional lesson with our teacher in one of the gladed area’s within the woods. Its just a shame that the choice of barrier had to be concrete and the awful blue railings. At least that is the only area affected as the original railings and the main gate with the ‘Coldfall Woods’ sign look much more attractive and inviting.

We also thought all the information posters were very helpful and were a great testament to all the hard work and enthusiasm that the band of willing helpers must put in to keep the area so natural and unspoilt. It was also amazing to see how many other people were around in the woods when we visited – considering it was a weekday morning – I honestly don’t think in all the years I regularly spent time there I ever encountered as many people in the same period of time. Again it must be a sound testimony that others find the experience a safe and enjoyable one, as in this day and age we all need quiet and pleasant spaces to relax and ensure inner peace.

We certainly will be back to visit again in the future. Well done to the avid team who keep the woods looking so good.

Jenny Morris

Dear Friends of Coldfall Wood,

What an absolute delight it was to discover your wonderful website and valuable organisation, dedicated to the preservation and enhancement of a unique and valuable piece of woodland that was for many years a significant part of my childhood. My maternal Grandfather, Edward Hipwell ‘Ned’ was head keeper of the wood for a number of decades from the 1940’s to the 1970’s and for all that time lived with my grandmother in ‘The Lodge’ deep down in the woods below Creighton Avenue.

I spent many a weekend running wild in the woods, as children were able to do in the 1960’s and 70’s. It was always a mystery to me, even as a child, how a dusty busy capital city such as London could offer such a tranquil and rural oasis, where, even outside of the wood, the pavements were pink and the people so polite.

I have many memories of my frequent visits not least of which was the incredibly steep path that led from the black gates fronting Creighton Avenue vertically down to the house and I recall opening the gate at the bottom and bravely riding the scooter at breakneck speed down the vast approach, through the gate, across the rear of the house and the greenhouse and out the other side, through the security gate and into the wood, beyond the public toilet block, finally coming to rest alongside a stream. I used to have timed races with my cousin to see which of us was faster.

Often, at dusk, I’d accompany my Grandfather with a large bunch of keys and help ring the bell and then lock up the Woods for the night. My overriding memory was the smell of the damp wood that mercilessly percolated The Lodge such that everything smelt and felt damp in their little house. Condensation would pour down the satin walls of the kitchen as my Grandmother prepared the Sunday roast, and I was often tearful of the suffering of both my Grandparents in that cold damp abode which affected their severe arthritis as they advanced in age, but at the same time it was, for them, a piece of Ireland from whence they came and for us a happy home filled with love and laughter and a lot of Irish music and dancing.

There were occasions when, as children, we’d be invited by the owner of the neighbouring property, one elderly but erudite ‘Mr Spring’, to visit his garden and be introduced to his wonderful flowers and trees and we’d hunt for the wildlife which had made a home in his garden. Yet it was those playful afternoons of utter freedom, left alone in Coldfall Wood to investigate nature, as a child ought to be able to do that stays with me forever. Climbing trees was a favourite pastime of mine, as was floating paper boats on the fast-flowing stream. Memories…

Coldfall Wood was a significant part of my early life and I am delighted to see it is well preserved and much improved.

Thank you.

Mrs Frances Wilshere

29 replies on “Memories of Coldfall Wood”

I have only just stumbled upon your website and reading the previous story by Mrs Frances Wilshere about the enjoyable times she spent running freely around Coldfall Woods, I felt I just ought to add my comments too! As a child growing up on the local estate (I attended Coldfall Infants & Junior School and William Grimshaw Secondary Modern between the years 1957 – 1968) my sister, friends and myself spent so many happy hours playing in the wood and learning about nature. I always had a yearning to live in the country and felt very close to nature having such wonderful provision on my doorstep and as per the previous comments it was safe to stay for hours enjoying the peace and quiet within such a green and pleasant area. Together with my husband I have recently been planning a trip down ‘memory lane’ back to Muswell Hill to visit my old haunts, but had wondered how Coldfall Wood would look now – I’m so pleased that other people are enjoying its delights and that a dedicated group of people are looking after its wonderful attributes for others to continue enjoying such lovely surroundings in such a busy area of London.

