Main Walk: 17 km (10.6 miles). Three hours 45 minutes walking time. For the whole excursion including trains, sights and meals, allow at least 7½ hours.
Short Circular Walk, from Cheshunt: 11½ km (7.1 miles). Two hours 30 minutes walking time.
Long Circular Walk, from Broxbourne: 19½ km (12.1 miles). Four hours 20 minutes walking time.
Explorer 174. Cheshunt, map reference TL365022, is in Hertfordshire, 7 km NE of Enfield. Waltham Abbey is in Essex.
2 out of 10 (1 for the Short Circular Walk).
The Lea Valley is a wide floodplain which has long been both an important transport corridor and a natural boundary (eg. between the Saxons and the Danes in the Dark Ages). Its rivers provided water and power for many mills and factories, although nowadays the journey out of London seems to offer an unbroken line of light industrial estates, warehouses and retail parks. This does not exactly lift the spirits when seen from the train, but on the Herts/Essex border just before Cheshunt the view abruptly changes to the tree-lined lakes of River Lee Country Park. There are good opportunities for bird-watching in this wetland landscape of rivers and filled-in gravel pits, and several locations where masses of orchids can be seen in late May and June. A series of sculptures are dotted around the park and the walk route goes past many of them.
The lunchtime stop is in the historic market town of Waltham Abbey. In about 1030 a black crucifix was brought to the town and one of the pilgrims attracted by this ‘Holy Cross’ was Harold Godwinson, then Earl of Essex and later (briefly) King HaroldⅡ in 1066. He built a larger stone church on the site and this in turn was rebuilt in Norman style after the Conquest. It was extended again in the 12thC when Waltham Abbey was built by HenryⅡ as part of his penance after the murder of Thomas Becket. It was the last monastic house to be closed by HenryⅧ in the Dissolution of the Monasteries and most of the abbey was demolished in 1540. Fortunately, part of its medieval nave survived to become the present Church of the Holy Cross: reminiscent of a scaled-down Durham Cathedral, it is well worth a visit.
The walk route goes back past Cheshunt station so it is possible to complete a Short Circular Walk. The full Main Walk continues to head north through a less-frequented section of the Country Park, at first on woodland and lakeside paths following the course of the Small River Lea and then on the River Lee Navigation's towpath. An optional stretch through a water meadow leads into the Broxbourne Waterside area, a centre for boating and canoeing with a café and a pub for refreshment before the journey home.
As well as the Short Circular Walk option mentioned above, directions are also given for a Long Circular Walk from Broxbourne station. For the most part this takes a different route out through the Country Park, but there is one out-and-back section along the same stretch of towpath where there is no convenient alternative.
On all the walk options you could omit the loop into Waltham Abbey. This Short Cut is worth considering if you prefer a walk entirely within the Country Park, but of course it leaves out the walk's historic features as well as the town's wide choice of eateries. On the full walk various routes around Waltham Abbey are suggested, including an optional circuit of an extensive water meadow.
If you miss a train and start the walk late you might be able to catch up by taking an early short cut at Seventy Acres Lake, saving 1¾ km. Conversely, there are several places where you can extend the walk by detouring to bird hides and other points of interest mentioned in the directions.
If you want to abandon the walk in Waltham Abbey you could head for the station at Waltham Cross, although this is 1½ km away along a busy main road. Alternatively, there are buses from the roundabout on Highbridge Street to places where you can catch a train or tube: Chingford, Walthamstow, Loughton, etc.
Cheshunt and Broxbourne are served by trains from Liverpool Street (and Stratford) on the West Anglia line to Cambridge, Bishop's Stortford and Hertford East. The normal off-peak service is six trains per hour (four on Sundays), with a journey time of 20-28 minutes to Cheshunt. All trains call at Tottenham Hale, on the Victoria line. There is also a (slower) half-hourly London Overground service from Liverpool Street to Cheshunt, via Seven Sisters.
