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 4: Through the Leafy Suburbs

23 July 2015

Beyond Charlie Brown’s roundabout, the outer suburbs of North East London follow one another northwards like beads on a string - Woodford, Buckhurst Hill, Loughton, Debden. To their west, following the ridge of high ground, lies Epping Forest - and beyond that, the Lea Valley; to their east lies the Roding Valley. The fourth section of my walk up the Roding therefore tracked the path of these suburbs out of London, although they remained mostly out of sight behind their trees and bushes.

Returning to the bridge at Chigwell Road, I set off along the riverside path, with the M11 a few yards away on my right-hand side - hidden, but still very audible. This first stretch lay within the narrow confines of Roding Valley Park, but after a short while the motorway swung off to the right and the Roding Valley Way turned left across a footbridge into the suburban streets, leaving me to walk along a much quieter path which followed on ahead beside the river.

A cuddly toy guards the footbridge at the end of Roding Valley Park

The river here is dense with reeds, and surrounded by a thick belt of trees, bushes and high nettles, which occasionally allow glimpses of houses, and rugby or football posts.

After about a mile, I came to the bridge which carries the Underground’s Central Line over the river.

Ahead was a pair of heavily-graffitied steel gates, with a sign to inform everyone that the area behind them was now “under new ownership”. I’m not entirely sure what this area is - the map was not much help - and another visit from the other side may be called for.

I now crossed the river by a footbridge and carried on into playing fields, and then onto a concrete pathway that took me past allotments, blocks of flats, and a small water treatment plant. Eventually, a few hundred yards short of Roding Lane, the way ahead was blocked by an impenetrable mass of nettles, and a short detour into the streets of Buckhurst Hill was therefore necessary.

Cobbled street and floral decorations in Buckhurst Hill

A few minutes later, I crossed Roding Lane and walked along the edge of rugby pitches and a cricket field to regain the river. After passing a lake, the path now followed the river for a couple of miles through a succession of playing fields and grass meadows. Over to the left were the leafy suburbs of Buckhurst Hill and Loughton, with church towers and spires visible on the skyline.

On the other side of the river, accessible by footbridge, lies Roding Valley Meadows Nature Reserve; the sign by the bridge gives the names of the individual fields and meadows, and I rather liked the sound of Luscious Mead and Hither Six Acres - although I suspect that they may be modern inventions.

Last time I walked here, I saw a decent sized fish in this stretch of the river … not today, though

When I reached the last of the playing fields, the office buildings of Debden started to become visible, and it wasn’t long before I was dumped out of this pastoral idyll onto the main road; a hundred yards away to my right was that faithful friend, the M11 motorway. The industrial estate and the car sales franchises on the far side of the road indicated that I was now close to the very edge of London, and I tramped up the couple of hundred yards to Debden tube station knowing that the next section of my walk would take me out of the city and into the countryside.

The office blocks visible from the last playing field were a sign that I was nearing …

… the reality of Debden