A June Walk in Epping Forest
A gloriously sunny Wednesday 9th June saw seven of us collect in Jacks Hill car park, one of the Epping Forest car parks that does not yet charge. Most of us were in shorts and t-shirts, it was so warm.
We moved off northwards on the Green Ride to reach Bell Common where we turned back south alongside Epping New Road. It is a track at this point, and after many hot dry days I was surprised to find that the track was quite boggy in places. Past the Coal Duty marker-post and the entrance to Ambresbury Banks, and dodging many muddy patches, we eventually emerged onto a surfaced path. Crossing Epping New Road we carried on south, past the Wake Arms roundabout and over Woodredon Hill. Not for the first time a motorist slowed down to let us cross the road safely.
Val was suffering with her knee, having slipped on the muddy track earlier, so she stormed ahead to be able to rest at High Beach while we waited for the stragglers (Kathy and Peter, both talking at full speed). We arrived and had our usual excellent food and drink at the green tea hut by the Pillow Mounds. It seems to me that there are fewer cars now that parking costs money. Clive turned up here. He meant to join us at the start but had an exciting time walking up from Theydon Bois which delayed him. He knew we were heading for High Beach and made his own way there.
Carrying on, we followed the Beech Trail for a while, crossing Epping Road to reach the Green Ride again. Turning north we climbed and descended the demanding slopes around there to reach Jacks Hill again where our cars were baking in the sun.
Brian U. 9th June 2021
Copped Hall and Upshire
On Wednesday 5th May we met at the Lodge Road car park in Epping Forest, only recently re-opened after closure for a couple of years due to fly tipping. A large group of us needed splitting up, which occurred naturally as we set off, those chattering at the back and those walking at the front. We headed for Copped Hall past the entrancingly named Bog North. Even with the prolonged dry spell it was indeed still boggy. We entered the Warren Plantation and crossed over the M25 to arrive at Copped Hall. The repaired pediment and new chimney stack were admired but the newly installed light-well could not be seen from outside. Covid restrictions still apply and the house is not open to visitors – even the volunteers on the estate are discouraged from entering.
Down the slope towards the White House we followed Peter Gamble’s night walk route, up past the substantial houses around Copped Hall Gardens. Through the gate and turning away from the stables we walked up past Copped Hall Green, getting off the road each time cars came to and from the stables. The we turned right to Nicholls Farm and then left onto a path bordering Obelisk Field. Last time we were here we saw a herd of deer next to the obelisk but no luck today. The path is used by horses and we were lucky that it had been dry as we negotiated some chewed up dips in the path.
At Obelisk Farm we crossed the road and went into Warlies Park, where the Epping Forest cattle are overwintered. The cattle, and their many young, seemed curious about us and we were aware of their large horns as they moved towards us. We walked up past Warlies Park House, now a business centre and looking very good in the sunshine. Once again we tried to remember the name of the capitals of columns – Ionic, Corinthian and … .We decided that these were Ionic.
A steep climb up the slope away from the House brought us to the Horseshoes pub in Upshire. They staggered a bit when we all trooped in without a booking but rallied magnificently and provided substantial meals. We sat in the rear garden and many coats were taken off as the sheltered position and the sun heated us up.
We walked up the road with full stomachs, past Oxley Wood and up the path to cross the M25. Here Brian did his “Duke of York” routine, sending the group up a steep slope only to bring them down again as he realised his mistake. He only went wrong twice more as we headed vaguely back to our cars. To put the seal on the day, having been sunny most of the time, it started raining soon after we arrived home.
Brian U. 8th May 2021
Ilford to Redbridge, and Wanstead Park's bluebells.
I met the rest of Trevor’s attendees for his walk from Ilford towards Redbridge, on Bank Holiday Monday 3 May 2021, at Sainsbury’s in Ilford.
There were nine of us, so I offered to lead a sub-group consisting of Ann, Fozie and Madeleine, whilst Trevor went ahead with Eileen, Chris, Ian and Louise. This was so as to be in line with the six-maximum requirement for meetings outside during the 2020/21 Covid crisis.
