104 – Lea Valley: Waltham Abbey to Dobbs Weir 14.9 miles – 29th March

In short: 2 lovely walks bolted together here to form one super long one. Mostly firm underfoot – apart from the start – and very puddly in places: proper walking boots once again required. NO LONGER FREE parking at Waltham Abbey Gardens – BEWARE, we got caught out. Plenty of public toilet facilities and cafés. 5 hrs walking + 20 mins pitstop. 

We park at the Waltham Abbey Gardens car park on the roundabout by the Crooked Mile, postcode EN9 1XQ. Parking here has always been free…but apparently no longer. In fact it is good value if you intend to spend all day here, at just £2.50 for the day – however we did not spot the signs, or the machines and as a result I was sadly caught out and presented with a fine a few days later for £100!!! (Reduced to £60 for early payment). PARKING EYE…need I say more??

We are aiming to start with the Monks and Meadows walk as far as the Lea Valley farms – followed by Valley Views. We start by making use of the public toilets in the visitors centre situated in the gardens – this appears to only be open in the mornings.

On leaving this building we turn right to cross a stream and follow a path which should take us through an underpass under the busy road, Abbeyview. Unfortunately the underpass is completely flooded so there’s no way through. After taking a look around we retrace our steps to the car park (still don’t notice any parking charges signs!!) and exit on the pavement beside the roundabout – crossing Abbeyview at a traffic island and descending onto the footpath emerging from the underpass at a gap in the fence.

We turn right in front of a fence ahead and take a path off left through a gate. This little section is very muddy – but just about passable with care. It improves – mostly – once we are through the gate. We now follow the path straight ahead with a stream to our right.

At the end of this path we turn right beside a weir and continue to a fence corner where we turn left at a gate – disconcertingly there’s the sound of shooting (from the Gunpowder Mills land on our left?!) – the first shot makes us jump out of our skin! (The heron’s unphased though…)

After following this fence to its end we arrive at a field – according to the sign the path cuts diagonally across this field but that is not at all possible. So we go left along the field edge – and right at the bottom following alongside a stream. At various points here the ground is treacherously muddy so we take care and pick our way safely through.

At the far end of this field we arrive at a gate onto a lane where we turn left, heading towards a small car park and then right through a gate to follow a towpath alongside the uninspiringly named Flood Relief Channel.

We follow this path as it wends its way alongside the river. At a bridge on our right we cross, pass a picnic area, cross a road and car park and follow a path towards the farms. After a short straight section we turn right towards the farms’ car park, which we cross – and make use of the toilets alongside the café building.

Leaving the farm building, we turn right along the path running beside the access road to the second farm – the one with the milking parlour. Just before the farm we turn right on the Lea Valley path with a field to our right. This path curves left between fields and slowly approaches the road as it climbs. The path bends left before the road and runs parallel to it, finally feeding out onto the road at a gate. We take the second path off left – almost immediately after – and head uphill on a path that zigzags as it goes.

At the brow of the hill we bear right with the path and we walk past bushes and trees on our left – fields on our right – before starting our descent with a large lake to our left. After passing the lake we reach a car park where we turn left and then right shortly after. We bear right towards a road, Nazeing Road, which we cross at a pedestrian crossing.

The path ahead cuts the corner of the field to run beside a road on the other side of a fence. We soon pass a fishing lake on our left and at the end of this we turn left and then bear right to pass another lake. At the end of this lake we turn left onto a road, passing a sailing club on the opposite side. Staying straight on this path brings us out to the canal towpath where we turn right to head up to Dobbs Weir.

At the road, Dobb’s Weir Road, we cross to take a look at the impressive weir on the far side. We then cross back to make use of the café in the car park here. After a brief pitstop (its cold and wet and we don’t want to stiffen up!) – a lovely freshly made sandwich and cup of coffee – we continue on our way, back down along the canal towpath.

We pass the point where we joined the path and onto Carthagena Lock and then cross the canal at Old Nazeing Road. The rain is coming down quite hard now so we plough on as quickly as is feasible – passing the Herts Young Mariners base, a number of locks and on towards the White Water rafting centre at Waltham Abbey.

This is really quite a long stretch of towpath – which takes a fair old time to walk – so on reaching the White Water Rafting centre we decide to make use of their lovely clean public toilets before heading back to the Abbey along Station Road.

On reaching the front of the Abbey we turn left and take the path to the left of the stream, turning right at the bridge that leads across to the old gatehouse. This path then takes us straight back to the car park.

The whole issue of the car park leaves a rather bad taste in the mouth, which is really a shame as this is a great walk to do – and ideal even in bad weather as it’s not too exposed. Still, must be even worse for the regular users who have to pay each time they want to stroll out – or walk their dog – for more than an hour. Shame.

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