Oyster PAYG can be used on this walk, although the stations are outside the main TfL Zones 1-6 and you may find that a simple day return to Broxbourne (or Cheshunt for the Short Circular Walk) is better value.
A London Freedom Pass is valid for travel to Cheshunt on the London Overground service from Liverpool Street, but only as far as Enfield Lock on the West Anglia line.
Take the train nearest to 10:30 from Liverpool Street (or Stratford) to Cheshunt. For the Long Circular Walk, take the train nearest to 10:00 to Broxbourne. On all the walk options, you could start at least half an hour later if taking the Short Cut omitting Waltham Abbey.
There are plenty of refreshment places in Waltham Abbey (7¼ km from Cheshunt; 9¾ km from Broxbourne). On the whole the pubs are not particularly food-oriented but two which are worth trying are The Crown (01992-701481) in Romeland and The Sun (01992-914249) halfway along Sun Street. Both are friendly establishments with small courtyard gardens. Two alternatives are the historic Welsh Harp (01992-711113) in Market Square and The Angel (01992-718671) at the far end of Sun Street. For a light lunch the Gatehouse Café near the church entrance looks the most appealing of the cafés and fast food joints in the town centre.
An earlier lunch is possible at the Terrace Bar & Café in the Lee Valley White Water Centre (03000-030616), which is also the only refreshment place on the Short Cut route. Although primarily serving visitors taking part in the activities, this modern food outlet declares that it is “open to everyone, from rafters to ramblers”. It has plenty of indoor and outdoor seating and is open daily to at least 5.30pm.
The Terrace Bar & Café (see above) is a good place to stop for mid-afternoon refreshment, especially if you spend some extra time in and around Waltham Abbey after lunch (or are doing one of the shorter options as an afternoon walk).
At the end of the Short Circular Walk there are several establishments near Cheshunt station, although these seem to cater mainly for thirsty commuters on their way home. There is a Latte to Go buffet on Platform 2, but this usually closes “between 2 & 3pm” at weekends. Just past the station on Windmill Lane you could try the Rose Café or one of three pubs: The Windmill (01992-624884), The Red Cow (01992-623509) and The Maltsters (01992-631369). There are more places in the town centre but this is 750m past the station.
Towards the end of the longer walk options the Old Mill Retreat Café (01992-460960; open daily to 4pm winter, 5.30pm summer) serves home-made cakes in a pleasant spot on Broxbourne Waterside. Nearby, The Crown (01992-462244) is part of the Vintage Inns chain and has a large riverside garden. There are also some snack bars on the covered walkway to the station platforms, but for other places you would have to detour to the town's High Street, 400m off the walk route.
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Out: (not a train station)
Back: (not a train station)
National Rail: 03457 48 49 50 • Travelline SE (bus times): 0871 200 2233 (12p/min) • TFL (London) : 0343 222 1234
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The directions for this walk are also in a PDF (link above) which you can download on to a Kindle, tablet, or smartphone.
Click the heading below to show/hide the walk route for the selected option(s).
Walk Options (
Click on any option to show only the sections making up that route, or the heading above to show all sections.
- Main Walk (17 km)
Click on any section heading to switch between detailed directions and an outline, or the heading above to switch all sections.
If you are doing the Long Circular Walk from Broxbourne station, start at §3.
