In short: very easy flat walk, on hard surfaced paths, choice of cafes and various public toilet stops. 2 hrs 20 mins walking + 45 min pitstop.
After yet more rain in the previous week we decided on another walk which we could guarantee to be dry underfoot. This time slightly further from home and a little longer in distance – my old favourite and a really great venue for walking alone or with friends. Lovely Lee Valley. There were 3 of us this week so progress was slightly slower as we had a lot to catch up on – plus we stopped to participate in a survey…and simply had to stop again for a couple of wonderful wildlife photo opportunities!
We start from the Waltham Abbey Gardens public car park, postcode EN9 1XQ, which is free and usually half empty although this week we got one of the last available spaces!
Head out of the car park into the Abbey Gardens – these are very pretty in themselves and well worth a visit – but for this walk we head straight on with the visitors centre to our right and the Abbey further to the left. If the visitors centre is open then there are public toilets available inside.
Keep straight on along this path towards the stream, passing a part of the medieval wall on your left, cross the stream and turn left along the path towards the main road, Highbridge Street. Turning right so that the Abbey is behind you, head away from the town along this road, crossing for safety before the roundabout and recrossing at the zebra crossing or the traffic lights – passing the entrance to Gunpowder Mills on your right at these lights. Take the second path on the right (the first is just access for anglers), opposite the trading estate, and head into the urban oasis that is the Lee Valley Park.
At this point you can see the canal over to your left; Waltham Town lock is just here – but we head north along the river towpath. In fact this the unglamorously named Flood Relief Channel (or more prettily Horsemill Stream). It is very pretty here – the path is generous (easy to walk three abreast) – never busy but well used by dog walkers and cyclists, all of whom are friendly and polite!
Carry on along this path for a couple of miles, ignoring paths off to the left and passing a couple of lakes on the left, including the large and lovely Hooks Marsh Lake. Finally we arrive at Hooks Marsh where there is a small car park, a stone sculpture on your left and a junction of various paths. We head straight on here, through a gate and continue further along beside the river. It twists and turns along here – truly beautiful in spring and summer with willows dipping down into the water. Even now at the end of winter it is quite charming – the river always teeming with ducks and swans.
After about 10 minutes on this stretch we come to an iron bridge off to the right and cross the river at this point. We then cross a picnic area and find ourselves in Fishers Green car park. There are perfectly decent public toilets here.
Passing the toilets on our left we continue up along a path, with a bird viewing point on our left. At this point we are heading towards the Lee Valley Park farms which are well signposted. Turning right at the first junction we come to, we are almost immediately in the farms’ car park. Bearing left through the car park we come to the main farm building ahead and up a small slope. There is a lovely cafe here – perfect mid walk pitstop for tea and a scone. Most unfortunately however it was still closed for the winter season as of this week – due to re-open next weekend in time for half term.
We then retrace our steps through the car park, back to Fishers Green, across the iron bridge and left back along the path to the Hooks Marsh area. At this point we diverge from our route out and take the path right, up and over a bridge giving beautiful views across the lakes on either side.
Continue on this path, ignoring a path left and passing a second lake (Police Pit apparently) on the left. On meeting another path arriving from the right, bear left and cross a bridge over the canal. We join the canal towpath at this point and head back south – although to do this we need to turn right off the bridge and follow the path round and back under the bridge.
The rest of the walk is a straight mile and a half or so back to the Waltham Abbey lock along the towpath. In doing so, we pass another couple of lakes on the right, including the Herts Young Mariners base and on the canal, Waltham Common lock. Immediately after passing under a pedestrian bridge, just before arriving at the end of this section, there is the entrance on the right into the Lee Valley White Water Rafting Centre, which also has an attractive cafe. As the farm cafe was closed we headed into here for a bite of lunch – it being about 12.30pm by this time!
Lunch was tasty but apparently the coffee left a lot to be desired – I had a herbal tea which it is pretty hard to get wrong! It is very well appointed though – comfortable, lovely views and pristine toilets.
Returning to the canal towpath we very soon reach Waltham Town lock and cross the canal here to reach the path we started on. And so, turning left at the end of the path we are back on Highbridge Road and head back towards the Abbey, through the Abbey Gardens and the car park.