Recent outings and activities...

A walk in the Lee Valley

We collected at Fishers Green in the Lee Valley on 16th December for our last Wednesday walk of 2020. A fine day, but rain was forecast later on. We parked in the Lee Valley Farm car park which is free. All the other car parks are pay and display.

lee valley chair 201216 b un2049The route had been devised by Lee Valley and was called Artworks Route Three. The surface was metalled or hard paths all the way round apart from a couple of diversions. We passed the Glade Sculpture then the Bittern Information Point but the latter was closed. Further on we came to some wood carvings representing local wildlife. Through Nightingale Wood we then headed south alongside the railway line, past the Play Boulders – so good to see a sculpture that encourages children to play on it – and the two Stag Beetles fighting on a log to arrive at Windmill Lane. Through the Pindar car park with its toilets (the second set of toilets on this route, well done Lee Valley) and into the Natural Play area. These are wooden structures for children to play on and are supposed to represent the wind, which we managed to work out on some of the pieces.

Carrying on south we came to a Giant Chair sculpture which we couldn’t resist climbing. Only Brian managed to get up on it – photos on request from Kathy, Annick and Val – and you can see the unconquered chair in the attached photo. On to the Shrine Sculpture – a large cedar tree carved into imaginative shapes – and then past the disc golf area (we must try that, it looks fun) until we arrived at the White Water Centre. We entered hopefully, but the café is closed until 2021.

Down the towpath to Waltham Town Lock where we crossed the river, briefly looked at the Viking Ship – a not very impressive structure – and turned north for the homeward run along Waltons Walk. There are a couple of hides along here for the birdwatchers and a nice metal sculpture depicting a Banded Demoiselle. Through the car parks, a quick visit to the toilet and that was the end of the walk. Nearly three hours for nearly seven miles. As we drove home the rain started. Perfect!

Brian U., 16th December 2020


Chipping Ongar, a really old church and some mud

Wednesday 9th December was bright and dry, which was a relief as the previous night had been wet. We collected at Chipping Ongar near Sainsbury’s and set off across a field towards Greensted. The surface was slippery mud but we made good time to reach the famous wooden church at Greensted. Looking at the building you notice that there are a lot of bricks in this wooden church but let us not quibble. As a bonus in these Covid times the church was open so we had a look round, wearing covers for our muddy boots.

On we walked past open fields to reach Tudor Cottage. This has a connection to the Tolpuddle Martyrs, some of whom stayed there for a while on their return from forced labour in Australia. Turning up a track we soon encountered the effect of last night’s rain and had to skirt several deep puddles while trying to keep our footing on the slippery mud. On a tarmacked section we admired Blake Hall in the distance, gleaming white in the sunshine, before crossing the Epping-Ongar railway line. We covered a big loop and came back under the line. Then it was the home straight, following a line of excellent oak trees with the church spire at Ongar coming closer.

We splashed in some puddles to try and remove some of the mud before we entered our cars and agreed that was the messiest walk for some time. How Eileen and Ken got dirt up to their knees was a puzzle to all of us who merely had splashes of mud on our trousers.

Brian U. 9th December 2020


A post-lockdown Forest walk

On the first day of non-lockdown, 2nd December, six members of the outdoor group gathered at Jacks Hill car park in Epping Forest for a walk. The day was cold but bright with little wind, altogether a pleasant day.

We set off south down the Green Ride and turned off to navigate a steep descent, a scramble across a stream and a climb up to the Deer Sanctuary. This time the deer were far in the distance and as the rut was over, everything was peaceful. We crossed Coppice Row and climbed back up to our starting point. 2.5 miles done and about 4 to go but nobody backed out and so we went down the Green Ride again, this time carrying on south and puffing a bit as we climbed the surprisingly steep ascents. As Phil said, it isn’t a walk unless you work your lungs a bit.

Reaching Loughton Camp we turned right, crossed the Epping Road and made our way to High Beach. Val was all for going down to the biker’s café for bacon and sausage but the rest of us were set on High Beach with its toilets so Val gave in. It is very noticeable that since the pandemic started, the car park at High Beach is crammed full and so it was today. Nevertheless we were served quickly at the little green tea hut – what is it called? – in my case with tea, pasty and fruit cake for a very reasonable £4.80. The pasties at this hut are marvellous!

