River Roding Walk – Wanstead to Buckhurst Hill

A walk along the beautiful River Roding from Wanstead to Buckhurst Hill on the 24th February – a day when it felt as if Spring had come early. This is one of my favourite walks – following the meanders through Wanstead, Woodford to Buckhurst Hill (although I’ve yet to walk the Roding beyond Debden). The wooded ridges of Epping Forest rise on the horizon, herons glide over the rushes, and I once saw a snake slither across the path one summer near Woodford Bridge.

 

Transcript of the video

Just a footstep step away from the brutality of Eastern Avenue. We have the glorious little River Roding.
Such a beautiful day. Today is the 24th of February and it feels like spring is really here. And what better thing to do on a day like this than a wander along this beautiful river, the River Roding. This is actually one of my favourite little walks along here. Longtime viewers of the channel may remember the videos I made probably three years ago now, so it’s overdue a revisit, although I don’t expect it to change very much.

One Sunday, about a month ago, I hadn’t been out for a walk, and so I suddenly headed out about an hour before sunset and walked that last hour along here and it was really, really wonderful.

Here’s the first of a collection of really quite interesting and lovely bridges over the River Roding. Forget the bridges of Madison County. Here’s the bridges of the Roding Valley.

This section of the River Roding here is flowing through Wanstead, or ‘Wan Stead’, the white house ‘Woden stead’. I was up here yesterday, given a little tour of the churchyard and the church of St Mary’s Wanstead, really glorious church and still has a very active and quite sizeable congregation. However, their regular services are under threat for some reason. So there is a Save St. Mary’s Campaign.

I’ve been asked a few times about the viability of kayaking or canoeing on the Roding and when you see it here, you think that looks like a reasonable idea. Further along it looks a little bit trickier and the water at the moment is actually quite shallow.

Here we have our next bridge. It’s amazing the variety of bridges on this river I suppose because they were all built at different times. We have a fantastic old pumping station, great cathedrals to the Victorian industrial age aren’t they.

I saw a little grass snake along here once when I was walking along in the morning, I doubt, I’ll see anything today, but you never know.

Just stopped back there by the pumping station to make a little video talking about the things I take on a walk with me. Sean, South London gardener Sean, walking the London Loop Sean, he requested it and I’ll upload it as a separate video though, but it means I’ve been sat there for a while so I better crack on.

All hail the pylon

Sounds like a rather obvious thing to say, but with river walks it does make a difference which side of the river you walk on and the first few times I walked along the Roding I walked on the other side there just like a big park mown grass and it takes you right underneath that pylon. Whereas on this side, a bramble covered bank you’ve got the pylons here and then you’ve got these industrial units that run alongside the Roding.

The first time the jacket comes off after winter is always a magical moment. A day that is marked in the memory for a long time. 24th of February, 2019 look, here I am just a shirt, I could even just be down to a tee shirt if I was a little bit more adventurous, but it’s a big moment, no jacket.

This is where we pass beneath a number of big busy roads. I think that’s where approaching Woodford or in Woodford, I think we’ve got a combination of the North Circular, the Woodford Avenue, maybe a little bit of a feeder road for the M11.

We have to cross the busy road here. This is Charlie Brown’s roundabout and there is some delightful old footage on YouTube of Charlie Brown’s roundabout being built. I believe there was a pub here wasn’t there, called the Charlie Brown? I know there’s going to be several people in the comment section who know all about this.

I should have said this back at the beginning of the walk, the Roding rises up near Stanstead Airport, I can’t remember the exact name of the little village where it rises, and it makes its way down through the Essex countryside and then it’s confluence with the Thames is down at Barking. I’ve walked it as far as Abridge. I have crossed it other points further North, but it’s a little bit more difficult to follow after Abridge. The footpath doesn’t run along the river, so you’re zigzagging across it. But I would like to go and walk the upper reaches of the Roding at some point because it’s such a beautiful, magical little river.

