This is part of the West Anglia Main Line running from London to Cambridge. The line was opened in 1840.
Routing note: This is an exceptionally long walk. The reason for this is that trains do not stop between Angel Road and Enfield Lock, so that I offer a walk mirroring this pattern. This also gives an opportunity for an enjoyable walk through parks, meadows and a corner of Epping Forest in areas not served by any train line.
After a very uninspiring section around Angel Road station, it becomes much more plesant. If you wish to cut the walk in two halves, you can do this conveniently in Chingford as mentioned in the description. For the second half after Chingford, you need sturdy shoes due to muddy paths and stony tracks.
Although the walk follows the London Loop in some sections, it is not well marked in Epping Forest and you cannot rely on this. I therefore recommend taking a map along as woods are confusing places. I used the free cycling map available from Transport for London (“Local Cycling Guide 2”). If you are prone to getting lost, buy the excellent guide for the London Loop available from many bookshops, start at Enfield Lock and follow their instructions carefully all the way to Chingford. You will notice that this is the reverse direction to my walk and their route differs from mine.
This walk connects in Tottenham Hale to walks 6, 7 and 9. It will also connect there to Victoria Underground walks 4 and 5. The walk connects in Enfield Lock to walk 8.
The station was opened in 1840 on the Stratford to Broxbourne line operated by the Northern & Eastern Railway. Most trains to Tottenham Hale run since 1872 from Liverpool Street. Looking at a map, it is amusing to note that there are no trains between Tottenham Hale and Clapton, although the many trains between Tottenham Hale and Hackney Downs all pass through Clapton. Similarly, all trains going north from Tottenham Hale go to Enfield Lock, but some of them stop at Ponders End and Brimsdown, some stop at Northumberland Park and Angel Road, but none stop at both sets of stations.
The station was first called “Tottenham” and switched to “Tottenham Hale” in 1968 in order to emphasize the connection with the Victoria Line of London Underground. It was not possible to call the underground station “Tottenham” because the line also calls at a station nearer to central Tottenham, so that the name would have caused confusion. The train station is very busy as it is a major interchange between the Underground and the Lea valley suburbs. It is also the only stop for train services between Liverpool Street and Stansted Airport, so that it is one of the rare suburban stations hosting lots of foreign tourists with their bulking overseas luggage. The station was rebuilt in the 1990s in order to accomodate the Stansted Express better and the café (with no toilets) is now much larger than the ticket hall, showing different priorities than in Victorian times. Anyway, there is no rest of the original buildings.
In front of the station, cross the bus terminal and Watermead Way to take
Hale Road (very busy main road)
R Ashley Road
This road offers an interesting contrast between the old factory on the left and the new office centre on the right. You will get a better view of the office centre from the park. Actually, both buildings are above average in terms of architecture. The factory uses cornices and pediments of just the right scale for the size of the building and avoids the dubious mix of styles and the excess of ornaments Edwardian architects were prone to. The office centre has a clever use of strong colours, so that it does not have the all-too-frequent and boring appearance of a big glass box.
L into Down Lane Recreation Ground
This small recreation ground is former Lammas land, that is an area where people could let cattle graze after St Michael Mass (by which date crops would have been harvested). It was bought by the Council in 1900 and opened as a park in 1907. There are a few sports grounds and a playground at the south end and there is also a modest flower bed. The rest of the park is grass with a row of trees along most of the circular path. In some places, it feels quite pleasant, a little like an orchard.
Exit the park at the NE end
Take the cycle passage and subway giving access to Tottenham Marshes
Tottenham Marshes are managed by a special body, the Lea Valley Authority, that was set up to improve access and offer leisure activities in the wastelands along the Lea River. It bought the marshes in 1972. Most of the marshes were grazing commons and construction was impossible due to flooding in winter. Although it is not conspicuous now, some areas were also used for sports facilities, gravel extraction or even landfill.
