Out into the fields beyond Epping Forest

Forest and Fieldpath ramble from Loughton to Epping Long Green via Loughton Camp, High Beach, Honey Lane Quarters and Upshire

During this latter stage of the lockdown I’ve been craving the countryside. I’d walked out from Leytonstone to Upshire through Epping Forest then on to Epping a couple of weeks ago, but wanted to strike further beyond the forest. I had my sites set on Epping Long Green and the footpaths that lead across the fields to the outskirts of Epping town.

The Route

This walk starts at Loughton Station and enters Epping Forest from Forest Road. We then cross the Loughton Brook and follow the Green Ride a short distance before picking up the Three Forests Way to Loughton Camp. From Loughton Camp we continue to follow the Forests Way through High Beach then along the General’s Ride to Honey Lane Quarters to take in the fantastic view of the hills around Waltham Abbey. The path then leads us across Woodridden Hill and along Woodredon Farm Lane through the Woodredon Estate. We cross the M25 then take the Green Lane to Upshire and on to Temple Hill in Warlies Park. After a short rest and check of the map, the hike continues to the Boudicca Obelisk in Obelisk Field and then across the fields of Newhouse Farm following the Three Forests Way to Spratt’s Hedgerow Wood. The route continues north through Parvills Farm to Epping Long Green, where we enjoy great views across Nazeingwood Common.

Epping Green


We stick to Epping Long Green to the village of Epping Green then take the footpath beside Epping Green Chapel. This path leads south to Epping Upland and the 13th Century All Saints Church. On the other side of Takeleys Manor, a 16th Century moated manor house, is the footpath that leads us through fields of borage to the outskirts of the town of Epping in Essex.

Distance = 15 miles

A walk through Ilford along the Cran Brook

This walk follows the course of the Cran Brook through the streets of Ilford in East London to its source near Barkingside.

This was a walk suggested by Vincent Goodman who emailed me after watching my video of a walk along the Loughton Brook. We had a great chat on the phone and Vincent sent me a map he’d made of the course of the Cran Brook and photos of its source near Barkingside Station, and the point where the brook makes its confluence with the River Roding.

The video starts on Wanstead Flats, my approach to the confluence of the Cran Brook and the Roding where my walk would start. We pass through Aldersrbook, a model Edwardian suburb that is seen as a great example of the vernacular revival. Down Empress Avenue we look for the site of the Redbridge Nuclear Shelter near Empress Avenue Allotments. These allotments were used as a location in the Mike Leigh film Another Year. The path takes us around the outer perimeter of the Wanstead Park, through the Epping Forest Exchange Lands and near the site of an isolation hospital.

Beneath the shadow of the pylons is the River Roding and we progress into the streets of Cranbrook. The Cran Brook makes its confluence with the Roding on Ilford Golf Course which I was unable to access, but the course through the streets here is marked on the map in the video. The name, Cranbrook has its earliest use in 1233 as Cranebroc. We follow the Brook along Empress Avenue, Ilford, through an area called The Wash and into Valentines Park. Vincent told me this was the location of the Wash Lodge where travelers would pay a fee to the Wash Lodge Keeper to wash their horse and carriage before continuing their journey.

Cran Brook

Valentines Park boating lake

Valentines Park was featured in an episode of the radio show I produced and co-presented with Nick Papadimitriou on Resonance FM, Ventures and Adventures in Topography. It’s one of my favourite London parks. Author Thomas Burke described it as ‘The Eastern Queen’ in his 1920’s book, The Outer Circle – rambles in remote London. The Valentines Estate had existed before Valentines Mansion was built in the 1690’s for the widow of the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Park once had a Lido which was demolished in 1994 and it is said to be the inspiration for the Small Faces song Itchycoo Park. Roman era burials were excavated in the grounds of the house in 1724. The Cran Brook can be seen flowing through the Park into the boating lake.

From Valentines Park we walk along Quebec Road, then go along the A12 Eastern Avenue and turn into Horns Road. We can see the shape of the river valley from Netley Road, Birkbeck Road and Perkins Road where the river runs beneath the Sainsburys Car Park. We follow the alleyway that takes us over the Central Line behind Newbury Park Station and into Oaks Lane. From Oaks Lane we go into a field that leads us to where the springs gurgle to the surface giving birth to the brook not far from Barkingside Station.

