Approximately 5.5 miles / 8.5 Km (about two hours)

Click on image to go to an interactive version of this map

Keeping to the east of Wanstead Flats, this walk then passes through a street typifying Edwardian suburban respectability, before entering the heart of the parkland and lake system of Wanstead House. As the route circles the Ornamental Water, it takes in some of the expensively engineered views required to maintain status in eighteenth century England. The return to Manor Park passes evidence of Wanstead Flats' significant role during World War 2.

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



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.

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


Take the broad path immediately to the right of the information board heading across the Flats diagonally away from the road. As you follow the path, two blocks of flats become visible ahead on the horizon and the Golden Fleece pub emerges to your left on Capel Road which formed the eastern boundary of Victorian London.

Continue ahead, arriving at Alexandra Lake to your right, with the two blocks of flats still ahead. Walk on the lakeside until the path begins to swing right towards Aldersbrook Rd. Leave the lakeside path to go straight ahead across the football pitches, aiming for a white apartment block visible above the trees to the right of the two blocks of flats.

On the horizon to your left are the apartment blocks of the Olympic Park, and beyond them the City and the Shard. On your right is the Aldersbrook estate. Continue on, and pass some changing rooms for the football pitches to your right. The white apartment block drops out of sight briefly behind trees. Carry straight ahead, aiming for a path through the trees marked by a white topped post just to its left. As you emerge onto a large area of flat ground Canary Wharf is visible to the left, turn sharp right and head towards St. Gabriels, Aldersbrook’s parish church dating from 1914. 


Cross over the pedestrian crossing on Aldersbrook Road slightly to the right of the church, turn left, then first right, and proceed down Park Road. 

Historical Note 
This is a typical example of the Edwardian family homes built for a prosperous middle class clientele which were pushing London further into Essex in the early years of the last century. A temporary “Tin Church” originally served the new community to be joined by a school, a bowls club, a tennis club, a library, and a small parade of shops (but no pub!) Domestic work would have been undertaken by “maids of all work” arriving early every morning on the  tram from East Ham.

Link to more information about the Aldersbrook Estate



At the end of Park Rd continue ahead into Wanstead Park, the remnants of the extensive landscaped park which surrounded Wanstead House. Stay on the broad path between the trees which eventually swings to the right to join the bank of the Heronry Pond. Keep the lake on your right and the fence of Wanstead Golf Club, which contains the site of Wanstead House, to your left. Continue until the concrete fence of the Golf Club turns sharp left. 


Turn left to follow this, and walk slightly uphill on a broad footpath, in between two lines of fences. At the top of the lane, where there is a small informal parking area, turn sharp right through the park entrance to another information board on the left.


Within a few yards of the information board, leave the main path which swings right, to take a left fork diagonally into trees (ignore an indistinct path that would lead you round the back of the board).

Emerging from the trees, you find yourself at the top of one of the park's expensively engineered views, with a wide glade sweeping down to meet a complex of lakes and islands known as The Ornamental Water. 

 The Glade, looking down towards the Straight

Continue down the Glade towards a large cedar tree on the bankside. Turn left, and keeping the Ornamental Water on your right, follow the path. On your left you will pass first the golf club, and then the River Roding. 

At this point, take the right fork away from the river, tracking around the lake system. Keep going until you come to a point where you can see the cedar tree and the Glade on the opposite bank . The path bears left along the stretch of rectangular water known as The Straight, at the end of which there is an excellent view along the lake and up the Glade.

Link to further information about The Straight

Turn right, to follow the bank back towards the cedar tree across the lake, and then follow the path to the left as the lake turns a corner. Opposite is the Grotto.

The Grotto was a boat house in the form of a typical 18th century gothic folly, it was built around 1760 and was certainly in use by 1763. It may have been altered a couple of decades later, but is now a little reduced by the ravages of time. Even in its current state it is atmospheric, and was used as a backdrop in a 1978 remake of Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep, starring Robert Mitchum.

Still from The Big Sleep - Copyright 1978, United Artists.  
The scene shows Candy Clark as Camilla Sternwood and Robert Mitchum as Philip Marlowe outside The Grotto.  Candy Clark's character refers to the Grotto as a 2000 year old Roman ruin ! 

Watch a video clip from The Big Sleep that shows the Grotto

Continue on until the lakeside path joins a main path through the park at a T junction. Turn right and walk slightly uphill to arrive at the Perch Pond on your right with the Aldersbrook Riding Stables behind a fence to your left. Continue on the path alongside the Perch Pond with the Aldersbrook Estate on your left until you emerge with the gates of the Park to your left, Heronry Pond facing you , and the Wanstead Park Tea Hut slightly to your right (tea/coffee/ ice creams etc) 


Go left through the entrance (Gate 172) onto Northumberland Avenue and almost immediately turn right past a post with a yellow arrow to follow a path alongside the Heronry Pond on your right and Northumberland Avenue on your left. Shortly after going up and down a steep incline there is another post with a yellow arrow followed almost immediately by a short path through the trees on the left to join the junction of Northumberland Avenue and Ingatestone Road. 

Proceed along Ingatestone Road with Aldersbrook Primary School on your left.

Historical Note 
The Aldersbrook Primary School was opened by the Essex Education Committee in 1911, a reminder that until the creation of the GLC in 1965 this area was not technically part of London.

Link to further information about the school

At the end of Ingatestone Road,turn right into Harpenden Rd. 



Cross over Aldersbrook Rd by the pedestrian crossing, and turn left past the Esso Petrol Station. At the bus stop opposite Aldersbrook Bowls Club, follow the path on the grass verge to your right, pausing to notice a wooden hut just inside the maintenance depot for the football pitches.

Historical Note 
The hut is the last remnant of the military presence on the Flats during World War Two, which included an array of barrage balloons designed to disrupt German bombers, anti aircraft batteries, and Camps for German and Italian prisoners of war. The flats were also an assembly point for US troops ahead of D Day.

Link to further information about the Flats during WW2

Beyond the houses for the maintenance staff, the path emerges back onto the Flats with Canary Wharf on the horizon to the right. Head diagonally across the Flats towards trees at the corner of Alexandra Lake. As you approach the lake, the Golden Fleece pub becomes visible again. From the lake corner a variety of paths meander towards the pub which is your next way station. The Golden Fleece is a perfectly acceptable pub with an extensive food offering and a beer garden with a playground for children.

If you are not tempted, turn left in front of the pub and follow a straight path parallel with Capel Rd back to the information sign and then right back to Manor Park station.

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Russell & Paul