The path along the east side of the marshes leads along the Lea Navigation while the path along the west side meanders along a thin strip of woodland.
Keep to the left side of the marshes, passing a parking lot and crossing Pymmes Brook.
The river in the concrete culvert is not attractive, but it is actually the lower end of a pleasant stream. It starts in Barnet and runs through Southgate and Edmonton, with parks and a signposted trail along most of it. You will pass at some point a very nice concrete mosaic showing a convenient map of the marshes.
Near the following bridge over the brook, you can reach a gate out of the marshes.
L Marigold Road
R Marsh Lane passing
The station was opened in 1840 as “Marsh Lane”. In 1852, this switched to the confusing name “Park” without any further moniker. The present name appeared in 1923. There must have been a formal station building, but the present structure is a simple cube in bricks and looks like a product of cost-cutting in the 1980s.
(Ahead) Park Lane
R Willoughby Lane
On the right, the road passes a private sports centre. I had hoped to use it as a nice green area to walk through, but there are solid fences all around. It is owned by Powerleague, who proudly claims to be the market leader in grounds for 5-a-side soccer. I have never heard about friends playing this sport or about television broadcasts of this championship, but it seems popular enough. The facade of the central building has a faint Art Deco echo.
(Ahead) Malham T. Road
(Ahead) Dysons Road
R to the pedestrian crossing underneath the flyover
The flyover was built in the 1960s as part of the Northern Circular Road scheme. This was the time when urban planners were asked to plan for cars to be the means of transportation of the future. As large public construction schemes take an inordinate amount of time in the UK, urban motorways became unfashionable and too expensive to build before the basic network was even finished.
As a result, if you compare London with cities on the Continent, there are few motorways through the suburbs and they are not connected. You do get wonderful traffic jams on a daily basis as lanes suddenly go from three to one. In this specific location, though, it was easy to build concrete on the floodable wasteland along the Lea, so that engineers had fun with one of the most massive and ugliest flyovers in London.
Cross both strings of the flyover access
(Ahead) Montagu Road
At the next lights, ignore the road branching left and continue turning right on the main road following Conduit Lane
Where the road is just above the tracks, detour L on a staircase following the marked access path to
This is one of the strangest stations in London. First, there is the matter of how you get to it. You cannot get to it from Angel Road as this is now a motorway. You cannot get to it from the road running past it on the east side, although this would be logical and convenient, and a huge fence prevents you from doing so. You cannot get to it from the west where people originally did because this was the goods yard and has been taken over by an impressive “Mad Max”-style scrap metal business. You can get to it from Conduit Lane from the north, but Conduit Lane is on high concrete pillars as it is actually the access to the flyover… So, you climb the Conduit Lane bridge to get to a staircase descending back to ground level. And you then walk for hundreds of yards between huge fences along the rail tracks to the station platform.
The station is also peculiar because it has strictly no building. As a result, it is one of few stations in zone 4 not being a penalty fare station. The station is not served very often: a few times a day at rush hour. The funny thing is, it was an important interchange at the beginning.
It was opened under the name “Water Lane” in 1849 when the railway company opened a branch from here to Edmonton and Enfield. There were no direct services from London and passengers had to change trains here, but this was much more inconvenient than using the tram from Edmonton and was not very popular. The Edmonton branch line closed to passengers in 1939 and to goods traffic in 1964. This may have been the time when all station buildings were demolished in the course of the construction of the North Circular Road flyover.
The station name became Angel Road in 1864.
Return to the staircase and to the road on the bridge
L Staircase down to Nobel Road and Eleys Estate
R Nobel Road
R Eley Road
L Advent Way, crossing the Lea Navigation
This location was called Cooks Ferry for a long time although the ferry had already been replaced by a bridge in the mid-19th century. It was well-known in the 1950s because the ferry inn had been turned into a very popular jazz club. The inn owner was reasonably relaxed with drinking laws because he was far away from police precincts and this appealed very much to young blokes and sheilas.
