This walk uses the first part of the route from a previous walk titled ‘Harlow to Woodford’ which runs along the far Western ridge of the uplands above Nazeing Common from Epping Long Green & through Galley Hill to Kennel Wood Hill, before taking a small loop East to the upper half of Claygate Lane back up to Galley Hill and heading North returning to Epping Long Green. So far I have found no finer views over the Upper Stort and Lea Valleys, with the final reward at the end of the walk being spectacular panoramic views over the Thames Valley. This really is the ultimate walk for vantage points with every corner you turn offering the most splendid views which are difficult to rival.
Some of the oldest byways run along the ridge of this hillside above the valleys and this particular corner of the uplands in the buffer lands is one of the forest district’s best kept secrets. There are less places to park and much more walking involved in getting to the best vantage points, which makes this a pleasantly quiet and isolated walk where you can often cover large distances without encountering a single soul. Some of the bridle ways & footpaths here are over 100m above sea level but are still surprisingly prone to flooding in winter as the eocene claygate and London clay beds laid down millions of years ago below the surface of these hills tend to prevent excess rain water from seeping through fast enough to drain away, forming pools in the many natural hollows and troughs the path follows along the ridge.
Such is the tendancy for water to pool up here in winter until it pours down the sides of the ridge in streams & ditches that the slopes above Nazeing Common were historically known as the Cascades, as in winter rainwater literally cascaded down the hillside into the village. The result is that winter walks up here can be both quite challenging and equally exhilarating at the same time. At points it becomes so wet that new pathways need to be improvised alongside the main ones to find a way around the large pools cutting the paths off, which adds to the challenge. But in summer the ground dries out much faster up here than the lowlands in the valley below making the going much easier under foot & transforming these hills into a place of sheer beauty with unparalleled views and scenery.
This walk was done in November so I was expecting challenges along the route, and it certainly didn’t disappoint. Starting at Epping Green I enter the gate beside the Travelers Friend pub onto a really old bridle path called Epping Long Green where I walk South for just under a mile until I reach a plantation called Copy Wood. I turn left here then right following the East edge of the wood for 300 yards until I reach the farm track heading south. I follow the track keeping the hedgerow to my right & stay on this track heading south, beyond the hedge are wonderful views over the Stort valley. After around 450 yards I then follow the bend left heading East for 120 yards. Here there are wide views over the uplands & forest and of the City to the East.
I turn right here again following the track until I reach Harolds Park Farm & walk around the outside of the indoor riding school before crossing the carpark toward the farm house on my right. There are arrows on the barn pointing the way around. I now follow the footpath West beside the fence of the farmhouse for around 500 yards. On my left and right are horse paddocks which have beautiful views over the uplands and Lea Valley, there are also some very large natural ponds on my left. When I reach the end of the paddocks there are more views to the right over Bumbles Green, I turn left here going South along Galley Hill Green. This is another ancient footpath through a long wooded track which gets quite muddy in winter. Here I continue walking through this wooded track South for around half a mile keeping right so that I can see the fields behind the trees.
I eventually reach the North end of Galley Hill Woods. To my right through an opening in the hedgerow is the most stunning view over the Lea Valley. From here I can see for miles into the distance to the West & I always stop here to eat lunch and enjoy the view. This is usually a good location to watch large birds of prey riding the air currents up the hillside. On this occasion the Buzzards were quite active but the Red Kites I usually see seem strangely absent. From here I head South through Galley Hill Woods along the bridle path and disturb a herd of Fallow Deer hiding in the woods as I walk downhill towards Aimes Green.
On exiting the south of Galley Hill Woods into Aimes Green I head South West between Aimes Green Cottages & Galley Wood House to pick up another bridle path called Puck Lane, this is another ancient path which I follow West for around 500 yards before going through a gap in the hedge on my left marked with a post & then head South West diagonally up hill through the centre of a field. At the top of this hill I continue across the next field following the telegraph poles then enter the grassy hillside of Kennel Wood Hill.
The panoramic views from up here are simply incredible. Below me I can see Waltham Abbey and North London. In the foreground to my left I can see the forest and then the City in front of me & to my right I can make out the arch above Wembley Stadium, but it’s what I can see in the distance on the horizon that is most amazing. Beyond the City to the South i can see the transmitter at Crystal Palace and beyond that I can see the hills of the North Kent Downs & on the horizon to the West I can make out the distant Chiltern Hills. There really is nowhere quite like this location for views & these ones really are unbeatable.
After enjoying the views I bear South East along the side of the hill against the hedgerow to my left and walk downhill until I reach a gap in the hedge on my left in which I find a convergence of footpaths crossing yet another ancient track called Claygate Lane. Here I turn left going up Claygate Lane heading North back uphill towards Aimes Green. There are occasional breaks in the hedgerow revealing beautiful distant views of the surrounding uplands. This is a narrow pathway with tall hedges either side which in winter is often underwater in places, I find I have to go through the hedge onto the field edges in places to avoid the pools of water blocking this path. Eventually I reach the top of the path beside Aimes Green Cottages where I turn right & then left going back uphill through Galley Hill Woods & North along Galley Hill Green until I reach the South West corner of Harold’s Park Farm.
From here I retrace my steps back alongside the paddocks to the farmhouse, where I cross the yard going back around the indoor riding centre following the farm track North all the way back to Copy Wood. I follow the edge of the woods keeping the trees to my left & at the corner of the woods I follow the path left then right back onto the Southern end of Epping Long Green. From here I walk North along the Long Green again for just under a mile until I reach the starting point back at the gate beside the Travellers Friend pub at Epping Green.
This will most likely be the last time i walk this route until the New Year as ground conditions are now deteriating on the footpaths and will not be getting any better over winter, so I’ll be making use of some of my other walks instead until then which use less isolated pathways that remain more useable through winter. I always miss this particular walk when we reach this point in the year as there’s just nowhere that offers quite the same spectacular views over the valleys, but I’ll be looking forward to my return. Occasionally when the ground freezes i make a last gallant attempt at this walk in the dead of winter just to blow a few cobwebs away & if the weather allows i may do so again.
Being here at the impending close of another year reminds me just how much beautiful countryside we have in close proximity to us. It also gives me time to reflect on what a good year for walks it has been in spite of restrictions on movement during 2020. When i first discovered this route in 2013 i knew it was going to be special & i knew i would be returning, but i had no idea how often i would be doing that. This really is one of the finest routes along the uplands which i cannot recommend highly enough if you are able to do it.