Stage 10 - Cheshunt Station to Epping Station (11.65 miles)
Start: Grid Reference TL3692302358 Post Code EN8 9AJ StreetMap
If you just want to print out the "Route" instructions of stage 10 of this walk,
without all the blurb on the website, you can download this as a
Word Docx by clicking on the link.
If you just want to print out the "Route" instructions of stage 10 of this walk, without all the blurb on the website, you can download this as a Word Docx by clicking on the link.
Start on the
River Lee Walk near Cheshunt Station and follow if for 2.8 miles to Swan & Pike
Pool. Then join the London Loop for 1.8 miles.
After leaving the London
Loop we cut
a golf course to Lippitts Hill, then onto High Beach in Epping Forest. We follow
the forest to join Green Ride / Centenary Walk and follow this all the way to
The first 3.8 miles are flat and easy, the rest is hilly and undulating and can
get muddy in places.
The first 3.8 miles are flat and easy, the rest is hilly and undulating and can get muddy in places.
To get to the start, from Cheshunt Station, turn right along Windmill Lane. After 100 yards cross bridge over Small River Lea, then stay straight on, under height restriction, into Lee Valley Regional Park. After another 150 yards you reach the Navigation towpath. Turn right along towpath.
Waltham Common Lock
after just 0.3 miles, the next on our route, many paths lead off in different
directions and one also crosses a footbridge over the Navigation. The path to
the right soon splits to veer both north and south. The
north path follows the Small River
Lee through Turnershill Marsh and after 600 yards comes out onto to Windmill
Lane next to Cheshunt railway station, The
south path soon crosses over the
Small River Lee and continues south along the east edge of
an ex-gravel pit, excavated by hand in the 1920s and now fishing lake and
wildlife sanctuary with some small islands in the middle. The lake is a popular
place for birdwatchers, has some beautiful water plants and covers an area of 35
acres. The path, to the left, across the footbridge and over the Lee Navigation
leads past the bottom corner of
Above, I have
only listed the main paths in this area. There are just so many and the go off
all over the place, following different rivers, going around the numerous lakes
and crossing the many marshes. With the rivers, it's
not bad enough that nobody can decide whether it's
the Lea or Lee, we also have the Lee Navigation, River Lea, Old River Lea, Small
River Lea, Powdermill Cut, Cornmill Stream and Horsemill Stream. Thank God, the
route we travel is a simple one.
80 yards after the lock, look across the canal to see the start of the Powder Mill Cut. This was the stream that supplied water to the Royal Gunpowder Mills.
0.6 miles the Lee Navigation Path passes under another bridge. To the left, over
the canal, leads to more paths going off in different directions across Waltham
Marsh. To the right it soon splits, with wide footpath going north west through
Cheshunt Marsh and a road turning left to car park at the
Lee Valley White Water Centre
This was opened on 9 December 2010 by Princess Anne. You can watch
Valley White Water Centre Launch" at
YouTube and also an
aerial video of the centre.
This venue hosted the London 2012 canoe slalom events with temporary seating for
12,000 spectators. Today it is used for canoe slalom and white-water rafting and
is open for public use. It's
also just a couple of hundred yards east of here where the famous Royal
Gunpowder Mills stand, but as far as I know there is not enough bridges across
all the rivers to reach there. However, new things appear all the time on maps
and who knows? I'll
may come back to this later.
400 yards the towpath passes
Waltham Town Lock
and within a short distance goes under the A121 road bridge (Station
For tall people it may mean bending down as the road bridge is low
so why it's
If you wish to
divert and visit the Royal Gunpowder Mills, leave the towpath just before going
under the A121. Turn left towards Waltham Abbey and over the road bridge. After
100 yards turn left into
The Royal Gunpowder Mills started off as fulling mills for cloth production, set up by the monks of Waltham Abbey. In the early 17th Century the mills were converted to producing vegetable oils. This only lasted for a few years as with a shortage of gunpowder during the Second Anglo-Dutch War (1665 - 1667) the mills were again converted, but this time to producing gun powder. The mills were taken over by the British Government in 1787 and prospered during the French Revolution Wars (1792 - 1802), the Napoleonic Wars (1803 - 1815) cumulating in the Battle of Waterloo (1815). Production also increased during the Crimean War (1853 - 1856) with Russia and the Second Boer War (1899 - 1902) in South Africa. The mills were again in full production during World War I and for the start of World War II. The workforce more than doubled to over 6,000 and, like most other factories at the time, mainly consisted of women. However, in 1943 production moved away to the west and north where it was further out of the reach of German bombs. Production of gunpowder from the mills at Waltham Abbey was not just used for wars. There was much research and many scientific developments happened here during the centuries. The place is unique and also helped with construction as well as destruction. During and after the 18th Century explosives made here played a major part in the Industrial Revolution and what followed. It was used for quarrying and mining, blowing out tunnels and cuttings for railways and other transport links. After 1943 the site lay closed until 1945. It was then reopened and used by the government for research into rocket fuel and ejection seats for planes. The government finally ceased using the mills in 1991 and much of the land on the south of the site was sold. Today The Royal Gunpowder Mills cover an area of 175 acres of natural parkland. It is recognised as an Anchor Point of the European Route of Industrial Heritage and boasts 21 buildings of major historic importance.