We were supposed to keep in view of the other group, but we quickly lost sight of Trevor’s when we stopped to look at the Roding and the Alders Brook at Ilford Bridge, then deviated to look at the Alders Brook from Lugg Approach*. We saw them again when they’d stopped to look at the brook just by the Great Eastern and Liverpool Street to Shenfield railway lines. I wonder if they noticed the magnificent Chusan Palm growing alongside the nastiest bit of the walk - Romford Road in Little Ilford? They would certainy have noticed the colourful graffiti adorning the walls approaching the railway underpass.
It gets a bit vegetative from this point onwards, so there were a few occasions where we discussed flowers, and then saw the other group briefly when they had either stopped to look at the Roding or stopped to wait for us to come into view. Maybe a bit of both? We discussed Sandpipers and Chiffchaffs with some cycling birders, then proceeded into Epping Forest, by way of the old sewage works site. I don’t know – because we didn’t see the others for a while – but we took the mysterious riverside-bank walk, while maybe the others followed the parallel Roding Valley Way surfaced track, to then cross the river to the Redbridge bank.
Walking northwards still, we paused to talk about the panorama across the river along the ornamental canal and up The Glade, to where Wanstead House would once have commanded the view across the horizon. From the ‘official’ Roding Valley Way track, we descended to the now derelict grassy area which had been Kearley and Tonge’s – once “The Greatest Grocers in the World” – sports fields. It was decided that a sandwich break was in order, and although we had seen the preceding group in the far distance – maybe waiting for us again – a phone call to Trevor suggested that they forge ahead whilst we make our own time.
Having finished our little break – seated on a grassy bank – we made our way to the Redbridge Roundabout, where various options presented themselves. Originally, the walk was going to continue from here eastwards to Valentines Park, but Trevor had said at the beginning that he was now going to include Wanstead Park and its bluebells instead. That was fine with me, because I had intended to leave the walk here anyway, and walk back home through Wanstead Park. It was probably convenient for Fozie, too, as she could easily get home from here. But Ann and Madeleine had not heard of the change of route, and had left their cars in inconvenient locations for a return from Wanstead Park. And, too, they hadn’t heard Trevor mention it at the beginning. Fozie waited for a bus, Madeleine decided that returning to Gant’s Hill might be a better option, but Ann wanted more of a walk and so decided to accompany me to the park, from which I assured her she could get back reasonably conveniently by bus.
Approaching Wanstead Park along Warren Road, we could see by the number of cars parked that the park would be ‘heaving’. And so it was. We walked quickly through the bluebell wood* – with me moaning about the numbers and disrespect some were showing to the flowers by trampling them – and caught up with the others at the kiosk, where tea and coffee and an outdoor bench were available. I had to apologise to Trevor for getting so far behind, and he suggested that he thought the rest of ‘my’ group may have chucked me into the river for pointing too many things out. And that I had lost 50% of my group – which must say something.
I bade them farewell (actually said ‘goodbye’ or some such), as their plan was to make their way to Ilford via the east end of Wanstead Park, and then by way of Valentines Park. At least that gave Ann company, and she didn’t need to pay for a bus back by herself.
Two minutes after we had parted, I watched a family of Great Crested Grebes on Heronry Pond. Dad was feeding one grebeling, and mum was trying to sleep whilst the other grebelets were trying to climb under her wings. It is a wonderful sight, and I am sorry that the others didn’t see that.
Thanks to Trevor for arranging the walk, and the others who came on it.
Paul Ferris 4th May 2021
* For more information about the walk from Ilford to Redbridge, click HERE
* For more about the Bluebells in Wanstead Park, click HERE
River Roding Walk – Ilford Northwards
Part 1 - Ilford to the Redbridge Roundabout
At the finish of the write-up of the walk that I entitled ‘ From Little Ilford to Big Ilford’ (Part 4 of 'Ilford to the Thames' – here), I left it (us) ‘...at the pavement of the Romford Road, just on the Manor Park side of the Ilford Bridge.’
In fact, on that day we walked further. On the north side of Ilford Bridge, if one knows where to look – and particularly at this time of year (March/April) – the confluence of the Alders Brook with the Roding can be seen, on the left-hand side. Unfortunately, it isn’t possible to actually walk northwards by the Roding itself, but it can be re-accessed by a quite pleasant walk near the brook.