- Cheshunt Station to Seventy Acres Lake (1¼ km)
- Seventy Acres Lake to Hooks Marsh Lake (2¼ or ½ km)
- Main route (2¼ km)
- Short cut (½ km)
- Broxbourne Station to Silvermeade (¾ km)
- Silvermeade to Wharf Road (1¼ km)
- Wharf Road to Turnford Brook (2¼ km)
- Turnford Brook to Hooks Marsh Lake (1¾ km)
- Hooks Marsh Lake to the White Water Centre (2½ km)
- The White Water Centre to Waltham Abbey Church (1¼ km)
- Around Waltham Abbey to Highbridge Roundabout (1¼ or 2½ or ¾ km)
- Town & Gardens route (1¼ or ¾ km)
- Cornmill Meadows route (2½ or ¾ km)
- Highbridge Roundabout to the White Water Centre (1 km)
- The White Water Centre to Cheshunt Station (2 km)
- Main route
- Alternative route
- Finishing at Cheshunt Station
- Cheshunt Station to Aqueduct Lock (2¼ km)
- Aqueduct Lock to Broxbourne Waterside (2½ km)
- Water Meadow route
- Towpath route
- Broxbourne Waterside to the Station (¾ or 1½ km)
- Route via the Café (¾ or 1½ km)
- Optional extension (+¾ km)
- Route via The Crown (¾ km)
- River Lee Country Park is a large open space between Broxbourne and Waltham Abbey. It is part of the linear Lee Valley Regional Park, which follows the course of the River Lea for 42 km from Ware to the Thames. [By convention the spelling Lee is used for constructed features such as the Navigation and the Country Park, whereas the natural river and place names derived from it are spelt Lea.]
- The River Lee Navigation was constructed alongside the River Lea in the 18thC to improve navigation, which had become more difficult with the increased extraction of water into the New River.
- Broxbourne Station was moved from its original Station Road site in 1959, hence the distinctively modern building (which is GradeⅡ listed) on a railway line which opened in 1840.
- The misleadingly-named New River is an aqueduct, constructed in the early 17thC to increase the supply of clean water to London.
- St Augustine, Broxbourne dates from the 15thC and contains several interesting memorials, including a tomb with effigies of Sir Henry Cock and his wife surrounded by their kneeling children.
- Silvermeade is an area of wet grassland intersected by a network of ditches. The fences along their sides are to protect the banks and provide a habitat for water voles.
- The Lee Valley White Water Centre was constructed to hold the canoe slalom events of the 2012 Olympic Games.
- The Royal Gunpowder Mills were acquired by the Crown in 1787, taking over a private business which had been operating for over a century. Production continued until 1945 when the site became a research centre for rocket propellants, but this too closed in 1991. A heritage centre has been open to the public since 2001.
- The 2012 Olympic Shield commemorates the building of the Lee Valley White Water Centre. It depicts King Harold surrounded by King HenryⅧ and various civic and Olympic plaques.
- Waltham Abbey Town Hall was built in 1904 in a Continental Art Nouveau style.
- The Church of the Holy Cross & St Lawrence, Waltham Abbey was rebuilt in Norman style between 1090 and 1150, the fourth church on the site. When construction of the abbey started in 1177 it was greatly lengthened eastwards but the extended nave, transepts and chancel were all demolished in 1540. The west tower was added in 1556 after the old (east) tower collapsed.
- King Harold (Godwinson) is said to have been cured of paralysis while praying before the Holy Cross when Earl of Essex. After his death at the Battle of Hastings in 1066 legend has it that his body was brought to Waltham, but some historians have speculated that he is buried in Bosham church, in West Sussex.
- The Greenwich Meridian was established as the universal baseline of 0° longitude at an international conference in 1884. It runs through Waltham Abbey and is marked by pavement mosaics in Sun Street and the Abbey Gardens, as well as the ‘Sun & Moon’ gateway (1995) in the Rose Garden.
- The Epping Forest District Museum of local history is contained in two historic houses which have been skilfully combined into a single building.
- Waltham Abbey Gardens were laid out by the Denny family, who built Abbey House on the site of the former abbey at the end of the 16thC. The house was demolished in 1770.
- The Bloomery Forge smelted iron ore and provided metalwork for the abbey and its farm (a bloom is an iron or steel bar in an intermediate stage of manufacture).
- The Slype is a stone passageway with a vaulted ceiling leading into the cloisters, a remnant of the 12thC abbey.
- The Abbey Gateway was the main entrance to the monastic area, with separate arches for horse-drawn vehicles and pedestrians. The interior wall is one of the earliest brick walls in the country, partly built with large medieval red bricks known as ‘Waltham Great Bricks’.
