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

A short while ago, Ben Austwick told me about the difficulties that he encountered when attempting a walk which followed the route of the River Roding from the Thames towards Barking - how he got lost in the carparks of endless industrial estates, and marooned within vast retail parks. I’d enjoyed walking along the Roding further upstream in Wanstead and in Woodford, and a strange notion suddenly occurred to me: I would follow the River Roding from the Thames all the way to its source – just as in J.G. Ballard’s novel “The Day of Creation”, Mallory sails up his African river until he arrives at its beginning, a source which disappears in front of his eyes even as he reaches it ...


Leg 1: From the River Thames to Barking Barrage

8 June 2015

The River Roding empties into the Thames at Barking Creek. However, the Thames Path sensibly keeps to the Southern bank on this stretch, and any attempt to approach the Creek from the West is blocked by the massive Beckton Sewage Treatment Works, the largest in Europe. This is an obstacle which has clearly defeated more than one walker in the past, and for a short while I thought about trying to walk up the East side of the Roding, where there is a small park – Creekmouth Open Space – at the mouth of the river. However, it was clear that the large number of industrial premises would force me away from the Roding onto the dreadful River Road, the scene of my one major car accident some 25 years ago.

So I decided that I would somehow have to find a way around the Sewage Treatment Works on the Western bank. I found mention of a footpath which had been closed during the building of the new desalination plant: maybe I could find a way onto this path from the North, and reach my starting point on the Thames by walking the first mile of the Roding downstream?

The River Roding enters the Thames at Barking Creek, with the Beckton Sewage Treatment Works on the west bank and industrial areas on the east bank

So on a Sunday morning I drove down to Beckton Triangle Retail Park, parked the car, and strolled over to what the map showed to be the northern end of the Beckton Sewage Treatment Works. Lo and behold, there was a gate between the sewage plant and the car parks for Showcase Cinemas, giving access to a surfaced pathway which seemed to lead towards the Roding. Although obviously constructed only recently, the path was already becoming blocked by vegetation. However, it did indeed come out by the River Roding, and I was then able turn right onto a wide service track running along the outside of the sewage works and down towards the confluence of the Roding and the Thames. Twenty minutes later, I reached the Barking Flood Barrier at the entrance to the Thames, the starting point for my walk up the Roding.

The River Roding enters the Thames through the Barking Flood Barrier (not to be confused with the much better known Thames Barrier)

The service track turns the corner and runs along the Thames for a hundred yards or so, but then enters the Sewage Works where further progress is blocked by a large metal gate and high fences ... so the only way to reach the start of the Roding on the Western bank is to first follow it downstream.

Looking East along the Thames from the service track

Turning around I followed the track back the way I had come, pausing to take photos on the few occasions when my view of the river wasn’t blocked by the vegetation that was home to numerous rabbits and waterfowl. I came across the entrance to “Northern Lagoon Walkway”, a well-surfaced pathway through a section of the riverside vegetation … but the entrance gate to the Lagoon was shut and padlocked.

Low-tide on the Roding

Walking back up the service road

On reaching the point where I had joined the service track by means of the pathway from the road, I could make out a faint path, almost entirely overgrown, which carried on ahead – and after a hundred yards this turned into a much more distinct footpath along the side of the Roding.

Occasionally, a set of steps appeared from out of the vegetation or a deserted car park, as well as - rather incongruously - from the rear patio of a New-York themed diner. At one point a viewing platform by the side of the river had been constructed, complete with metal stands for maps or posters … but nothing in them. The walkway was deserted - full of good intentions but empty of people.

The path then passed under the A13 – immortalised by Billy Bragg as the ‘Trunk Road to the Sea’ … although it is probably now more a case of ‘Trunk Road to Lakeside Shopping Centre’. The A13 is a very busy road, yet there seemed to be little noise from the traffic as I walked underneath it.

As the flats of Barking started to become visible, the path approached the weir at Barking Barrage, which gives access to the other side of the river - and to other people, as I saw no one at all on the paths until I reached the weir.

The weir and footbridge at Barking Barrage

The weir seemed like a good place to end the first stage of my walk up the Roding, and to turn back to my car. For leg 2, I’ll be walking upstream from the Barking Barrage towards Ilford, keeping as close as practical to the route of the river.