Jenny Morris

Does anyone remember Miss Evans in the Juniors of Coldfall
school in the 60’s, Jenny Morris whats your maiden name? send me an email please I ‘d love to chat to people from the old days
I lived on the Estate to

I remember Miss Evans! a tall, thin old school ma’am type with a bun? am I right?
i pulled her desk drawer out and she fell over poor thing,
i also went to the old infants then juniors after that Sir William Grimshaw, one of my brothers went to Tetherdown Grammer School (Nigel Luke), my other brothers went to SWG, Ricky, David, John Withall, we lived at no 3 Hill Rd, played in the woods and the park but the woods were where we had the most fun.
I was searching for old school photos and came across this site, does anyone remember me?

Yes Miss Evans, very tall slim as you say bun, I loved her dance lessons I used to talk
alot in class and she threatened me if I didn’t stop I wouldn’t Dance, guess who won.
The dance class were of a way back in the day. we lived in Barringer road just down the road from Jenny Dodds.

I went coldfall infants and Junior before SWG, dear old lord when you think back, just like yesterday, what about a little old Lady Miss Simpson who lived down Everington Rd, she had
a Son Arthur gave me the creeps he did, I loved that old Girl. how we all had memories I used to help her and get her a bit of shopping. then there was the Warr’s, Spendiffs ‘ Edgars, Billetts, to to mane to mention.

Hi Linda we were good friends i remember you well would love to hear from you. Jenny Dodd

Reading this small collection of memories reminds me of the time my maternal grandfather was the school keeper at either coldfall school or Grimshaw (for the life of me I cannot remember, but it was certainly one or the other, or both) approximately from the mid ’50s to mid ’60s. His name was Bill Dyson and I recall that he and his wife lived on the school grounds, or immediately adjacent, as we used to walk around the school grounds prior to locking up for the night.

I have wonderful memories of Coldfsll woods as I lived opposite in Ringwood Avenue , some one mentioned the glades and that brought back my visits to the woods , I was at school at WG from 1957 till I left at 16 , Philip Start

My wife Brenda Acaster nee Duke remembered Coldfall woods her great Grandfather was a keeper/Gardner there. Anybody who remembers Breda please give me a email. Brenda DUKE 1942 -2014 Thanks Tony.

I lived in Marriot Road from 1953 to 1967 and went to Coldfall Primary school and William Grimshaw. I spent a lot of happy times in Coldfall woods, must come back to visit again soon.

I lived at 19,Hill Road from 1940 until about 1948 when we moved to Springfield Avenue, next to Ally Pally.
I attended Coldfall School untill 1945 when I passed the 11 plus and went to Tolly grammar.
Coldfall Woods played a major roll in our young lives. My friends and I spent virtually all day there, chasing round as cowboys and indians. Building dams in the streams was also one of our main occupations. Allowing the water to build up behind our clay structures and then finally knocking the clay wall aside and following the resulting flood through the woods.
During the war the woods were used by the army,on occasions, for field exercises, and us kids thought this was great fun and we were tolerated quite well by the soldiers. We also used to hunt for the German “Butterfly” anti-personnel bombs, thank goodness we never found any! In those days everybody knew everybody else on the estate, and I had some good friends who all enjoyed our woods. My particular plymate was Derek Williams who lived at the top of Steeds Road. We had our special “camp” in the woods and spent endless hours plying there. In the winter there were steep places within the woods where our homemade taboggans were put to good use.
Although I now live in the West Midlands, i still visit our beloved woods when i come down to see my 2 sons who live and work in London.

I lived on Coldfall Estate between 1953 and 1967 and went to Coldfall Junior School and Willy Grimshaw. It would be be nice to meet up with people again from that period. I already have regular contact with one person who lives near me in Bedfordshire. but would be nice to meet a few more old school friends. Thanks to my Sister we had a reunion at Coldfall Junior about 3 years ago.


I went to Willy Grimms in 1962..not my best memories in life . I found the woods dark and a bit scary with a terrible toilet block on the right as you went in ! I lived in Tetherdown and was around when the school amalgamated with Tollington.