The church and the centre of Waltham Abbey are only a short walk from the Lee Navigation and there is a lot of history to see by making a slight detour. I think it's worth the mention I give it below.
recorded history of the town at Waltham
Abbey dates back to the reign of
King Canute (d. 1035), when a member of the Royal Court,
Tovi the Proud,
brought a miraculous stone cross (the Holy Rood) from his estate in
Somerset. From this is derived the area's old name, Waltham Holy Cross. There are many
different versions of this story, but the general gist of it is as follows.
Legend has it the local blacksmith dreamt that on a hilltop at Montacute, 15
miles south of
a holy treasure was buried. Excavations uncovered a slate (or flint) cross. Tovi
at the time was standard bearer to King Canute and owner of the lands in the
area. He placed the cross on a cart pulled by 12 white and 12 red oxen. He
wanted to take the cross and put it on display at Glastonbury Abbey. However,
the oxen refused to go in the right direction. Instead they made their way
across country and didn't
stop till they got to
Harold was Earl
of East Anglia from 1044 and on the death of his father in 1053 also succeeded
to the Earldom of Wessex. He became the most powerful man in
The throne of
depleted and tired, marched to meet William. The two armies met near
accession to the throne as King William I on
"By command of the Duke, you rest here as a King, O Harold, that you may be guardian still of sea and shore"
body was taken to
"THIS STONE MARKS THE POSITION OF THE HIGH ALTAR BEHIND WHICH KING HAROLD IS SAID TO HAVE BEEN BURIED 1066",
The inscription on the other is a bit more to the point,
"HAROLD KING OF
the Conqueror the power and wealth of the church which Harold had built at
prospered during Norman Times. The
was a religious place for many pilgrims including Henry II who visited many
times. Other royalty and nobility also came to pray and pay their respect.
Eleanor of Castile,
Queen Consort to Edward I (aka Longshanks) became feverish at Harby in
Nottinghamshire on her way to .
funeral took place at Westminster Abbey on
When Edward I (1237 - 1307) died his body lay in state at Waltham Abbey for many weeks before his burial at Westminster Abbey.
It was at
Waltham Abbey during the early 16th Century where King
The ruins of
the old abbey, which are visible in the grounds of the
Abbey Church, contain the oldest Norman works in the country. The
Abbey was the last in the country to be dissolved by
There are many other things of interest to see in the grounds of the Abbey (see informative video at YouTube). The Cornmill Stream flows through the Abbey Gardens and this is crossed by a 14th Century stone bridge, named "Harold's Bridge". There are walls and other remains of the Priory and Abbey, and the 14th Century Lady Chapel and crypt have been converted to a visitor's centre and shop. Each year in October a "King Harold Day" is held in Abbey gardens to remember the last Saxon king.
The town of Waltham Abbey has many old buildings with wooden frames, such as the Welsh Harp and Sun Inns. In front of The Crown Pub in Romeland is a well dating from 1877. The Prime Meridian Line cuts through the town and is marked by a mosaic in the Abbey Grounds and by a plaque in Sun Street. The Epping Forest District Museum is in Sun Street. The museum comprises of two timber framed houses dating from 1520. It shows the history of the area from Stone Age to present day, and admission is free.
Continue south along the River Lee Navigation footpath from
For the next
mile to the north tip of
Shortly after the Highbridge Road the towpath crosses a footbridge over the entrance to a small marina and continues south with a large industrial estate fenced off to the right and the canal to the left. Soon the route passes under the M25 (at 1.65 miles) and the industrial estate is replaced by the open greenery of Rammey Marsh. On reaching Rammey Marsh Lock look back to see the blue motorway bridge in the distance. Blue seems to be the standard colour to paint bridges carrying motorways over rivers. Maybe it's part of government policy - an election manifesto promise which has been adhered too.
A footbridge, over the southern end of the lock leads to the Narrowboat Cafe. I've never visited, but looking at their Facebook page, Jeremy Corbyn did in May 2020, so it could be a good place for a break.
Just before the
lock, across the river, is
Rammey Marsh Cruising Club, and before and after the lock, on the
opposite side of the river, boats line the bank. This is one of the many small
communities of river-folk who have become so common on
The route continues along the Lee Navigation and after another 500 yards the Old River Lee goes off to the left and behind the old cottages of Government Row. Then 500 yards later we pass under a new road bridge providing access to the modern housing development of Enfield Island Village. This consists of just over 1,300 properties, has its own small shopping area, some green space and a boat basin in the middle. The housing was built between 1997 and 2003. The island is bounded by the River Lee Flood Relief Channel to the east and by the Old River Lee to the west. The basin was originally used for loading arms onto barges but is no longer connected to the river. In the centre is a solitary narrowboat, the Harold Turpin, named after the man who developed the Sten Gun. It was taken away to be repainted and returned in 2010. You can watch a video of its return at YouTube. For up to date information on the area visit the Enfield Island Village Trust website.