Some glorious birdsong in the trees and bushes on the river bank here. The birds are obviously very happy that the weather’s improved. The path here is so overgrown I don’t think it’s legitimately passable, so you have to go up service road here that goes to the waste disposal, sort of recycling area and see if I can get back on the river further up. If you’re interested in the idea of edgelands, you could do no worse than walk along the River Roding, classic edgelands in the urban part of it anyway. Everything you could want along here.

I do remember actually going along this little sort of alleyway. So that’s the way ahead. Couple of different generations of Thames Water facilities here. The more a recent utilitarian brick block on the right, and then the picturesque what I would guess is a Victorian utility over there. Close to the banks, the river. The Wynn Valley pumping station.

Now we’re back on the banks of the River Roding.

Here we have another bridge across the river. I don’t think any two bridges have been the same so far. We start to see the terrain around the river open up slightly, passing through Woodford still heading towards Buckhurst Hill and the wooded Hills there rising in the distance, which I guess must be the edge of Epping Forest.

How good does it feel to have a 5.30pm sunset? It’s funny, isn’t it? It’s just that extra sort of hour from a month ago is enormous. It feels like we’re being propelled into a glorious summer. It’s just after four. Now about a quarter past four, and this is obviously, as I’ve said, probably every walk, this is a time when the magic happens. This is glorious. It uplifts the soul as you walk into the sunset.

So a little bit of a decision point coming up ahead because when we get to Roding Valley, that’s where can’t carry on to Buckhurst Hill you have to kind of go up the hill and around to rejoin the river. So I’m not entirely sure what I’ll do there. I suppose we’ll see, we’ve still got a little ways to go before that and actually really glorious section of the river.

The Roding Valley hinterland.

So peaceful here. I suppose it’s the time of day and also as the river kind of frees itself from the urban fringe.

That’s interesting. I have no memory of this housing estate here beside the river makes me wonder whether it’s been built in the last three to four years. [Looks at map on phone] This is where I am. Looks as if this estate is part of the old London Guildhall University sports ground. That’s my Alma mater.

Believe the word meander is the name of a river in Turkey. I extrapolated that information from the title of a book where a guy kayaks along the Meander in Turkey. It’s a book I really need to read, isn’t it?

Here we have the bridge that carries the Central Line, over the River Roding, really majestic structure.
This is one of my favourite little stretches of the river, it’s where my first walk along the Roding ended and I think I may end today’s walk here as well. The other side of this recreation ground, you have to depart from the river and work your way up through the streets of Buckhurst Hill and do a big loop to rejoin the river at the park where I was recently. If you look at the video, I go to Linder’s Field. That’s a continuation of the Roding there.

I’ll just walk to the far end of this recreation ground here where the allotments are and where the Roding then can be left in peace for a while before it gets to the Roding Valley recreation ground at Buckhurst Hill, and we were just before Christmas.

What a really wonderful walk. I’m so glad I came back out here today, to mark really what I hope is the beginnings of spring. You can never be too sure, it did snow twice in March last year, but no, not this year. Anyway, again, thanks again for coming with me, see you on the next walk, wherever that may be.

Walk along the River Roding and back to Leytonstone

National Trust Long Walks

Headed out for a short walk mid-Sunday afternoon and found this book in a charity shop in Wanstead – it immediately became apparent that I’d have to carry this heavy tome as some form of atonement for not embarking on a longer schlep earlier in the day.

Eastern Avenue

My only aim was to head for the River Roding where it passes under the Eastern Avenue in Wanstead. It was unseasonably warm and I wanted to bask in the last two hours of sun.

River Roding Wanstead

My mind meandered in tune to the waters of the Roding, over bridges and past the pumping station. I remember startling a grass-snake along here a few years ago one hot summer morning.

