Stage 9 - Dobbs Weir to High Beach (11 miles)
From Dobbs Weir we follow the River Lee Navigation through Broxbourne, Waltham Abbey and past Enfield Lock. On this part of the stage it’s almost impossible to go off-course, unless you make a decision to jump into the canal or take a path away from it. At Enfield Lock the course leaves the Lee Valley Walk and joins the route of the London Loop for over a mile, then turns left through Epping Forest to finish on the green at High Beach.
The start at Dobbs Weir is a pleasant place and a popular fishing spot. There is a picnic area and the inviting Fish & Eels pub with its pleasant beer garden overlooking the weir. There is a small café and public toilets in the riverside car park, and nearby is the Lea Valley Caravan Park.
Start on the towpath just south of the road and next to the public car park. Follow the Lee Valley Path southwards along the eastern edge of the canal. Dobbs Weir Lock is passed after 350 yards. To the left are the Nazeing Meads Boating Lakes and Broxbourne Sailing Club.
Shortly after Dobbs Weir Lock the path widens out to a lane for over half a mile and is not always traffic free. There are many potholes which could do with some repairs. Carthagena Lock is passed at 0.9 miles, as is the Prime Meridian Line crossed for the second time on the route. 300 yards later the towpath crosses under the Broxbourne to Nazeing road bridge and continues to Broxbourne.
Just before Broxbourne, to the right across the river, is the Lee Valley Leisure Pool (closed in 2008 and soon to be demolished) and just past this the path comes out onto the Old Nazeing Road next to The Crown Pub.
The Crown Inn is owned by Vintage Inns. The company seems to be very selective about the pubs they acquire; we pass many on our way around London. Most are in pleasant surroundings, next to rivers or in quite country areas. Others passed on route include the Thames Court Hotel at Shepperton Lock, the Kingfisher at Chertsey Bridge, the Fish and Eels at Dobbs Weir (at the start of this stage), the Ship at Farningham and the Magpie at Little Warley. Their beers are well chosen and not expensive and their food is traditional and good value. The pub itself dates back to the 18th Century when it was the Crown Hotel. It became popular with Victorian day-trippers and anglers. Local companies encourage their employees to participate in sports in fields next to The Crown and used it after the games. The hotel got knocked down in the 1930s and was replaced by the current pub.
On passing The Crown Pub (at 1.43 miles) turn right along Old Nazeing Road and over the bridge to the west bank of the River Lee. Then left again, continuing south along the towpath, and soon over a footbridge which crosses the Broxbourne Mill Stream. The railway is just to the right. The next 5 miles to Enfield Lock is easy to follow with the towpath hugging the west bank of the Lee Navigation as it flows directly south.
Immediately over the footbridge a path, under the railway, to the right leads to Mill Lane. There has been a mill here since before Domesday and it is the only one in the area listed in the book. The first recorded owners were the Knights of St John of Jerusalem who held it up until the Reformation 1544 when Henry VIII stripped the monasteries of their assets. Ownership was granted to local miller John Cook and it then passed through many hands. In the early 1890s Charles Webster, on his death, passed ownership to his daughter. Soon afterwards the mill closed down. In 1910 a Dutch Engineer took over the mill and turned the millhouse into a small engineering works and after restoring the mill wheel used it to generate power for the business. In the autumn of 1949 the mill burnt down and stood neglected until 1973 when Lee Valley Regional Park Authority bought the site. They started restoration in 1977 and by 2001 the mill wheel was turning again. The area is now called Broxbourne Old Mill and Meadows. Facilities include parking, toilets, a picnic area, a catering van at weekends, holiday chalets, bike hire between April and October, day fishing tickets and a model railway club at weekends. You can read more about the Broxbourne Mill Restoration Project and the wildlife of the meadows at Lee Valley Park.
This small area is quite unique as within 300 yards of the path you have three water channels - Lee Navigation, River Lee and New River. There are riverside parks, lots of walks, some old houses, the parish church, the railway, boating clubs and more.
The Parish Church of St Augustine on Churchfields is Grade 1 listed, is just a stone’s throw away from Mill Lane and overlooks the New River. It was completely rebuilt in the early / middle 15th Century but still retains its 12th Century marble font. The interior has numerous monuments and brasses. In its large riverside graveyard there are five listed tombs.