The old cottages of Government Row front onto the navigation from the opposite bank for the next half a mile to Enfield Lock. The lock was built in 1811 to keep the water level in the canal navigable. The adjacent lock-keeper's cottage was built at the same time and Government Row cottages were built to house local factory workers in 1816. The row of houses is quite unique in having the canal flowing past their fronts and the Old River Lee flowing past the bottom of their back gardens.
Immediately after Enfield Lock we part company with the Lee Valley Path by turning left to cross over the canal. We also join the London Loop here and follow it for 1.8 miles. It is waymarked.
The Lee Valley
Path continues for 13 miles to the River Thames at Bow. On the way it passes
through the site of the
London 2012 Olympic Park
Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park)
at Stratford .
London Loop is a 150 mile path around Outer London. It was
pioneered by the London Walking Forum, was officially opened in 2001 and is
In front, where we crossed the canal, stood Rifles Pub, It closed in 2008, was derelict for a few years, then demolished, and is now flats. The pub took its name from the old Royal Small Arms Factory on Enfield Island. The factory began in 1816 and through the years produced swords, muskets and rifles for the British Armed Forces. It was privatised in 1984, and later bought by British Aerospace, but closed in 1988. It is famous for the Lee Enfield Rifle, designed by James Lee, and named after him and not the river. The main square around which the arms factory was built is also called after him and still retains his name today. There is a canal basin in the centre of the square and there are many other old listed buildings to see. Some have been converted to shops, cafes, workshops and a small museum. They provide a communal centre for the adjacent new housing development. For more information visit the Royal Small Arms Island Centre website or the Royal Small Arms Factory Enfield Apprentices Association "for all ex-Apprentices who "served their time" at the Royal Small Arms Factory at Enfield Lock".
Immediately over the canal turn right, signed London Loop, through a metal barrier, and onto the towpath. The canal is now on your RHS.
After 130 yards cross a footbridge, then immediately over, turn left on a footpath along the edge of Swan & Pike Pool leading to the entrance to a car park. Cross over the entrance of the car park onto a footpath, soon passed a metal gate, to your RHS, and onto a path, signed London Loop.
Swan & Pike
Pool is shown on an information notice board. It is a pleasant place to sit next
to the river as it widens to a large pool. It was named after a local pub of the
same name and was formally a basin for barges to turn and a Victorian bathing
pool. Today it is a popular place for
The path turns right with another branch of the river to your LHS. After 45 yards stay straight on keeping the river to your left and ignoring the footbridge over the river to Enfield Island.
Just before the footbridge is an information board entitled, "Enfield Lock Heritage Trail Board 3 of 4". It says how the bridge was originally built in 1915 to carry goods trains serving the Royal Small Arms Factory and by 1917 was handling 70 trucks per day. You can read the board by downloading the largest image at Geograph.
Continue straight on along the towpath for another 350 yards to where the path veers right and then turns left to cross a footbridge over a branch stream used as an intake for the nearby reservoir - you can see the huge wall of the reservoir to the right.
All the while to the left the opposite bank is lined with trees and behind them are modern houses and open spaces on Enfield Island.
Once over the footbridge (at 3 miles) the path continues next to the river for 230 yards then turns left to cross the river via a footbridge and onto the southernmost part of Enfield Island. Once over the bridge follow the path to another footbridge after 60 yards - this time over the Flood Relief Channel.
On crossing this third bridge to the right is a tall and long grassy bank. This is the King George V Reservoir, the largest within the Greater London boundary, covering an area of 420 acres. Adjacent and immediately south of it is the William Girling Reservoir, covering an area of 334 acres. Collectively they are known as the Chingford Reservoirs and provide a large percentage of the capital's water supply.
Before leaving the River Lea, for the final time, there's a very appropriate song by Adele about the river. Though I'm not sure if it's the River Lea, Lee, New River Lee, Old River Lea, Small River Lea or some other version of the Lea or Lee.
Immediately over the footbridge, follow the path as it veers left towards some trees and to and through a wooden kissing gate. Stay straight on past a grass path going left and at fork stay right following the signs of the London Loop.
The path veers right and then through some trees. Soon the path widens to a lane and eventually leads through metal bollards to a road with a small parking / turning area to the right.
Stay straight on along
the pavement staying on the LHS of the road (Godwin Close) until it reaches a
T-junction with a main road - the A112 (Sewardstone Road).
The parkland we
passed through from the last footbridge to Godwin Close is Sewardstone Marsh.
This is a
and is part of the Lee Valley Regional Park. and is an open green area for
wildlife, for people to enjoy and greatly used by locals to walk their dogs.
