On Sunday 3rd July we walked from Chigwell to Harold Wood, two sections totalling about 11.5 miles (18.5km). The first section from Chigwell to Havering-atte-Bower was definitely the most peaceful and pretty of the two sections. It was a very rural route going through farmland and woods for almost the whole way.
First we went through Chigwell Row Wood, saved by the Victorians for the purposes of leisure and exercise. Hainault Forest Country Park has a long history as a place for leisure and sport, as it was (yet another) hunting forest, set up by Henry I, son of William the Conqueror. We have walked through so many former royal hunting grounds I am beginning to wonder how any of these kings and queens ever had time for anything else. Although I suppose there wasn’t that much else to do really. What is impressive is the distances people travelled by horseback to get to the hunting grounds. No wonder they built palaces all around the place to stay in once they arrived. Havering Palace was such a place. No trace remains of the building that started as a holy retreat established by Edward the Confessor, and then became a hunting lodge, subsequently developed into a full blown palace that Charles I stayed in.
The next green space we walked through was Havering Country Park. This is home to an absolutely stunning avenue of sequoia trees along what is known as Wellingtonia Avenue. The name gives a clue as to when these trees were planted – brought from California in the 19th century, they are small compared to the giant redwoods of their native land. Still, these are very impressive and reach a height of 50m.
The end of this section was as we came out of Havering Country Park, and we had been hoping to find the pub open for a cool drink and more importantly a toilet. Sadly it was not to be as the pub was well and truly shut and shuttered. And nothing else around at all. So we carried on with Section 21, and found a convenient bush/ tree to hide behind 😂. Needs must dear Readers.
Havering-atte-Bower is a small village whose name means Havering near the Bower, or Palace. Soon after leaving the village we passed The Round House, too far away for a photo, but once the home of Joseph Hardwick Pemberton. If you have heard of him I can bet that you are an anthophile, in particular a lover of roses. He was a great rosarian, a “giant in the world of rose breeding” as our walking guide put it.
A little later we walked through the former lands of Pyrgo House, another royal house where Henry VIII’s children Elizabeth and Mary lived. Finally demolished in about 1940 by the local council it went through many owners who re-built, added and demolished parts of the house over the centuries. All we saw was a couple of gateposts standing a little forlornly in a field.
After coming through Foxburrow Wood, and more fields, the landscape became definitely more suburban and residential. It was nice enough, but the closer you are to houses the more litter there is. We walked along Carter’s Brook, described in the guide as a “sylvan dell”. Well, I can assure you that scrubby ditch was closer to the mark 😉. In Central Park (of Romford fame not New York) there was a welcome ice cream van and some interesting silhouette statues.
Finally we crossed the A12 Colchester Road, and through another play area (where some lovely people were picking litter and sweeping around a bench) to reach the station at Harold Wood.
It’s a shame in a way that we finished by a very busy dual carriageway and some slightly run down housing. The first section was really lovely, very peaceful and pretty. But that’s the way of the walk – rural bits interspersed with less picturesque parts. We are getting close to the official finish, although as we did not start at Section 1 we will have a little way to go on the south side of the river before we can say we have truly walked the Loop!