In short: delightful autumn walk through the forest, around Connaught Water and as far as High Beach. Some muddy patches but mostly well-surfaced paths. Free forest parking, clean, well-appointed public toilets at start and fabulous café to finish. 2hrs 20 mins walking + 40 mins pitstop.
We park, as before when walking in Epping Forest, in the free parking spot opposite the Royal Forest pub and Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge, postcode E4 7QH.
We cross the road and make use of the public toilet facilities in ‘The View’ – the glass fronted Epping Forest information centre opposite. From here we exit through the gate between the two life-size statues of deer and turn immediately right onto a path.
We pass the back of the Butler’s Retreat café and take the path beside the large drinking fountain and past a half hidden pond on our right to head broadly downhill. At the foot of the hill we cross a brook and turn left on a path then immediately right to end up at the path running around Connaught Water.
Here we turn right and follow the path around the lake to the car park and beyond – always with the water on our left.
As we approach a wooden walkway we bear right and then left to join a path arriving from our right. This path continues straight on through beautiful autumnally coloured trees until it eventually feeds out onto a much wider and more established path, Fairmead Road, where we turn left.
We follow this track for quite some time as it heads broadly north through the forest parallel to the Epping New Road.
We pass various paths arriving on our left and eventually arrive at a tea hut and small car park, just before emerging onto a road, Cross Roads.
Here we turn left and very soon after pick up a path on the far side of the road heading further into the forest.
This path undulates through the forest very prettily – first seeming to head towards the road and then a few minutes later away from it.
On seeing some fencing in the forest to our left we take the next path left to come out beside the Epping Forest Visitor Centre, exiting this section into it’s car park.
Here we turn left, past the pub, onto a road – Paul’s Nursery Road – we are supposed to turn right onto a path opposite the nursery but I suspect our guidebook is a bit out-of-date and the nursery no longer seems to exist.
So we take a path right opposite the only house we can see and end up on a muddy, windy path through trees – navigating via our phones to bring us out at the junction of Church Lane and Manor Road where we turn left towards the lovely church.
At the T-junction beyond the church we turn left onto the road and follow it beyond the first junction until we turn right at a gate almost opposite the path we took away into the forest – and shortly before the tea hut and car park.
Shortly after starting on this path it bears left and heads down through the forest on a broad and well constructed surface.
Views all around are gorgeous – and just after coming to a wide open space on our left (complete with school party milling around), we are walking beside a brook and come to a junction of paths. It has to be said that the out-of-date-ness of our guidebook comes into play once again here and we mistakenly take a path off left here (we should have carried straight on) and after just a few minutes we emerge once more onto the wide track of Fairmead Road.
We immediately recognise where we are – heading in the right direction but not quite where we wanted to be – so we take the next path off right and wind our way back to eventually reach a lovely path through the forest where we turn left.
This path is very straight and brings us all the way back to the foot of the slope we initially descended from the Butlers Retreat café – albeit we are a little further over to the north. We continue straight on at the junction of paths and heading slightly uphill we soon have the back of the café in sight with it’s outdoor tables gathered under the trees.
Here we go in for a lovely warm welcome and a delicious bowl of tomato and red pepper soup. A really super way to end a satisfying forest ramble – always lovely to be here at this time of year!