Good Friday 18 April 2014 – River Ching, Chingford to Highams Park.
Last weekend El and I took a walk up to Highams Park, which is two train stops north of where she lives in Walthamstow. There is a lake (read large pond) in a small woodland extension of the much larger Epping Forest and as it was a nice day it was a good place to walk to, and around. Plus El got to show me where she used to live – in a house long knocked down to allow a part of the North Circular motorway to be built.
When we walked around the lake we saw a track heading off into the distance and decided that we should come back and have bit more of an explore – but armed with a bit of information as to where track was likely to go. Not that you can get too lost in this section of the forest – it is completely surrounded by suburban streets. I have been keen to explore a bit more of Epping Forest and had bought a map of the area a while back, so after a map referral we decided to catch a train to Chingford, head up to Connaught Water and follow the River Ching back down to Highams Park Lake. It was not a long walk, only a few kilometres, but in theory it should all be off road and maybe in the trees – it sounded pretty damn perfect to me.
We arrived in Chingford late morning and found Connaught Water fairly easily, it is only a km or so from the station which is on the southern edge of Epping Forest. It was a reasonably sunny day, but there was quite a cold wind blowing and out on the open areas of the forest park it was quite chilly – so we were looking forward to getting into some shelter from the trees, plus a forest walk really should have trees!
Connaught Water is called a lake but really it is just a large pond, but it has fishing and boating and at twenty five minutes from Liverpool St station on the train – it is pretty damn cool !
It also appears to be the source of the mighty River Ching, and this is the headwaters… It is hard to believe that when this flooded back in 2009 it actually caused damage!
The river flows from here down to the River Lea closer to Walthamstow, though we were only walking the forested section.
The first section of the path was well formed, though there is absolutely no signage at all at any stage and this was a bit frustrating, especially matched with a map last printed in 2010. Things had changed a bit since then.
The path is shared with walkers, runners, bikers and in some sections – horse riders, we saw a few of walkers, runners and riders on the way, though once we were out of the main section of the forest it was very quiet. The path was pretty dry, but you can see where it has been heavily cut up in winter by bikes, horses and loads of runners from the nearby Orion Harriers. Some parts look like they could be quite fun to ride on as well – unlike this open and smooth trail.
After crossing the main road north from Chingford we were off the clearly defined path and followed the river more closely.
The forest was really nice here, though we were really in a small section of parkland in the middle of suburban London it was beautifully quiet and there was an amazing amount of bird song to provide some background.
We crossed another road and the track followed the edge of a golf course for a kilometre or so, crossing the fairway at one stage, which was a bit disconcerting as it was not sign posted, we were not really paying attention and there were people were playing the hole. Fortunately they must be used to walkers as they waved us through without any aggravation.
We got a bit misplaced at the end of the golf course, but with a quick look at the phone we found the entrance to the top end of Highams Park, and a nice little area full of late spring blue bells.
Again the forest here was really nice, some lovely spring foliage on the trees and a nice windy and clean ‘river’ to follow.
At one point there was even a rope swing, though I am assuming you are not supposed to drop into the river from it !
After an hour and half of walking we popped out on to the ‘lake’ at Highams Park.
We could have continued on for another couple of kilometres of forest through to Hollow Pond** but finished the walk here and headed to the nearby supermarket (they had Picpoul de pinet wine on special) and then caught the bus home…
It was a really nice walk, and hopefully the start of a summer of Epping Forest walks.
** Hollow Ponds is the title of a new track by ex Blur and Gorrilaz vocalist Damon Albarn who was brought up in nearby Leytonstone. I like the song and it is cool that something as small and local as Hollow Pond gets name checked by a fairly big star.