Although nothing remains of the inn, you can see a lovely building combining some mock half-timbered hall with a mock medieval brick tower. This is Chingford Mill Pumping Station, built in 1891, and it is deservedly a listed building; it was supposed to be transformed into luxury flats. The toll bridge over the Lea River originally led past the mill.
At the roundabout, take the second exit left. There is no road sign except for a small cycle route sign, but it soon joins a road
Lower Hall Lane
(Ahead) Waverley Avenue
(Ahead) dead end giving access to Chase Lane Park
This is Holy Ground according to the borough of Waltham Forest. In appearance, this is just a minor neighbourhood park with a small playing ground and a bit of grass. But the major hero of the borough went to school at the nearby primary school and blessed this park with his presence kicking a football. Yes, this is one of the playgrounds visited by His Celebrity Highness David Beckham. I was a bit shocked to read about the “Beckham Trail” on the official borough website. I suppose only royals and footballers get trails named after them during their lifetime.
As an aside, I do have respect for the gentleman. He sells his body efficiently as a footballer and as a model for skimpy underwear, but he is able to keep control of his celebrity status: no extramarital shenanigans, no illegal addictions, no major financial scandals, no despicable opinions on social issues. He was also able to fall in love with a similarly levelheaded woman with whom he can build a family. He is one of the very few major celebrity sportsmen who can genuinely aim to be considered as a role model for young people. As a result, I don’t criticise his indeed very well developed business acumen.
Exit the park at the SE exit into
L York Road
R Frankland Road
(nearly ahead) enter Memorial Park
There is a well-kept War Memorial just at the entrance. I have been impressed to find a detailed website dealing with this memorial (www.chingfordwarmemorial.co.uk) – I am not too interested in the contents, but it is quite impressive in terms of appearance and navigation. The memorial itself is unusual as it is recessed in the ground instead of raised above steps as most memorials are.
The park has sports facilities in the southern part and you need to walk past them in order to get to the parking lot and to the south exit. There are three small flower beds and a small pond with a miniature rookery near the parking lot.
Exit the park at the SE exit through the parking lot
L Ainslie Wood Road
R Rolls Park Road
L Royston Avenue
Enter ahead Ainslie Wood Nature Reserve, continue ahead to the other side of the wood. You should be at the corner of Ropers Avenue with Underwood Road.
Ainslie Wood was part of a private park for a long time, but the Borough is now responsible for maintaining it and has cleared a few paths. Because the wood was private for so long, it has some interesting flora. In particular, it has lots of bluebells in spring as it was left undisturbed.
L Underwood Road
R Inks Green
L into Larkswood Park and Wood
Larks Wood has its name from Mr Laverk, a local landowner in 1319. It is a reasonably large wood (mainly oak and hornbeam) with a number of comfortable paths. There is even one paved path meandering under the trees, a rather unusual but convenient amenity for families with buggies. The wood was well known for bluebells at the beginning of the 20th century, but crowds were so heavy that the plants have been trampled to death.
Exit the wood at the NW corner where it turns into Larkswood Playing Fields and walk on the paved path along the hedge.
Exit the playing fields at the next corner into a close marked as a cycle route towards Chingford. This passage is also called Norman Shirley Drive.
Cross a main road into
Where the road turns R, leave the road for a paved path ahead, following the cycle route. You soon come to the fences of a cemetery.
Chingford Mount Cemetery was opened in 1884 by a private company, but was neglected once it was reasonably full and it ended up being taken over by the borough. The idea of not bothering once you have cashed in on burial fees is very capitalistic – I wonder why the company did not think of selling memorial maintenance contracts in order to lengthen the useful life of their asset.
Because it is hilly with many nice trees, the cemetery is a pleasant place to walk around; the memorials are what you can expect in a late Victorian cemetery. There was a lot of excitement in the cemetery in 1995 and again in 2000 when the Kray twins were brought to grave. A biography of them does not really fit in a walk description, but they led a seriously eventful life as violent gang bosses, nightclub owners and celebrities.
