Dave Sergeant

The London Loop is a walking route of 150 miles length around the outer boundaries of London split into 24 sections. I am currently walking the loop and this is a blog of a few sections. See tfl.gov.uk/modes/walking/loop-walk for more details.

London Loop Section 20 Chigwell to Havering Park - September 20th 2019

Section 19  →Section 21

Yesterday me, together with friend Mike, did most of section 20 of the London Loop starting at Chigwell in Essex. Good trip up on the train and tube, accompanied by children with various cardboard banners for the day of climate action. Short wait at Hainault for the connecting tube train to Chigwell, only every 20 minutes on that stretch so it was 11.15 before we reached our start. As soon as we got off the train we met Tony and his friend who were also about to start the leg and we accompanied them until we reached our end point. I had met them earlier on section 5 in Coulsdon back in April.

The official end point of section 20 is Havering-atte-Bower but that has buses only every 90 minutes. So the plan was to leave at Havering Park a mile before, the terminus of bus route 294 which is far more frequent. I had a second plan depending how the day went to continue to Harold Wood and pick up the same 294, in each case taking us to Romford station where we intended to lunch. As it happens despite having three versions of the guide book, the TFL instructions and various sat navs we got hopelessly lost so option one is what resulted. By far the worst signposted and described section of the whole loop.

The first few hundred yards was along the main road through Chigwell out of its new part into the much older upper Chigwell. Just before we turned off is what used to be Ye Old Kings Head and was built in 1547. It featured as the Maypole Inn in Dicken's Barnaby Rudge. It is now a Turkish restaurant. Not a good photo but the road was busy with traffic so didn't cross. Opposite was the church and nearby Chigwell Hall.

Having turned off there the whole of the rest of the day was in open Essex countryside and apart from crossing one busy road well away from civilisation. Some reviews said the section was very muddy but apart from a few waterlogged areas it was mainly dry. And certainly shirt sleeve weather.

There were some excellent views in places, both of London and Essex. We had seen this impressive tower from the tube and wondered what it was. A quick Google shows it is the Repton Park Water Tower now on sale as a rather bizarre house conversion.

Into Hainault Forest Country Park with nature trails. Not lost yet...

We came across this strange construction of 12 figures arranged in a circle with nothing to tell us what it was about. Clearly a sundial but the time didn't quite check out. It is Woodhenge. It kept us fascinated for quite a while.

At the bottom of the path we reach this large lake within the forest. But only a short walk along here until we turned off. The first of our significant navigation errors and we had to make a short diversion.

This is part of Hainault Forest Golf Course. Apart from the good views this is the area we got totally lost. There is supposed to be a path over the greens marked by yellow rings on tree trunks. We only saw a single one of those but trying to follow the instructions we got totally lost and confused going over greens we were not meant to and keeping clear of the golfers and their balls. I had expected the golfers to give us assistance (maybe another trip on a buggy like I had on an earlier leg) but they seemed to know nothing at all about the loop and just carried on with their match. The gpx file from Mike's sat nav showed the devious route we took, well away from the loop path.

Having escaped the golf course we thought we were on track but went wrong again, going the wrong way round a large field. In the process, exiting the field via a ditch, my trousers got caught in some barbed wire and without the help of the others I may have been left there trapped.. A short distance further and we reached the end and said goodbye to our companions. The 294 bus was waiting at the stop and took us via a devious route through the suburbs of Romford to eventually reach the station. As there seemed nothing attractive to eat there we decided to carry on to Waterloo. Speedy TFL train to Liverpool Street where we found the Central line closed and two trains clearly going nowhere on the Circle so out to the bus which took us relatively smoothly to our destination. Nice meal in one of the restaurants at Waterloo, now dinner rather than lunch, and back on the Reading train to get home just after 6.30. Another enjoyable but very tiring day out.

Section 19  →Section 21