Walk 10a - Ilford Bridge to Barking Quay and Abbey, along the River Roding

Approximately 5.9 Kilometres 3.7 Miles (about 90 minutes)


This is a linear walk, starting at Manor Park Rail station and ending at Barking Station.

There are trains back to Woodgrange Park Station near Manor Park or to Wanstead Park Station in Forest Gate.

Among the areas of interest that the walk passes are:

  • The last section of the Aldersbrook before it flows into the River Roding.

  • A little used path that follows the Roding from Ilford Bridge to Barking Quay.

  • Barking Quay, once the home of the largest fishing fleet in the world.

  • St Margaret’s Church, parts of which date back to the 13th century.

  • The site of Barking Abbey, originally established in the 7th century.

  • The Curfew Tower, which holds the Holy Rood, a stone image of the crucifixion dated between 1125 and 1150, and which was a place of pilgrimage in the Middle Ages. 

You can read the walk instructions directly from your smart phone. Directions are in black, historical notes are in red. There are also links that lead to further information about points of interest.

If you don't want to read the walk instructions from your phone, you can download a printable PDF version of this walk guide. 


Manor Park to Ilford Bridge


On leaving Manor Park Station, cross the road at the pedestrian crossing and turn right. Walk down to the Romford Road and then turn left towards Ilford. 

History Note - Romford Road
Romford Road was originally a Roman Road from London to Caesaromagus (Chelmsford) and to Camulodunum (Colchester).

In 1600, Will Kempe, having split from the group of actors that William Shakespeare belonged to (The Lord Chamberlain’s Men) decided to bet that he could dance from London to Norwich. Starting From the City of London, on the first day he danced through Whitechapel, Mile End, Stratford, then up the Romford Road to Ilford, and on to Romford. 

Using this link you can read “Kemps Nine Daies Wonder”, Kemp’s own account of visiting The Great Spoon in Ilford (it is now rebuilt in Cranbrook Road, as a Wetherspoons Pub!) 

Continue on until you pass Glyn Hopkin Ltd., a Nissan Car Dealer.


Pass the car dealership, and then turn left into Lugg Approach. After about 50 metres there is a small bridge over the Alders Brook. To your left you can see it flowing down from where it emerged from a tunnel under the railway. To the right you can see it flowing towards the River Roding. The Friends of the River Roding and the River Roding Trust have spent time clearing the litter here and along the Roding itself. They also do a range of other work aimed at restoring, preserving and protecting the river.

Return down Lugg Approach to the Romford Road.


There are now two route choices for the next section of the walk.

Choice (A) goes along the River Roding from Ilford Bridge. However, the first part is quite isolated, and you may feel more comfortable walking with a companion.

Choice (B) goes through Little Ilford Park, and joins the River Roding 900 metres south of Ilford Bridge. 

If you are feeling adventurous and are happy with Choice (A), continue using the instructions below.

If you want to take the easier Choice (B), use this link to jump to the alternative guide for this section of the walk.

Choice (A) - At the Romford Road, turn left towards Ilford at the Romford Road.

When you get to the A405 flyover, cross the Romford Road at the crossing, and then turn left and use the crossings to head towards Ilford.  Just before the bridge goes over the Roding, you can go under (or over) the low metal fence on to an earth path (see below).

Walk along the path, with the Roding on your left and a wall to the A405 slip road on your right (see Google Earth picture below).


Ilford Bridge to Barking

As you continue to walk along, after a few hundred metres, on the other side of the river you will see a small park. There is water flowing into the river from a pipe at this point.  The road parallel with the river,  behind the park, is called Lowbrook Road. This might be a clue as to what the water flowing from the pipe is. It was common practise to put brooks underground when the land around them was being developed.   

The path heads a little way from the river, and along a fence separating it from the A405. At the time of writing (April 2021) there are piles of rubbish waiting to be removed in this area.  This is the result of an encampment set up here between 2009-19.  

After about 400 metres, on a bend in the Roding, there is a large patch of reeds.  

Continuing on, the path moves away from the fence a little, and then splits left and right (see picture below). The left hand path (the white line in the picture) is the most direct, but can be hard to find in the undergrowth, so you could optionally choose the clearer right hand path (the red line). The right hand path goes beneath the A406, through a gap in a metal fence, sharp left between two fences, and then right to rejoin the path.

Carry on along the path, the river still on your left.


