Today’s walk took in two sections. Due to logistics of Sunday public transport from west London to the far east of London (Essex) we drove to the finish and got a cab back to the starting point. The first section Harold Wood to Upminster Bridge (4.5 miles/ 7.2 km) followed the course of the Ingrebourne river quite a bit of the way. Due to the extreme dry weather we have had lately the river was very low and fairly nondescript. In Harold Wood Park there was a big group of runners, and football and cricket were also both in evidence. There were also a lot of cyclists here and all along the route, as there are national cycle trails along here which seem to be well used.
The second half of the route was rather boring, going along a fairly main road, then through some overgrown woodland, and some fields. The cloudy, yet warm and humid, weather didn’t kindle much enthusiasm either. However I did find some nice looking apples by the roadside, which I will try later. And there were also a lot of juicy ripe blackberries in the hedges which were a good distraction!
We arrived in Upminster Bridge in time for an early lunch. Although we had brought sandwiches the cafe menu was too much of a temptation, and we ended up ordering food as well as coffees!
Suitably rested and refreshed we began the next section (to Rainham – 4.5 miles/ 7.2 km) by walking over Upminster Bridge to the windmill. There has been a bridge over the river here since at least 1375. The current one dates from 1892. The windmill is sited at the top of a hill (of course) and is very impressive. It also seems rather incongruous, among all the early 20th century housing in the area.
The route continued to follow the river Ingrebourne most of the way. It went through Hornchurch Country Park, which was formerly a Royal Flying Corps base in the 1st World War, and then became RAF Hornchurch. For me this was the most interesting bit of the walk. The site now includes Ingrebourne Site of Special Scientific Interest, and includes a large marshy area. Unfortunately due to the incredibly dry weather in the last few weeks the marshes have completely dried up. I just hope all the wildlife that lives here has survived somehow, somewhere.
There are many relics from the 2nd World War in the park. Fighter squadrons from this airfield were prominent in the Battle of Britain. With the docks of east London so close it must have been a very frightening time.
Rainham is a funny little village/town, some of it is very old. The river was navigable until the 19thC and in 1729 a wealthy sea captain built Rainham Hall, now owned by the National Trust. Unfortunately it is closed on Sundays so we didn’t get to see it. (Or experience a lovely a cup of National Trust tea which would have been very welcome at this point!)
Never mind – an hour later the kettle was on and the tea was made!