Just before exiting the park to Godwin Close we cross the
Prime Meridian Line
for the third time. However, when I last visited there was not a marker for this
next to the path.
takes its name from "Seward's
It was first recorded in 1177 when Henry II made a grant of lands here to the
canons of Waltham Abbey. Although, not within the boundary of Greater London it
still falls within the London post code area as E4 and thus has a section on
Across Sewardstone Road from Godwin Close is
Netherhouse Farm. It has a restaurant
and the old farmhouse dates from the 18th century and is
grade 2 listed.
Across Sewardstone Road from Godwin Close is Netherhouse Farm. It has a restaurant and the old farmhouse dates from the 18th century and is grade 2 listed.
At the end of Godwin Close turn right along the main road (A112) for 100 yards.
reaching Sewadstone Close (to your RHS), cross the road to climb a stile, to the
right of a metal gate and into a field. There are two paths, one goes straight
on along the edge of the field, the other goes diagonally across the field at an
angle to the right and is signed
On Sunday mornings, and some bank holidays, you may encounter a car boot sale in this field and will have to find your way through it.
At the opposite corner exit the field via a stile. Then straight on along a farm track towards a tree covered hill.
The climb up through the fields is a pleasant one. On clear days there are great views over the King George V & William Girling Reservoirs to London.
After 320 yards follow the track right, then after another 170 yards left. Look out for a stile on the right (itís easy to miss this). Cross the stile to follow a path through a narrow wood.
At the end of the wood cross a stile and follow the fence on the left to reach another stile. Immediately bear to the left. Walk up the sleeper steps and over the track to the stile in front. Follow the way-marker directions across the field to the next stile. Cross this stile and track to the path on the other side.
We are now in Epping Forest and again look right for the
over the reservoir and beyond.
On entering a wood (and just before reaching a road - Daws Hill) turn left and onto path through the woods and eventually out onto a lane.
At this point we depart ways with the route of the London Loop as it turns right on its journey to Chingford.
Just a few
yards south of here, across
By 1919 the house and grounds had fallen into great decline. However, that year, due to a generous donation, it was purchased by the Scouts and became their first outdoor camping park. During World War II it was used by the War Ministry as a local command centre and training camp. After the war it was handed back to the Scouts. Since then the Scouts Association acquired surrounding lands to enlarge the park to its present size of over 100 acres. Today it is the Scouts Headquarters, is used for their training, for both outdoor and indoor activities and also as a conference centre and place to stay. Gilwell Hall still stands as a large house in the centre of the park and is just now aptly named The White House. The name Gilwell seems to originate from the original name and means "meadow spring" or "meadow well".
Many sources claim Gilwell Park was once the home of Baden-Powell (1857 - 1941), the founder of the Scout's Movement. However, although he came to stay and camp many times, he never lived here.
Turn left along the lane for 280 yards to just past some isolated houses. A few yards after passing a metal barrier and immediately past the last house turn right at a junction of bridleways, signed Lippitts Hill. Follow this east for 200 yards to a golf course (West Essex Golf Club).
On reaching the golf course veer left to follow the bridleway across a fairway to a line of trees. Follow the bridleway along the line of trees for another 570 yards and out onto a road (Lippitts Hill).
NOTE: Be careful crossing the golf course as sometimes the route can be diverted. Also be wary of golfers playing as you could get struck by a ball or put golfers off their game.
Through the fence, to the right of the bridleway, is the Metropolitan Police Training Centre and their firearms training centre. It was home to the Met Police Air Support Unit until 2017, when it was moved to North Weald Airfield. As you along here you may hear some gunshots, but I wouldn't worry as it's just the firearms officers training.
War II this was used as a
by the US Marines and towards the end the wars as a prisoner of war camp by the
British. Also, shortly before the road is the
The Essex Anglo-American Goodwill Association commemorates the work here of the
US Army 184th anti-aircraft artillery battalion in defending London
during WWII. You can read more at the Lippitts Hill entry on
Turn right along the road for 70 yards, then turn left, onto a gravel drive, signed "Bridleway, Mott Street 0.5 m" (this is the drive to Day's Farm) at 5.3 miles.
Lippitts Hill is an interesting and secluded place with only a minor road running through it. A short distance further along the road is the pleasant pub The Owl, behind which sits Pipers Farm and the Willows Rustic Camping and Caravanning. The area was a popular place for poets and you can read more about the local Poets' Walk (see map).
Three houses at Lippitts Hill made up the "lunatic asylum" run by Dr Matthew Allen. Springfield House is just a few hundred yards south west of The Owl, Lippitts Hill Lodge is just this and Fairmead House was 500 yards further along on Church Road. They were all near to the, now demolished, old High Beach Church of St Paul. Springfield House was for the more difficult patients, Lippitts Hill Lodge was for the men. A blue plaque, overlooking the road, states "John Clare The Famous Poet lived here in Lippitts Hill Lodge 1837 - 1841". Fairmead House was for the women. It was demolished and a large house, named Suntrap, was built on the site in 1894. Originally this was a children's tuberculosis sanatorium. In 1967, the London Borough of Waltham Forest bought Suntrap for 500 pounds to create a centre to provide environmental education for children in the borough. It is now the Suntrap Forest Centre.