Many thanks to Vincent Goodman for sending me a map showing the course of the Cran Brook and for suggesting this walk.

 

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30 mile walk along the River Lea – Leytonstone to Hertford

Walk from Leytonstone along the River Lea to Hertford

This was an unexpected adventure. I’d been struggling with intense back pain since Saturday and by Monday evening could barely walk around Wanstead Flats. It looked as if my planned long walk up the Lea Valley would have to wait for at least a week. After a bad night’s sleep I awoke unusually early at 6.30am after only 4 hours fractured slumber, the pain forcing me out of bed. I couldn’t settle in a chair in the garden with a cup of tea so I decided to walk around the block. This actually felt better. So in that moment I decided to pack a bag and see how far I could walk – far better than trying to sit at home in pain.

My wife thought I was mad when I told her my plan, she’d seen the state I’d been in the night before. And to be honest I thought I might not get further than the few miles to Walthamstow. But better to be out in the sun. It was a glorious day.

River Lea

I’d walked from Leytonstone to Hertford in midwinter around 4 years ago, a walk that has always stayed with me. But that day I plotted the shortest route between the two points, walking along the ridge of the Lea Valley to Sewardstone, following the Lea Navigation to Broxbourne, then picking up the New River Path to Ware in the gloom. I then roadwalked in the dark from Ware to Hertford. A route that clocked in at 23 miles. With my expectations diminished by circumstances I thought it best to just stick to the River Lee Navigation and see how far I could get.

At Waltham Abbey – around 13 miles, I had to risk sitting down for a sandwich and found a bench by the lock enjoying the scene. All was well. I shifted on the bench and felt a jolt of pain up my back, then my left (bad) knee stiffened. Oh dear. Time to get on the move before the whole exercise was derailed.

River Lea

Enfield Power Station

I passed some fellas magnet fishing off a bridge a Broxbourne and stopped to speak to a few people who watch my videos. By the time I reached Dobbs Weir I was ready to venture inside a pub for the first time since the lockdown. The Fish and Eels is a pub I’ve seen many times on Lea and Stort walks and always vowed to return to – now was the perfect time. I settled on the terrace overlooking the river with a pint of London Pride and a bulldog puppy under the table playing with my shoelaces.

River Lea

The rest of the walk was a breeze, along my favourite stretches of the Lea, passing through Stanstead Abbots, Rye House and Ware. Rabbits hopped around in the meadows beside the riverbank near the point where Roman Ermine Street crosses the Lea. You can feel history humming beneath the ground. There are Bronze Age burial mounds dotted all along the high ridges above the river at this stage. A storied landscape.

New River

New River near Ware

Arriving in Hertford was a great moment – probably my favourite Lea Valley town. People were heading out through the streets to pubs and restaurants. I kept to the river until I realised I’d have to end the walk before it took me too far beyond the end of the trainline. It’d been over 31.7 miles to this point.

I made it back to the local for 10.20pm and celebrated with my wife with a pint of Camden Brewery ‘Back to the Pub’ American Pale Ale.

 

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Stroll down Walthamstow Market to Springfield Park

A walk through Walthamstow from Bakers Arms Leyton along Hoe Street and down Walthamstow Market to Coppermill Lane, Walthamstow Marshes and Springfield Park

This walk starts by the old Ritz Cinema on Leyton High Road near Bakers Arms (the Ritz was later known as the ABC and The Crown Cinema). This area was previously known as Leyton Corner when the area was dominated by a number of large houses and their grounds.

We take a look at the Master Bakers Alms Houses on Lea Bridge Road, an oasis of calm beside the thrumming Lea Bridge Road. Heading down Hoe Street, Walthamstow, we pause for a look at Chestnuts House (1745) and the Hoe Street Telephone Exchange.

Crossing Walthamstow Town Square we walk down Walthamstow Market, “the longest outdoor street market in Europe” at 1km long. We take a look at The Chequers pub and L. Manze Pie & Mash & Eel Shop before walking down Coppermill Lane. We pass by the Coppermill Water Treatment Works and the Walthamstow Wetlands. I take a brief rest on Walthamstow Marshes.

The walk ends by crossing the River Lea Navigation to Springfield Park, Clapton and enoying the fantastic views from the top of the park near Springfield House.