After an enjoyable rest and chat with some of the many cyclists there we set off again, this time north up the General’s and Verderer’s Rides. We saw the rifle butts and stopped for a moment at the Big View, then on to arrive at the very busy Woodredon Hill where motorists kindly stopped to let us cross, round the back of Wake Arms roundabout and on to cross the Epping Road near the Upshire turning. Across to the Green Ride and south to Jacks Hill where our cars waited. The distance turned out  to be 7.5 miles. A nice walk in fine weather and we all agreed that it is so much nicer to talk face to face instead of via Zoom.

Brian U., 2nd December 2020


Another walk in the south of Epping Forest

On Thursday 17th September, Jinan, Lynne, Phil, Marian and Jenefer joined me for a repeat of the walk which some other EFOG members did on 6th September.

We started promptly at mid day, and I chose a slightly different route at the beginning. This took us on to Manor Park Flats – part of Wanstead Flats otherwise known as ‘The Triangle’. This enabled a long-distance view westwards, right across to the Highgate Hills, 8 miles away. It was difficult to make out the group of walkers near Highgate looking back towards the Flats.

As well, I was able to point out the roof of the early 19th Century manor house from which the area ‘Manor Park’ gets its name. Prior to that, what small community there was (before the coming of the railway, really) was called Little Ilford. On the Flats here is the recent site of one of the temporary mortuaries, set up for the Coronavirus (C19) epidemic. Now this has been dismantled, the ground has been tilled and seeded with wildflowers in the hope of producing a meadow.

We passed through the remains of a circle of tree on the Triangle, once surrounding Newham’s Cold War Command Centre. It remains buried underground, but we saw a pile of concrete blocks, evidently remains of the more above-ground part of the structure, disturbed in the recent usage. I was also able to point out the most southerly tree in Epping Forest – quite a fun fact, I thought, and a surprise to some as they hadn’t realised Wanstead Flats is an integral part of the Forest.

This part of the Flats was for a long time the assembly point for cattle drives from distant parts of the country, assembling here for the London markets. The cattle that to some extent continued this tradition ceased to roam from further up in the Forest to cause enjoyment, consternation and wonder to locals and visitors, in 1996. This was after the mid 1990s BSE ("Mad Cow Disease") and later Foot and Mouth meant that no more cattle were released.

Leaving the Forest at Rabbits Road bridge (there was once a warren here), we walked the half kilometre length of footpath which separates the cemetery from the railway. It is quite narrow, and not the sort of place you would want to meet a herd of bullocks wishing to go in the opposite direction to yourself. Which is exactly what happened to me years ago. I told the little group the tale (tall or broad as it may seem), and assured them that I did manage to persuade the 50-odd head to turn back so that I could get home.

sw 200917 30967artEntering Aldersbrook Exchange Lands (Epping Forest) near the River Roding.The Aldersbrook, to which the path gradually descends, was totally dry. I have never seen that before. It is certainly nothing to do with global warming, I am sure! A young lady was cropping wild plants, and gradually tidying up what can – or could – be a lovely area, whilst some young men were lurking in the nearby undergrowth. I have no reason to believe there was any connection between those two activities, just people – like ourselves – doing their own thing.

Reaching the Roding, the encampment and shrine mentioned by Trevor in his write-up of the previous walk (see here) was still present, although changes had been made. I have mentioned this to the Conservators of Epping Forest by means of their email contact, but have not even received an acknowledgement. Our little group did have a discussion about the rights and wrongs of this – as I put it ‘personalisation’ of the Forest – but whatever they may be I feel deeply about this, as it really is one of my favourite local places and its ambience is – for me – spoilt. I shan’t be going there again.