1864), the "peasant
was admitted to the asylum in 1937 suffering from delusions. Whilst here he was
allowed to walk freely around the forest, and wrote some of his best works. He
most likely had a few encounters with
Alfred Tennyson, later Lord and Poet Laureate, who lived with his
mother at the nearby Beech Hill Park between 1837 and 1840. Tennyson became
friendly with Dr Allen and often visited the asylum.
mother was a nervous person and he didn't
like not to be with her at night. He would often travel to London to meet with
his friends, but would always return home by evening. It was in St Paul's
churchyard where he wrote part of the poem "In Memoriam".
This area is still very like it was then with many large houses occupied by the wealthy. Many of these would have financed the church and paid a yearly fee to have their own seat. Tennyson and his mother were "seat-holders" at St Paul's. However, High Beach Church history suggests Tennyson seemed to prefer those in the asylum to some of the gentry:
"Tennyson visited the Asylum and was reported as being "delighted with the mad people ... the most agreeable and the most reasonable persons he has met with". He was "greatly taken" with Dr Allen, but not enthusiastic about his other neighbours. "Large set dinners", he wrote, "with stores of venison and champagne, are very good things of their kind, but one wants something more; and Mrs Arabin seems to me the only person about who speaks and acts as an honest and true nature dictates". The venison and champagne dinners must have been at the Manor House, Captain Sotheby as Lord of the Manor having an entitlement of Forest deer."
In July 1841, Clare decided to make his escape and walk 80 miles home to his birthplace of Helpston in Northamptonshire. The walk took three and a half days and he later wrote about it in his book "Journey Out of Essex". His walk home to freedom, happiness, and to a long lost love would turn out to be a sad one and many years later was revisited by Iain Sinclair in his book "The Edge of Orison". In December 1841 Clare was committed to a lunatic asylum in Northampton and continued to produce great works until his death in 1864. There is no one link which really sums up this great writer, so in 1981 the John Clare Society was founded "to promote a deeper knowledge of this remarkable poet".
pleasant and scenic place, there is a dark story to the area. In 1970 Lippitts
Hill was in the news due to a case which became known as the
"Babes in Woods"
killings. Two local children from
After 50 yards and just before the lane turns left, turn right onto a narrow track / bridleway (Pepper Alley). Follow this past a derelict barn and across an area of scrubland. At the far end of the scrubland, at a junction of tracks, turn right and past High Beach Cricket Club to your RHS. Pepper Alley is enclosed along here and leads to a road (Mott Street).
Turn right along the road, soon past Wallsgrove House to the right (it's a big house behind a big wall and was once home to the Baring family, owners of a bank of the same name).
Follow Mott Street as it veers left and past Church Road to your RHS (at 6 miles). The entrance to the Manor House is to the left.
After another 100 yards, at a crossroads, turn right signed High Beach Church. Then after 160 yards, turn left into Church Lane.
As you turn into Church Lane the graveyard is to your right and High Beach
Church is in front. Holy Innocents Church was built
in 1873 to replace the older St Paul's
which. It was designed by
Blomfield at a cost of 5,500
which was paid by
Thomas Baring of Wallsgrove House and named after two children of the
Baring family who had died in infancy. Although, nestled in the woods, the spire
is 125 feet and sticks out above the tree-line, as you can see from this
Nothing, above ground, remains of St Paul's Church. It was about a third of a mile southwest on the east side of Church Road.
Turn right through the lychgate and straight on along the path past the church.
If time permits and Holy Innocents Church is open, then why not have a look inside. There is a lot of information on the church website and a detailed histories on both of the High Beach Churches.
past the church, veer left onto a path through the trees. After 230 yards the
path leads out onto a road. Turn left along the road.
You can walk along the road or use the grass verge. The road is named Paul's Nursery Road, but on some maps is labelled as High Beach. The name comes from an old plant nursery, to our right as we walk. I'm not sure how old it is, but it is shown on an 1895 map at Francis Frith. According to City of London:
"Paul's Nursery, once a famous plant nursery, is now a span of mixed woodland and grassland; but the exotic plants once grown here can still be found. Rhododendrons, azaleas and numerous other flowers offer bright colours in the summer."
Soon to the left is a large pond and shortly after this is Beech Hall Studios. The white house next to this used to have two blue plaques on its front wall. One is to Frank R Clark (artist & goldsmith) and the other to Fred Speakman, 20th Century naturalist and author.
Soon we approach The King's Oak to our right, with the openness of High Beach Green across the road to our left. The present hotel / pub building dates from c1887 and was built on the site of an older inn of the same name. The building has a lot of stories to tell. The name seems to come from an ancient tree, named King Harold's Oak which sat on the green opposite the hotel, but is no-longer there (see link). The pub is said to be haunted, I'm not sure by how many ghosts, one is said to be the ghost of a young girl who reportedly drowned nearby. Behind the King's Oak is a 100 ft long swimming pool, built in the 1930s, the King's Oak Lido, and behind this was the High Beach Speedway. According to the link, the speedway was originally a cinder athletics track, dating back to at least 1909 and in 1928 hosted the first motorcycle speedway event in the UK. It became very popular and although, in the early days could only cater for 2,000 spectators, at times, tens of thousands would attend (see old video).