History Note - The Roding
The name Ilford was first recorded in 1086 in the Domesday Book (1086), it was written as Ilefort.  The meaning of Ilfort is "ford over the Hyle". Hyle means "trickling stream" and is an old name for the River Roding

The River Roding rises at Molehill Green near Dunmow in Essex. It passes through or near nine villages in Essex known as the Rodings, which are mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086. The villages around the upper part of the Roding are thought to be the remnants of an Anglo Saxon community (the Hroðingas, whose leader was Hroða) and who sailed up up from the Thames to settle.

After ‘The Rodings’, the river then flows south, past Chipping Ongar, Loughton, Woodford Green, Ilford, and Barking Quay (where we are heading), before finally entering the Thames. 

Link to more information about the River Roding

You may see reeds growing at a number of places along the Roding. These would have been used for thatching some of the local dwellings up to around the 18th century.

Link to a downloadable PDF file on the Biodiversity survey of 2017 - Barking and Dagenham - it mentions the reeds in the Roding and their uses 

Soon, you will pass under the railway lines going towards Barking station. The first bridge carries the Barking to Gospel Oak line of the Overground, the later bridges carry the District and Hammersmith And City Underground tracks together with the Fenchurch Street C2C services through Barking to south Essex

The bridges are low - mind your head!

Soon after the railway bridges, you have to step over a low concrete wall.

The path goes around another large reed bed, with a large builders merchant yard on your right. Now go past a blue metal bridge, and continue along the path with the river on your left. 


Note Just before you get to the next bridge which carries the A124 (London Road), and you are walking in the spring and summer months, look out for Sand Martins nesting in the river bank from this point. In the colder months the Sand Martins migrate to Africa.

Link to more information about Sand Martins on the Roding

Cross over the A124 (London Road) and continue along the path next to the river. When you have passed the Tesco supermarket on your right, you have to briefly leave the river.  The path normally follows the river through Tesco’s car park but at the time of writing a development site on the river beyond the car park requires a short detour. Turn right and walk through the Tesco car park, and out through the main drive-in entrance. Now turn left and walk along the pavement. 

After passing the Ibis Hotel, turn left onto the footpath that goes around the back of the Premier Inn. Continue until you get to Highbridge Road. Turn left and walk over the first bridge.  On the right is a view over Barking Quay, looking south where the Roding becomes Barking Creek before flowing into the Thames. There is an information board about the history of the Quay here.


History Note - Barking Quay
From the middle ages, Barking was an important fishing port.  Fishing in Barking increased even more from the 16th century, and by the 18th century, the fleet sailing from Barking, mostly cod boats, went as far as Iceland in the summer. 

The Barking fleet served Billingsgate Fish Market in the City of London, and moored in Barking Pool. Scymgeour Hewett, who was born in 1797, founded the Short Blue Fleet in Barking (then England's biggest fishing fleet).

Barking was home to over 200 fishing vessels in the mid Victorian period. However, as soon as the railways became established, fishing in Barking went into a rapid decline. This was because more northerly fishing towns were now able to get their catches to London and other large city markets speedily. 

From this point, this walk looks at Barking Abbey and then finishes at Barking Station. However, if you wish, you can extend the walk by adding the second part of ‘Walk 10b - From Barking to the Thames along the Roding’ which should take another 60-90 minutes.

The choices are:

If you prefer to do Walk 10b separately, on another day, continue with the instructions below. 

If you would like to extend this walk to the Thames by including the final part of Walk 10b, use this link to skip to Way Point 3 of that walk

Continue down Highbridge Road and over the next bridge. The road curves right. Turn left towards Abbey Road. Cross the road and walk towards St Margaret’s Parish Church (see picture below). There is an information board about the Abbey just outside the churchyard.

Go through the gate into the churchyard. St Margaret’s Church is on the right.


History Note - St Margaret's Church
St Margaret's Parish Church was originally a chapel within the grounds of Barking Abbey. It was made available for the use of local people by Anne de Vere, abbess of the Abbey in 1300. 

The oldest part of the church is the chancel (the space around the altar), built early in the 13th century during the reign of King John. 

Link to more information about St Margaret’s Church

Walk through the churchyard, and enter the site of the Abbey (see arrow on Google Earth picture below for directions).

History Note - Barking Abbey Barking Abbey was originally built in the 7th century by Saint Erkenwald (later Bishop of London). Bishop Erkenwald is the bishop who ordered the reconstruction of what was to become Bishopsgate, previously a former Roman gate in the City of London. This is the reason that the Bishopsgate area in the City of London is so called. 

Erkenwald founded Barking Abbey for his sister Saint Ethelburga. Ethelburga served as the Abbey's first abbess. Erkenwald himself died at the abbey in 693, but was buried elsewhere.

In 871, Barking was attacked by Vikings and the abbey was destroyed.

