Start close to the Robin Hood roundabout on the Epping New Road...
You know me, I never do what's expected of me. Took a shortcut, didn't I...
Straight across the road from Brad's tea hut by the Cross Road near the Robin Hood roundabout on the Epping New Road (Can't think he ever came this way, all the way from Sherwood Forest in North Nottinghamshire - what for?) and into the thick of it. That's me all over.
An interesting phenomenon that I came across before I joined the bridle path, was the remains of a beech tree that had fallen in a cross shape, split in the middle and gone the four ways as charcoal burners had pollarded it. They did that in the process of creating burnable material for charcoal back in the old days, up to the 19th Century. There are pollarded beeches and other trees around the whole Epping Forest district that reaches south from north-west Essex to the edges of the boroughs of Newham to the south and the London borough of Waltham Forest at Leytonstone at its southernmost point, including Wanstead Park.
Dodging low branches, ducking in places to get under low boughs, I headed to where I'd seen a young couple join the bridle path, and turned right to follow in their wake. They'd be well on their way to High Beech before I reached the halfway point on my walk, taking pictures as I went, leaving the path to get close ups of trees that had seen better days, and returning to carry on along the way.
Having crossed through rough woodland - bypassing the usual access point to the bridle path - I come to the well-trodden route
On a warm, sunny day you can imagine sometimes the shade is welcome...
Having gained the well-trodden bridle path - feet, hooves and pushbike wheels, sometimes even skateboards! - and turned to follow it in the direction of High Beech I stopped at times to take in the smells, the views ahead and behind, and to take pictures for this article (forward planning). I'd need to take my time with the exertions I underwent on and off the beaten track.
Trees that had died still stood, gradually being eroded or eaten away by insects, witness to a time long ago when highwaymen or footpads hid away to waylay unsuspecting travellers. Some trees had lost limbs or boughs to old age, yet stood their ground 'defiantly', daring mother nature to do her worst - or best - and render them like Newton's apple, to follow the laws of gravity.
Long shafts of sunlight struck trees in the afternoon, the forest all around acting like a shield to deaden what there was of the north-westerly wind. The path rose and fell, undulating like a large roller on the surface of the sea as I passed out of and back into the shade. It was eerily quiet - for a while, on my own with my camera for company.
To say this path is undulating is an understatement...
An outcrop of trees on the left of the path, bereft of branches, took my eye...
Behind them was a clear blue sky, an ideal backdrop for what seemed like thick stalks with light bark. They seemed 'washed' by the light, in contrast to the dark shaded path beyond.
The path beyond was dappled, the strong sun behind me to my left casting its light through the canopy. I was still the only one using the hard-pressed way, almost like stone under my feet. In and after rain it turns to a mire in places lower down, or where cycle wheels cut into the softer surface. There were still mud patches at the side from the recent rainfall that hadn't affected most of the ground, created by runners' trainers and mountain bike tyre treads.
I reached a crest on the path when a pair of cyclists came from the other direction. By the time I had my camera aimed the first was down the slope and away out
The cyclists seemed to dare each other to hurtle down the gradient i'd just climbed...
It might've spurred one to see me with my camera, or he might've been camera-shy. Either way he was off like a shot down the slope that curved to the left, out of sight. His pal was away seconds after him, and I just caught him before he too vanished around the curve.
I turned and carried on, to capture a pair of interestingly formed trees, possibly 'grafted' branches growing upward halfway up their trunks. I considered it lucky I could show them so close together.
Further along I had to show just how close the path is to the main road - the A104 - through the trees past a gated fence. Just for good measure a car was caught on its way north. I considered leaving the path, with maybe another view or two before cutting across to the High Beech road and back to my starting point through the densely wooded hillside.
Where in the world is Epping Forest, and where in Epping Forest does this bridle path lead?
Cross Roads, High Beech, Loughton Essex, IG10 4AE
Where exactly is this swathe of forest in relation to outer London?