High Beach Green is a popular film and TV location over the years. Even "The Only Way is Essex" has filmed by the King's Oak. According to the pub website, an unexpected visitor, during October 2016, was singer Justin Bieber after a walk in the forest.
Next to the pub is the King's Oak Cafe with its outdoor seating, behind this is an Oyster Snack & Seafood Bar and there is also a public toilet block. Across the green, at Pillow Mounds Car Park, is The Acorn Tea Hut (also known as Carl's Kiosk). This area is situated on a ridge in the centre of the forest and provides great views looking northwest to Waltham Abbey and west over London.
Dominating High Beach Green is the red oak tree. The Queen's Oak was planted on 6 May 1882 on the occasion of the visit of Queen Victoria to High Beach in Epping Forest, when she declared that "the forest be dedicated to the use and enjoyment of the public for all time". A contemporary newspaper report stated that on the day of the visit East London was deserted as up to half a million people made their way to the forest for the day.
A road, to the right of the oak tree, leads behind the King's Oak pub to the Epping Forest Visitor Centre and Epping Forest Field Centre. It's in this area where the High Beach Speedway was sited. Looking at Google Earth you can see a well-defined ring of trees around the buildings that probably shows the outline of the track.
covers 6,000 acres and is all is left of the Royal Forest of Waltham, which in
1641 was recorded as covering an area ten times as large. Two thirds of the
forest is woodland the rest is grassland, heath, rivers, ponds and swamp. It is
the largest open space in the
Most of the history of the forest may have been lost with time. However, there is still evidence of "Iron Age" forts; stories of Iceni Warriors; Roman battles; Saxon saints; Norman invaders; Tudor hunting grounds; notorious highwaymen; a place to escape war and plague, and a retreat for famous artists and writers.
The forest was
given its royal status by King
Forest Act of 1878 may not be particularly well known today, but this crucial
piece of legislation turned a royal hunting ground into a public forest and
ensured this priceless piece of woodland would remain accessible to Londoners
for generations to come. Today the
City of London Corporation
(previously known as the Corporation of London), as the
the terms of the Act, the purpose of the Forest is to provide an open space for
the recreation and enjoyment of the public and this is to be achieved by
conserving the Forest in all its vegetative forms and doing it in such a way
that the Forest feels to the visitor to be a natural place. It is this natural
aspect that distinguishes the Forest as an open space and gives to the Londoner
The quote above
is taken from the City of
One of the main
tasks of the Forest Management Team is the conservation of the natural habitats
in which the
wildlife and plants
can continue to flourish.
Although deer hunting is no longer allowed as a sport, there are still many other recreational activities taking place here. To list them all would probably not be possible, but some popular ones with local clubs in brackets after are: walking on your own or with a group (The Ramblers Association); cross-country running (Orion Harriers); horse riding (Epping Forest Riders Association); mountain biking (Epping Forest Mountain Biking); fishing, usually with a permit; orienteering (Chigwell & Epping Forest Orienteering Club); camping (Willows Rustic Camping and Caravaning); scouting (Gilwell Park Scout Centre) golf (there are a few courses), and conservation volunteering (Epping Forest Conservation Volunteers). There is no definitive list of all the activities going on here, but you can visit the City of London website to read more about sports events and activities and wildlife in the forest.
As well as Tennyson and John Clare, many other well-know people lived in this area over the years. Admiral George Cockburn (1772 - 1853), who ferried Napoleon to his exile in St Helena, also lived in the village, ironically as did the emperor's nephew Prince Louis Lucien Bonaparte (1813 - 1891).
Edward Thomas (1878 - 1917), writer and poet, and Wilfred Owen (1893 - 1918), war poet, were both based at High Beach during World War I. They both died during the war, whilst fighting in Europe.
Dick Turpin (1705 - 1739), probably the world's most notorious highwayman, as a fugitive he lived for many years in a cave at High Beach. Previously he was a member of the notorious Essex Gang, but then went out on his own. According to an article from Britannia.com (link broken) he wasn't very successful until he made a major error in trying to rob the wrong person. The quote below is from the Britannia website.
day, on the road to
The dandy was 'Captain' Tom King, one of the best-known highwaymen of the day and the kind of swashbuckling, devil-may-care character into which legend would later transform Turpin."
The two highwaymen became friends and partners in crime. They would lay in wait in their cave hideaway at High Beach from where they had a good view of the road and rob almost anyone who passed. The phrase "Stand and Deliver" is associated with Turpin. There have been many book and songs written about him, and movies based on his exploits. Through time Turpin has been glorified into a hero, but on researching it's a wholly different story as he appears to have been a real scoundrel.