IMG_6443

I only recently discovered D. W. Gillingham’s wonderful Unto the Fields, by chance on a walk from Chigwell to Loughton. It was a glorious discovery, an entire book published in 1953 on the Roding Valley. A celebration from another era of a landscape I’ve come to love. The exploration of the territory in the book begins in November:

“Now I have chosen this November morning to introduce you to the fields because November is the beginning of Nature’s year, like the farmer’s at Michaelmas… The fieldfares especially were numerous today; their chattering could be heard everywhere, for the migration down the Roding valley was at its height. A few redwings had come to the valley before them.”

Roding Valley pylon

Gillingham delights in the fog and frost of November mornings. As the russet rays of sunshine pitch onto the banks of the Roding I feel the heat and remove my scarf. The pylons, our protectors, glow orange.

A1400 Woodford Avenue

Passing beneath the titanic piers supporting the North Circular I feel the energy drain from my legs, my thighs become sore and heavy. I consider jumping on a bus at Charlie Brown’s Roundabout up to South Woodford station and heading home for tea. But I resolve to hike along the A1400 Woodford Avenue to Gants Hill instead. The National Trust Book of Long Walks needs to be at least partially appeased.

Clayhall sunset

The pylon sky sunset glows as I continue along the Woodford Avenue and brings new life to my tired legs. The view of a Toby Carvery across the road also inspires me to pursue the walk – my sons and I had been discussing the prevalence of Toby Carveries in the area before I headed out for reasons I can’t recall. I sent them both the photo below.

Toby Carvery Gants Hill

At this stage I start to see the Beehive Harvester around every bend of the road and tell myself that I should settle down there and read the National Trust Book of Long Walks and make some notes of things that had passed through my mind on the walk – minor meditations that will be gone by the time I reach home. But before it appears I’m tempted to follow Redbridge Lane East to the roundabout by Redbridge Tube Station where I’m momentarily seduced by the Beefeater Red House. I vow to return, for now I have promised the book of Long Walks that I’ll complete the circuit by walking home.

Redbridge A12

There’s something epic and romantic about the A12 – the Eastern Highway out through Essex to Suffolk – carved across a landscape of broad skies. It’s America. It makes me imagine far off places well beyond Lowestoft.

Redbridge Lane West

Along Redbridge Lane West, lamp-posts illuminating leaves. Across George Green to pick up the old Roman marching route back through Leytonstone to home.

 

Wanstead to Barking along the River Roding

A Friday morning at the end of September and the chance to walk along the River Roding from Wanstead to Barking. Finally I hunted down the elusive Alders Brook near the City of London Cemetery. A dog walker who has been strolling this way for 30 years told me he’d never heard of it and I had to show it marked on my old A-Z. But there it was, overgrown and clogged up but still running free through the undergrowth.

Uphall Camp Barking

source: An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Essex, Volume 2, Central and South west. Originally published by His Majesty’s Stationery Office, London, 1921.

The other side of the construction carnage around Ilford town centre I stood on the streets where the Iron Age settlement of Uphall Camp stood, near the banks of the Roding. Today lines of terraced houses named after periods of British History cover the site.

overgrown football pitch at Wanstead

football pitch at Wanstead

Ilford new buildings

Ilford

The River Roding at Barking

The River Roding at Barking

I passed the Quaker burial grounds at Barking before picking up the riverbank path down to the wharfside developments that have temporarily created tumbleweed wild west outposts. After breaching the A13 sadly it was time to head back to Leytonstone before I had reached Beckton which was the aim for the day. But I had surveyed more of the land the lies along one of our sacred Eastern rivers, and seen parts of the London of the distant past and got a glimpse of one of the new Londons taking shape.

Exploring Old & New Barking – Abbey Ruins to Barking Riverside

There’s yet another new London taking shape on the edge of Barking at Barking Riverside:

“A brand new neighbourhood is being created alongside two km of Thames river frontage at Barking Riverside, one of the most ambitious and important new developments in the UK. Outline planning permission was granted in 2007 for 10,800 homes on the former power station site.”Barking Riverside website

The excursion out to Barking Riverside began wandering through the footprint of the ruins of Barking Abbey, that great powerhouse of early medieval London. I then followed the banks of the River Roding down to Barking Creek and Creekmouth Open Space, before continuing along River Road to the huge Barking Riverside site, finishing at Dagenham Dock Station.