- The Ancestor sculpture (1992) was carved by artist Helena Stykianides from a single oak tree cut from Epping Forest. It represents an Augustinian canon and has a series of enigmatic images on the back.
- Cornmill Meadows Dragonfly Sanctuary is an area of partly-flooded rough grassland surrounded by slow-flowing rivers which together support many species of dragonflies and damselflies. It has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).
- The Calico Ditches are parallel ditches where cotton cloth was washed and then laid out in the grassland to be bleached in the sunshine.
- Broxbourne Mill is mentioned in the Domesday Book and produced flour until the late 19thC. In the 20thC the mill wheel powered a small engineering works, but the three-storey building burned down in 1949. It has been partially restored by the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority.
- Broxbourne Lido was built by the Lee Valley Regional Authority in 1978, but demolished only 30 years later because it did not meet contemporary health & safety standards.
Cross the railway line and turn left into River Lee Country Park, taking the right-hand path at the back of the car park. At the far end turn right to go between Cheshunt Lake and North Metropolitan Pit, then turn left on this side of the River Lee Navigation. After passing an Orchid Area (which you could loop through) cross the navigation at Cheshunt Lock to come to Seventy Acres Lake.
Arriving from London, leave the station near the front of the train and turn right to cross the railway tracks, via the footbridge if necessary. On the other side immediately turn left into the signposted River Lee Country Park1, with the first of several information panels for the Waterbird Discovery Trail at the back of the small car park. Take the right-hand path through this semi-open area.
The surfaced path goes past a series of small wooden structures (for exercising your dog!), with a stream on the right (the Small River Lea) and later Cheshunt Lake visible beyond it. At the end turn right to cross the stream and follow the track between two lakes, with the one on the left having the unappealing name of North Metropolitan Pit. Just before the track rises to cross the River Lee Navigation2 fork left onto a path running parallel to its towpath.
You will be crossing the navigation at a lock 300m ahead, but shortly before reaching it there is a gate on the left into a fenced-off area of wet woodland. If you wish you can detour around this North Met Pit Orchid Area on a continuous section of boardwalk (part of the Orchid Discovery Trail), returning to the main path a little way ahead.
Either way, immediately after the exit from the orchid area fork right off the main path onto a broad grassy path going up to Cheshunt Lock. Cross the navigation and follow the path out to another Waterbird information panel in front of Seventy Acres Lake.
For the main route, turn left and go around the lake, later with the Old River Lea on your left and passing the Bittern Information Centre. Take the right-hand path at the back of Hooks Marsh car park to go across a footbridge between two lakes, then turn left onto a path between Hooks Marsh Lake and Police Pit. For a short cut, turn right and take the direct route to this path.
The main route takes a long loop around this large lake, passing an Information Centre and bird hide on the far side. For a short cut you can turn right and follow the directions in §2b.
Turn left onto the perimeter path, heading N. Follow it around the north-western corner of the lake and then fork right at a triangular path junction to start coming back on the other side. The path follows the meandering course of the Old River Lea on the left, passes an information panel about Otters in the Lee Valley and comes to a low brick building on the right, the Bittern Information Centre.
There is a bird hide which you can use even if the centre is closed, although you will be lucky to see this secretive heron.
The walk continues around the lake, passing a viewing platform down on the shore and a footbridge across the river on the left. The path makes a wide loop around an island in a meander of the river and eventually leads into a car park, now with the wide Flood Relief Channel on your left.
Go through the car park and fork right in front of a Bird Transition sculpture, away from the river. Follow the path out of the car park and over a high footbridge between two lakes. Shortly before the path curves right turn left onto an unsurfaced path heading S.
Head S on the perimeter path. In 300m fork left at a path junction with a Viking Sign Post sculpture, away from a bridge over the navigation. After curving right and then left, and where you can see the path sloping up towards a high footbridge 100m ahead, turn right onto an unsurfaced path heading S.
Continue the directions at §7.