May 1735 a local gamekeeper named
came across Turpin in the forest at Fairmead Bottom near Loughton. He recognised
the highwayman and tried to apprehend him. Turpin drew his pistol and killed
Morris. Shortly afterwards Turpin stole a distinctive black mare, at gunpoint,
from a man called Major. Turpin named his new horse Black Bess. However, with
Major wanting his prize mare back, this resulted in the capture of Tom King and
almost that of Turpin. With things not going his way and now a huge bounty on
his head, Turpin rode north on Black Bess at speed to York, a place where he
thought he would not be known. He changed his name to John Palmer and became a
horse dealer and breeder and bought properties in
There are ghost
Hangmans Hill is where many years ago convicted criminals were dragged up to be hanged. It has a reputation of being haunted and is now popular with vehicles as apparently, like the convicts, the hill pulls them up when their engine is turned off. There are so many videos on this. Here are two from YouTube1 and YouTube2 - they also link to others. Whether it's an optical illusion, or not, you can see it's a scary experience for the drivers. Sometimes people find it difficult to locate the exact location of Hangmans Hill as it does not often appear on many maps, so I've marked it on StreetMap.
In 1973 the
rock band Genesis included a track on their album
"Selling England by the Pound"
entitled "The Battle of Epping Forest".
goes on for over 11 minutes and tells about a fight for territory between
During Medieval Times and even before and later, people who lost everything would have no choice but to find refuge - there were no state benefits in those days and just staying alive was a feat. Many would relocate to dense forests where they could live off the land and hide. However, this was breaking laws as the Norman lords would hold claim to the ground they slept on and the wildlife and plants they lived off. These poor people were classified as outlaws as they were forced to live outside the law. They would have to compete with others who were forced into the same situation. They would often fight and kill for a meal - sometimes they had no choice. If caught by the landowners, they would be imprisoned or executed - prison was the less harsh of the two, but it still meant their death sentence. Prisoners didn't get three meals a day, have their own cells and weren't able to watch Sky TV in those days - they were piled on top of each other, diseases were rife and any food was a luxury.
Epping Forrest was a place (as mentioned above) where destitute people went to live and it must have many stories to tell of the poor people who were forced into crime and sought shelter here through thousands of years. You can read later in this stage how even before the Romans, ancient Celtic tribes used the forest to build forts to protect themselves and their livestock from enemies and how eventually these great forts became unoccupied because of the overpowering force of the Roman legions.
In Ken Follett's
epic book "The Pillars of the Earth"
he gives a great insight into how during early Norman Times dense forests were
places to be avoided. On reading the book the only woodland I could keep
thinking about was
The paths through the forest are pleasant, but can be very hilly in places. However, there are many things to distract your attention from these hills. Stay on course, enjoy the scenery passed, yet still beware of riders on horseback and cyclists on their mountain bikes.
After 300 yards and as you pass the King's Oak Hotel, veer left onto High Beach Green, but stay along the RHS to reach Queen Victoria's Oak. Turn right to cross over the road and into a road signed Epping Forest Centre. Almost immediately, at the Corporation of London sign, turn left onto a footpath.
In just a few yards the path divides, veer right with the main path as it gradually goes away from the road.
Follow for 160 yards, just past a pond, to a T-junction with a wide track/bridleway. Turn right along the bridleway and into the forest. Stay straight on for 300 yards, ignoring paths leading away on both sides. Immediately before the bridleway turns right, turn left onto a path / bridleway heading north-east. The path is well-defined and after 370 yards leads to the busy A104 (Epping New Road at 7.05 miles). Cross straight over onto another wide sandy bridleway with a car park and picnic area to the left.
although busy and fast is very straight in both directions with good visibility,
decide when to cross with care.
The area around this sandy path is named Little Monk Wood. It takes its name from the monks of two abbeys, Waltham Abbey and Stratford Langthorne Abbey, being given permission in the 13th Century to take wood from this area. It was a long way to cart wood from, but that's how things worked in those days.
Follow this wide and sandy bridleway as it goes slightly uphill, before descending gradually and eventually to a fork (after 600 yards). Take the left fork, and after just a few yards, at a T-Junction of paths turn left. The route has now joined Centenary Walk and also Green Ride.
Loughton Camp is an ancient earthwork, an Iron-Age camp, dating back to around 500 BC. It is 300 yards south west of the T-junction of paths. If you wish to divert to visit the camp turn right at the T-junction and after 450 yards turn right onto another path to reach the camp 200 yards later. This all may sound a bit contradictory, but the last path does go northwest to the southern side of the camp. The camp covers an area of 10 acres and is built on a hill. It is surrounded by high earth mounds and was originally defended by a wooden wall - only the earthworks still remain. The main enclosure is believed to have been used as a place to hold livestock for a local Celtic tribe (named the Trinovantes) whilst they fought off invaders from the boundaries of the fort. The last invaders were the Romans, but their huge legions were too much for the local tribe, thus the camp no longer proved much of a fortification and hence was abandoned.
The route is totally surrounded by trees and we are now very deep into the heart of the forest. It's peaceful and beautiful and it remains like this for the next few miles. Our route along Centenary Walk crosses a few roads. These are mainly flat as they cut through the forest. However, unseen by the motorist our route follows a roller-coaster ride of steep climbs and descents through this ancient woodland.