Ramble on the edge of Essex and London

It is my ambition to explore every inch of the Ordnance Survey Explorer 174 Map of Epping Forest & Lee Valley – Hertford & Harlow. That may not sound particularly ambitious but as I often end up following familiar tracks through Epping Forest or along the valley floor it seems to become ever more elusive.

So at the weekend I set off to fill in one small section – from Debden Station, over the M11 and around Theydon Mead to the village of Abridge, and from there over fields, across Gravel Lane and on to Grange Hill Station on the Central Line Loop. It was a walk that also linked the two eastern branches of the Central Line.

A large part of the walk is covered in Pathfinder’s Rambles in Essex published by British Railways in 1950, something I only discovered when I recognised a field near Chigwell and remembered I’d been there when recording an episode of Ventures and Adventures in Topography for Resonance fm. The route we followed was described in Pathfinder’s earlier publication Afoot Round London.

It was uplifting to finally welcome Spring, arms t-shirt bare for the first time outside in months and months. I’d set out this way with my son just a few weeks ago under heavy skies and plodding through mud ankle-deep. Instead of crossing the M11, we worked our way around the Debden Estate and up the hill to Theydon Bois, filling in a few more grids of the map.

Heading down over sunset fields into Grange Hill with woodsmoke tightly hugging the ground it almost felt as if I’d ventured far out of London rather than simply traversed farmland spanning the space between tube stations. A phalanx of oak trees crest a ridge guiding the way to the cemetery path and out onto road as the daylight receded. I can tell already that it’s going to be a great summer of walking.

 

Return to the River Roding

It was hard to believe that it had been over 7 months since my last stroll along the River Roding, when I had left this beguiling watercourse at Roding Valley after walking up from Redbridge Station one warm July morning.

River Roding

I decided to pick up where I’d left off and found the river bank where I’d sat down and felt like Huckleberry Finn. Where lush green undergrowth burst from the bank today was muddy brown and spindly bare. It was a beautiful clear late February day, great walking weather.

River Roding IMG_7890 IMG_7941

It’s crazy in a way that I’m walking this short river in sections given that it runs a mere 11 miles from Dunmow in Essex before spilling into the Thames at Barking Creek, but there it is, and I shall now endeavour to divide my walks along its course across the 4 seasons. This particular river ramble involved two significant diversions, one through the backstreets of Buckhurst Hill and another through an industrial estate at Debden. It was a detour that led to an interesting encounter at one of Britain’s most sensitive buildings – but you’ll need to watch the video above to get that story.

River Roding IMG_7963

Mayesbrook Park, Barking and Dagenham

One sultry Friday morning the other week I jumped on the first bus that swung through Leytonstone Station with the aim of just riding it to the end of the line. But I didn’t make it to the terminus of the 145 at Dagenham Asda as I was so beguiled by the autumnal colours lining Longbridge Road that I spontaneously disembarked without a clue where I was. It was a fortuitous decision because within 10 minutes I wandered through the gates of Mayesbrook Park, where the Mayes Brook gently trundles through the mile long parkland on its way to meet the River Roding at Barking.

Exploring the park left me starving, so I headed for Upney Station to make my way home. I passed Upney Fish Bar that had a sign boasting of being voted best Fish and Chip Shop in London one year. I’m normally skeptical of such claims but was prepared to wait 10 minutes for my fish to be freshly fried. I took the steaming hot parcel back to the park and cracked it open on a bench by the lake surrounded by eager geese. My god, the batter was so crispy each bite scattered the birds from the trees, and the chips were just the right side of perfect. So that boast turned out to be relatively modest.

The old psychogeographical trick of taking random bus journeys delivered in spades.