The section of the Lea Valley from Broxbourne to Waltham Abbey is called the River Lee Country Park and covers an area of over 1,000 acres. The link has lots of information about the history and wildlife of the park and there are a few great leaflets you can download.
To the right, after another 0.9 miles, an exit from the towpath leads to a secluded picnic area and park at Wormley. Our original route took us through Wormley, across a railway level crossing and along a lane to here, where we would turn right to join the Lee towpath. When we changed to the current route in 2005 it added a few extra miles between Hatfield and Wormley, but this was a huge improvement as it takes in all of the Alban Way, Mill Green Mill, Commons Woods at Welwyn, the Cole Green Way, historical Hertford, Ware and much more of the River Lee towpath. It meant going from all on-road from Old Hatfield to here, to now almost all off-road and through beautiful countryside.
For the nest three miles, to where the towpath passes under the A121 (Highbridge Street at Waltham Abbey), the route passes four locks: Aqueduct Lock, Cheshunt Lock, Waltham Common Lock and Waltham Town Lock. On both sides there are many old gravel pits which have filled up with water and are now lakes used for boating, fishing and other water sports. They are separated by areas of open space, and marsh full with wildlife and are joined up by many different courses of the river and individual streams. There are farms, market garden nurseries with fields of greenhouses, electricity stations, woods and meadows. Although not many can be seen from the towpath, the east side of the Lea Valley has a huge concentration of greenhouses.
Many clubhouses sit on the shores of the lakes with small lanes leading to them. However, the Lee Valley stays wide with no built up area encroaching on it until we reach Waltham Abbey.
Aqueduct Lock, at 2.95 miles into the stage, takes its name from the aqueduct just above the lock which carries the Lee Navigation over the Small River Lee - a minor tributary of the River Lee.
300 yards after Cheshunt Lock, and at almost 4 miles into the stage, a concrete footbridge over the Navigation marks the crossing point of two paths dissecting each other at right angles and going off between lakes to form what looks like a crucifix from the air. The footbridge over the Navigation leads to two other footbridges between lakes, then past a parking area and across another bridge over the Horsemill Stream to yet another over the Cornmill Stream. There are diversions to the south and north off this path along narrow islands leading elsewhere through marshes and between lakes. The same is true of most of the area in this part of the Lea Valley. It really shows the complexity of it all and gives an indication of how much nature and wildlife there is to enjoy. Immediately south of the parking area is Waltham Abbey Woods. The woods are bounded to the west by the Horsemill Stream (also part of the River Lee Flood Relief Channel at this point) and dissected by the Old River Lee and the Cornmill Stream. We are now right in the heart of the River Lee Country Park. It extends away from both sides of the path and is all within the Lee Valley Park (not to confuse both) and is managed by the Lea Valley Regional Park Authority.
At 4.27 miles, where the canal bends slightly to the left, on the RHS a footpath leads to a small car park with public toilets and a picnic area. A few yards later is the entrance to the Lee Valley YHA and the Herts Young Mariners Base. 100 yards further along Windmill Lane is Cheshunt railway station and nearby is the Headquarters of Tesco Stores is on Delamare Road.
At Waltham Common Lock (4.6 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 Bowyers Water 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 35 acres. The path, to the left, across the footbridge and over the Lee Navigation leads past the bottom corner of Friday Lake and over a second footbridge across another channel, then splits to follow different paths through Hall Marsh and along different streams.
After a further 950 yards along the Lee Navigation Path another footbridge over the canal leads to more paths going off in different directions across Waltham Marsh. To the right a footpath go off through Cheshunt Marsh and then splits. The southern of these two paths recently led to a parking area with toilets and a picnic area after 100 yards. The area around this is called the Showground and it is here where the Lee Valley White Water Centre was opened on 9 December 2010. The new venue hosted the London 2012 canoe slalom events with temporary seating for 12,000 spectators. At present is open to members of the public for White Water Rafting and will re-open for public use after the games. 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. I’ll come back to this later.
After another 450 yards the towpath passes Waltham Town Lock and within a few yards goes under the A121 road bridge (Highbridge Street). For tall people it may mean bending down as the road bridge is low – so why it’s called Highbridge Street is not clear. Just right of the towpath, on the south side of the A121, stands The Old English Gentleman Pub (now closed) and just past this, on a small industrial estate and backing onto the river is the Riverside Café.
To get to the Royal Gunpowder Mills go off the towpath just before going under the A121. Turn left towards Waltham Abbey and over the road bridge. After 100 yards turn left into Beaulieu Drive which leads to the mills.