Control of the area was regained in the 900s, and Barking Abbey was rebuilt as a Benedictine nunnery, under the patronage of King Edgar. The Crown made Barking Abbey the second richest abbey in the country by donating land and revenue to it. Barking Abbey gained power, becoming a royal foundation, which meant the monarch had the right to choose each new abbess. The abbess of Barking held precedence over all other abbesses in England. 

William the Conqueror spent time in 1066-7 at Barking Abbey, while the White Tower of the Tower of London was being built. He received the surrender of the Saxon Earls of Mercia and Northumbria and other Saxon lords here. 

Mary Becket, the sister of Saint Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, was created abbess of Barking in 1173, as reparation for the murder of her brother.

During the reigns of Henry III and Edward I, the Abbess of Barking was one of four abbesses who were said to have the "holding of the King by barony". This meant that they were required to perform military service for the King. 

In 1381 Elizabeth Chaucer became a nun at the abbey. Elizabeth was the daughter of the poet Geoffrey Chaucer and Philippa De Roet. 

The abbey was dissolved in 1539 by King Henry VIII. The abbess and nuns were all granted pensions.

After the dissolution, the abbey was demolished and its wealth was sold off, only the abbey's north gate and Curfew Tower were left standing. 

Following its demolition, some of the Abbey's building materials were reused.  For example, some of the stones were used to construct King Henry VIII's new Manor at Dartford and some of the lead was used to repair Greenwich Palace's roof.

Link to more information about Barking Abbey

When you have looked around the Abbey site, walk through the gates into St Margaret’s churchyard, looking towards the Curfew Tower (see picture below).

As soon as you are through the gates, the path curves to the right. As soon as it starts to curve left towards the Curfew Tower, if you look to the right you can see the tomb of  Captain John Bennett (1670-1716), which has a ship on the side of it (see photo below)

History Note - John Bennet John Bennett became a captain in 1695 at the age of 25. He died in 1716 aged 46, after becoming very well off. He left £500 for his funeral, this tomb, and a memorial for inside of St. Margaret's church. £500 is equivalent to around £200,000 today. Regarding his wealth, it's been suggested that Captain Bennett was linked to people involved in ‘owling’, which was exporting wool and importing luxury goods, without paying duties on them.

Link to more information about Captain Bennet

Walk towards and under the Curfew Tower.

History Note - Curfew Tower
The Curfew Tower (sometimes also called the Fire Bell Gate), is the only part of Barking Abbey still left standing after it was demolished around 1539-41 as part of Henry VIII’s English Reformation. 

Originally built in 1370, the current Tower dates from about 1460. The upper storey was repaired and rebuilt in the late 1800's. 

The tower got its name because the bell in it was rung each night as a reminder to put out all fires and lights (The word curfew derives from the Old French "carre-feu", latter "couvre-feu", cover-fire in English. The practice continued ceremonially for centuries, finally ending in 1900.

The upper storey of Curfew Tower is called the ‘Chapel of the Holy Rood’ because it holds a stone image of the crucifixion (the Holy Rood), which is dated between 1125 and 1150. 

The Holy Rood is thought to have been originally kept outside, and was an object of pilgrimage.

Link to more information about Curfew Bells

Walk through the Curfew Tower gate. On the paved area outside is a sculpture consisting of two granite blocks which originally formed part of the London Bridge, which was opened by William IV in 1831 & demolished in 1968 (see the large blocks in the bottom right of the picture below).


Barking Abbey to Barking Station

From here, cross Broadway and walk up East Street, which is a market from 8.30am to 5pm on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays throughout the year.

Continue walking in this direction until you cross Ripple Road and enter Station Parade. In about 200 metres, Barking Station is on the left side of the road. There are trains back to Woodgrange Park Station near Manor Park or to Wanstead Park Station in Forest Gate from here.

Barking Station is on the District line and is also the eastern terminus of the Hammersmith & City line. It is also on the National Rail network, served by c2c services operating to and from Fenchurch Street, as well as the London Overground, being the eastern terminus of the Gospel Oak to Barking Line

If you want to walk or catch a bus back to Manor Park, continue along Station Parade, past the Spotted Dog pub.  The road becomes Longbridge Road.  When you get to the first traffic island, take the second exit on to Fanshawe Avenue.  There are busses into Ilford along here. Fanshawe Avenue turns into Ilford Lane before getting into Ilford, approximately 2 km (1.3 miles). There is a bus (W19) or train from Ilford Station back to Manor Park.

Link to a downloadable Redbridge PDF file about the Roding Valley Way

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Link to feedback form

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Russell & Paul