Centenary Walk is one the main paths / tracks through the forest and stretches for 15 miles from Manor Park to Epping Station. It was founded in 1978 to celebrate the centenary of the Act of Parliament which saved the forest. It joins up many ancient tracks to form a continuous path. Each year in September there is an annual walk organised by the Friends of Epping Forest along the full distance of the path. We follow Centenary Walk for just over four miles to Epping Station. Three miles of this is in the forest and for this distance the "Walk" also joins up with another major path called "Green Ride" which was opened 100 years earlier by Queen Victoria, who rode along it in an open top carriage. At points along the path there are benches to rest on and even some well-maintained "coal posts" where many years ago merchants were taxed for transporting their commodities along this route.
By reading a map when travelling through this area of the forest some place names passed give us a clue to its history. Names like "Bellringers Bay", "Pig Corner", "Lost Pond", "Great Monk Wood" and "Hangboy Slade" must have some stories to tell. A book by Ken Hoy, entitled "Getting to Know Epping Forest", can be bought at the Epping Forest Visitor Centre and provides lots of information of the different areas of the forest and where some of the place names originate from.
Follow this main track (Centenary Walk) through the forest for 0.8 miles to then cross over another main road (A121) at a picnic area named the "Broadstrood" (at 8.25 miles), where once again the road is straight with good visibility in both directions. Once over follow the main path as it first goes right of the picnic area then turns left and behind the picnic area.
After another 0.4 miles, at a T-junction of paths, keep left and staying with Centenary Walk. In a further 0.4 miles the track reaches a third road (B172) at "The Ditches" and "Jack's Hill". This time take a lot more care crossing as there is a blind bend. However, once safely across it's easy to keep straight on along the main path ignoring a track off to the right. After another 350 yards go straight on avoiding a wide track to the left.
Centenary Walk is a wide and beautiful track, but it can be very hilly in places. Here are links to a few photos to give you a taster. Photo1, Photo2, Photo3, Photo4, Photo5.
By now if you think you have seen enough hills, I have to apologies as it does not get any better. Also, at some points along the route, you maybe tempted to divert onto a path off to the right or left, please donít.
Half a mile after crossing the B172 and just off the path in the woods to the left is Ambresbury Banks, an Iron Age encampment and now signposted as an ancient monument. This is where Boudicca, the Iceni warrior queen, is sometimes said to have made her last stand against the Romans in AD 61. In defeat she poisoned her two daughters and herself so as not to be captured. An obelisk, just 1.5 miles northwest of here, at Warlies Park, is said to mark the spot where she died. However, other places also hold a claim. Some believe her ghost haunts the forest.
There is nothing left of the wooden fort, but the high banks on which it stood and the ditch around it are both still very visible. To walk around the ditch will take a while as it encloses an area of 4.5 hectares. The link to the source above also suggests it may have been re-used by King Arthur in his fight against the Danes.
From Ambresbury Banks continue straight on along the main path. After 600 yards, as the path divides, stay left (at 10 miles).
another 0.45 miles, where the path turns 90
right, veer left through the trees onto an
area (Bell Common). Once through the trees turn right along the worn
grassy path and to a road (Theydon Road) .
Turn left along the road, staying on the LHS. After 150 yards and just before the road turns left, cross over to the RHS, staying right in front of the Forest Gate Inn and into a narrow road named Bell Common Take care crossing as it is a blind bend and can be busy.
is where the route appears to leave the forest. The inviting looking 17th
Forest Gate Inn,
set back from the road and fronting onto the green, also helps to endorse this.
However, officially the route continues through the forest for over another half
a mile to the eastern edge of Bell Common where it enters
Bell Common is believed to have been the site of an ancient beacon and is now a designated Conservation Area. Following the narrow road after the pub, the open area of the common is to the left and to the right is lined with interesting old houses dating from the 16th Century to the 20th Century, many of which are listed buildings.
the road through
On reaching an opening in a line of trees turn left on a bridleway between the trees (which for some reason is named Western Road on maps. It is also still Centenary Walk). Follow the path straight on between trees for 350 yards, and then out onto a residential road (Western Avenue).
left along the pavement, which gradually veers right and to a T-junction with
Centre Drive. Turn left along Centre Drive (cross over as soon as possible) and
follow the footpath for 400 yards to just past
Here turn right onto an
footpath, signed by an underground symbol. This cuts between houses
and leads downhill. The path turns left, then right around a large car park and
On approaching the station, the entrance is to the right. However, if you intend to continue, veer slightly right across the road to a footbridge and cross it into Hill Crescent Way.
For such a small town, Epping Station is a busy one with over 6,000 passengers a day. The car park you just walked around is the largest on the London Underground system with 519 spaces.
On the front wall of Epping Station is a plaque which commemorates the opening of the Essex Way in 1972. This is a long distance path which stretches for 82 miles across the county and finishes by the coast at Harwich. We will follow it, in the main, until just after Chipping Ongar.
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