WALK 1 - WANSTEAD FLATS AND PARK, AND THE RIVER RODING

 Approximately 5 miles / 8 km 

(about two hours)

Click on image to go to an interactive version of this map
WALK DESCRIPTION
Starting and ending at Manor Park, this circular walk crosses Wanstead Flats and Wanstead Heath. It notes the different stages of London’s urban development, from nineteenth century suburbia to the tower cranes visible on the horizon refashioning Docklands. The route then passes through a slice of the landscape created by Josiah Child and his descendents, to provide scenic woodland walks and lakeside vistas to complement Wanstead House, the showpiece of the family’s wealth and power.

The return to Manor park is via the River Roding, and the route of one of London’s earliest railways.

USING THE WALK
You can follow the walk directly from your phone. Directions are in black, historical notes are in dark red. There are also links that lead to further information about points of interest.

If you don't want to follow the walk on your phone, you can download a printable PDF version of this walk guide

SCROLL DOWN TO START THE WALK

 THE FLATS

WAY POINT 1 - Manor Park Station

Turn left out of Manor Park Station and cross Whitta Road.  Proceed along Forest Drive, walking past a small block of flats and Victorian Villas. Over the road to the right is Manor Park Flats, the most southerly point of Epping Forest.

Historical Note 
A large temporary mortuary was erected on Manor Park Flats in April 2020 as part of the NHS emergency response to Covid 19. This was dismantled at the end of July 2020 and the area is currently set to become a wild-flower habitat.

Link to more information about Manor Park Flats

Cross over Capel Road, and then immediately turn left onto Wanstead Flats. Proceed to the nearby information board at a junction of paths. 

WAY POINT 2

Take the broad path to the left of the sign that is parallel with Capel Road. Walk straight ahead past the Golden Fleece pub on your left, aiming for a low concrete building which houses changing rooms for the football pitches.The housing to your left towards Forest Gate dates from the end of the nineteenth century marking the eastern boundary of Victorian London. To your right across the Flats is the Edwardian Aldersbrook Estate built in the first decade of the twentieth century.

Historical Note 
In the Second World War, prefabs (prefabricated houses) were built on the Flats here to house Londoners who had been bombed out of their houses. Allotments were also established as part of the government’s “Dig for Victory” policy.

Link to more information about the Flats in WW2

On arriving at the right hand corner of the changing rooms, head half right in the direction of the two blocks of flats on the horizon. Just before you get to a large clump of trees, turn right along the edge of  the football pitches.  After about 25 metres, turn sharply left onto the broad path heading towards a car park on Centre Road.

 The area  to your left where the Flats is closest to centres of population, is the focal point of its traditional role as a place of assembly. Chartists in the mid nineteenth century, Suffragettes in the years before World War One, Communists and Moseley’s British Union of Fascists in the 1930’s all staged meetings and rallies to advance their cause at this point. They were joined by evangelists and other religious preachers including the Salvation Army and campaigners for Temperance.

 As you near the car park, on the horizon to the left Canary Wharf becomes visible, and on the right you can see two small church spires on the  Aldersbrook Estate.

WAY POINT 3

Cross over Centre Road, and enter Wanstead Heath via the car park opposite (usually locked). This is the point at which this walk can be accessed from Forest Gate and Wanstead Park stations (which are south of this point, along Centre Road). Proceed to the information board to your right and take the narrow but well defined path to the immediate left of the board. Stay on this till it merges with a broader track coming in from the left. As the paths merge continue in the same direction, which takes you towards Lake House Road.

Historical Note 
This part of the flats has a history of hosting horse fairs, and later fun-fairs and circuses, which still happen at certain times of the year.

Link to more information

At the end of World War Two there were also German and Italian Prisoner of War camps built here.

Link to more information

WAY POINT 4

At Lake House Road, cross over where the road bends, so that you can see the traffic coming from both ways. Go onto the Harrow Road playing fields and immediately turn sharp right onto the path that runs along the right hand edge of the playing fields.  The two blocks of flats used as a way mark earlier are now on your left.  A little further on you can see the tower of St. John's Church, Leytonstone through the trees to your forward left. As you come to the end of the playing field it is worth looking back.  You can see the Olympic Park on the horizon to the left of the blocks of flats and the office towers of the City of London to their right.

Historical Note 
Where you are walking is the edge of the lake system of Wanstead Park built in the 18th century which included a “Lake House” built on an island in the “Great Lake”, intended as a banqueting venue for Wanstead House. The Lake House estate behind the trees on your right derives its name from this.

The Lake House (from Rocque’s 1746
10 Miles Round London Map) 

Link to more information about The Lake House estate

THE FOREST

WAY POINT 5

Although you have been in Epping Forest since the walk started, this is the first time you enter woodland. You pass a white apartment block seeming to grow out of the forest on your right, and just after passing this block you come to a broad path with an avenue of trees, which originally ran direct to Wanstead House. This is  Evelyn Avenue named after the seventeenth century diarist John Evelyn who visited Wanstead House and appears to have been somewhat unimpressed by Josiah Child who he saw as vulgar and nouveau riche. Turn right onto the avenue, looking behind, you can catch sight of the Shard, framed by the avenue of trees. Proceed along this path past two yellow and green posts with arrows. At a third yellow & green post, turn right to follow a narrower path through the trees, with the white apartment block glimpsed occasionally on your right.