From the station go up an embankment and turn left onto the New River Path. Follow this across the B194 and past the parish church to Mill Lane. Turn left and go down this lane, continuing on a path under the railway to the towpath of the River Lea.
Leave the station3 and veer right towards a metal kissing gate at the bottom of an embankment. Go through this, climb a flight of steps and turn left onto a grassy path alongside the New River4, with the station car park down on your left. At the end go through a kissing gate and turn right onto Station Road, crossing the river.
Cross the road carefully and in 50m turn half-left onto a path across a corner of Broxbourne Recreation Ground, with a churchyard beyond the river on your left. At the end turn left onto a lane (Churchfields) to go back across the river and past St Augustine's church5. At a junction follow the road down to the left, away from the river.
The road (now Mill Lane) curves to the right. Keep right at junctions, entering River Lee Country Park1. The lane goes alongside a mill-stream and passes a Canoe & Cycle Hire shed, a signposted path for a “Wetlands and Woodlands” trail and the Old Mill Retreat Café.
The café is the suggested tea place at the end of the Circular Walk, with the trail an optional extension.
Continue on the path alongside the mill-stream, under a low railway bridge. The path merges with another from a footbridge on the left where the stream flows into the River Lee Navigation2. At the start of this section of its towpath there is a gate on the right with an information panel for Silvermeade6.
The suggested route is to go through a water meadow (Silvermeade) on the right before rejoining the towpath for the final 600m to Wharf Road car park. Alternatively, simply follow the towpath all the way to the car park.
The suggested route goes through this water meadow and returns to the towpath 650m further along. However, the Long Circular Walk returns this way and so you could choose to take this route on the way back (or indeed not at all, if it looks flooded). If you decide to stay on the towpath, resume the directions at [•] below, at the second of two other exits from the meadow.
For the suggested route, go through the gate into the water meadow and follow a grassy path curving gently to the left. You will be leaving this triangular part of the meadow at its far right-hand end, but the direct route can be waterlogged and so the path goes along its left-hand side (close to the towpath), then swings right in front of a belt of trees. Cross a stream in these trees on a wide bridge and go through a wooden kissing gate into a larger part of the meadow.
Unless you want to take a slightly longer detour, ignore a footbridge across the reed-covered stream on the right and bear slightly left to follow a faint grassy path parallel to the stream for 400m. You pass several small fenced-off areas and a footbridge on the right (the return of the detour mentioned above). The path gradually approaches the river and eventually you go out through a kissing gate and turn right onto the towpath.
[•] After the exit from Silvermeade there is a 600m stretch along the towpath, with the river bending left and then making a long slow curve back to the right. 100m after going past vehicle barriers veer right off the towpath into Wharf Road car park.
Leave the towpath and take a surfaced path heading south and then south-west for 400m, crossing a lane along the way. Bear left onto a cycle path and follow this southwards for 1¾ km, across Slipe Lane and then between two large fishing lakes and the railway line. Turn left at a path T-junction in front of Turnford Brook.
Leave the car park on a surfaced path heading S across a grassy picnic area, dotted with trees. It soon merges with another path from the river and bears right. In 150m you cross a ditch on a footbridge and turn left briefly onto a lane, then veer right onto the continuation of the path. In 200m bear left at a path junction to head S again.
The suggested route now simply follows this cycle path for 1¾ km as it weaves between the railway line off to your right and two large fishing lakes. There are some short cuts on grassy paths nearer the railway (see map), but these have no views of the lakes.
In 50m keep ahead at a path crossing. The path soon passes a fishing lake on the left (Railway Pit), then bends right to head towards the railway. After a stretch alongside the tracks it swings left and right, then goes alongside the much larger Ashley Lake for nearly 500m.
At the end of this lake the path turns half-right and heads back towards the railway. After a final stretch of 200m near the tracks you come to a path T-junction in front of a stream, Turnford Brook. Turn left to head E, away from a bridge over the railway.