The area of Epping Forest I gravitate to is fairly easy to reach from the Central Line (Underground, marked red on the 'Tube' maps - like toothpaste) at Loughton, or Theydon Bois. Bus services advertised at the bus station outside Loughton Station show a service that takes you to just past the Wakes Arms roundabout on the A104, where you can follow the narrow metalled road or another bridle path to High Beech (the bridle path is safer, although if you walk on the right drivers of oncoming vehicles can see you, you see them and take appropriate avoiding action). If you feel you'd like to tackle the road uphill from Loughton known as the Earl's Path (King Harold had in the earlier part of his distinguished administrative career been Earl of Essex and still owned swathes of land in western Essex at the time of his kingship, you find references such as Harold Wood a fair distance away from London, and as close as Leyton, before the mid-1960's still in Essex), take care crossing the A104 at the Robin Hood roundabout from the Robin Hood public house - also a Thai restaurant - and descend the bank into the trees roughly northward. You can't go far wrong. Alternatively use the car park beside 'The Original 1930 Tea Hut' and have a cuppa before setting out or on your return. You're under no obligation, it's a public car park.
From Theydon you have an exhilarating walk through woodland near the road that leads to the Wakes Arms roundabout. Return by way of the Earl's Path road, a footpath follows parallel to the road on the left before you come to a small car park. Cross the road and down to the back of Loughton, through a housing estate to the main road, cross that by the roundabout, pass a Sainsbury store on your right and the station is ahead.
The name 'High Beech' is sometimes erroneously written "High Beach". The 'Beech' in the name owes to the propensity of Beech trees in the area once occupied by charcoal burners, and pollarded trees abound. 'Pollarding' was undertaken by the landowners to increase the wood yield and involved the binding together of saplings. You'll often see where older trunks have fallen away, leaving gaping gaps, and sometimes - as in the first two images here - trunks may part company and fall outward. Heavy winds often presage the collapse of older trees.
Enjoy the walk.
Shortly after reaching the nearest point to the main road I cut across through the forest...
There is a network of narrow paths across the hillside...
They lead gradually westward to the High Beech road and connect with a path that takes you back to the Original 1930 Tea Hut (a useful orienteering point besides being somewhere to rest up before going home or back to your holiday accommodation). You pass an old brick built icehouse at the side of the path - it's featured in a couple of these Epping Forest walks - where you take the path left and back to a fork in the road. The path is surrounded by greenery, so much so you often don't realise you're so close to a road, albeit a minor one.
After about five or ten minutes, depending on your pace, you come to the 'official' continuation point of the bridle path that links up with the one that curves around through the forest close - to the west through the trees - to the tea hut that is visible for a short while. Carry on along the path beside the road where it joins the road that leads to the Chingford-Waltham Abbey road, and cross at a point opposite the tea hut where you can see traffic coming from both directions.
Hopefully when you follow this walk the weather will be as welcoming as when I did it.
Back past the access point that I might've taken to the bridle path... this is where the two parts of the whole meet
The double red lines mean: "Strictly no parking!"
They were drawn around the time when England came out of lockdown during the early stage of the Covid-19 pandemic (that started in earnest in March, 2020) and drivers parked almost anywhere to get some sunshine on them. Hefty fines were handed out by Police posted around the High Beech area.
Alan R Lancaster (author) from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) on August 04, 2020:
Hello Anya, thanks for the thumbs-up. Main thing is you enjoyed 'the walk', lots of leafy trees, some old 'relics' of pollarding for charcoal burning and some 'casualties'. It's all a bit eerie in winter through, bare trees like skeletons... And only about fifteen miles from central London.
How different is this to where you are?
Anya Ali from Rabwah, Pakistan on August 04, 2020:
Excellent prose style! (thumbs up emoji here)
Alan R Lancaster (author) from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) on July 26, 2020:
Don't mention it Fran. There are several pages on the area if you look down my profile page. Don't know if you're into motor bikes, there's a page not too far down on a speedway track that was introduced to the forest in the mid-1920's, with lots of images of bikes at the 'Original 1930 Tea Hut' (a weekend meeting point for bikers in the region), including some real vintage machines.
fran rooks from Toledo, Ohio on July 26, 2020:
Really nice and vivid article. I felt like I was on a hike with nature surrounding me. Thanks for sharing.
Alan R Lancaster (author) from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) on July 21, 2020:
Maybe you'll do the same for me, Bill, on a west coast walk. You've got some giant redwoods you could drive a Ford Transit through (you know, the one B T Barracus drove the A-Team in).
Maybe next time I'll stand you a cuppa and a piece of Manor House cake at Brad's place (1903 Tea Hut).
Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on July 21, 2020:
Well that was a fun walk. Thanks for taking me along with you. Great looking trees along the way. Nice shade on a summer's day. Good company. A very nice way for me to spend five minutes this morning.