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

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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 3: From Ilford up to Woodford

4 July 2015

As the M11 motorway from Cambridge enters the outer suburbs of London and prepares to join up with the North Circular Road, it splits into a number of separate carriageways. Whenever I drive along this stretch of the motorway and look down on the patches of open ground between the roadways, covered with bushes and long grass, I am reminded of J.G. Ballard’s novel Concrete Island, in which a motorist crashes off an elevated section of roadway and becomes marooned in a triangle of overgrown land. This area of flyovers, pylons, and greenery at the end of the M11 is in fact Roding Valley Park - indeed brief glimpses of the River Roding can be seen from the motorway - and much of this leg of my walk lies within the Park’s narrow confines.


Just west of the centre of Ilford, the River Roding passes in quick succession under the A118, a series of railway lines, and then the elevated section of the North Circular Road, after which it winds its way through Ilford Golf Course. As I passed over the road bridge it was evident that there was no route along this section of the river; however, a couple of hundred yards further on, by the side of a small block of flats, I found signs indicating the Roding Valley Way.

The view of the Roding from the bridge at Ilford

The signs took me under the railway lines and along a well-surfaced path. To my left was the City of London Cemetery and to my right a set of allotments, with several gnomes and teddy bears hung from the bushes. Every now and again I could spot electricity pylons through the trees.

The guardians of the allotments …

… are watched over by the pylons

After I reached the end of the allotments, I noticed a trickle of water emerging from a pipe under the pathway and flowing away towards the river. This was presumably the Alders Brook, a small tributary of the Roding which has its source nearby in the City of London Cemetery. I could imagine the souls of the deceased flowing down the brook to the Roding, then on to Barking Creek and into the Thames, before losing themselves in the ocean.

I was soon able to leave the surfaced track and follow a path along the bank of the Roding, with the golf course intermittently coming into view on the other side. On one occasion I noticed an abandoned blanket, plastic bottles, empty carrier bags, and other debris - evidence of a 21st century version of a riverside picnic.

When I came to a bridge over the river, I crossed to the other side. I would have preferred to stay on the western side of the river, which runs through Wanstead Park, but the map suggested that there was no exit further on, where the river runs between a Thames Water pumping station and yet another golf course. The other bank of the river took me along a path on the edge of playing fields, under the unblinking eyes of those watchtowers of the Roding - the electricity pylons.

When the path by the river finally ran out - at a spot where there was a rope swing hanging from a tree branch and a half-submerged supermarket trolley - I walked across the top of the playing fields, hoping to find the hole in the fence by the entrance gate that I’d heard about. Fortunately, the hole was still there, and I emerged at Redbridge Roundabout, the first of the two large roundabouts at the intersection of the M11 and the North Circular. I walked up the road a few hundred yards and crossed a bridge over the very busy A12, then entered Roding Valley Park (only when I got back home did I discover that there was a pedestrian underpass at the roundabout which I could have used instead …)

Temporarily leaving the river to cross the A12

After quickly passing under the North Circular, the next mile is a green, easy walk within the Park - although the continuous thrum of the traffic and the ever-visible pylons keep reminding you of just where you are.

After a while I came to a short path off to the left leading to the large pedestrian tunnel under the North Circular which appears on the front cover of Karl Hyde’s album “Edgeland”. The Deluxe edition of the album includes a DVD filmed by Kieran Evans of Hyde’s walk from the intersection of the M11 and the North Circular towards Barking Creek and then through Dagenham and Rainham Marshes to Tilbury (you can find the film’s trailer here).

Eventually, the appearance of numerous flyovers indicated that I was approaching Charlie Brown’s Roundabout, named after the landlord of the pub which used to be located here. With its maze of concrete flyovers, Charlie Brown’s has been described by John Rogers as “a Ballardian wet-dream”.

I emerged from the park at the side of the roundabout, and eventually managed to cross the dual carriageway.

On the other side of the dual-carriageway, the Roding Valley Park and its path recommenced alongside the river. A few hundred yards further on I came to the entrance road to Chigwell Road Refuse Centre, by the side of which was the most impressive of the many pylons that I’d seen during today’s walk.

The path now passed along a rather ugly concrete-walled passageway beside the refuse centre, before rejoining the River Roding. As I walked on, the riverside vegetation became very lush; but it was turning into another hot day and the ceaseless noise of the traffic along the M11 was finally starting to rattle about inside my brain. So I was glad to reach the bridge carrying Chigwell Road over the river, from where it was only a few minutes walk uphill to Woodford tube station.