86 – Epping Forest Willow Trail 3 miles – 24th October

In short: a simply fabulous family walk for all ages. Lovely well-surfaced paths and clear way marked trail. Beautiful autumn views. Public toilets at start and end and good pub grub to finish. 1 hr 25 mins walking + 1hr pitstop.

Here we are again in autumn half term and my walking companions have deserted my for a well-earned break – so I manage to encourage various family members to meet up for a pub lunch preceded by a stroll in Epping Forest. This walk really is ideal as at 3 miles it’s just long enough to feel like exercise whilst not too strenuous even for my 81 year old dad to manage – and he’s still recovering from a knee op!

We park in the car park of the Royal Forest hotel in Chingford, postcode E4 9QH, as it is our intention to eat lunch here. A Brewers Fayre pub, it does cheap and cheerful but reasonable quality pub lunches so ideal for a party which comprises 4 teenagers as well as the octogenarian – we are 8 in all.

We head away from the pub past the View (an information centre for the forest which has public toilets available) and left in front of the Queen Elizabeth hunting lodge to enter the forest through a gate. Here we turn right onto a path behind the Butlers Retreat cafe and past the water trough.

We head downhill just before a pond along a wide grassy path with lovely views across the forest – particularly to our left.

At the foot of the slope we dogleg left and then immediately right to carry more or less straight on to Connaught Waters – a truly lovely lake and local beauty spot.

Here we turn right and take the path that circuits the lake towards the car park where we stop to examine the information board. We have decided to follow the Willow Trail which we may or may not already have been on but which definitely officially starts from this point.

The Willow Trail is clearly marked from here with red arrows but it does help to have the map printed off to follow the shape of the trail as we go along.

From the car park we continue along the path circling the lake until we reach a boardwalk section where we branch off to carry straight on through the forest away from the lake.

The path is clearly marked at all junctions – but the only spot missed by the teenagers striding on ahead of us is the next turning – a sharp left across a bridge over a ditch.

We then follow the trail as it turns right at a group of trees, runs straight then left and left again to head back in the direction of Connaught Water.

The paths are beautifully well maintained and the trail is really easy to follow – and this particular trail is also relatively flat so perfect for an easy family walk.

Eventually at a junction the trail heads left and back to the car park at the start but we are at the foot of the slope we originally came down and so return back uphill here.

At the top of the hill we retrace our steps past the cafe, the back of the hunting lodge and so to the Royal Forest for a slap up pub lunch.

Lovely family walk, very reasonable food – perfect all round!

 

 

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