That is to say, it is quite pleasant once the Romford Road is out of the way.
What with the A406 North Circular more or less overhead, the A118 Romford Road alongside, this is not the nicest stretch of road, but it isn’t too far – walking towards Manor Park – before a small road (Lugg Approach), which leads to a big car dealer and the premises of the Tunnelling and Underground Construction Academy (now there is a title!). You can’t go far up this approach, because otherwise you are met with security gates and probably security guards, too, but where that is at the point of happening you can, and we did, stand on a bridge from both sides of which you can view the narrow channel of the Alders Brook. This brook is a small tributary of the Roding (see here). Last time I looked it was very overgrown, and there were notices warning of Japanese Knotweed. The knotweed and the notices are now gone, and the bank-side has been recently cleared of rubbish and vegetation. The stream itself, though, needs a good clear-out.
Returning to the Romford Road, we passed the pedestrian crossing that the Roding Valley Way indicates, southwards, into the streets. How daft; back in 2015 I suggested that it should be possible for pedestrian and perhaps cyclists to have access to the banks of the Alders Brook, and remove the necessity to walk – as we were doing – along part of the busy Romford Road.
However, it is still necessary to breath in all those fumes and put up with all that noise, and the most saving aspect of the (relatively short) trek is that in the tiny front garden of one of the dwellings is a magnificent Chusan Palm.
Shortly, a paved way though the maisonettes here leads northwards towards the Great Eastern railway line, using part of Aldersbrook Lane. Aldersbrook Lane is a very historic route, once having been the main approach to Aldersbrook Manor. Its orientation – broadly NW – predates the much later usual N-S and E-W orientation of the streets off the Romford Road. Just beyond the junction with Daines Close a pedestrian way drops down to a foot-tunnel beneath the railway. There is a ‘Roding Valley Way’ sign here. The disturbance of the Romford Road was quickly forgotten as we emerged from the tunnel as there is a considerable area of un-built-upon land ahead. On the left – behind security railings but nevertheless quite visible – are the landscaped grounds of the huge City of London Cemetery (1), whilst on the right, just across the Alders Brook, is Ilford Golf Course. There is a track to the left, between the cemetery railings and the railway, which leads to Wanstead Flats, and ahead the Roding Valley Way forges between the brook and the cemetery towards Wanstead Park. This track – locally known as the Bridle Path – was until the surfacing and re-orienteering work took place for it to become the RVW, little known, except to locals, allotment holders, and probably tramps. Tramps seem to be a thing of the past (people of the past?) now, having been superseded by other groups - often taking to living in camps - in much the same way that red squirrels have been superseded by grey ones, perhaps.
This route, alongside the Alders Brook, is surprisingly rural and potentially pleasant in aspect – certainly compared to the south side of the railway. I do say potentially, because although great efforts are made by some to keep it nice, sometimes even greater efforts seem to be made by others to litter and fly-tip it. This seems to be an English disease, I suggest.
But it is a nice walk; the trees were beginning to green, some common wildlflowers – buttercups, dandelions, daisies, speedwells – were brightening up the place, and there was plenty of birdsong, too. The brook disappears from view behind some allotments part way along the route, and then briefly reappears at the far end of those allotments. And that appearance is actually the first that most people get of the brook, because it emerges from a conduit from within the cemetery to the left.
Just for a short way neither the Alders Brook nor the Roding was in view, but it is possible to scramble up a bank and see the Roding, with Ilford Golf Course stretching into the distance beyond. Here, even the A406 is distant, so the sounds are mostly natural ones. We sat on some logs, just off the track, and had a snack. We had seen, and saw, a few Peacock butterflies and a white or two, and then there was a Comma. My companion recognised the species, but was unaware of where its name came from. I explained that on the dark underwing there is a very small white mark – a comma. A long-distance sitting-down camera shot even allowed me enough resolution to show that without moving and disturbing the creature.