Cross the Small River Lea and fork left, then veer right to head eastwards. Cross over the Lee Navigation and turn right at a path T-junction in front of the Old River Lea. In 250m fork right onto a path going around the western side of Seventy Acres Lake. In its south-western corner turn left to continue briefly around the lake, then turn right onto a path between Hooks Marsh Lake and Police Pit.
In 100m the path crosses the Small River Lea (not much more than a ditch here) and you fork left, briefly heading back towards Broxbourne. Keep to the main path as it veers right and continues between the tree-lined ends of two lakes. Go up to and straight across the Lee Navigation on a high bridge. Continue across Holyfield Marsh to a path T-junction flanked by a pair of Wildlife Bench sculptures.
Turn right to head S alongside the Old River Lea, with a large electricity substation on the opposite bank. In 250m fork right at a triangular path junction, away from the river. The path soon turns left to go alongside the large Seventy Acres Lake, with the navigation behind trees on your right. In 350m keep ahead where a path from Cheshunt Lock joins from the right by an information panel for the Waterbird Discovery Trail.
Go all the way along the path between the two lakes. At the end cross a footbridge and turn right onto a path alongside Powdermill Cut. Turn left along the western side of Hall Marsh Scrape. Before reaching the Flood Relief Channel turn right onto a path across the Showground. On the far side go over the Lee Navigation on a footbridge in front of the White Water Centre.
Follow the path for just over 1 km on its meandering course between Hooks Marsh Lake (on your left) and a stream on the right, with Police Pit and later Friday Lake beyond it. At the end of this stretch ignore a boardwalk on the right leading to the edge of Friday Lake, and cross a footbridge over a stream. In front of a small grassy area containing The Banded Demoiselle sculpture turn right onto a path heading away from the Flood Relief Channel.
Continue on the path between a tree-lined stream (Powdermill Cut) and Hall Marsh Scrape. Later you pass the steel Phoenix hide on the left, an unusual viewing point across this floodplain grassland. At the corner of the scrape do not cross the footbridge ahead but turn left onto another surfaced path to stay alongside it.
On the next stretch there are paths on the left where you could make short out-and-back detours to Teal Hide and then Snipe Hide. The main path heads back towards the Flood Relief Channel, but 75m before reaching it turn right to go across a stream on a wide bridge.
Go through a gate and follow an unsurfaced path meandering across a large open area (the Showground). On the far side the path merges with one coming from Waltham Abbey and you cross the Lee Navigation on a high footbridge. On the other side turn left and go down a slope to one of the entrances to the Lee Valley White Water Centre7.
If you are taking the short cut omitting Waltham Abbey the directions continue at §11, but as the large Terrace Bar & Café here is the only refreshment place on this option you will probably want to visit the centre first (the full walk loops back to this point so you will have a second chance to look around).
Turn right onto the towpath of the Lee Navigation, passing Waltham Town Lock. Turn left onto the A121 and continue along the B194 into Waltham Abbey.
For the full walk make your way to the towpath and turn right to head SE, with the navigation on your left. After passing Waltham Town Lock you reach a road bridge and turn left onto the A121 (or you could cross the navigation at the lock to go past the sculpture on the other bank, but you will be coming back that way).
In 175m keep ahead at traffic lights (unless you want to make an out-and-back detour along Beaulieu Drive to the museum at the former Royal Gunpowder Mills8, 500m away). Use the zebra crossing a little further along the B194 (Highbridge Street) to go past the right-hand side of a large roundabout (with the 2012 Olympic Shield9 in the centre), heading directly towards the parish church and crossing the Old River Lea.
Two of the suggested lunch stops are reached just before the church, both on the left. The Crown is in a residential street (Romeland) just before you pass the Town Hall10 on the right, and the Gatehouse Café is off the small parking area in front of the Church of the Holy Cross & St Lawrence11 (which is well worth a visit). More refreshment places are passed in the Town route in the next section.
Explore as much of the town and gardens as you wish. A suggested route is to take a short loop out through the town via Market Square and Sun Street, returning via Waltham Abbey Gardens. An alternative is to head north from the church, cut through a corner of the gardens and go under the ring road in order to make a circuit of Cornmill Meadows.
