Starting on Good Friday we followed the Lea Valley Walk 31 miles up the Lea Valley, from Limehouse Basin in London to Waltham Abbey, then from there to Hertford.
The walk follows the River Lea and the parallel canal, the Lea Navigation. Both of these were used to transport goods into London. The Lea Valley became lined with industry and farming as a result. The area is rich with history, a good overview is given in the link above. At points during the walk the canal and navigation merge, and for most of the way they run close together, joined by railways lines leaving London Liverpool Street.
On the Friday we managed 17.2 miles (as measured by Michael’s GPS). The start of the walk is interesting, through the industrialised centre of London. We had rain for the first 90 minutes, which was a bit dreary, but it was soon over and the day brightened up. We started out from Limehouse Basin about 11, and passed a nice looking pub at 12.30, but thought this was too early for a lunch stop: particularly with all the miles we planned to cover in the day. So we passed the pub by. The walk then got a bit less interesting, passing through industrial areas that were dull brownfield sites. There were no pubs in this stretch and we nibbled a cereal bar to keep us going and then another half a bar each before we finally got to a Beefeater at Ponders End called The Navigation Inn. This is a gorgeous building, which is a former pumping station. We had a huge roast lamb lunch and a pint of beer, wondering if this would be a mistake with some miles yet to go: The food wasn’t, the beer might have been. Felt a bit tipsy as we carried on, leaving the pub around 4pm. The route is lined with pylons along this stretch and they were to become a familiar sight. We passed the attractive London Waste Ecopark, painted sky blue, and looking slightly unreal next to the navigation.
After a total of 15 miles walking ( and stopping for a pee under the M25 fly-over) we reached our resting point for the night: Waltham Abbey. The place was deserted, which was no surprise for 5pm on Good Friday. We walked another two miles right through town to get to our hotel, the Waltham Abbey Marriott, which Michael booked specifically because of the sauna and swimming pool. In the last mile to the hotel my feet were starting to give up: I’d worn stiff walking boots and the paths were pretty hard. The hotel is pretty close to the M25, as the street sign shows. The sauna and large jacuzzi/pool was wonderful. I revived my feet using little jets of hot water. We spent about 90 minutes in the health suite relaxing and soaking. We ate in the bar and had a nice meal with beer, timed perfectly so that we could watch the third episode of The Green Wing on Channel 4 (the only impressive programme on TV at the moment and led by the very impressive Michelle Gomez who plays a mad staff liaison officer).
My feet were feeling a lot better in the morning and after a good breakfast we headed off again, retracing the two miles back through Waltham Abbey to return to the Lea Valley Walk. On our way we passed a church with a great topiary holly crucifix outside, and wondered how well it would burn.
The walk from here was beautiful: rural, lots of different locks, lovely countryside. There were fewer pylons too. Yesterday we hardly passed any walkers and were passed by a handful of cyclists. Today it was much busier with both, thanks to the good weather and the more pleasant countryside. There were a lot of water birds around: a large number of coots, Canada geese (and other geese) and swans: the logo of the walk is a swan. I managed a few good nature photographs.
We stopped for lunch at a lovely pub at about 12:30, learning from our late lunch yesterday. The Fish and Eels at Dobbs Weir, Hoddesdon in Lee Valley Park. The food was great and we had a pint of IPA to wash it down.
We had to break our walk in Ware as my feet were worn down by then (boom! boom!) and I had to have a rest. We popped into a cafe close by the river and grabbed a tea and cake and this was enough to enable me to finish the next 2 miles to Hertford. The highlight of this part of the walk into Hertford, was the start of the New River, which supplies water for drinking to London and had a very interesting history. The flood plains open out and the valley narrows in the approach to Hertford and you can see the river and navigation side by side easily here. We finally left the river and went to Hertford East Station and headed back to Cambridge. Today’s mileage: 14.2. Foot baths and pampering awaited.