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 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.
John Harris’s website www.walkinginherts.co.uk has lots of maps of different walks in Hertfordshire (many joining with our route) and an excellent leaflet entitled Explore River Lee with a very detailed map of the Lee Valley between Broxbourne and Waltham Abbey.
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.
The earliest 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 Glastonbury, 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 Waltham. Tovi took this as a sign and built a small wooden church on the spot to house the cross. The cross soon got a reputation for causing miracles and visions and thus became a place of pilgrimage. Many years later Edward the Confessor granted these lands to Earl Harold Godwinson (1020 - 1066). Harold suffered a mysterious illness which caused him to become paralysed. However, he was miraculously cured and he believed this was due to his prayers to the Holy Cross at Waltham. He showed his thanks by building a great stone church at Waltham fit to house the cross. He also set up a monastery and installed secular cannons.
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 England and was at the right hand of the king - Edward the Confessor. Titles for his three brothers Tostig, Gyrth and Leofwine soon followed. However, due to a Northumbrian revolt in 1065 he relieved Tostig of his title and exiled him. This he would soon regret.
The throne of England had been promised by Edward the Confessor to his cousin Duke William of Normandy. Harold did have his own good reason to make a claim. However, after being shipwrecked off the coast of Normandy in 1064, under some duress Harold swore and signed an oath which said he would back William’s claim. Everything changed course on Edward’s deathbed when he declared Harold to be his rightful successor. Edward died on 5th January 1066. Harold wasted no time and had himself crowned as King of England the next day. Harold II as king now faced two others claims to his throne, the Duke William of Normandy and King Harald III of Norway backed by his own exiled brother Tostig. Whilst Harold was waiting for an expected invasion from William in the south, his brother and the King of Norway landed in the north. Harold had to march his armies north to meet this invasion. He defeated the invading army and killed both men at Stamford Bridge, near York, on 25th September 1066. In the meantime William, using Harold’s written oath to his own claim to the English throne, had gained Papal backing and three day after the battle at York he landed in England at Pevensey. Harold marched south to meet his second invasion. On the way he is said to have stopped off at Waltham to pray for victory to the Holy Cross. However, legend has it that as he looked up the figure on the cross bowed its head and this was taken as a bad omen.
His army, depleted and tired, marched to meet William. The two armies met near Hastings on 14th October 1066. Harold was said to shout as his charge “The Holy Cross”. His defeat is recorded in the Bayeux Tapestry which now resides at the Bateaux Tapestry Museum in northern France. It depicts him being killed by an arrow through the eve. His brothers Gyrth and Leofwin were also killed at the Battle of Hastings. There is lots of information and photos of panels of the tapestry on Wikipedia.
William’s accession to the throne as King William I on 25th December 1066 meant Harold would be the last Anglo-Saxon King of England. History records that after the battle William entrusted William Malet (or better known as Gulliaume) to attend the burial of the dead English King. It is said that Harold’s body was buried under a bunch of stones on a hill overlooking the sea. Malet placed a stone on the grave with the inscription.
“By command of the Duke, you rest here as a King, O Harold, that you may be guardian still of sea and shore”
Later Harold’s body was taken to Waltham to be re-buried. Two stones, just east of the Abbey, is where his body is believed to lie. The inscriptions on one stone reads
"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 ENGLAND OBVT 1066".
Under William the Conqueror the power and wealth of the church which Harold had built at Waltham diminished. However, in 1177 Henry II, as a penance for his killing of Thomas Becket (Archbishop of Canterbury), refounded Harold’s church as an Augustinian Priory and in 1184 it was raised to Abbey status becoming one of the most powerful in England.
Waltham Abbey prospered during Norman Times. The “Holy Cross” 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 Lincoln to meet the king. The king travelled south to his sick spouse only to see her be given the last rites and listen to her final words. She died on 28th November 1290. The queen’s remains were taken to the Gilbertine Priory of St Catherine at Sempringham, just south of Lincoln where her body was embalmed. Her internal organs were buried in a tomb at Lincoln Cathedral which still exists, and her embalmed body set off on the long journey back to London to be buried at Westminster Abbey. On the way to London the funeral cortège, often led by the king, stopped off at many places. Shortly afterwards at each stop on the journey Edward I had a cross erected as a memorial to her. In total twelve Eleanor Crosses were built. These were at Lincoln, Grantham, Stamford, Geddington, Northampton, Stony Stratford, Woburn, Dunstable, St Albans, Waltham, Westcheap and Charing Cross
Eleanor’s funeral took place at Westminster Abbey on 17th December 1290. Her body is said to have remained at Waltham Abbey for a few days in preparation. Her heart was buried separately at in the Dominican Priory at Blackfriars in London. Of all the twelve crosses which were made, only three survive. Waltham Cross is one. Some sources claim it has been moved from its original position to where it now stands, over a mile west of Waltham Abbey at Waltham Cross and almost a mile west of where our route crosses the A121.
