24 September, 2006

Turkey Street to Chigwell – Essex innit! London Loop Sections 18 and 19

I suppose it had to come really. I had to leave Hertfordshire and enter Essex. There were some pleasant spots on this walk and the weather couldn’t be bettered, but Essex is always a bit of a come down.

The day began at Turkey Street station (see Quin Parker’s amusing entry on Turkey Street in his zone 6 guide) and continues following the Turkey Brook where I walked last time. Coming to a major road I had to stop off to look at Unity superstore, one of the North London Branches which was a very fine store. I bought my lunch and one or two other things then continued with the walk walking down some dull suburban streets and through a dull suburban park. It seems that the council here do not provide seats in the parks so be warned if you’re going and take your own. Enfield Lock on the River Lea Navigation was pleasant with the lock keeper’s cottage dating from 1879 and the cruciform Lee Conservancy offices from 1907. I walked very briefly by the Lee Navigation to Swan and Pike Pool where there was a loop information board. Then it was time to walk by the fast flowing River Lee. The river is deep in places and shallow in others and I saw some fish in it. I crossed a modern steel bridge over a flood relief channel into the County of Essex and came to the Sewardstone Marshes Nature reserve. I nearly stopped for lunch here but decided to press on to follow the route to a farm with a big old farm house from the eighteenth century I would suppose. This looked quite attractive but it was surrounded by a high wall so a picture was just about impossible. The path ran through the fields up to the Sewardstone hills. These hills are wooded with some very attractive views over the Lee Valley Reservoirs, which supply around a quarter of London’s water. I stopped for my lunch overlooking the reservoir and then pressed on to Carroll’s Farm which is a charming traditional weatherboarded Essex farm. I also walked along the road and came upon half a cast iron hat coat and umbrella stand. How this came to be beside a road I don’t know but I took a picture of it anyway.

The path took me through the Scout Association National Headquarters at Gilwell Park and through some pretty meadows where I got lost but not unpleasantly. It would have been good for sunbathing but I pressed on to rejoin the loop into the Chingford part of Epping Forest. Some boys (of all ages) were playing with bows and arrows on the footpath, which I thought was a bit dangerous. Epping Forest has been owned by the Corporation of London for many years and preserves a piece of old England for public recreation forever. There is also Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge which has been restored by the Corporation. 
It was originally built as a Grand Standynge to allow spectators to watch the stag hunt – the original Grandstand. The great staircase in the lodge is round a square newel to allow stately processions to climb the stairs. It is said that Queen Elizabeth rode her horse up the stairs – who knows. The lodge had a display of Tudor food and heraldic banners and is quite well interpreted although the idea of keeping servants and others separate did not begin until regency days when corridors first appear.

People were having fun in the forest in all kinds of ways but I soon left them behind to cross the River Ching (into Essex again) and came to the village of Buckhurst Hill (very posh with lots of large houses. I then went through a little green lane down to the Central Line and passed into one of the council estates erected for Londoners in the Roding Valley. It is very council estate-ish here. There is a large recreation ground with a lake excavated to provide gravel for the M11 motorway nearby. I walked round the lake and crossed the River Roding by a bridge then walked round a large recreation centre and school, named after a guru. I wouldn’t like to go to a school named after a guru! I crossed the motorway and came into Chigwell amongst the bandits and bank robbers. I caught the train home from there.

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