I think the teacher described above is Miss Dodds, who always taught the oldest juniors. She had a bun and always wore suits with a peplum, from a bygone age! She retired half way though my final year (64-65), and was replaced by a lovely lady who treated us as much more grown up and took us on a memorable trip to Rye and Winchelsea. I also remember Coldfall Woods with great affection too – shame today’s kids probably don’t have the freedom we had to roam, build dens etc. In later years I discovered I knew more about nature than many country children, because we were surrounded on the Coldfall Estate by such great woods and parks.

I have so many happy memories of Coldfall Woods. I lived in Coldfall Avenue and went to Coldfall school in the 1940’s and then onto William Grimshaw. So many carefree weekends and School holidays playing in the woods. I remember at one time there some sort of dump along side the woods. It was a no go area but some boys did venture in looking for treasure. At the bottom of the playground of Coldfall School there was a place we called dingily-dell where we made a camp a bottle of water and a jam buttie and we’d be in heaven. I can never remember any vandalism. In later years my husband and I would walk our dog
round the woods asking her to be good and not to chase the squirrels. These happy memories of Coldfall
Woods brings a smile to my heart.

I lived at number 3 Barrenger roaf. I Remember so many names. Loved playing in the woods and making camps

I attended Coldfall school 1948 to 1954 Head Master Mr Jagger. Teachers Mr Roe (spelling?) Miss Barker. Teachers and pupils, so many in my mind’s eye but forgotten in name. Let me see…School fellows; Michael Dovey, ‘Ossie’ Austen, Maidment, Davies. The ‘Home Boys’ at the end of Coldfall avenue who attended the school. The ice lolly van at the school gates. School milk in crates. School dinners. The ‘House’ you were assigned to. Frobisher, Raleigh, Hudson (was it!). Who else can remember those days? And of course the natural world of the woods on the school perimeter.

All of our family went to Coldfall school, and Evie and Christina went to both William Grimshaw and Creighton School, as it was then known. My sister, Evie Jeronymides died on 2nd May 2017 from Cancer.
She was looking for old friends from school last Summer, but Friends Reunited had already closed and I have only just found this site, that mentions Coldfall and Willie Grim.

Evie’s funeral is tomorrow at St. Pancras and Islington Cemetary, in Islington burial Chapell at 10.00 am.
We enjoyed and walks in Highgate Woods, a very pretty wood, it is too.
Evie’s wake is in Colney Hatch Lane, what used to be our family home.
All the best to you all.

Anna Jeronymides


I read through this site with my own memories, then seeing the last post…Bless you. x
I was 32 Hill road then moved to 17 Steeds.
Wish you all well.
I loved those woods. Right on our doorstep. Great days.

Christina died in 2009, of cancer too.
Me and Mary are still in the area.
I’ve bumped into Lynn ne Carpenter on a few occasions in Muswell Hill and it’s funny how when you see old friends from school 30 to 40, 50 years later, how you connect as if you were still in the same time as back then, it’s like you only saw them yesterday. i still bump into Ms Rappley, the Art teacher in Muswell Hill. I remember Mr Williams, Headteacher, I was made responsible for playing the records at morning assembley, classical music!, and remember singing hymns, but bullied for long periods at Coldfall, and hated school, after my best friend, Joanna Patten (I think it was) left, so I missed lots of school pretending I was ill, my other best friend was called Alexander Aberdoufor, but he left too, they went back to Guyana whilst still at Coldfall. There were few immigrants there then. I failed miserably in education. I remember Mr Hill, who taught Maths, and Miss Dodds and possibly Miss Evans, who i loved. It was a relief to go to Creighton, as it was end to bullying. I stopped having school dinners at Coldfall after getting food poisoning and used to go home for lunch and meet Lynn on the estate and walk through Coldfall Woods every afternoon on our way back to Creighton. . The Stavrou’s run a shoe shop in East Finchley. A very naughty Mullinger at school has a lovely wife and done really well for himself and in Whetstone (so the tearaways should not be judged in youth). I’ve seen Bassetts, still in Muswell Hill.
We are very lucky in Muswell Hill, to have such lovely woods and open spaces, not the best for wheelchairs and limited access entrances. With regard to Highgate Woods wheelchair access, there is but one gate we can get into and out of woods in wheelchair, and I was told that they changed the gates to the entrances to stop biscyles running old ladies over! Bicycles still manage to get through, but we can’t with a wheelchair, so can’t walk from Muswell Hill through Highgate Woods up to Highgate and onto Hampstead Heath. And to add to our problems wheelchair services in Haringey do not consider what disabled people need in the form of wheelchairs to enjoy the great outdoors or even local area.