The Roding comes close to the path a short way beyond, and from here there is a good view of the meanders of the river, with – at the time – Mallard duck using the flow to move downstream. And then the Roding Valley Way enters Epping Forest; is this the only place it does so? The wide-open gates and falling-down railings of the old Redbridge Southern Sewage Works now form the boundary, with an Epping Forest sign with relevant rules and regulations guarding the entrance. The disused sewage works became part of the Forest in 1993, when that area of land was exchanged for some of the Forest that had been lost in road-building elsewhere. The City of London Corporation – owners of Epping Forest – thus call this area ‘The Exchange Lands’. To me it is still ‘The Old Sewage Works’. (see here)
Walking along the foot/cycle path that runs along the bank above the Roding, with clear views across the golf course towards residential Ilford, the variety of plants around us was a pleasure, especial as there was cherry and Blackthorn in flower. It is easy to follow the official ‘way’ onwards towards Wanstead Park, but I knew of a slightly less used alternative, closer to the river. This winds, mostly beneath trees, along the river bank before emerging onto the E-W cycle/footpath between Aldersbrook and Wanstead Park Road, in Ilford. This emergence just misses the signpost that indicates that Valentines Park is 10 minutes away. And fails to mention that if you walk it – rather than cycle – it is more like 30 minutes.
A bridge carries the Roding Valley Way over the Roding to the Ilford bank, and ahead is the route to Valentines Park, but ours was to the left and continuing alongside the river. There was a nice new sign on the bridge, explaining that beyond was the Roding Valley Park (2) – a green corridor... following the River Roding and Roding Valley Way cycle route. This is great – except once again we get ‘cycle route’, with no mention of it also being a pedestrian route. Second class citizens?
Anyway we crossed the bridge, and walked left – along the cycle route. Are we allowed? There was a football game going on on the recreation field here – a legal one this time, as the restrictions on such had recently been removed. The nicely-surfaced route rises from sports-field level to river-bank level, so that the river comes into view, looking across to Wanstead Park. There is a particularly nice vista into the park a short way along, looking along the ornamental Canal and up The Glade to where, in times past – and maybe up until 1826 – the magnificent view of the great Wanstead House would have crossed the skyline. Now the view is of a line of trees separating the Park from Wanstead Golf Course, and what is left of the house there is a big hole in the ground where the basements would have been.
Immediately behind us was a small wood, with on its southern side at least, a muddy ditch. This is Whiskers Island – actually a part of Wanstead Park, even though on the east bank of the Roding. Beyond this, on the landward side away from the river, a dense area of bramble separates from the noisily encroaching North Circular road, and a bit further along are some relatively new allotments.
At the northern end of the allotments, the pedestrian/cycle route dog-legs right towards the road, then sharp left alongside it. We decided to stick to the river as closely as possible so dropped down into a large area of what had been the Kearly and Tonge playing fields, leased from London Borough of Redbridge. Now it is just a large grassland area, with some remnant goal posts and some desire-line paths used by dog-walkers amongst others. The aforementioned bramble patch, allotments, and this, are all part of the Roding flood plain – as are the earlier recreation grounds and the whole of Ilford Golf Course. The Roding here is actually a man-made channel, replacing the original course which now forms part of Wanstead Park’s Ornamental Waters. As such, when the Roding is in flood, it can flood parts of the park, even the golf course, but not always this ex-sports area, as the flood bank is quite high. Rivers need flood plains to help ease the flow, and this would make an ideal area to allow it to do so, if the riverside barriers were lowered somewhat and final, higher, barriers set back nearer to the A406, the area could be allowed to flood in a controlled way, with the creation of scrapes – shallow lakes – for water-birds to feed in. This sort of approach can help facilitate wildlife and help prevent flooding of people’s homes.
We walked close to the river – even close to two Little Egrets at the waterside – as far as the back gardens of the houses in Royston Gardens, then walked behind those – at a respectable distance – to a convenient hole torn in the original high sports-field fence, to emerge close to the Redbridge roundabout where there is a foot-tunnel to the Roding beyond. For another time perhaps?