We were back in Epping Forest, but as I explained, a somewhat unique part of the Forest as it used to be a sewage works. But that’s another and longer story. (see here if you want it)

wp 200917 30980artThe Grotto in Wanstead Park. The vegetation in the foreground should be the Ornamental Waters!Leaving ‘The Old Sewage Works’, or Aldersbrook Exchange Lands, as Epping Forest will have it, we entered another unique part of the Forest – Wanstead Park. Most of you will know now that this was the grounds of a great house, and has different bye-laws to the rest of Epping Forest. We walked anti-clockwise around the largest lake, the Ornamental Water, but it isn’t very ornamental at the moment, as so much of it has dried up and even vegetated over. Again, this has nothing to do with global warming.

Chalet Wood – now increasingly known as 'the bluebell wood' – looked a bit messy, as the deterrent logs, set to indicate pathways, have either rotted or been moved, and that often to build ‘wigwam’ style shelters. This seems to be a very popular sport or exercise, perhaps some form of woodcraft, but the logs were put there to protect the bluebells and allow them to increase. It’s an example of differing requirements in a busy park. Unfortunately – like so much that man is doing to our environment either deliberately or unintentionally – the environment suffers for it. And ultimately, so will man himself – if we aren’t already. (cough, wheeze, lack of sense of smell, etc.)

200917 wp cattle artA distant view of Quinny, Nina and Naru, the English Longhorns on their first day in Wanstead ParkBefore pausing for half an hour or so in the sunshine at Wanstead Park’s nice little refreshment kiosk, we were lucky to catch sight of Quinny, Nina and Naru. These are three English Longhorn cows, brought only that day to the park from further up in the Forest as a trial to see how they get on. If successful, we may once again have cattle in the south of Epping Forest! These are not the (sort of Frisian) bullocks that used to roam freely, mentioned earlier, and they are G.P.S. constrained to only keep to certain areas of Wanstead Park, but so many people around here are so excited to have cattle back, or to see cattle here. That might have been shown by the enthusiasm of herds of – not cows – children running towards them! They are not petting animals, and local people and visitors will need to understand that if the cattle are to enjoy being here, and for the trial to be successful, then the cows’ needs will have to be respected.

We arrived back at the City of London Cemetery gates, from where we had started, at something like 4pm, having covered something like 4.5 miles.

Paul Ferris. 20th September 2020.



Visit to Rainham Marshes

Birds, frogs, bees, teasels, Javelin train HS1, lizards…….. but no coffee!!

On Saturday 12 September myself, Cathy, Richard, Madeleine, Phil and Trev spent a few sunny hours wandering around the RSPB reserve at Rainham Marshes in Purfleet, armed with lunch, drinks and facemasks!.

Rainham lizardCommon LizardAlthough this is an RSPB reserve, as well as birds we saw a lot of other animals and insects which made it an interesting visit. We saw at least 5 greenish brown lizards basking in the sun all in different places. I counted 12 different birds with a query as to whether we saw a Peregrine or not. We heard and saw Marsh frogs, which were very well hidden in the weed in the waterways. There were also a few damselflies flying above waterways and around us, with the occasional common white butterfly fluttering over the hedgerows.

You would think in an RSPB reserve you would only see birds but apart from the other wildlife we saw various forms of transport, with the railway line for Eurostar, C2C and the Javelin train HS1 running very near to the reserve. It is quite bizarre in that you can look in one direction and see this wonderful wildlife area with reedbeds, waterways, trees, various foliage and then turn around in the other direction and you see huge electric pylons that buzz above you, not to mention the remains of the firing ranges left over from when the area was used by the military.

We had a very relaxed time wandering around to see what we could find. Even though much of the reserve was overgrown and some areas still not open to the public, we had a good time. After months of being left without staff or volunteers to carry out conservation work the reeds and foliage had taken over.

The visitor centre and café at the reserve is not open yet so we were not able to have a coffee at the beginning of the walk or a well earned afternoon cuppa and cake at the end! When seeking out the toilets we had to be careful as we walked around the outside of the visitor centre as there was a bees nest just above our heads with very active bees flying around!. It was well worth the visit on such a lovely day.

Rainham teaselsTeaselsrainham frogFrog












Ann W. 13th September 2020