A tabloid who had suggested a homosexual relationship between a Conservative politician and one of the brothers had to sack its editor and pay a huge compensation fee, which made sure that media did not criticise the two gangsters too openly afterwards. Labour was as embarrassed as the Conservatives because a Labour MP was rumoured to have his own homosexual relationship with the same brother ! The gangsters were long protected by the fact that witnesses were too frightened to testify in court.
After landing in prison, they continued to lead a semi-legitimate business providing security services for celebrities in the United States, which is quite impressive. Some experts think they could have built a mafia organisation of worldwide importance if they had been better able to control the schizophrenia of one brother and the violent behaviour already documented as teenagers.
At the N corner of the cemetery, you have a choice. There is a public footpath L skirting the cemetery. The footpath ends in Magnolia Close where you walk away from the cemetery fence. Cross Chingford Avenue into a passage. Unfortunately, the footpath along the cemetery is very dirty and overgrown.
The comfortable alternative is to continue ahead on Heathcote Grove, then L on Chingford Avenue. Pass Retingham Way and turn R shortly afterwards in the passage I mentioned.
Enter Ridgeway Park
The park is a large, hilly green space with a small rose garden at the northern end near the playground. It is well-known for its miniature railway, the only other one in London being in Ruislip in the northwestern suburbs. I found the Ridgeway Park railway much more impressive in terms of location, with tracks disappearing over an aluminium grid into hidden green corners.
There are actually two separate sets of tracks on different levels and there is also a pretty signal box that looks nearly as professional as a National Rail unit. The pictures about the wiring on the appropriate website (http://www.wbsframe.mste.co.uk/public/Ridgeway_Park.html) are quite impressive. Unfortunately, I have never managed to visit the park on a day the railway was working.
Exit the park at the NE end through a passage
R Endlebury Road
L Public footpath called Organ Lane
At the end of the lane
R Ridgeway (a main road)
You pass an imposing building that looks abandoned. I imagine it might have been a town hall or a school but I was unable to find information on the internet.
L Kings Head Hill for about 30 yards
Routing note: If you wish to cut the walk in two sections, this is the easiest place to do it. Walk up Kings Head Hill to the church for bus services towards Enfield or Walthamstow.
R Public footpath on the side of the police station, continues uphill between garden fences under the name Woodberry Way
Cross the road into a footpath along the edge of the wood
Ahead on the footpath when the garden fences stop on the right
Ahead on a larger track along the edge of a golf course
The golf course is unusual. This is the Royal Epping Forest Golf Club, the only public golf course in England with the Royal title (there is also one in Scotland, all other “Royal” courses are on private ground). The grounds are managed by the Corporation of London – the official title of the City – and are actually considered part of Epping Forest.
The track slowly veers R and crosses part of the golf course. According to maps, the track joins a road, but I found it confusing as it actually leads to the golf course yard. If you miss the branch going to the road, go to the yard and leave the track here to walk under the trees along the left (N) side of the yard until you reach the road.
Cross the road to reach a dirt track parallel to it.
L on the dirt track along the road. You should reach a minor road branching off to the R, Hornbeam Lane. The track continues initially along this lane and you can stay on the track, but you should leave it when it begins to go away from Hornbeam Lane as you need to keep on the lane.
When the lane reaches a crossroads in front of Ludgate House,
L public footpath across a golf course (look at a map if in doubt as this is a confusing place with signs being not very conspicuous)
This is West Essex Golf Club, a private property on the edge of Epping Forest. Many people feel uncomfortable about public footpaths crossing golf courses – either because they fear stray balls or because there is a risk to the privacy of the golf players who pay heavily for the privilege of being in an exclusive environment.
I rarely fear stray balls (planners usually reckon with them and leave strips of wood or set cart tracks in the appropriate place). And I relish the possibility of crossing lovely green spaces without huge detours that would be caused by rich people fencing themselves in.