– passing the foot-tunnel (and bicycle tunnel?) beneath the roundabout system – and walked up to what had been the red bridge that gave the area and the London Borough its name, That bridge, which had existed since possibly the 18th century, was replaced in 1922 by the present one carrying the A12 from Colchester into Wanstead and towards London. On the east bank of the river is Redbridge Pumping Station, a pleasant red-brick building of perhaps the 1920s. Water is pumped from a deep well for household purposes, but this is supplemented these days by water pumped in from quite nearby, from below what was the old Redbridge Southern Sewage Works (3). The view of the river flowing towards the Thames from the bridge is pleasant, but the ambience is spoilt by the noise from the A12. It is sad that no public footpath (or at least a permissive path) exists along the west bank of the Roding to allow access to Wanstead Park from the Redbridge area hereabouts. The park is only a few hundred metres away, but part of Wanstead Golf Course is between where we were and what would have been a nice walk back home to Wanstead Flats - through Wanstead Park. But - of course - the golf course is private property and it wouldn't do to have people walking along the edge of it, even though there could be an easy, lower-level path, separated by a hedge perhaps, to near the old pump house in the NE corner of Wanstead Park. Our walk back was nice enough though, along Redbridge Lane West, between the golf course and allotments, past Wanstead High School and along Warren Road and then through the park.Rather than begin any northwards walk along the Roding, we turned left
This walk between Ilford Bridge and Redbridge isn’t very far – just over 2 miles, but can be enhanced by enjoying the vast amount of wildlife that is present along the Alders Brook, the Roding, through the old Sewage Works and along the east bank of the Roding.
Paul Ferris 8th April 2021
(1) The City of London Cemetery: www.wansteadwildlife.org.uk/index.php/en/city-of-london-cemetery71
(2) Roding Valley Park: https://visionrcl.org.uk/centre/roding-valley-park/
(3) Redbridge Southern Sewage Works: https://www.wansteadwildlife.org.uk/index.php/en/sewage-works-site
River Roding Walk – Ilford to the Thames
Part 4 - Little Ilford to big Ilford
The Roding Valley Way – for this is what this route should eventually become part of – is a designated pedestrian/cycle route which starts near Buckhurst Hill Station and is well-signposted and mostly level and surfaced track all the way south to the Romford Road, between Manor Park and Ilford.
When it emerges from a short tunnel beneath the Liverpool Street to Shenfield main line railway it more or less deposits the happy walkers and cyclists at a busy main road. It is still signposted, along the pavement, across a pedestrian crossing, and between some fairly low tower blocks just west of Ilford Hill. It is predominantly streets thereafter, and the Roding is more away than a way.
Some years ago, with the proposals for big changes at Ilford station in preparation for the Crossrail project, I did suggest that at least for the final stretch on the north side of the Romford Road – where the route hits that road – it should be possible to put a little of the Crossrail project finances into carrying the route along the Alders Brook, as far as Ilford Bridge. (see here) Fairly obviously – and incredibly foreseeably – that sort of suggestion by such as I would not be undertaken. Although it would not have taken much.
When we found and began the section from Little Ilford (part of Manor Park, in the London Borough of Newham) by accident and unintention, we had the opportunity – at the beginning – to turn left or right along the riverside bank. We had chosen right, because the path looked slightly more defined and used, whereas the left-hand path – if it went any distance at all – would have led to the Ilford bridge, on the Romford Road, over the Roding. This stretch, now that we had seen the work being undertaken by the River Roding Trust(1), was really waiting for us to explore. John Rogers had done it, being shown the way from the Ilford Bridge by a Trust member, but had omitted on his video to show how they accessed the path from the bridge. It shows them walking along the side of the busy slip road that carries vehicles onto the A406, then cuts to the footpath itself.(2) I was a bit dubious of this. I guessed how it could be done, but would have hated to try and cross the slip road traffic. So we decided to find out how by taking the left path from what we had began to call the mushroom farm.
As we entered the pathway at the east end of Millais Avenue we immediately saw that a litter and rubbish collection had taken place, particularly underneath the A406. Trees with protective surrounds had been planted on the north side of the river-bank path, and looked to be growing healthily. Blackthorn was in full flower between the road and the Roding, and cherry was blossoming, too. Almost immediately we were pursued by a Peacock butterfly, but it was more interested in the blossom than us. Then a Small White butterfly was investigated by a Brimstone, and more Peacocks were seen as we progressed along the river path. There wasn’t too much rubbish, evidence that the recent tidy-up had been well done. And presumably, recently.
