An occasional blog about walking in the edgelands of North East London and various other places

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‘Up the Roding’ home page

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River Roding: Leg 9 - To the Source ...

River Roding: Leg 8 - The Roding Villages

Across to Two Tree Island

River Roding: Leg 7 - Through Fyfield

River Roding: Leg 6 - Upstream to Ongar

The Land Art of Theydon Bois

What Is It With All This Walking and Writing?

The Heights of Epping Forest

River Roding: Leg 5 - Out of London

River Roding: Leg 4 - Through the Leafy Suburbs

River Roding: Leg 3 - Ilford up to Woodford

The Lost Lido of Leytonstone

River Roding: Leg 2 - the Barking Barrage to Ilford

River Roding: Leg 1 - Thames to the Barking Barrage


Leg 7: Through Fyfield

21 August 2016

Returning to Chipping Ongar, I took the path that leads out of the car park and followed it downhill towards the Roding. This is a well-used track, signposted as part of the Essex Way and also for St Peter’s Way - a cross-country walk to the Essex coast that starts in Ongar and ends at the ancient Chapel of St Peter-on-the-wall. The previous section of my attempt to follow the Roding had been a bit of a trudge along farm tracks and minor roads, but for this next leg the map promised much better walking close to the river.  

Looking back uphill, across the field of crops, a dead tree was silhouetted against the grey skies

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Leg 6: Upstream to Ongar

6 August 2016

I was at last able to return to Passingford Bridge, where the River Roding flows under the A113 on its way towards the suburbs of east London. This leg of my walk would take me upstream to the small market town of Chipping Ongar - but at Passingford the river was hemmed in on both sides by trees and bushes, so it wasn’t possible to start by simply walking alongside the Roding.

Fifty yards away was a narrow road, Albyns Lane, which I followed for about half-a-mile, and then turned off onto a track which ran alongside the river as it passed under the M25 orbital motorway. Unlike the motorway architecture in the earlier sections of the walk, there was nothing remotely inspiring about this passageway, even if it did represent my final leave-taking of London and its motorways.

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27 July 2016

Travelling out of London along the M11 motorway, you will probably notice a field containing a set of concentric earth banks. This structure appeared a few years ago, and I’ve often wondered what on earth it could be … An emergency services helipad? A target area of some sort? Something to do with Essex Water? I recently discovered that it is in fact a land art installation by the sculptor, Richard Harris. So I decided to take a close-up look at this artwork as part of a short circular walk, during which I would also visit another nearby example of a “land sculpture” - the M11/M25 interchange.

I took the Central Line eastwards, along the section which runs above-ground towards Epping. After it leaves the suburbs behind at Debden, the line passes through fields for another mile or so until it makes its penultimate stop at the village of Theydon Bois (usually pronounced “Boyz”, or sometimes “Boyce” - never “Bwahh”). I walked out of the station, past The Bull pub and village green and pond, then turned down a side street and along a path over the rail lines and across fields towards the motorway.

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16 August 2015

Something different, between walks, featuring a video clip of Iain Sinclair, Michael Moorcock and Alan Moore …

Iain Sinclair is well-known for books such as London Orbital and Edge of the Orison, in which he brings back into the light forgotten memories and facts about the areas in which he walks. Now one of the things that I initially found perplexing about Sinclair was the mutual admiration between himself and fellow-author J. G. Ballard; as the architecture critic Owen Hatherley once noted, "someone like Iain Sinclair passes as ‘Ballardian’ despite an antiquarian instinct that represents exactly the traces Ballard would have joyously erased". This comment by Hatherley expressed my own sense of puzzlement: after all, Ballard’s London - unlike Sinclair’s - is not choked with memories, but resides in the anonymity of retail parks, the concrete of motorway flyovers, the dreams and obsessions of suburbia.

In fact, I only really understood what joined Sinclair and Ballard when I attended a three-way discussion between Sinclair, Michael Moorcock and Alan Moore in 2009. I was particularly struck by their comments in answer to a question from a member of the audience who wondered whether conscious mythologising by an author isn’t a form of decadence. That discussion was filmed for Moorcock’s Miscellany, and here’s a short snippet of Messrs Moorcock, Moore and Sinclair responding to that question:

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30 August 2016

A walk along a stretch of the Thames Estuary - with glimpses of ruins, old and new.

One of my favourite Essex walks is along the sea wall which runs beside Benfleet Creek on the North side of the River Thames, and then over to Two Tree Island. It is usually hot when I visit Benfleet and today was going to be no exception, so I made sure that I arrived at the start of the walk in Hadleigh country park before ten o’clock. The country park now includes the adjacent farm land that was used for the 2012 Olympic Mountain Biking events, and has re-branded itself as “Hadleigh Park”.

Avoiding the scores of mountain bikers who were also intent on an early start, I walked downhill through the trees. These soon opened up to give views over Canvey Island, famed for the floods that killed 58 people in 1953 and for the music of Dr. Feelgood. The most prominent sight was that of the oil silos and crane gantries at the nearby Coryton Refinery - not for nothing was Julian Temple’s film about the Feelgoods titled “Oil City Confidential”. The refinery might have been an inspiration for Wilko Johnson, but the plant is now closed and the site is being turned into a distribution terminal.     

Looking down over Benfleet Creek and Canvey Island, towards the oil silos and crane gantries at Coryton

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Leg 8: The Roding Villages

21 November 2016

This leg of my walk took me past the Rodings, the nine villages or hamlets that bear the name of the river: Abbess Roding, Aythorpe Roding, Beauchamp Roding, Berners Roding, High Roding, Leaden Roding, Margaret Roding, Morell Roding, and White Roding. Although it meanders between them, the river does not actually pass through any of the villages - the nearest I came to them was when the footpath brought me out onto a short stretch of the road through Aythorpe Roding.

Upstream from Shellow Bridge, where I ended the previous leg of my walk, the river passes through Birds Green Fishery. It was a rather cool and cloudy day, but there were still a few enthusiasts huddled underneath their umbrellas and tents by the side of the lakes.

One of the Birds Green fishing lakes

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Leg 9: To the Source …

20 July 2017

I started the final leg of my walk up the River Roding from the church at Great Canfield. The Roding runs by the side of the road that passes through the village, but was covered by a thick mass of vegetation that made it impossible to tell if there was any water running underneath. I was rather concerned that the upper stretch of the river would have dried out in the hot July weather; however, half a mile further on, near a footbridge crossing, I found that its waters were still flowing.

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The River Roding at Great Canfield. But is there any water under all that foliage?