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 5: Out of London

31 July 2015

Now that I had reached the outer suburb of Debden, the next section of my walk up the River Roding would finally take me out of London and into the countryside. At this point, the river passes under the main road, and then under the M11, before winding its way through Woolston Manor golf course. As there appeared to be no way to access the river from the road, I walked past the Mercedes-Benz and BMW dealerships and into the adjacent industrial estate, which boasted such examples of cutting-edge British business as Sid’s Autos Car Repairs, and Linen Direct (which was boarded up).

The River Roding from the main road at Debden

At the end of the industrial estate is a massive building, protected by two 15-foot high fences topped with extensive rolls of razor wire. This is the Bank of England’s printing works for the production of its bank notes; there is also an incinerator plant for used notes, which has seen at least one major theft of bank notes.

The Bank of England’s printing works

On the other side of the road was the Loughton Sports Bar and Essex Fight Academy - from where I risked a couple of quick photos of the Bank of England’s fortress, before following a public footpath off to the right. On the other side of the fence, a printing works security guard wandered around, his walkie-talkie squawking away. At this point a helicopter passed overhead and I began to feel a touch paranoid …

The printing works are situated right on the edge of the city, and the path now took me beside crop fields to a bridge over the M11. On the other side of the motorway, I could spot the tracks of the Roding as it wound its way through the farmlands; having spent several miles flirting with the motorway, the river now turns away eastwards towards Ongar, and I was therefore at last able to say ‘goodbye’ to the M11.

Farewell to the M11

I now walked along a track past farm buildings. After the faux pastoral landscape of the Country Park and Nature Reserve, this was indisputably the countryside … even though the Roding still has several miles to go before it passes under London’s orbital motorway, the M25.

The countryside, at last …

Reaching a minor road, I turned right and after a few hundred yards gained access to the River Roding once again at the village of Abridge. After admiring the village buildings and the view of the river from the bridge, I turned round and almost trod on the rotting body of a dead rat lying on the pavement …

The Roding at the village of Abridge

I hadn’t been sure how easy it would be to walk alongside the river once I reached the countryside. In an article about the River Roding, published a couple of years ago, Germaine Greer bemoans the fact that “there are occasional footpaths but they seem to start nowhere in particular and end unpredictably”. In fact, the rights of way appear to follow old routes between locations on either side of the river, which people used before the age of the motor car in order to get to their place of work, or the church, or to visit family or friends; they therefore tend to cross the river valley, following the riverbank for only a short distance. To want to follow the course of the river itself, rather than visit the places on either side, is a modern-day conceit.

As I followed a right-of-way out of Abridge by the side of the Roding, it became evident that following the river for more than a short stretch at a time would not be possible. There was scarcely a path, and once the right-of-way turned aside from the river, the extensive riverside plant growth prevented any attempt to carry on alongside the Roding by circumventing the hedges at the edges of the fields that ran down to the riverbank. I was therefore forced to follow the rights-of-way, zig-zagging up to the road on one side of the river, and then back across to the road on the other side.

The occasional light plane passed overhead, presumably having taken off from nearby Stapleford Airfield, the entrance of which was close to where I emerged onto the Ongar Road - a few retirees sat drinking tea outside the Blue Rooms Cafe, while a large roadside sign advertised Mayhem Paintball and Lasertag.

Footbridge over the Roding

Opposite the airfield entrance was a sign indicating a stretch of the river with fishing rights belonging to the Billericay and District Angling Club, which I hoped would provide a decent length of riverside path to walk along. As it happened, the open access to the riverbank soon ended, but I was able to carry on with the river for a good distance through pathless fields containing numerous sheep, before being completely blocked by a very large hedge. On walking up the field towards the minor road at the top, I was at first unable to find any way out, other than to return the way I’d come and end up back at the airfield. Eventually I managed to find a weakness in the field’s defences, and I was able to climb over the barbed wire fence and then clamber over a mass of vicious-looking brambles and step out onto the road.

Easier walking alongside the river through these fields of sheep

I walked down the minor road for half-a-mile towards the roundabout at Passingford Bridge, the end of this leg of my walk. I could now hear the traffic of the M25, and I soon spotted the orbital motorway’s signal gantries high up on my left-hand side. To my right, the fields were still protected by thick hedges and high fences - on the one occasion where a gate led into a field of crops, someone had fly-tipped a broken office chair.

“Make sure your hedges and fences are high enough, mate, or we’ll dump our crap in your field … and nick a few of your sheep while we’re at it!”

The M25 motorway comes into view

Just before the roundabout, the River Roding passes under the road to Ongar. This was where I was due to finish today’s walk, but I had half-an-hour to wait before my bus was due, so I walked a couple of hundred yards along the road to Abridge to have a look at the Old Mill House at Passingford Bridge - which appeared to be much in need of repair.

The Old Mill House

The start of the next leg - upstream view of the Roding on its way to Ongar as it passes under the road at Passingford Bridge