Below, the Roding was flowing quite swiftly Thames-ward; at a high tide it could appear that it was flowing backwards if the tide backs up, but at the moment it was low. As with much of the route that we had followed previously, Phragmites reed and mud lined the lower banks. Up on the footpath bank, though, the grassy bits were scattered with Lesser Celandine, speedwells were showing their eyes to to the sun, and so much white blossom from Blackthorn and Cherry trees.
Across the river, newer homes looked out onto the river, across to us and out to the A406. That must be an inspiring outlook. There was plenty of bird-sounds close to us – the chiff-chaff, chiff-chaff, etc. of Chiffchaffs, the long call and trill of Wrens, occasionally the beautiful song of Blackbirds, the sudden explosion of Cetti’s Warblers. And other things. And all of this helping to tune out, depending on one’s concentration, the continuous roar of the North Circular Road, with people in vehicles during this lockdown not travelling too far from their homes and only with good reason.
It surprised me and concerned me how close we were to the road; in some stretches only a verge with a crash barrier separated us from the vehicles, but there was also the remains of a roadside fence along some stretches which acted as a psychological and a noise barrier. If this route ever does become part of the Roding Valley Way, that fence needs to be replaced, and preferably higher.
We began to see more rubbish. A lot of this would have derived from stuff chucked from passing cars, some was probably the remains of homeless-peoples’ camp-sites. The number of beer bottles may be a testament to that. But masses of this litter had been collected, put into plastic bags and huge canvas bags for lorry-lifting away. An immense effort, no-doubt, by volunteers from the River Roding Trust. We are such a mucky country; across the river, houses with gardens that back onto the river often had piles of litter that had been thrown over the garden fence. At the ends of some of the streets that reach the river, fly-tips onto the river bank had taken place. This really is a place of contrasts: there are the wildflowers, planted trees, the litter and the fly-tips, there are the butterflies and the birdsong, the vehicles and the road-noise. There are people that throw the litter down, and others that pick it up. There is the clear-flowing river, and the tyres chucked in it.
There was a stretch amongst the cherry-trees where immense amounts of litter of all sorts, from refrigerators through plastic bottles to children’s toys, had been collected against the A406 fence, ready for collection. Here there was a slight quandary whether to take a semi-cleared path created and continuing at the level we had been on, or a fairly defined and clearer path that looked as though it dropped down into the river. We chose the former, and probably wrongly. That patch requires a bit more work. There are sapling-trunks – lopped but ready to trip – and an uncomfortable angle for a long stretch. That was the hardest part of the walk, and the most unpleasant, but if we’d taken the other, it seems it would have simply joined up with our choice, as we saw later.
Just past this stretch, the river had meandered away eastwards towards Natal Road, in Ilford. Between us and the river was a large expanse of flood-plain, with reed, lots of Yellow Flag Iris, and potentially a wonderful wildlife area. Tucked in at the edge of the river defence bank and the flood-plain were occasional squat rectangular buildings. I don’t know what these were – possibly war-time defence structures?
We were by now level with the south-bound access slip-road from Ilford onto the North Circular, and getting close to discovering how one accesses this riverside path from Romford Road. Then, we on a stretch of roadside mown grass, right by the access road. There was no way I was going to cross that slip road and walk down, with cars by our sides and no pavement, to the Romford Road. This was the bit that John Rogers omitted to show. It was like being on the edge of a motorway. I was really beginning to worry now that we would have to retrace our route all the way back to the mushroom farm.
But, as the off slip-road began to rise above us on our left, and the Roding began to hem us in on our right, we discovered that there was a narrow path, and the Ilford Bridge was in view. I have often seen this stretch from the bridge, but from the pavement side of the railings. The closer we got to the railings, the higher they looked. Although anyone with a bit of youth and/or fitness could have hopped over, I wasn’t so sure. And then – someone had thoughtfully unscrewed a bolt allowing a section to swing open, and we were able to duck underneath. We were on the pavement of the Romford Road, just on the Manor Park side of the Ilford Bridge.
(1) River Roding Trust: https://riverrodingtrust.org.uk
(2) John Rogers - Lost World of the River Roding - Ilford to Barking: www.youtube.com/watch?v=WjfUFQwVkgc
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