Crossing the entire city in order to walk for 90 minutes on the rim of Essex, and getting hot and bothered doing so.

A few weeks ago I ventured from Enfield Lock to Chingford on the London Outer Orbital Path, then diverged onto the Centenary Walk to eventually reach the William Morris Gallery. Today I rejoined the LOOP at Chingford and wandered a short distance over the hills to Chigwell.

Starting point: Chingford station, Zone 5, trains to Walthamstow Central for Victoria Line, or London Liverpool Street

End point: Chigwell tube station, Zone 4, Central Line

Length: 6.72 kilometres (4.18 miles)

Ordnance Survey Maps app route link here

Download the GPX file for this route here Chingford to Chigwell

Empty London Overground CarriageThe Overground train from Walthamstow Central to Chingford was completely deserted, which made it feel almost naughty to be using the morning of my usual Friday off to explore somewhere I hardly know at all. If nobody else was coming this way then should I be?

I hopped down the steps outside Chingford and barely registered my surroundings because I knew that Epping Forest was around the bend. I like Epping Forest. I don’t know it well either but I get good vibes despite growing up knowing that murdered Eastenders’ characters are usually buried out there.

This morning the sun was gazing full in my face and though it was only a few hours since dawn it was pretty sweltering. Even walking up to Queen Elizabeth’s hunting lodge felt arduous, and that’s a pathetic slope.

I sat on a bench just past there and checked my emails for any news about a house purchase we’re attempting to exchange on, and got grumpy instead. But then some strange noises behind me turned out to be a horse being ridden along the dirt track. Which is cheering. Horses are lovely. Unless it has been raining. Then they are hell beasts turning and churning the finest of dirt track into the worst of all gloop slogs. All was well today.

But not for the little boy on the path across Ranger’s Road, who was bawling and glaring like Damian because his mountain bike was clearly no match for his puny leg muscles or the ability of his older brother. Who in turn was whizzing off ahead gleefully telling everyone ‘I know it’s hard!’

Sunny meadow along the London Outer Orbital Path

The little chap’s mother tried to console him but the fury in his eyes sent shudders through my psyche. My eyes met hers and I perceived therein resignation to a period of pushing an abandoned bike along, hunchbacked.

The path here is muddy but quite nice. There’s a pleasing whiff of apples in the air as you pass between a few crabapple trees and the hot morning was making the other trees expel other friendly aromas. Essex lies across the road, as the sign proclaimed, and a few feet later you leave Redbridge and do enter Essex.

Essex sign on ranger's road

For a little while beyond here it seems like you’ve wandered out of London wholly. A nice vale with a wide buzzing sun-drenched path. By now I was really sweaty and not sure if I was enjoying it or not.

Directly across the A104 there’s a path going up the slope and into the trees. I swear I could hear the mobile phones of elves ringing inside a tree just off the path. It was quite odd. A little further on you come onto a lovely flat cricket pitch, which today was occupied by a lone bald man frying himself in a deckchair he had positioned so that the solar rays were quietly flaying him.

Buckhurst Hill signThis is now Buckhurst Hill and there’s a nice sign to let you know that.

Turn left down the residential street and you come to a directions signpost soon enough. It points directly to the street you need, don’t do what I did and walk down, get confused and doubtful, and then come back out looking baffled. At the end of this mews there’s a thin alley to the left.

Along here you’ll find very courteous people who get out the way, well out the way, as soon as they see you coming. I must have looked sweaty and evil or something because they weren’t exactly smiling at me. More like recoiling into the brambles.

The rising aura of fear and suspicion continued in the field just beyond here. A massive dog stood about 60 metres away and literally could not stop staring at me as his owner tried to drag him along the path. He was stood rock still, unsure whether to listen to the frustrated human or to destroy the other human, me, who was clearly the gravest threat since that time he silenced a vicious feline adversary with a paper cup.


Onwards and upwards, as I crossed the rail line by the footbridge.

A patch of residential housing comes and goes as you follow a route through a band of grass to the edge of a lake beside the River Roding. Here too a great big white dog stood and stared at me for too long. This one bounded across a stream to come and wag its tongue at me though. It seems I was starting to look less horrible?

Head anti-clockwise around the lake and the path takes you over a bridge and past a woman who might even still be shouting at her dog to follow her. Turn immediately left along a dirt track and you follow the river for a few minutes, and then into an overgrown meadow. The smells here were not as pleasant as those earlier in the morning, with a pong of poo wafting all over the place. Watch your step…

Just before a little wooden fence you turn a hairpin bend to the right, onto a track through the trees, and very soon you’re in the carpark of the David Lloyd gym place.

The rest of the walk is a bit of a non-event. The nicest parts all ended at that carpark perimeter fence where I spotted another of those ‘There is no dog poo fairy’ signs. A busy road and some dodgy road crossings come next. There is a distant view of the spires of London but the descent and rise into Chigwell station isn’t the climax I would ever have wanted.

Sign in Chingford

This route’s climax is at the start if I’m honest. It’s not the most splendid of LOOP sections but it was amusing enough for the reactions of everything around me. Much more of a people and dog-watching event than one for thinking nice or creative things.

Oh and two more things: I bought a very much expired and sad Lion Bar from a kiosk on the way back into town so I was glad to have opened it before my connecting tube arrived so I could exchange it for a Snickers. And getting into Hammersmith from Chigwell is long-winded.

At least I spent the rest of the day in one of my absolute favourite London haunts – the spiral staircase terrace of The Dove at Hammersmith Bridge. There I cooked a bit under the relentless sun, and cooled myself with lovely Fuller’s beers. The next walk I’ll do on the London Outer Orbital Path will be a lengthy one from Chigwell to Harold Wood. I’m looking forward to it.