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 Henry VIII first met Thomas Cranmer and thus began the process which led to the English Reformation.
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 Henry VIII in 1540, when Robert Fuller, the last Abbot, surrendered to the king. The tower, at the west end of the church which now dominates the town, was built in 1556 using materials from the demolished abbey. It was built at the opposite side to the old tower to stabilise the leaning 12th Century nave which survived the dissolution, as the nave belonged to the townsfolk and not the church.
There are many other things of interest to see in the grounds of the Abbey, the Information Centre has a small museum and lots more about the Abbey and the River Lee Valley. 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 Waltham Abbey.
For the next mile to the north tip of Enfield Island the course of the River and the Navigation are one, whilst the Flood Relief Channel also flows parallel just a very short distance to the east.
Shortly after the Riverside Café the towpath crosses a footbridge over the entrance to Hazelmere 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 6 miles into the stage) 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. 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 London's waterways. Possibly the cause of a never ending housing shortage, or just as a way of being different and getting away from the mass produced postage stamp plots of the modern day dwellings. Whichever the reason, these people tend to take pride in their homes and add to the interest and scenery of their surroundings.
The route continues along the Lee Navigation and after another 550 yards the Old River Lee goes off to the left and behind the old cottages of Government Row. The cottages 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 a few years later, in 1816, to house local factory workers. 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.
Four hundred yards before Enfield Lock the route passes 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, green space in the middle and 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. For up to date information on the area visit the Enfield Island Village Trust website.
Immediately after Enfield Lock we part company with the Lee Valley Path by turning left to cross over the canal – now at 7 miles into the stage.
The Lee Path continues for 13 miles to the Thames at Bow. On the way it passes through the site of the London 2012 Olympic Park at Stratford.
Once over the canal turn right into Swan & Pike Road and past Rifles Public House (closed May 2008).
Just around the corner to the left of Rifles Pub, is 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, cafés, 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”.
Just over 150 yards further along Swan & Pike Road at a small parking area a sign shows we have joined the course of another long distance path around London, the London Loop. The 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 London’s first official orbital footpath. At www.luphen.org.uk there is a very good illustrated guide to the walk.
Swan & Pike Pool is shown on an information notice board. It to the right and is a pleasant place to sit next to the river as it widens to a large pool. It was formally a basin for barges to turn. Today it is a popular place for anglers.
After 100 yards, with the entrance to the car park at Swan & Pike Pool to your RHS and a metal gate in front, turn left onto a path, signed London Loop and the River Lee now to your LHS. 40 yards later stay straight on keeping the river to your left and ignoring the footbridge over the river to Enfield Island. Continue straight on along the towpath for 200 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 the footpath turns left and then right and continues along the edge of the River Lee. The path continues next to the river for 200 yards then turns left to cross the River Lee via a footbridge and onto the southern most part of Enfield Island. Just over the bridge veer slightly right 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.
Immediately over the footbridge, follow the path as it veers left towards some trees and to and through a wooden kissing gate. The main path becomes graveled and another path immediately goes off to the right. At this point you can turn right, but stay straight on for just a few more yards and then turn right at the junction of two paths following the signs of the London Loop. The path veers right and then through some trees. Follow it straight on (the previous mentioned path, not to follow, joins it from the right). Soon the path widens to a lane. After another 350 yards the lane leads through metal bollards to a road with a small parking / turning area to the right.
In front and to the right is a small housing development. 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 (Stewardstone Road).
The parkland we passed through from the last footbridge to Godwin Close is once again called Lea Valley Park on maps. It is also called Stewardstone Marsh 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.
At the end of Godwin Close turn right along the main road (A112) for 100 yards to just after Netherhouse Farm. Cross the road to climb a stile into a field (now at 8 miles). 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 London Loop. Follow the path to the right, staying with the route of the London Loop. The path climbs gradually to start, but soon becomes steeper. At the opposite corner of the field go past an outbuilding and exit the field. Then cross a lane onto a wider path straight on diagonally across another field and still following the London Loop.
