Spring in Epping Forest

Leyton Flats, Leytonstone

Sometimes, in the absence of a better plan for a walk, you should alllow yourself to be guided by your feet. That’s what I did last Sunday, leaving home at 2pm, directionless.

Blackthorn, Leytonstone

My trotters led me up Leytonstone High Road to the Green Man Roundabout – gateway to the forest. The gorse (I think) was burning brilliant yellow in full bloom, the white blackthorn flowers waved at the early Spring picnicers nearby on Leyton Flats.

metal post near Birch Well

Metal Post Birch Well

I followed the path that runs behind Snaresbrook Crown Court, the borderlands of Leytonstone and Waltham Forest. Next to the Birch Well I spotted a metal post beside a low standing stone, the embossed text no longer legible. My best guess is that they are boundary markers, perhaps of the old Borough or the Parish.

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Birdsong rang out across Gilbert’s Slade in celebration of the arrival of Spring, and I sat on a pile of logs to savour the scene. This is a tract of land that is forever boggy and swampy, noted by Buxton in his Epping Forest book of the 1880’s and still very much the case. He laments the lack of beech trees here, where hornbeam, holly and oak dominate.

Highams Park Lake

The wildfowl were lively on the waters of Highams Park and I rested again, one of my favourite spots on this Forest walk. This is a route described and mapped by Buxton and one I’ve followed frequently over the years, memories of those previous walks and the churnings of my mind annotated into the footpaths, re-read and added to with each passing.

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From Epping Forest by Edward North Buxton

Although the end point of the walk would be determined by the sunset, the Royal Forest pub beside Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge always looms large in my mind around this point. Would I be able to get past it – or would all paths lead to the pub?

Daffodil Epping Forest P1100566

I picked up the course of the gentle River Ching and followed it along the lower reaches of the forest, downhill from Woodford. London is blessed with these meandering tributaries that often get overlooked in favour of the grand rivers of the city or the celebrated ‘lost rivers’ of London, buried but not forgotten. The Ching is a modest water course, going about its business flowing from the forest to the Lea.

Welcome to Waltham Forest Chingford

On Rangers Road, Chingford I pass a second Waltham Forest boundary marker of the day – on the other side this time is not Redbridge but the County of Essex. Today has not only been a forest wander but a borderland walk.

Royal Forest Chingford

Somehow I contrived to arrive on Chingford Plain as the sun started to set shortly after 6pm meaning the only logical thing was to progress to the bar at the Royal Forest Brewer’s Fayre where I processed the walk over a couple of pints and toasted the arrival of Spring in Epping Forest.

 

 

Through Old West Ham to Cody Dock & River Lea

A few years ago some friends, Stuart and Rayna (who made the brilliant A13 road movie), asked if I’d ever been to Cody Dock. I’d not only never been there but I’d never even heard of it. So a couple of weeks ago at the end of February, I plotted out a route from Stratford Broadway down through Old West Ham to Cody Dock.

My path took me past the site of Stratford Langthorne Abbey, and from Cody Dock I doubled back along the Lea Valley Path to Bow Locks.

The video features some wonderful music by Emily A. Sprague from the YouTube Audio Library

Walking the London Loop – Moor Park to Uxbridge

I’m resting after walking Section 11 of the London Loop from Uxbridge to Hayes, so now seems the perfect time to revisit my walk along sections 13 and 12 of the London Loop from Moor Park to Uxbridge taking in Batchworth Heath, Bishops Wood, Park Wood and the Grand Union Canal. This picks up from my previous London Loop walk in July 2018.

Filmed on 20th January 2019

Walking London’s Lost Rivers – The Tyburn

A walk along the course of one of the lost Rivers of London – The Tyburn. This buried river flows from Hampstead through Swiss Cottage and Regent’s Park, along Marylebone Lane, through Mayfair and Green Park beneath Buckingham Palace where it splits into channels and we follow it as it joins the Tachbrook to make its confluence with the Thames near Vauxhall Bridge.

Some notes on the Tyburn from historical sources:
“This celebrated place of execution, which figures so prominently in the records of crime, is said to have been first established in the reign of Henry IV., previous to which ‘ The Ekns ‘ at Smithfield seems to have been the favourite locality for the punish- ment of malefactors. The name is derived from a brook called Tyburn, which flowed down from Hampstead into the Thames, supplying in its way a large pond in the Green Park, and also the celebrated Rosamond’s Pond in St James’s Park. Oxford Street was, at an earlier period, known as Tyburn Road, and the now aristocratic locality of Park Lane, bore formerly the name of Tyburn Lane, whilst an iron tablet attached to the railings of Hyde Park,opposite the entrance of the Edgeware Road, informs the passer-by that here stood Tyburn turnpike-gate, so well known in old times as a landmark by travellers to and from London.”
The Book of Days Edited by R. Chambers pub. 1888

Commenting on the boundaries of Westminster Abbey lands as described in an Anglo-Saxon charter in the Transactions of the London and Middlesex Archaeological Society published in 1864
“then up along to Tyburne (a name well known to all), a large stream, which drained Mary-le-bone, Paddington, and the country around, and discharged itself into the Thames, opposite Vauxhall.”