The footpath reaches a road near the marked car access to Gilwell Park.
Gilwell Park is mentioned in a property register in 1407 and went through many owners until it was bought in 1918 by a Scottish businessman involved in the scout movement. He was shocked at the lack of proper camping grounds for the East End scouts. At the time, the estate was dilapidated and had been for sale for a longer period of time. In 1919, the chief commissioner for the Scout movement, Lord Baden-Powell, suggested rebuilding the mansion in order to use it as a training centre for scoutmasters. Further land and buildings were purchased over time.
You are not normally supposed to enter the grounds as they are private, although no one is likely to stop you as long as you keep to the main access road and only go to the central building. There is one public footpath crossing the property and it is very enjoyable, crossing an extremely impressive training ground that looks appropriate for special forces, but it is very overgrown and difficult to find, so that I don’t recommend using it.
Near the start of the car access lane, you should find a signpost with the markings of the London Loop (a kestrel on a green roundel). Follow the Loop N on a very muddy path in sight of the main road until it reaches Carrolls Farm near a pond. The farm buildings are absolutely delightful, one is in black weatherboard and the other one in white, with both overlooking a charming pond.
Cross the road into a track past the pond called Green Lane. Continue ahead for about 1/2 mile. The track goes downhill along meadows on the left and wood on the right.
You are walking along the edge of Epping Forest, the largest green space in London. It is so large that you would be unable to walk from one end (near Epping) to the other (near Wanstead) within one day – I tried. Some parts of it are grasslands or heath, the northern part where you are is an ancient forest. The forest was never really cleared because it sits on a moraine, glacial deposits. This can be best described as a huge pile of gravel sitting at the edge of ice fields. Crops don’t grow well on gravel and the forest was only used for grazing and firewood collecting.
As landowners around the forest began to enclose large sections in order to set aside the grazing land for their own flocks of sheep in the 18th century (also trying to get control of the wood as it was in heavy demand for construction and shipbuilding in a quickly growing country), residents in the villages had to fight back for their rights. Only Acts of Parliament could take away the rights, but landowners often ignored this if they were unable to influence MPs, leading to numerous lawsuits.
In 1878, Parliament decided that Epping Forest would cease to be a Royal Forest (where everyone had common rights such as pollarding willows). It was to be managed by the City of London and common rights would be limited to grazing and collecting a limited amount of firewood. These rights are still in existence with some limitations, although you need to own a sizeable property in one of the parishes adjoining the forest.
Shortly before reaching a road, you will find an other public footpath branching off to the left. Turn
L footpath passes a small pond and continues across meadows straight ahead for about 1/3 mile to a small playing field along Sewardstone Road.
Sewardstone is a rather unusual suburb of London. It does have a London postcode (E4), but it is not in Greater London as it is part of Essex. It also does not have any TfL transportation links as the bus line passing through does not accept TfL passes and tickets. The village is a string of houses spreading loosely along the road, which gives a feeling of countryside very different to the urban feeling of Enfield. I have never found out why exactly, but I suspect Essex building regulations are very restrictive where the conversion of farmland into housing estates is concerned.
Cross Sewardstone Road into Grown Close
At the end of the close
(Ahead) Footpath along the edge of an overgrown marsh
The path soon crosses two rivers and joins the London Loop again. On the left near the second bridge, you can see an imposing industrial building.
This is King George V Pumping Station, a listed building opened by His Majesty in 1913. It housed five pumps that could take up to 180 million gallons a day from the river into the drinking water reservoir above. The reservoir is still in use and its use for drinking water means you cannot come close to it; it is now also a nature reserve particularly for migratory birds.
The old pumps have been disused since 1968, but they are so massive that they were left in place. They are interesting for specialists as one of them is one of only two Humphrey pumps still existing in the world, the other one being in Australia.