I have just come across this site and having spent the day (Easter Monday) visiting the old Coldfall estate where I grew up agree with all the comments about how amazing it was to play in the woods. I lived at number 36 Marriott Road until I got married in 1974 to my childhood sweetheart Ron Eastoe. Ron lived at 49 Barrenger Road. The Coldfall estate was the perfect place for kids to play with the football fields and woods close to home. I can also remember playing ‘knock down ginger’ making our escape through the alleyways around the estate, now accessed only via a locked gate. If anyone remembers me, I’d be happy to hear from you.

Hi just read your message l use to go to coldfall school and went around with Tony Makey who lived at 60 Hill Road I lived in George Cresent off Colney Hatch Lane we also went to the woods l am talking about 1956/58 my name is Terry Dovey my brothers are Colin Mick Len

I lived at 60 Steeds Road opposite Peter Quaife. My Mum worked in the bakers next door to Ray and Dave Davis when they all became The Kinks. Peter Quaife took a video of my wedding when he was home on a break. I went to Coldfall School and William Grimshaw. I remember Philip Start, Christine Eastoe, Maureen Willmot and Pauline Ducker. I also remember the boys home. I remember walking to school every morning through the woods. When I went back years later it seemed so much smaller than when I walked to school. I remember Mr Jones and Miss Butler from Coldfall and Miss Plumley and Mr McDermott who we all thought was odd. They were great times which I remember fondly.

I live in Twyford Avenue, and we have been visiting the woods for years. Now we have a dog – we are enjoying the woods even more!

Mrs Betty Ursell, nee Chown.

I was a pupil at Coldfall School from 1937-1946. I lived at 100 Barrenger Road – Born there on the 14th December 1931.

My nephew Marcus Chown told me about your website. His father,( my brother), and I went to Coldfall School. After reading your report on Coldfall Woods I would like to send you a little about myself.

I was born at 100 Barrenger Road and attended Coldfall School for all of my schooling days and played in Coldfall Woods all my young life…happy times.

I remember so many people from the Estate. My great friends at that time were:

Pauline Baker – she lived in Everington Road

Joyce Smith – lived in Barrenger Road. Joyce’s side entrance went straight into the Woods.

Also Peggy Mole.

I could write a book on those years. Headmistress was Miss Clark in the infants, Headmaster was Mr Jagger in the Senior School. I could name the best part of my class, nearly all of them coming
from the Coldfall Estate. I found my report and a reference letter from the school dated 1944 and append a copy for you. It says “she is a sturdy, healthy girl with plenty of common sense…have always found her most reliable and straight forward…”. I was
evacuated with my sister Irene from the school to Cambridge.

I would love to hear from anyone still alive in my time.

Sincerely Betty Ursell, nee Chown.

Peter Chaplin

My brother Nick and I both attended Coldfall infants and junior school. We moved into 92 Steeds Road on the Coldfall estate in about 1957 and attended the school from then on. Miss Dodds is mentioned many times and I remember her as the pianist accompanying our whailing in the daily school assemblies although occasionally, Mr Williams (the headmaster), would bring out the school’s ‘record player’ and treat us to some culture. For some while, it was I who had the job of chalking the white line on the floor down the centre of the assembly hall, “girls on the left, boys to the right ?” and the twelve or so chalked crosses on each side at the stage end of the hall to indicate where the column was to line up. I would use the chevron patterned parquet flooring to guide the line and remember on one occasion chalking the line one block to the right (or left) and attempting to rub it out (unsuccessfully), probably with the sleeve of my blazer. So that day we had two white lines and duplicate crosses. I was also the ink-well monitor, having to top up the pupils’ ink wells (with the sliding top), probably on a Monday morning – remember those scratchy replaceable pen nibs which we were to use when we had learnt how to write with ‘joined up writing’?

