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.

P1100531 P1100558

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.


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.




  1. Mariana Swart   •  

    Ha – logic will always win the day!

  2. Pingback: Spring walk through Epping Forest from Leytonstone to Chingford - the lost byway

  3. Rupert   •  

    Further to our chat on social media John, there doesn’t seem to be nearly as much on the internet about the Birch Well as I would have liked or expected. Apart from the suff on ‘The Lost Byway’, I could only really find this from another website which I am sure that you know:


    Those strange looking stones are definitely Boundary Mark Stones of some kind. Straight out of the Alfred Watkins back catalogue. Only question is, how old are they? There are similar mark stones along the so called Mason Dixon Line in the United States which date from the Georgian Period, second half of the eighteenth century in the run up to the American War of Independence. You could be looking at a similar provenance for these too. If there were any eighteenth century surveyors in the area during the 1760s or 1770s, these could be your culprits for putting them there.

    More on the Mason Dixon Line here:


  4. David   •  

    Came across this post in my break at 11:30…the walk looks amazing, as does the pint at the end , there are 5 hours until pint time for me and this image is going to linger all day!!.. Starting to feel a little like the sensations of the last scene of “Ice cold in Alex” (a classic film that probably would benefit from colourisation )but even so manages to convey what I am experiencing now!

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