Take the right fork at the end of the path to emerge onto busy Blake Hall Road at a bus stop.  Turn right and cross Blake Hall Crescent, and then cross the main road via the pedestrian crossing between Aldersbrook Tennis Club and the entrance to Wanstead Park very slightly to your left.

THE PARK

WAY POINT 6

Enter Wanstead Park and continue ahead, initially downhill, with the fence of Wanstead Golf Club on your left.

Historical Note 
This area is called Reservoir Wood, because it was originally a reservoir feeding the other ponds in Wanstead Park.  The Reservoir was abandoned and drained around 1810-20. Just before you come to the Shoulder of Mutton Pond, you will see the path cuts through a bank of earth that was originally a retaining wall of the reservoir.


Just before the cut through of the old reservoir bank, on the right of the path is the Repton Oak, which is thought to have been planted around 1815 (certainly after the reservoir had been drained) under the guidance of fashionable landscape designer, Humphry Repton. A number of Oak saplings (about nine) were planted together in a clump, which gradually grew together to create this tree.  This type of planting was a method favoured by Repton. 


Link to more information about the Repton Oak

The path meanders through the trees, eventually emerging beside the Shoulder of Mutton Pond. Continue ahead with the fence on your left, you then pass the Heronry Pond on your right which can have varying levels of water.

At the point where the golf club fence turns sharp left, continue forward through a gap in the fence. Straight ahead is the neo-classical “Temple” at the end of a chestnut tree avenue.  

Historical Note 
The Temple is a remnant of Wanstead House, the country house of the Tylney family who made a fortune from the East India Company and lost it through a bad marriage to the errant nephew of the Duke of Wellington. The site of the house itself is on the golf course, but the landscaped grounds and ornamental lakes were incorporated into Epping Forest, and are conserved by the City of London for all to enjoy.

Link to more information about Wanstead House

Take the right fork with the pond on your right, in the direction of the Wanstead Park tea hut, a 1980’s pastiche of the Temple.The grassland between the Temple and Perch Pond (behind the tea hut) is the site of a trial to reintroduce cattle to the Lower Forest in order to manage the grassland following successful initiatives elsewhere in the Forest. At the tea hut (tea/coffee/ice cream/etc.), turn right and head for the park exit with the pond you have been following (the Heronry Pond) still on your right and Perch Pond, now visible on your left. Proceed to the park exit(Gate 172)

NOTE - The next section of the walk , which follows the river Roding , may not be suitable if you are accompanied by very young children. There is a stretch between the cemetery and the railway that is quite overgrown with a very narrow, one person width path.  If you want to avoid this you can return to Manor Park by following the directions for Walk 2 from Way Point 7.  For a more direct return route exit through the park gates (Gate 172) and continue straight on down Wanstead Park Avenue.  At the end of the road turn right to cross Aldersbrook Road via a zebra  and then proceed left for fifty yards before turning right onto the Flats alongside Alexandra Lake. Continue with the lake on your right until the lakeside path swings right at which point maintain your direction across the Flats towards The Golden Fleece pub. At the pub turn left and retrace your steps to the station.

WAY POINT 7

To continue towards the river turn left just before the gate to continue on a path with Perch Pond on your left and the fence separating the Aldersbrook Estate from the Park on your right.At the end of the lake you pass the Aldersbrook Riding Stables to your right.  Continue ahead, at first downhill. Shortly after the path flattens, go right through Gate 173. You will pass briefly through trees, before turning left on a metalled cycle path.

Historical Note 
This area used to be a Sewage Works until 1977.  It has since been obtained by Redbridge BC in an exchange deal for losing land when the A406 was built.  It has been left as a wild area.

Follow the path past a paddock to your right, shortly after which turn right on a cycle path signposted to Manor Park.

WAY POINT 8

THE RIVER RODING

As you follow the path, to your left is the River Roding, which forms the Newham/Redbridge boundary, with Ilford dominating the skyline. To your right is the City of London Cemetery. Eventually the path deviates from the river, keeping the iron railings of the cemetery on your right you pass through a gate marked as the boundary of Epping Forest. The path passes a semi derelict group of allotments on the left and then approaches the main Liverpool St. to Norwich railway line, one of London’s first railways, which opened as far as Romford in 1839, this will form the Shenfield branch of the Elizabeth Line when it eventually opens.

By now a new smaller stream has emerged on the left to replace the Roding.  This is the “Aldersbrook” a tributary of the Roding which gives its name to the district.

Link to more information about the Alders Brook

Just before the stream passes under the railway viaduct turn sharp right onto a narrow path following the cemetery railings.  Proceed along this path, with the railway on your left and the cemetery on your right, until you emerge onto Rabbits Road near the large gates of the cemetery side entrance.

Link to more information about the City of London Cemetery

WAY POINT 9

With the cemetery side entrance gates at your back, cross the road to the corner of Manor Park Flats, and then turn right onto a path which parallels Forest View Drive. At the end of this path, Manor Park Station is visible diagonally opposite. 

Turn left and cross Forest View Drive and in a few yards you can access the station via a zebra crossing. The Blakesley Arms is on the left, and a more family friendly pub, the Golden Fleece, which you passed early on in the walk, is five minutes away in Capel Road.


END OF WALK

LINKS TO INTERESTING RELATED WEB SITES

LINKS TO HISTORICAL OS MAPS OF THE AREA


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Russell & Paul