The dingly-dell is well remembered as somewhere to play and the tadpole pond behind the hedge bordering the playground was somewhere we would be taken on occasion by one of the teachers. Mr Williams would turn up on his Lambretta (LD model I suspect) every morning and store it in a small locked store within a brick shelter in the playground – us kids would be sitting on a bench in this shelter watching him and playing ‘squash n’ squiggle’ – trying to get just one more of us on the bench ! Also remembered, though not with the same fondness, were the visits to Miss Little, the school dentist who’s surgery was in the house adjacent the school in Coldfall Avenue. String and pulley drill with no anaesthetic.

Also fondly remembered is Miss Dean (who read us ‘Wind in the willows’ by installments) and who I believe married Mr Woodley – they were both lovely people, probably in their twenties at the time. Perhaps Linda (Luke) will remember as I seem to think we were in the same class for a while.

As for Mr Hill, he was a rather stern (to a 10 year old) teacher who, amongst other duties, attended Durnsford outdoor swimming pool with us and I distinctly remember him saying words to the effect “I’m going to count to ten and if you’re not in the pool by then, I’m going to push you in”…the water temperature was 53 degrees fahrenheit ! I never learnt to swim until my late teens ! The school coach would wait for us just outside the main school gate and would be manned by the driver and his female ‘assistant’ – they were both very grumpy people who never had a kind word to say to anyone.

Coldfall woods was good fun, but the streams were none too reliable, we would expect to go over to build a camp or dam a stream only to find there was no water to dam. Nick and I would play in the woods rather than go to Sunday school at St Matthews Church and then have a devil of a job explaining the mud stains on our Sunday best clothes. I attended Tolly school in later years and for ‘double games’ lessons, if the weather was wet, the girls enjoyed the comfort of the gym and us boys would be sent on a cross country run, down Tetherdown, along Everington road, into the woods at the top of Barrenger road – taking the long way round past lover’s lawn, into Creighton Avenue, up Ringwood Avenue, Twyford Avenue and back over the school playing field.

Muswell Hill playing fields: My nan lived in Barrenger road and her garden backed on to the fields, but in the 50’s/60’s, they weren’t fields at all, it was a landfill (waste) site which extended from the woods northern boundary fence almost all the way to the north circular road, being bounded by the cemetary just past the Fisher Renwick lorry depot (then BRS, now the housing estate at Gilson Place) in Coppetts road. I spent many a happy hour watching the ‘thames trader’ tipper lorries from the Deards depot on the northern side of the “arterial road” (North Circuar A406) to-ing and fro-ing with their loads of waste gradually filling the site, the tipping ‘shute’ advancing slowly from the woods to cemetary boundary near the North Circular. It was probably in about 1964/5 when the land was finally levelled, seeded and fenced. I remember many times flying a noisy model aircraft in the far left hand corner, well away from the houses. We also had a flyaway model aircraft lost in the woods at one time and we had many of the youngsters from the estate form a search party. It was eventually found but we were far more careful from then on. Being a landfill site probably explains why it has never been built on.

The properties in the cul-de-sac just beyond the junction of Marriott and Barrenger Roads are built on what I believe was the coldfall estate builder’s yard. In the 50s/60s, that was an area with perhaps twenty or so corrugated steel sheet lockup garages. My grandfather rented one on the end. It was also somewhere all the locals dumped their non-dustbin rubbish – cars, motor cycles, bikes, TVs, Radios, car batteries, building rubble…..and I spent many a happy hour investigating such rubbish for ‘interesting’ items with which to fill my dad’s shed. Needless to say, old habits die hard and I now have a somewhat larger ‘shed’ filled with junk !

I lived in St Albans for many a year and occasionally drove through the Coldfall estate but the last time I walked the woods was for a nostalgic picnic with the family and an elder aunt some 20+ years ago. The woods were much as I remember them albeit appearing smaller but still a wonderful oasis of calm to be enjoyed.

I hope my little missive brings the same pleasure to others that I have enjoyed by reading their comments and perusing the web site.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.