Walk 10b - From Barking to the Thames, along the River Roding

Approximately 4.1 Kilometres 2.5 Miles (about 90 minutes)


This is a linear walk, starting at Barking Station, and finishing at the Barking Creek Flood Barrier and the Thames.

Among the areas of interest that the walk passes are:

  • The Curfew Tower

  • The Site of Barking Abbey

  • St Margaret’s Churchyard

  • The River Roding

    • Barking Quay

    • Hand Trough Creek

    • Cuckold’s Haven

    • Beckton Sewage Treatment Works

    • Barking Creek Barrier leading into the Thames

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 on your phone, you can download a printable PDF version of this walk guide


If starting the walk from Barking Station, start at Way Point 1.


If you are doing this walk as a continuation of Walk 10a, from Barking Quay, start at Way Point 3.

Barking to the River Roding


On leaving Barking station turn right and walk down Station Parade.

Continue on Station Parade, passing Cambridge Road on the right, and then over Ripple Road continuing to walk straight ahead into the Town Centre, which is a market street. At the end of this street,  there is a junction with the Broadway, cross over this. The Curfew Tower is straight ahead. 

History - London Bridge Blocks
On the paved area outside in front of the Curfew Tower is a sculpture by Dutch artist Joost Van Santen, consisting of two granite blocks which originally formed part of the London Bridge, which was opened by William IV in 1831 & was demolished in 1968 (see the picture above).

Link to more information about the sculpture

Walk over to the Curfew Tower gate. 

History - 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 the Curfew Tower

Link to more information about Curfew Bells


Walk under the Curfew Tower.  Straight ahead and a little to the left is a Tomb with a ship carved on the side. This is the tomb of Captain John Bennett. See picture below.

History - Captain John Bennett 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

Now walk up to and through the gate into the site of Barking Abbey.  See Google Earth picture below.

History - Barking Abbey Remains 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 Bishopsgate, a former Roman gate in the City of London, and why it's called Bishopsgate. 

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 county 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. 

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 annual 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.

Exit the Abbey site into St Margaret’s Churchyard
(see red arrow in Google Earth picture below)

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

Exit the churchyard (see green arrow on previous picture) and walk to Barking Quay (see Google Earth picture below).

There is an information board about the history of the Quay here.

History Note
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 the bridge over the Roding at Barking Quay, head away from Barking and up the stone steps of the new flats development next to the Quay.  Walk in front of the flats, and then turn right through a gap. Cross Fresh Wharf Road and turn left onto Fleet Road. Continue straight on, passing Quay Road on your left (see Google Earth picture below).

Walk past a path on the left, and just before the road starts to curve left, you pass Hand Trough Creek, also on your left.

Historical Note
Hand Trough Creek is the remains of the Back River, which originally split off from the Roding near where the Barking railway line crosses it upstream. It then rejoined the Roding here. You can see what it looked like in this 1915 O.S. map.

Where the road joins Jenkins Lane, turn left and go through a gate onto a footpath that runs through Cuckold's Haven Nature Reserve.

NOTE ! There has been a report (12/07/24) of the footpath above being blocked by squatters, where it passes under the A13 (Alfred's Way).

To avoid the blockage, an alternative route would be to continue along Jenkins Lane until you come to the Showcase Cinema. This skips the Cuckold's Haven Nature Reserve footpath mentioned above, and any blockage on it.

If you go around to the back of the left side of cinema you will find the start of a continuation of the footpath along the River Roding. Now jump down to Way Point 4. (see below).

Historical Note
Cuckold’s Haven is a not uncommon name for out of the way places that might be used for extramarital dalliances. The name of the area may have been taken from the 17th-century ballad entitled ‘Cuckold's Haven’. Cuckolds (men whose wives had been unfaithful) were shown in woodcuts with animal horns as symbolic of their shame and misfortune.

The word "cuckold" is derived from Cuckoo. This is because the cuckoo, lays its eggs in other birds' nests, and forces the unsuspecting bird to raise offspring which are not its own.

Follow the path around to the right.  On the bend there is a good view of the Barking Barrage. The Roding is fully tidal up to the barrage, which was built to keep the water in the Quay at a constant level. On the left of it you can see where Hand Trough Creek joins the Roding.

Continuing on, you pass another large reed bed, then pass under the A13 (called Alfred’s Way here).


You pass the Newham Showcase Cinema on your right, and then the Beckton Sewage Treatment Works.

Link to information about ‘A13, Trunk Road to the Sea' by Billy Bragg

The path splits into two. Take the left hand path through the Beckton Creekside Nature Reserve. This path curves to the right then splits again.  Take the right hand path, and when you come to a junction, turn left. On your right is the Beckton Sewage Treatment Works, with a canal containing treated liquid sewage in it, flowing towards the Thames.

Historical Note
The Beckton Sewage Treatment Works were first established in 1864. The Works were part of Joseph Bazalgette's scheme to remove sewage (and so reduce disease) from London by creating two large sewers from the capital, one on each side of the Thames and known as the Southern and Northern Outfall Sewers. 

Originally the works were just reservoirs designed to retain six hours flow of sewage. No sewage treatment was provided and the sewage was just discharged into the Thames as the tide went out.

In 1878 the Princess Alice passenger steamer collided with a coal carrying boat and sank in Gallions Reach, which is between the point on the Thames that you are heading towards, and up to Woolwich. Over 600 people died in what was Britain's worst inshore shipping tragedy. The presence of raw sewage contributed to the high death toll.

A Royal Commission was appointed in 1882 to examine Metropolitan Sewage Disposal. It recommended that a precipitation process should be deployed to separate solids from liquids, and that the solids should be either burned, applied to land, or dumped at sea.

Dumping at sea stopped in 1998 when a sludge incineration plant was commissioned at Beckton Works to provide 11.4 MW of power for use at the treatment works.

In 2014 a further major upgrade to the Beckton works was made to improve various processes and make them more efficient and environmentally friendly.

Link to further information about the Beckton Sewage Treatment Works

Continue on to where the path turns right and you can see the Thames and the Barking Creek Flood Barrier. The flow into the Thames that you can see is the outfall from the canal that you saw earlier.  The Roding is flowing into the Thames through the Barrier.


Historical Note The Barking Creek flood barrier is part of the flood defence system for London. It is normally closed just before the Thames barrier is closed. The Barking barrier was completed in 1983. It is about 60 metres high, and needed to be this size to allow shipping to reach the Town Quay in Barking further upstream.

Link to further information about the Flood Barrier

Returning to public transport options.

  1. Retrace this Route to Barking Quay, then follow this link for a guide from the Quay, through the site of Barking Abbey, to the railway station.
    or a nearer option -

  2. Retrace this route to Way Point 4 (Newham Showcase Cinema) where there is a path that forks left and goes to the rear of the cinema building. Turn left and walk around the building. From here you can catch the 325 or 326 busses to East Ham or Ilford (see Google Earth picture below).

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Link to feedback form

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Russell & Paul