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This Week's Walks - Archive

Please see the Saturday Walker's Club This Week's Walks page.

This is an archive of walks done by the Saturday Walker's Club. You should only need to use this page if the SWC website is down.

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Friday, 3 January 2020

Friday Walk - River Lee Country Park and Waltham Abbey: Cheshunt to Broxbourne

Length: 17.0 km (10.5 mi) [shorter, circular walk possible: see pdf]
Ascent/Descent: negligible; Net Walking Time: 3 ¾ hours
Toughness: 1/10

Take the 10.28 Cambridge North service from Liverpool Street (Tottenham Hale 10.40), arrives Cheshunt at 10.48.
From Stratford, take the 10.16 Meridian Water service to Tottenham Hale and change there.
Return trains are 4-5 per hour to Liverpool Street and 2 per hour to Stratford.
Oyster PAYG can be used at both stations but a simple return to Broxbourne (or Cheshunt for the Short Circular Walk) might be better value. Cheshunt is in TfL Zone 8 but Broxbourne is outside the numbered zones. Freedom Passes are not valid on West Anglia trains, but can be used on the Overground to Cheshunt.

The Lea Valley is a wide floodplain which has long been both an important transport corridor and a natural boundary (eg. between the Saxons and the Danes in the Dark Ages). Its rivers provided water and power for many mills and factories, although nowadays the journey out of London seems to offer an unbroken line of light industrial estates, warehouses and retail parks. This does not exactly lift the spirits when seen from the train, but on the Herts/Essex border just before Cheshunt the view abruptly changes to the tree-lined lakes of River Lee Country Park. There are good opportunities for bird-watching in this wetland landscape of rivers and filled-in gravel pits, and several locations where orchids can be seen in late May and June. A series of sculptures are dotted around the park and the walk route goes past many of them.
The lunchtime stop is in the historic market town of Waltham Abbey. In about 1030 a black crucifix was brought to the town and one of the pilgrims attracted by this ‘Holy Cross’ was Harold Godwinson, then Earl of Essex and later (briefly) King Harold in 1066. He built a larger stone church on the site and this in turn was rebuilt in Norman style after the Conquest. It was extended again in the 12thC when Waltham Abbey was built by Henry as part of his penance after the murder of Thomas Becket. It was the last monastic house to be closed by Henry in the Dissolution of the Monasteries and most of the abbey was demolished in 1540. Fortunately, part of its medieval nave survived to become the present Church of the Holy Cross: reminiscent of a scaled-down Durham Cathedral, it is well worth a visit.
The walk route goes back past Cheshunt station so it is possible to complete a Short Circular Walk. The full Main Walk continues to head north through a less-frequented section of the Country Park, at first on woodland and lakeside paths following the course of the Small River Lea and then on the River Lee Navigation's towpath. An optional stretch through a water meadow leads into the Broxbourne Waterside area, a centre for boating and canoeing with a café and a pub for refreshment before the journey home.

Lunch: Pubs and Cafés in Waltham Abbey (7.3 km/4.5 mi). See pdf for details.
Tea: Old Mill Retreat Cafe  (open to 16.00) or  The Rose & Crown (open all day) near Broxbourne Station.

For summary, map, height profile, some photos, walk directions and gpx/kml files click here. T=swc.311

1 comment:

Thomas G said...

n=10 w=overcast-then-sunny
With about half the distance on tarmac or gravel and the rest on relatively firm earthen paths, this proved to be a good winter route: no deep mud and just small bits of standing water. With plenty of birds (lapwings, kormorants etc, but no herons or egrets) on the plentiful waterways (rivers, streams, mill stream, lakes, flood channels, river navigations and flooded grasslands) and some interesting wooded areas passed through, this is a varied walk never far from the trainline (and several stations) and with an interesting village for a lunch stop (1 abbey with its gardens, 5-6 pubs and 3-4 cafes: one is spoilt for choice). We stayed together to Waltham Abbey and dispersed there to the various lunch options.

1 moved on early, the other 9 re-started as a group, soon passing enclosures with picturesque Old English Goats, employed there to be munching away at brambles and shrubs. 1 of the 9 walkers then finished at Cheshunt station, the rest marched on to Broxbourne. 5 of those got the 16.10 Stratford train, the other 3 had to wait a few minutes longer for the next Liv Street train.