The climb up through the fields, although quite steep, is a pleasant one. To the right there are great views over the King George V & William Girling Reservoirs to London.
At the opposite corner of the field, follow the path as it turns right along the edge of another field and after 200 yards through a small wood. On entering the wood follow the path between trees as it veers left and soon emerges in another field with the wood now to the left. Stay straight on, soon past the wood and onto a wide track between fields for 200 yards. On entering a wood (and just before reaching a road – Daws Hill) turn left and onto a path through the woods and eventually out onto a lane / track with Carroll’s Farm in front.
At this point we stop following the route of the London Loop as it turns right along the lane on its way to Chingford.
Just a few yards south of here, across Daws Road, is Gilwell Park. The park can trace its history back to the early 15th Century when the local area was called Gyldiefords. In the middle 15th Century a farmhouse was built and stood for 300 years. In 1754 it was replaced by a much larger manor house called Osborne Hall. A few decades later the house was inherited by William and Margaret Chinnery. In 1793 they took up residence and renamed it Gilwell Hall. They were a wealthy family and were often visited by George III and later by his son George IV. William Chinnery worked for the British Treasury and in 1812 was sacked for embezzlement. Margaret was forced to sign over the Gilwell Estate to the Exchequer. It is claimed that Margaret’s ghost haunts the park and has often been seen along the Lime Walk that she planted.
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.
At Carroll’s Farm turn left and follow Green Lane for about 300 yards to just past some isolated houses (at 9 miles). Immediately past the last house turn right onto a path / bridleway. Follow this straight to a golf course (West Essex Golf Club) and straight across two fairways to some trees. Please take great care crossing the golf course as it can be dangerous and it is easy to put golfers off their game.
Once over the two fairways turn left with the path along the edge of a fairway and keeping the trees to the right. The path soon passes a putting green to the right and goes through some trees to a teeing area. Here turn right with the path and along the right hand edge of the fairway of a golf hole. The path stays next to the fairway all the way to and past the green and then leads out onto a road (Lippitts Hill).
Turn right along the road for 70 yards then turn left, by a barn, into the lane to Day’s Farm. Just before the lane turns left, turn right onto a path (Pepper Alley). Follow the path across a field to a gate. Stay right along Pepper Alley and past High Beach Cricket Club (at 10 miles).
Pepper Alley comes out onto Mott Street. Turn right along the road, soon past Wallsgrove House (once home to the Baring family of the same name bank) to the right.
Follow Mott Street as it veers left and past Church Road to your RHS. The entrance to the Manor House is to the left. After another 100 yards, at a crossroads, go straight over – still Mott Street.
In another 230 yards Mott Street becomes Manor Road. Continue straight on for 350 yards to just past Wellington Hill, then veer slightly right off the road and diagonally across High Beach Green to an isolated oak tree on the right of the green and just opposite the entrance driveway to the Epping Forest Field Centre. The finish of the stage is next to the oak tree which dominates the green and just across Nursery Road from the entrance driveway to the Epping Forest Field Centre.
Lippitts Hill is an interesting and secluded place with only a minor road running through it. There is a pleasant pub called The Owl, behind which sits Pipers Farm and the Elms Caravan & Camping Park. Opposite The Owl is the Metropolitan Police Training Centre. It is home to the Met Police Air Support Unit and the forces arms training centre. During World War II it was used as a military base by the US Marines. The area was a popular place for poets and from the www.enfieldindependent.co.uk you can read about the local Poets’ Walk.
Although a 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 Enfield disappeared in March 1970 and their bodies were found almost 11 weeks later by a man walking his dogs in the local woods. They had been drugged, sexually assaulted, killed, placed in a copse and covered with twigs. The case was only solved thirty years later when convicted pedophile Ronald Jebson confessed to the murders. You can watch a three documentary about the case on YouTube.
The finish of the stage at High Beach Green is pleasant and has lots of facilities. There is the Epping Forest Visitor’s Centre, The Kings Oak Hotel, a tea bar, public toilets, lots of car parking and because of being situated on a ridge in the centre of the forest there are great views looking northwest to Waltham Abbey and west over London.
You can read more about High Beach and Epping Forest at the start of the write-up for stage 10.
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