Filmed on Friday 17th July 2020.

 

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Through Epping Forest from Leytonstone to Epping via Upshire

Epping Forest

I’ve had a strong urge to head out to the fields and the countryside recently. I suppose that’s the effect of being confined to one pocket of East London since late March (although I’ve pushed my boundaries on foot from Stoke Newington to Fairlop Water and from Chingford to Bow). So early Sunday afternoon I spontaneously decided to head out into Epping Forest at Leytonstone, to embrace the countryside on my doorstep till I felt it was ok to venture further afield.

Epping Forest

The view north from the bridge over the North Circular at Walthamstow always calls me further afield as you look to the lands beyond Edmonton. It’s one of my favourite views in the whole of London.

Highams Park Lake

Highams Park Lake

I took a rest on a bench by Highams Park Lake and chatted to a lovely fellla from the Beacontree Wombles who was picking up litter out of a sense of civic pride and public spiritedness. It was a beautiful day – 22 degrees. I had no particular aim but was aware that for every mile I made away from Leytonstone I’d have to walk that distance home.

4.10pm I arrive at Chingford Plain. My thighs were sore even though I’d only walked 8 miles. This must be another effect of the lockdown. I ate the Sesame Snaps I’d packed. This left just a packet chocolate croissant for the rest of the walk. I was thinking of the great Thurston Moore interview on Tom Robinson’s 6Music show I listened to on Saturday night as I cooked and the idea of undocumented improvised performances and how I still felt compelled to document this walk with photos and text recorded on my phone.
I stretched out my groundsheet beneath the trees near North Long Hills and White House Plain and listened to the silence. The air is so still. I felt the energy slowly ebbing back into my legs as I lay there and meditated. Maybe today was the day to push on through the forest to Epping.

Epping Forest

Dead Papa Toothwort lives beneath this tree, I thought when clamping eyes on this gnarly old beast and still under of the spell of Max Porter’s book Lanny. I saw Trinovantes tribesmen hiding in the tall ferns.

The engines from the bikers tea hut thrummed through the trees as I made my way towards High Beach, then followed Verderers’ Ride to St. Thomas’ Quarters. The last time I’d been here was near sunset in deep winter during a time when I often walked through sunset into the dark winter forest. The view from here towards the hills around Waltham Abbey makes the heart sing. It also made me decide to follow the Three Forests Way to Upshire. Maybe I could satisfy my desire to walk across the fields after all.

 

Over Woodridden Hill more memories of the winter walks visited me as I’d turned in the opposite direction back in March as the light faded into gloom and I made for Ambresbury Banks in the dark. I passed through the gates of the Woodredon and Warlies Park Estate and down a country lane. A rabbit runs along the lane sun light illuminating its ears bright red. A field of dreams opened up offering more majestic views. Dragonflies skimmed over the stems of tall grasses dancing to the hum of the M25.

Crossing the M25 feels like a big moment, by now the furthest I’ve been from home since the lockdown started. I follow the lane through Upshire and down across flowing fields to the Temple on the hill in Warlies Park. It’s 6.35pm and I rest here and take off my shoes. I momentarily consider pushing further north towards outskirts of Harlow, but then realise this may not be the wisest idea – today at least.

I walk past Obelisk Farm. Desire lines cut through the saxifrage and lady’s bedstraw leading to Queen Boudicca’s obelisk ,sweet scent filling the air that follows me through the wood. There’s an Old fella sat beneath the tree line looking out across the view. I’ve only walked this way in winter and always in the reverse direction heading out from Epping towards Hertfordshire. It’s good to see these paths and fields in their summer clothes and the sun hitting the fields from a different aspect.

Tank trap – Outer London Defence Ring


There’s the intoxicating smell of evening damp meadow. Two brown bunnies skip through the grass as I rest on a bench looking back towards Copped Hall. A field of borage paints the field beside the M25 purple. A Pheasant sweeps low over the borage and lands on a clear strip. It’s been a great walk, a necessary breaking free.

Epping Cricket Ground

I emerge onto the road opposite Epping cricket ground on the edge of the forest. When I think of the last time I was here in the pitch black at the end of a winter walk through the forest I could never have imagined what would happen before I was back here again. Reconnecting with all those paths from Leytonstone through the forest to Epping taking in Upshire has a healing effect. It gives me the strength to take my first tube journey in nearly four months, back to Leytonstone.

