Unto the Fields (of Chigwell and Loughton)


Sometimes unplanned excursions are the most rewarding. After running an errand to Woodford Bridge I decided to take a short stroll along the road to Chigwell, when I spotted these signs on the metal fencing around a patch of woodland. Permissive access to a former landfill site was too good an invitation to turn down, so through the half-open gate I went …. into another world.

Chigwell walk

The woodland soon opened out into a network of footpaths weaving through tall wild grasses and meadows resplendent with flowers that I sadly can’t confidently name, but will speculate that these are wild foxglove.

Chigwell walk

A high point in the meadow opened out into a glorious view across the Roding Valley to the upper ground of Buckhurst Hill.

Chigwell walk

Footpaths branched off in all directions heading through thickets or up onto hillocks with not a soul around.

Chigwell walk

Through a bramble tunnel I came face to face with a young fox, who froze for a moment before darting off into the undergrowth with a high jump in the air.

I could hear the traffic whumping down the M11 as the path ran parallel for a while before bringing me to a garden gate in a wooden fence and out onto Luxborough Lane.

River Roding tube viaduct

The clear waters of the River Roding were incredibly enticing on such a hot day – I fantasized about floating away in the small abandoned boat beneath the Central Line viaduct.

Roding Valley Recreation Ground

My Australian wife says this looks like a Eucalyptus tree – stood on the parched earth of Roding Valley Recreation Ground it looked quite at home.

Roding Valley Recreation Ground

By this point I was feeling the heat and had nearly drank all of my water, so I sat down by the lake to absorb the coolness coming off the wide expanse of water.

Unto the Fields Gillingham

Making my way to Loughton Station along Roding Road, I spied a blue plaque on the far side on a semi-detached house. I dashed across the road to see who had been honoured in these Loughton backstreets and saw it was for D.W. Gillingham author of Unto the Fields. I immediately looked the book up on my phone, my eyes falling on the sentence, “a meticulous and exquisite record of the woodlands, streams and rivers of the Roding Valley”. I quickly found a 1953 edition on ebay and bought it stood in front of the house where Gillingham lived.


  1. Andi   •  

    Lovely pictures, as usual and great little find. Thanks for sharing.

    • JohnR   •     Author

      Thanks Andi – it was such a great little walk

  2. Mike   •  

    What a great find. And not a soul in sight.

    Your foxglove looks like a common vetch or similar. The other looks like another of the pea family.

    Great pictures.


    • JohnR   •     Author

      Thanks Mike – received my copy of Unto the Fields yesterday- looks great

  3. M Swart   •  

    That definitely looks like a eucalyptus (blue gum, or bloekom in Afrikaans). Here (South Africa) it is considered an invasive alien species and it is a greedy water guzzler. But I do love them – when I was a child our neighbours had a huge one in their back yard, which creaked most magnificently in the wind at night.

  4. Pingback: Unto the Fields of Buckhurst Hill - the lost byway

  5. Alex   •  

    Great article John – thanks for the link to it. Will have a read of others tonight.

  6. Mike Smith   •  

    Where is the gate you found? I walked from Loughton to the end of luxborough Lane today but couldn’t find a way in. Used to walk there as a kid and wanted to revisit but security seems to have been beefed up in the fence I used to jump

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