Do not cross the river Lea when you see a footbridge leading to a housing development. This would mislead you into Enfield Island Village. An arms factory was set up there by the English government in 1812 when experience showed that arms available from private manufacturers were not efficient against those used by Napoleon’s army. The original Royal Small Arms Factory (better known as Enfield Ordnance Factory) was located on purpose far from villages and along a river, making transport of finished products towards Woolwich Arsenal easy. When the river Lea was diverted to drive the machinery, the factory became an island.
The new factory took over the duties from the older plant in Lewisham and also began to make swords, but it was partly idle for many years between the Napoleonic wars ending 1815 and the Crimea war in 1856. At the peak in the 1880s, the factory employed 2,400 workers. The factory also had a research facility where the famous Lee Enfield rifle was developed – named after Mr Lee, an engineer, rather than after the Lee/Lea River. Production reached peaks during the two world wars in the 20th century. After peace returned, the factory was downsized and finally sold off to British Aerospace who immediately shut the plant.
After lengthy decontamination efforts, the area was developed into large-scale housing (Enfield Island Village). There is no need to walk through the estate and my route bypasses it; the development is very clean and new to the point of being sterile as there are no shops, pubs, sports grounds or any other facilities. You hardly see anyone walking around except for a few bored young people. I did not notice any place that would look available or even convenient to open commercial activites so that it does look like an obvious planning mistake. Houses are not cheap compared to rundown areas in Edmonton or Ponders End, so that residents must be reasonably happy about the situation.
Following carefully the signs for the London Loop (green roundels with a kestrel), continue along the river towards Swan and Pike Basin just below Enfield Lock. There is an interesting sign about the London Loop in this area near the canal basin. The name is rather nice although this was actually an industrial environment: barges delivering goods to the factories around the Lea Navigation could turn here below Enfield Lock.
The Lea river has always been a core route north from London for transportation and Viking invaders sailed up the river in the 10th century to attack Hertford. It was improved in the Middle Ages with the usual disputes between barge owners, who needed sufficient water at all times, and the mill owners, who wished to retain water for periods when clients needed their machinery. In many places, the canal is now separate from the Lea River.
On the opposite side of the Navigation from the Basin, you can see a peculiar building with a small clock tower in the middle and ornate eaves. This is the only rest of the so-called Lea Conservancy offices, from which the whole Lea Navigation was managed. It is still used by British Waterways. It is actually cross-shaped, although you see only two arms of the cross from the river, and was built in 1907 after years of attempts by the Board to delay the expense. The real reason for the delay might have been different: the Clerk (what we would call the finance director nowadays ?) told the board for years that no money was available. When he died in 1906, he was discovered to have mis-appropriated the considerable amount of 9,400 £ (about one million £ in current money).
The lock just upstream is known to have been already in place in 1725 although the present version dates back to a reconstruction in 1922 making it wider. The engineers had been asking for reconstruction and providing plans since 1862 but the Board always preferred emergency repairs as they were cheaper and therefore had less impact on the dividends in the short-term. The toll collector house was already rebuilt in 1889, showing the priorities of the Board, and looks rather stately. In those times, it was only the cheaper derivation of the original architect idea – admittingly a very Victorian overload with mock gothic windows and mock Tudor chimneys. You can see the drawing on internet (www.leeandstort.co.uk/Enfield_Lock.htm).
Just upstream of the two-storey collector house, the more modest brick building is listed as it is the original lock-keepers house, also built in 1907.
Cross the Lea Navigation at the Lock , following the green roundels for the London Loop. You are soon on a paved footpath. This leads along the edge of a playing field, then across a main road on a large bridge, then to a pedestrian bridge over train tracks.
Just before the train tracks, turn
R Bradley Road
The station was opened in 1855 under the name “Ordnance Factory” as it was used primarily to carry workers to Enfield arms factory. There are many websites copying the same sentence about this, with no one saying when the name was changed. Fact is that the factory closed in 1987. The station building is one of those cheap brick sheds from the 1980s and the original building must have been a stately construction on the other side of the tracks.