Note on the course of the Stream in Transactions of the London and Middlesex Archaeological Society published in 1890
“the sparkling stream flowed in a channel you might almost span with your foot, running down the hill-side, chiefly in the direction of the Dissenters’ College; but leaving that on the west, midway between the garden wall of Belsize Manor, it proceeded southwards. Bending a little westwards it crossed Avenue Road just beyond St. Peter’s Church, then keeping close to the west side of this road until it reached Acacia Road, at the corner of which it received an affluent from Belsize, and then passed southwards by Townsend Road to the corner of Henry Street; it then diverged diagonally to the corner of Charles Street with Park Road. Formerly an aque- duct conveyed it across Regent’s Canal into the Park, the artificial waters of which it once supplied, and continuing its course passed from the Park boundary at the upper end of Cornwall Terrace, crossing Upper Baker Street, New Street, and then Alsops Terrace, in the Marylebone Road, where a depression is to be seen marking the channel.”

Another note on the course in London by Sir Laurence Gomme 1914
“Thus the King’s Scholars’ Pond sewer was so called because it emptied itself into the Thames at the King’s Scholars’ Pond (near the pre- sent Vauxhall Bridge), on ” the great level extending from the Horse Ferry to Chelsey Mead.” Incidentally it may be mentioned that during the reign of Queen Anne the name of the sewer was dutifully changed to Queen’s Scholars’ Pond sewer. Anciently it was known as the Tyburn brook, and later as the Aye brook, and flowed down the hill from Marylebone Fields, passing near the old village of Tyburn and across the Acton or Tyburn road (Oxford Street) and the present Brook Street, through Mayfair to the Stone Bridge, situated at the “dip” in modern Piccadilly. Passing under the bridge and the high road to Kensington, it entered what is now known as the Green Park. Large ponds were formed in the course of the sewer in this part of the park. At the bottom of the hill the streamlet passed through the gardens of Goring or Arlington House, where Buckingham Palace now stands, and along by the ” coach road to Chelsea ” the present Buckingham Palace Road and what is now Vauxhall Bridge Road to the river. At different periods the stream was altered in various parts of its course, and gradually covered in and converted into an underground sewer.”

Note on Thorney Island and the Tyburn in Middlesex in British, Roman and Saxon Times by Montagu Sharpe pub. 1919
“In Middlesex, on the little eyot or island of Thorney (Thornea, overrun with thorn bushes, in loco terribili) being a delta of land where the eastern arm of the Tyburne, or double stream, joins the Thames two miles south-west of the city of London, there had formerly stood a Roman temple, said to have been dedicated to Apollo, the god who inter alia wards off evil and affords help. It would be used by those who travelled to and fro along Watling Street and the south-eastern ports, to make a votive offering before or after their safe passage across this dangerous ford of the Thames. First, an arm of the Tyburne in the Green Park would have to be waded, and then the other in St. James’s Park to reach the
island, prior to fording the Thames to the Surrey bank where St. Thomas’ Hospital now stands, and thence, before the Romans made a causeway, across two miles of treacherous marshes until the rising ground towards Shooters’ Hill was reached.”

Epping Forest Winter Walk

Epping Forest

A Sunday afternoon (last week) wander in Epping Forest, basking in those precious last hours of daylight.

The Tube to Loughton and up Forest Road to where the Loughton Brook meanders along the forest floor.

Epping Forest

The ground around Debden Slade was still frozen white, encrusted mud ridges to be traversed like miniature mountain ranges.

I ascended, skirting through the trees – Shelley’s Hill, Kate’s Cellar, Broome Hill and crossed Epping New Road.

Epping Forest

The winter light was nourishing. Distance wasn’t an objective. It was about just being in the forest.

I took a late lunch of a generously loaded bacon bap in the carpark of the King’s Oak as the bikers examined each other’s machines, revved the engines and talked of petrol stations on the A12. I got chatting to a couple who watch my YouTube videos and we discussed the great walks heading north of the forest to hills above Waltham Abbey and beyond.

Epping Forest

As the sun started to dip below the tree line, I turned back downhill through fronds of frozen ferns, retracing my steps as the gloom became darkness and the lights of Loughton twinkled in the near distance.