The Other East End – Pudding Mill & Bow

A walk from the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park through the medieval settlement of Bow

This walk starts near the London Stadium afer an amble down from Leytonstone. The Olympic Park was busier than my last visit while still deep in lockdown in early May. Now cyclists and joggers buzzed in all directions, families enjoyed the playgrounds by the banks of the City Mill River. I passed the East Bank development, with construction now seemingly back in full swing, and crossed the Greenway to Pudding Mill Lane.

The development around Pudding Mill is still in skeletal form at best with much of the site still blank plots where once a range of industries thrived. Cooks Lane takes on to Stratford High Street and the Bow Flyover. Crossing the River Lea we find ourselves on Bow Road, over the border by Bow Church. There’s an interesting historic building at 223 Bow Road which turned out to be a 17th Century shop.
We then go through Bow Arts Alley to Grove Hall Park, once a Victorian private Asylum that features in Charles Dickens Nicholas Nickleby. The walk then goes back past Bow Church and along Bow High Street to St. Leonard’s Priory, an 11th Century Nunnery. From here we go down St. Leonard’s Street to Bruce Road and to Kingsley Hall in Powis Road. Kingsley Hall is where Mahatma Gandhi stayed when visiting Britain in 1931. He would take morning walks along the Sewerbank (Greenway) to Stratford and through Plaistow and West Ham. Following the A12 Blackwall Tunnel Approach Road we find Bromley Hall, an early Tudor Manor House built in around 1485 and believed to be the oldest brick house in London.

This is where the video ends.

Bow

St. Thomas’s Creek Stratford

Off camera I doubled back along the A12 then crossed the Lea Navigation to Three Mills and back along past evening fishermen, beneath the road barely noticing and along the Hackney Cut. I then picked up the course of the Old River Lea around the back of the Olympic Stadium and a return to the Park. I chatted to a charming couple who watch my YouTube videos as we walked through the sunset to Leyton. A great end to a memorable stroll.

London Overground Walk – Leytonstone to Barking

A walk along the London Overground Railway Gospel Oak to Barking Line (GOBLIN) from Leytonstone to Barking.

This was a walk I first planned as an episode of Ventures and Adventures in Topography with Nick Papadimitriou on Resonance fm, back in 2010. Although it would have followed the whole of the line from Gospel Oak to Barking. Then I walked a very short portion of the route with Iain Sinclair when he passed through Leyton and Leytonstone following the route for his book The Last London, which was flatteringly recorded in the text, “John was the animating spirit of Leytonstone. When he was in attendance, streets from which I felt a double alienation (theirs and mine) came to life.” So the continuation of the lockdown felt like the perfect time to actually walk the Overground from Leytonstone to Barking at least (it’s still advised to only use public transport for essential journeys).

I started my walk by the railway bridge on Grove Green Road, Leytonstone outside the Heathcote and Star. From here I made my way past Leytonstone High Road Station with a nod to the ground of Leytonstone F.C. Then I traversed that curious geographical anomaly, The Wanstead Slip. The Pretty Decent Beer Company, located in a railway arch, were building a bar in the brewery doorway to prepare for the weekend opening of the tap room. It made me realise I had to pick up some draft ale from the brilliant Wanstead Tap nestled in another of the arches. Departing the Tap with a couple of pints of Long Play IPA and some Clapton CFC stickers in my bag, I continued along the railway into Forest Gate.

 

Barking

Barking

Barking

Crossing Woodgrange Road, famous for its association with Jimi Hendrix at the Upper Cut Club, I head into Sebert Road, named after King Sebert of the East Saxons ( 604-616), the first Anglo-Saxon king to convert to Christianity. The rain started to fall as I walked those fine streets of the Woodgrange Estate and breached a rainy Roman Romford Road. When the railway line opened it ran across open fields on this side of the Romford Road. The streets of Manor Park sprouted from that marshy ground, many of them seemingly named after poets. This route provides a dramatic entrance to Barking: the gasometers rising from the tall grasses of the North Thames Gas Board Sports Ground, the pylons, the North Circular, and the industrial estate. Classic edgelands. I cross the River Roding, the towers of the new London looming all through Barking and out to Dagenham. The terminus of the railway where face-masked communters pour out into the streets.