38 – Epping Forest: Chingford to High Beech 5.5 miles – 2nd November

In short: an extended version of walk 37 – on well maintained paths with beautiful forest views. A choice of public toilets at the start and super forest cafe for lunch. 2hrs 20 mins walking + 30 mins pitstop.

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By pure luck today is a beautiful sunny autumn day and the perfect opportunity to introduce Alison to the loveliness of Epping Forest and the area where I grew up. And so we head to Chingford, parking once again in the small free car park opposite Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge, postcode E4 7QH.

This week we are broadly following a route out of the Jerrold Short Walks in North London, interspersed with bits of knowledge of my own – and the odd wrong turning!

We cross the main road here towards ‘The View’, the modern Forest information centre to make use of the public toilets – only to be told there is a large school party of very small children using it, but that in fact walkers are entitled to make use of the facilities in the Royal Forest pub next door under an open access scheme to which they belong. Most enlightened!!

On leaving the pub we walk through the top level of the car park and descend to the forest via a path opposite heading through a couple of brambly bushes in the direction of the low rise building beyond which is a cafe primarily serving the local golfers. Before reaching it we cut across to our right and take a path heading back in the direction we have just come.

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We are now walking parallel to a ditch on our left and heading uphill. At the brow of the hill there is a junction of paths and here we go straight on crossing the other path, with trees and bushes to our right and shortly bear slightly left and head back downhill on a broad grassy path. At the bottom of the hill we turn left onto a gravelled path with trees on our right and, ignoring a path off left we head into the forest on this path which is apparently called the Great Ride and is also a bridle path.

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We cross a major path – the Jubilee Ride – and ignore paths off on both sides, walking for a good 15-20 minutes. The views into and through the trees are simply gorgeous here.

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Shortly after passing a major path off left we reach a fork where we bear left and climb through a wood up to a road.

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Passing through a gate we find ourselves on a country road without any pavement so we turn left and track the road whilst walking in the forest alongside it. We ignore a road off to the right signposted to High Beech and continue on to the next junction to the beautifully positioned church nestled here in the midst of the forest.

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After taking a few photos we walk through the churchyard around the church trying to find a path back which would avoid walking alongside the road. (There is a lovely fragrant tree right in front of the church door which a well informed churchgoer informed us was myrtle). However we are unable to find the diagonal path back which is indicated on our map and so walk back the way we came – this time with the road on our right.

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We cross the road emerging from our left and carry on past the gate that we originally passed through to the next lane on our right, known as Fairmead. We immediately pass a tea hut in the small car park and head downhill on this lane which gradually becomes a track and later a footpath.

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Once again there are lovely views left and especially right – the trees open out from time to time giving colourful perspectives over the glorious foliage.

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The track is gradually approaching the main road and just before we reach the road there is a jumbled junction of paths on both sides of a ditch. Here we bear right on a beautiful tree-lined path which runs more or less straight all the way to Connaught Waters, the lovely local beauty spot tucked away here.

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At the lake edge we turn right onto the path with the waters away to our left. We walk to the opposite side and just as we arrive at the outflow stream we turn right down the path, away from the lake and back to the path we arrived at on our outward journey. We turn right for a few yards and then left just before the path enters the trees (there is a waste bin here that seems to be a repository for litter collecting throughout this part of the forest). This path climbs slowly with lovely views across the plain in front and to our right until we reach the back of the lovely Butlers Retreat cafe at the top.

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Here we tuck in to a delicious bowl of soup – sitting out the front at one of the outdoor tables enjoying the sunshine! Crossing the road here we are back at the car park. A lovely slice of countryside – just to the north east of London.

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