Walking Roman Roads Near London

Three months ago today I set out under a murky sky with the temperature hovering around zero, bound for a section of the old Roman Ermine Street that passes through the woods between Broxbourne and Hertford. There was light snow as I departed from Cheshunt Station over the level crossing at 10am and make my way to the Lea Navigation towpath.

Slipe Lane Level Crossing Wormley
Turning inland at the Turnford/Wormley border there is a curious collection of rare features side-by-side. At the Slipe Lane Level Crossing stands a 19th Century Coal Tax Post (a large stone obelisk) next to a Second World War Pillbox. The two structures are indicators of being on the outer limits of ‘London’ despite being clearly in Hertfordshire. The Coal Tax Post a notification of entry into the tax jurisdiction of the Corporation of London, and the Pillbox forming part of the Outer London Defence Ring.

St Laurence Wormley
11.30am I shelter from the snow in the lychgate of St. Laurence Wormley while trying to find the Twix that’s hiding somewhere in the bottom of my bag. It would’ve been nice to have a look at the early 12th Century nave in the church but of course it’s locked so I have to satisfy myself with trying to identify the window in the south wall that dates from the same period.

Roman Ermine Street Hertfordshire

Onwards through Wormleybury, across a field and up a lane and there I pick up the marked section of Ermine Street on the edge of Paradise Wildlife Park. Into afternoon now and the February snow continues to drift down as I tread the ancient track perhaps taken by the Syrian divisions of the Roman Army that spent time garrisoned in the Upper Lea Valley before moving North.

The ‘road’ continues its straight course through Danemead Wood and over the Spital Brook – this muddy woodland path leading you through the phases of English history. Ermine Street becomes Elbow Lane and takes you past Hobbyhorse Wood.

Ermine Street Elbow Lane

At Hertford Heath I turn away from the Roman Road and schlepp through Balls Wood Nature Reserve where the Vegan Vandals have been at work. From here I pass over the last winter fields guided into Hertford by the sound of playing fields on the edge of town.

Following the screening of London Overground at the Genesis Cinema last October I was approached by a couple who told me about a section of Roman Road running through Hobbs Cross near Theydon Bois. So one Sunday I set off on the Central Line then over fields in search of this preserved section of the Roman Road that once ran through Leytonstone after crossing the Lea at Leyton  running out to Great Dunmow joining a junction that linked in roads to Braughing, Braintree and Chelmsford.

4 Comments

  1. Duncan Abbo   •  

    Great walk: enjoyed it a lot as I have cycled and walked much of the ground you covered. I had thought the path between Hobbs Cross and Mount End was just an ancient green lane. I had not realised it was part of a Roman Road, but as you said the Romans often followed the old paths.

    A lot of the planes overhead are going into Stapleford Aerodrome which is very active, not North Weald .

    As regards the “WTF” plane, I was told it was a jet trainer that belonged to the Cambridge University Air Squadron and that they did a circuit that took them down the M11 and then they turned round at the intersection of the M11 and M25 and went back to Cambridge. The plane is a frequent visitor: the story about the CUAS might be a myth.

    100% agree with the comments re fly tipping: what is going on!

  2. JohnR   •     Author

    Thanks for that info Duncan on the plane and airfield. I was told about the road by somebody after a screening and indeed I then saw it’s marked as such on the OS map. Odd that it gets overlooked compared the other recognised ancient routes through the area. I must try and trace its route back through Leytonstone some time

  3. Nick Graham   •  

    I live in Harlow and often do this walk, sometimes do it on the bike as well. Like you, I never see anyone else either! The WTF plane is an ex military provost trainer, there are several of them in private ownership based at North Weald, they’re a ‘cheap’ way into owning a jet. There’s an aviation company there that specialises in looking after them.

    • JohnR   •     Author

      Thanks for the info Nick – a reminder I need to go back out there

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