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 7: Through Fyfield

21 August 2016

Returning to Chipping Ongar, I took the path that leads out of the car park and followed it downhill towards the Roding. This is a well-used track, signposted as part of the Essex Way and also for St Peter’s Way - a cross-country walk to the Essex coast that starts in Ongar and ends at the ancient Chapel of St Peter-on-the-wall. The previous section of my attempt to follow the Roding had been a bit of a trudge along farm tracks and minor roads, but for this next leg the map promised much better walking close to the river.

Looking back uphill, across the field of crops, a dead tree was silhouetted against the grey skies.

At the bottom of the hill I turned to follow the river, which had its usual upstream appearance: narrow and shallow, fringed by bushes, nettles, and reeds. And also, when you could see past the foliage, littered with occasional bits of debris.

Is this debris-strewn stream really the River Roding?

I now followed the rights of way upstream, occasionally having to cross a field of crops or skirt around a small wood. The best views of the river were from the footbridges, above and beyond the protective blanket of vegetation.

Crossing another field that sloped uphill from the river, I could see at its top a building with floor-to-ceiling windows, presumably built so as to give an uninterrupted view over the valley. I wasn’t sure what it was, but I quite liked it - more so than the new ‘barn style’ houses that I passed on the outskirts of the village of Fyfield.

A building with a view

As I approached the village, I noticed a large gap in the bushes by the side of the Roding. Entering, I found myself standing above the river, opposite a weir with a pond beyond it. Large lumps of concrete lay half-submerged in the water, presumably the remains of workings that once belonged to Fyfield Mill.

Near Fyfield Mill

Passing the village church, I strolled down to take a look at the Roding as it flows under the road bridge. Strangely, the river was much wider at this point than further downstream. Was this because the Roding has been, as Germaine Greer described, “mercilessly mucked about with, diverted, straightened, canalised”? Is this the reason why the river is so much narrower as it passes through the arable land on either side of the village - that human intervention has narrowed its width and stolen its waters?

Seen from the bridge at Fyfield, the River Roding is nice and wide!

I left Fyfield and walked on, mostly alongside the river. On one occasion I discovered my way forward blocked by impenetrable hedges and was forced to retreat half-a-mile to a bridge which took me over to the other bank. The further upstream I got, the more difficult it became to follow the Roding - both on the ground and on the Ordnance Survey map - due to the numerous rivulets and drainage channels that feed into it. I made another route-finding error when I followed a public footpath straight ahead, alongside what the map told me was a stream which I took to be the Roding. After a short while a gap appeared in the foliage, and I realised that the ‘river’ bed was completely dry! A closer consultation of the OS map revealed that the Roding had in fact turned aside a short way back and was now a couple of hundred yards away to my left.

The OS map claims that this is a stream. I don’t really know what it is, but it certainly isn’t the River Roding …

By now the clouds were clearing away and it was becoming rather warm - so it was a relief when I could follow the river through the shade of trees …

Thatched roofs seemed to be popular on the cottages and houses that I passed after leaving Fyfield. But one or two of them were rather too desperate to say “we live in the countryside” - not least the property where even the garden shed had a large thatch perched on top:

Fortunately, there was also plenty of good, old-fashioned rural scenery …

Eventually I emerged out onto the road at Shellow Bridge. A signpost pointed the way to Berners Roding and Margaret Roding: an indication that the next section of my trek up the river will take me past the Roding Villages.

Fyfield Church - with the cars all lined up as if at worship