The long walk from Leytonstone to Ware

‘So make up your mind to be bound by no programme’

SPB Mais

The urge was to just walk. Get some miles under the belt. I’ve felt my stamina drop in this second year of the plague, becoming leg-weary at the 10-mile mark and on the handful of occasions I’ve strayed close to 15-miles, absolutely wiped out. I needed this walk to be as uncomplicated as possible – no travel on the way out, the walk would start from the front door. No filming. The only record would be jotted down in my notebook and some quick phone snaps on the hoof.

Crooked Billet Walthamstow

11.30am – leave home and head along the high ground north – Bakers Arms Leyton, Hoe Street, Chingford Road. The route I took on my first long Lea Valley walk in midwinter that ended in Hertford.

1pm – rest at Chingford Mount Broadway near the War Memorial. It’s hot and sunny, 22 degrees. Think I’ll stay on this side of the Lea till Enfield Lock.

2.39pm – rest on a shaded bench by the Mill Pond near Enfield Marina. Relish the cool breeze. Think of Andrew Kötting and Iain Sinclair passing through here on the Edith Walk. Birdsong. I love this walk but don’t think I’ve taken this back path to Enfield for a few years now. Great to cross paths with former walks/selves. Took the road through Sewardstone to the Essex border then onto the footpath that runs beneath the reservoir. For some reason The Boatman by The Levellers played in my head, so I played it out loud on my phone as I walked. No-one around.
Legs hurt a bit. Spent 15 mins buying sunglasses from Poundstretcher at Chingford Mount.

Read a random page of Nick Papadimitriou’s Scarp and think how great it would be to revive my old idea of publishing a collection of his topographical pieces.


3.54pm – Costa Coffee at Waltham Abbey. Got here just before 3.30 and mooched in TK Maxx for some cooler shorts and t-shirt and picked up some running gear. Somehow I came out only with a lightweight long-sleeved top. Walked 12.3 miles to here. Legs and feet very sore. Cheese toastie, Coke and Crisps for a late lunch. I had a coffee and Danish at 12.30 from the coffeeshop near the Bell in Walthamstow. Next stop should be at Broxbourne. It’s the next section of this walk that’s the real treat in the evening light.
Although my legs are still sore there’s the sense that it’s time to move along.

4.58pm – it’s about knowing when to rest. My feet are sore so I stop on a bench somewhere between Cheshunt and Broxbourne (Turnford?). 14.9 miles

6.43pm – sat on a broken bench about half-a-mile past Rye House. 20 miles walked. Thighs and calves very sore but cardio is good. Hot and sweaty. Took the New River Path from Broxbourne to Rye House – shirtless guy boombox blaring, family gathering around a tree festooned with red balloons and decorations, group of lads smoking weed and we exchange a few words. Then throw a tennis ball several times for a young Springer after he retrieves it from the river.
Beautiful early evening birdsong by the Lea – not a soul around. Sound of the train whooshing past.

7.33pm – stop at the Jolly Fisherman near St. Margaret’s Station on the banks of the Lea. I’ve walked past this pub so many times and always vowed to stop for a drink one day. At 21.2 miles I’m a bit knackered and couldn’t find it in me to push on for that final stretch to Ware without stopping here. It became a question of where do I want my pint? And I preferred here to my usual pub on the bridge at Ware which I now associate with the day Mum died when I walked to Youngsbury burial mound and ended up here trying to absorb it all. I realise that I’ve somehow attached my mother to this part of the world through the walk that day.
I’m drinking McMullens Rivertown Pilsner with a packet of cheese and onion McCoys. This really is a great spot for a pint. I put on the new ‘supersoft’ pale blue top – feels good, but a second layer seemed unthinkable just an hour ago.

8.03pm – I order a half or Rivertown to give myself the option of continuing the walk but there’s no way I was ready to carry on.

New River Path
Stanstead Abbotts

How does this walk relate to the timeline of the pandemic? When I came through here a year ago I was breaking out of London for the first time – there was a strange atmosphere. Today it feels relatively normal. A couple row past in an inflatable dinghy.

9.23pm – a bench by the Lea at Ware opposite the Saracen’s Head with a can of Neckoil and double pack of sausage rolls. Train leaves in 20 minutes. The Saracens is throbbing. Is this the vaccine summer?

Catch the 9.43pm train to Stratford. Total distance = 24.9 miles to my front door. I needed that.

Waterside Inn, Ware


  1. chriss   •  

    Well done! Don’t know how you do it!

    • JohnR   •     Author

      Thanks Chriss – very sore legs by the end

    • JohnR   •     Author

      Cheers Mark – it was a cracker

  2. Terri   •  

    Sounds like a fantastic walk John. Thanks for the lovely photos

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