This section contains a couple of suggested routes for exploring the area, together with ways of combining and/or shortening them. If you want to try some other refreshment places, start with the Town & Gardens route in §9a and then either complete this or switch to the Cornmill Meadows route in §9b. Alternatively, simply make your own way back past Highbridge roundabout and continue the directions at §10 (the return route has to go back along the B194 and A121 to the river bridge as there are no other convenient crossing points).
Take the tree-lined path through the churchyard to the right of the west door, noting the statue of King Harold12 high up on one of the church walls (there is also a low stone memorial marking the spot where the king “is said to have been buried” in the grass to the east of the church).
For a short cut (exploring only the gardens) you could take the path heading north-east across the grass, which leads through a gap in a brick wall flanked by two pillars directly to the Rose Garden. If you do this (saving ½ km), resume the directions at [•1] below.
For the full route through the town, go out through a gateway in the timber-framed Welsh Harp inn and bear left across the corner of Market Square into the pedestrianised Sun Street. The second of the suggested lunch pubs is The Sun at #21, just past a pavement mosaic marking the Greenwich Meridian13.
Further along Sun Street you pass the attractive Epping Forest District Museum14 on the right and The Angel pub on the left. After joining Quaker Lane turn left at the traffic lights, into Crooked Mile. In 75m turn left again through a metal gate in the brick wall into Waltham Abbey Gardens15, crossing a moat on a wooden footbridge.
Turn half-right onto a grassy path cutting diagonally across to the far side and go over another footbridge. Turn right at a path crossing onto a path leading to a gap in the tall hedge ahead.
[•1] Go through the gap into the formal Rose Garden. Make your way to the exit directly opposite, noting the colourful Sun & Moon gateway off to the left and coming out in front of the site of the medieval Bloomery Forge16. Turn left onto a path heading W towards the Church Centre, crossing another Meridian mosaic near the end of the Rose Garden.
If you want to switch to the Cornmill Meadows route (adding 2 km for the full circuit), turn right onto a path on the other side of the Church Centre and continue the directions at [•2] in §9b.
To complete this section, follow the main path as it curves left and right towards a medieval gateway on the far side of the gardens, with the Slype17 behind the iron grille off to the left. Leave the gardens through the Abbey Gateway18 and cross a bridge over the Cornmill Stream. Follow the tiled path past the Mill site back to the church and retrace your outward route along Highbridge Street. After passing the large roundabout cross over to the right-hand side of the B194.
Take the path heading N from the west door of the church, passing the Rectory on your right, to come to the Mill site. Cross the narrow footbridge over the left-hand of the two mill-races and continue briefly alongside the Cornmill Stream, then turn right across a wide bridge to pass through the Abbey Gateway18.
The route goes back across the stream on another footbridge ahead on your left, which you could reach either by taking the pleasant tree-lined riverside path or by cutting across the grass past a tall wooden sculpture, the Ancestor19.
[•2] Cross the footbridge over the stream (with the top of the medieval Stoney Bridge just visible off to the right) and follow the path through a subway under the ring road. Go through the wooden kissing gate ahead into Cornmill Meadows Dragonfly Sanctuary20.
As there are no paths cutting across these water meadows you have to choose between the full 2 km circuit or a short cut along the broad grassy path parallel to the ring road on your left. If you take this short cut (saving 1¾ km) to the south-western corner, resume the directions at [•3] below.
For the full route turn sharp right onto a grassy path across the meadow, gradually moving away from the wooden fence on your right. The path turns left in front of the Cornmill Stream (passing the Abbey Fishponds on your left) and you simply follow it all the way to the north-eastern corner, where there is an information panel about the Dragonfly Sanctuary.
Ignore a footbridge across the river and turn left to stay on the perimeter path, which soon soon bends left again. On this stretch some derelict buildings of the Royal Gunpowder Mills site are visible across the Old River Lea, and halfway along you could make a short detour to Wake Hide on the left. Shortly before reaching the south-western corner the main path goes past an information panel about the Calico Ditches21.
