A winter walk in Epping and Theydon Bois, Essex

A country track leading to the M25

Juxtaposing country tracks with the M25 - Credit: Simon Taylor

Celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Essex Way with this circular walk from its starting point in Epping 

Words and photos: Simon Taylor on behalf of the Public Rights of Way team at Essex County Council 

Distance: 4.8 miles (7.8km). 

Starting point: Epping London Underground station, Station Road, Epping, postcode CM16 4HW, grid reference TL462015. 

Getting There: From M11 J7 take the B1393 London Road to Epping. From M25 J26 head east on the A121 Honey Lane and at the Wake Arms roundabout take the first exit B1393 Epping Road. From the A414 take the B181 at the Talbot roundabout, through North Weald, to join the B1393. The station is well served by buses and is a terminus on the London Underground Central Line. 

Map: OS Explorer 174 Epping Forest and Lee Valley 

Refreshment: The Station Café provides an opportunity for refreshment at the beginning or end of the walk. At half-way, there are pubs, cafés and restaurants and even a fish and chip shop in Theydon Bois. 

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Places of interest: The Essex Way was devised in 1972 and runs for 81 miles across the county, from Epping station to Harwich Old Lighthouse. It is waymarked throughout by discs depicting a pair of red poppies. An illustrated guide is available free on the Essex Highways website. To the south and west lies Epping Forest; threatened in Victorian times by development and enclosure for agriculture, the forest was saved by an Act of Parliament and is under the stewardship of the City of London Corporation. A small part of the forest lies north of Epping between the B1393 and B181 and is known as the Lower Forest (the main forest is on higher ground); it can be explored from the small public parking area on The Woodyard (grid ref. TL471030). 

Interactive map: essexhighways.org/getting-around/public-rights-of-way/prow-interactive-map 

The starting point of The Essex Way

The starting point of The Essex Way - Credit: Simon Taylor

The Walk 

1. The starting point is a green plaque on the wall outside Epping tube station, marking the start of the Essex Way. Looking at the plaque, 40 metres along the pavement to the left is the entrance to a footbridge over the railway lines. Cross the bridge to emerge in a cul-de-sac, which leads to a road called Bower Hill. Turn right and after 50 metres cross the road to enter the footpath next to Bower Court; you are following the very first sections of the Essex Way. The path soon emerges on to fields, then passes through a gap in a hedge to turn left and follow the field edge to emerge on Stewards Green Road. 

Farm track through field

Following the farm track - Credit: Simon Taylor

2. At this point, the Essex Way turns left along a bridleway. If you fancy a very long walk across the county to Harwich, then take that route. To continue on our walk, cross the road and take the footpath up a tarmacked lane leading to Little Thorn Hall Farm. At the farm, head straight on through a wooden gate leading on to a golf course. Join a surfaced path but proceed with care; show consideration to the golfers and give way to any playing their shots. There are even some bells provided by which you can sound your presence. After the second bell, the path passes across the course; aim just to the right of the electricity pylon on the opposite side. Once there, turn right and follow the hedge on your left, along the edge of the course. Pass a second pylon on your right, then cross a wooden stile beside a metal gate, on to a concrete path leading through woodland with the noisy M25 just beyond; there is a close view of the overhead gantry before junction 27 (with the M11). Pass a third pylon on your right and the path then turns left, passing under the M25 via an underpass.  

Footpath through trees in Essex

The walk is intersected by the M25 and the Central Line - Credit: Simon Taylor

3. South of the M25 the path bends left. After 80 metres, turn off right to join a path on the right of a ditch. Follow this as it meanders for 750 metres (off to the right you will see the trains on the line between Epping and Theydon Bois) until the path leads across a wooden footbridge at a field corner to emerge in a rough meadow. Keep to the left, passing a small but beautifully spreading oak tree, until you cross a metal footbridge with a squeeze stile at the far end. Turn right and follow the hedge line; the path goes on to join a fenced concrete path adjacent to the railway and then crosses the lines via a footbridge. You are now in Theydon Bois. 

4. Follow the road past the Indian restaurant; The Bull pub is on the left. Opposite the pub, head along Forest Drive where there are further places to eat and drink. Continue all the way to the dead-end of Forest Drive where a footpath continues, passing between garden fences and a ditch. After 400 metres, take a wooden bridge on the right and continue left, through a kissing gate beside a field gate, to head towards a dead tree at the top of the rise. Beyond this, the path joins a well-used, hedged track heading downhill to another kissing gate, after which the path turns right to follow the edge of a pasture, through another gate and left onto a lane. Head up the lane to now cross over the M25. 

5. On the other side of the bridge, keep left and pass through a gap beside a metal gate. Follow the path straight on, passing under the overhead pylon cables, and continue downhill. Skirt a redundant wooden kissing gate and continue on, to emerge opposite the school on Ivy Chimneys Road. Turn right then turn left into Centre Drive. After 600 metres, just past the turn into Woodland Grove, turn left down an alley footpath that leads back to the station. If you would rather avoid a flight of steps down then continue along Centre Drive and turn right.