London Walks - 2

Epping Forest, Essex

Epping Forest, the open space to the north-east of London, is nearly 6,000 acres in size. It is an ancient woodland with scattered areas of grassland, ponds of varying size and traces of Iron Age camps.

However you reach Epping Forest there is road noise or railway noise - and then it all ebbs away as you stroll the lovely glades beneath glorious ancient trees.

Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth I both hunted in the forest. In 1543 Henry commissioned a building at Chingford known as Great Standing. In 1589 it was renovated for Elizabeth I. Today it can be seen and is known as Queen Elizabeth’s hunting lodge.

In the second half of the 19th century landowners wished to enclose the forest for development. The commoners, who had grazed their animals and cut their timber, wished to continue with these rights. Following many disputes between the landowners and the commoners the 1878 Epping Forest Acts were passed. These ensured that Epping Forest should remain unenclosed and could not be built on. The forest was to be left as an open space for all to enjoy. It entrusted the ownership and care of the forest to the Corporation of London.

In 1882 Queen Victoria visited Chingford and dedicated the forest to the use and enjoyment of her people for all time. Today it has many leisure facilities including football pitches, a golf course and several cricket pitches. It is popular with cross-country runners, walkers and their dogs, horse riders, picnickers, boaters and anglers.

Old Paul’s Nursery was world famous in the last century but it was taken back into the forest in 1920. The site has numerous species of trees and herbs not found elsewhere in the forest, including foreign maples, lilies of the valley and azaleas.


Start/finish Car parking just beyond the golf clubhouse in Bury Road, Chingford, grid ref 394948

Distance 5 1/2 miles/8.8km

Time 3 hours

Terrain Good paths and tracks, mainly level. A little road walking

Refreshments At the tea huts and the pub passed on the walk.

Toilets At Queen Elizabeth hunting lodge if open and at the Information Centre (IC)

Map OS Explorer 174 or obtain special map at IC. There are many paths in the forest and the relevant map is a great help in finding your way.

Public transport Train from London’s Liverpool Street to Chingford. Turn right out of the station and walk down Station Road. When opposite the golf clubhouse, cross and walk along Bury Road, which goes off left from Station Road

Epping Forest Information Centre
Phone 0208 508 0028 Open Mon - Sat 10am-5pm Sun 11am - 5pm

The Walk

1 From the car park just beyond the golf clubhouse, walk north along Bury Road with a large common, Chingford Plain, to your left. Then take the second right to walk Jubilee Ride, a grassy track across the common with woodland to your left and open pasture to your right. Go ahead at a junction of paths and where the path narrows to a ‘squeeze’ bear left onto a dirt track that takes you into oak and hornbeam woodland. At the next cross of tracks, turn left and walk on to come to Grimston’s Oak - named after a famous cricketer. The oak stands in the centre of a small open space.

2 Just beyond, turn left, with some railings to your left. Then after a few yards take a right turn along Grimston’s Oak Ride. At a junction turn left and then almost immediately right. Ignore a right turn and go on ahead to reach Fairmead Road - a road that has been blocked off to all traffic - where you turn left. Walk on with woodland to your left and a common to the right where, in summer, both verges are bright with flowers. The old road soon moves into woodland and you can enjoy the birdsong, the hornbeams, the trailing ivy and honeysuckle.

3 Go on to pass some fine beeches. Continue to the tea hut on the right, with picnic tables. Then cross the road and walk left, uphill. When opposite a sign for Epping Forest Centre turn right into the forest and then take a narrow path, immediately left, to continue uphill parallel with the road. Rejoin the road just before you reach a building. Walk on to pass old Paul’s Nursery.

4 Continue on to pass the Kings Oak pub, with a small snack bar, beyond which you turn right into a car park. Here, on the right, is the Epping Forest information centre, with some fine displays. Then with your back to the entrance, walk ahead and turn right onto a wheelchair path through the forest. In a 100yds, turn right and then at the crossroads turn right again to stride the delightful and aptly named ‘Up and Down’ ride, passing through giant beech pollards, following the way as it curves slightly right.

5 Stride onto the road, which you walked earlier. Cross and after two steps go ahead into the forest along the Centenary Walk. Keep to this wide way as it winds steadily left. Pass out of the trees, with woodland remaining to the right and pasture to the left. Keep to the main track as it winds right and then quickly curves left to continue as Green Ride, created for Queen Victoria to make a triumphal drive at the dedication of the Forest in 1882.

6 Go on through more woodland and then an open space. At an island of trees - go ahead, ignore all other paths taken on your outward route. After the ‘squeeze’ in the path you come to a junction of tracks. Ignore the one ahead and take the first diagonal right. Stride this until you can see a glimpse ahead through the trees of a drinking fountain and the weather-boarded Butlers’ Retreat, now a tearoom and restaurant. Here too you should glimpse Queen Elizabeth’s hunting lodge. At this point take a right fork which brings you back to the junction of Bury Road with Station Road.

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