[•3] Go through a wooden kissing gate, up a grassy slope and turn right onto the ring road, crossing the Old River Lea. Follow the pedestrian path and then Lea View around two sides of the large roundabout to return to Highbridge Street.
Retrace your outward route for 250m, back to the road bridge across the two river channels. Take the path alongside the Flood Relief Channel for 200m, then turn left into the Showground. Follow a path across it to the footbridge over the Lee Navigation in front of the White Water Centre.
Retrace your outward route for 250m, heading W along the right-hand side of the main road, to reach the bridge across the two river channels.
If you want to abandon the walk, Waltham Cross station is a further 1 km along the A121: see the Walk Map.
For a different route back to the White Water Centre, turn right onto the path alongside the wide Flood Relief Channel (not the Lee Navigation), passing the Viking Ship sculpture on your left. Follow the riverside path for 200m as it swings round to the right. Before it curves back to the left, turn left through a metal fieldgate into the Showground.
Follow the broad path through this large open area, at first tracking a line of pylons and later veering left to head W. On the far side the path briefly merges with your outward route as you cross the navigation again on a high footbridge.
The walk route continues on the path curving off to the right, but you might like to detour into the centre for some mid-afternoon refreshment in its Terrace Bar & Café.
Take the path heading north-west away from the Lee Navigation. After crossing the Small River Lea fork right to head north along the eastern side of Bowyers Water. At the far end take either of two paths ahead, which rejoin after 500m. In a further 250m turn left onto a lane to reach the station.
[•] If finishing the Short Circular Walk, there are some pubs and a café a little way further along Windmill Lane.
Take the surfaced path heading NW away from the navigation. At the end of the open area on your left you pass two more sculptures, Musicality and A Murder of Crows. Follow the path past a sign for the Country Park's Disc Golf Course and continue across the Small River Lea on a footbridge.
In 200m fork right and keep right at further path junctions to head N, soon with the large Bowyers Water on your left. In the north-eastern corner of the lake the path forks and you can take either route: each goes past a large wooden sculpture.
Fork left at the path junction. In 75m the route continues ahead at the next path junction, but a short detour round to the left would bring you to a viewing platform over an Orchid Area, off to the left in front of the lake.
Continuing on the main route, the path merges with another from the left and goes along the right-hand side of a meadow (Thistly Marsh), soon passing The Giant's Chair sculpture on the right. In a further 150m fork right onto a path through some trees. Cross the Small River Lea on a footbridge and turn left onto a cycle path, rejoining the alternative route.
Fork right at the path junction to cross the Small River Lea on a wooden footbridge. Where the path splits again in front of The Shrine sculpture (of a ‘Green Man’), fork left. In 150m the path merges with a cycle path coming from Waltham Common Lock. In a further 300m the main route rejoins from a footbridge on the left.
Follow this cycle path for 250m, passing more wooden sculptures along the way. At the end turn left onto a lane to come to the small car park at the start of the Main Walk, in front of the railway tracks at Cheshunt Station.
West Anglia trains to London normally leave from this side, but the direct entrance to Platform 1 is sometimes locked so you might need to cross the tracks. If the snack bar on Platform 2 is closed and you want some refreshment, there are several places nearby along Windmill Lane: in less than 150m you would pass The Windmill and The Red Cow pubs on the left, Rose Café and The Maltsters pub on the right. To return to London, either cross the station footbridge to Platform 1 or take a London Overground train from Platform 3.
Go through the car park and take any convenient route to the North Metropolitan Pit, eg. on the grassy strip between the two surfaced paths. After crossing the Small River Lea turn left and take lakeside and woodland paths close to the stream for 1½ km, eventually joining the Lee Navigation for a short stretch to Aqueduct Lock.
For the continuation to Broxbourne go through the small car park. The most direct route is along the right-hand path beside the Small River Lea, but if you have already done this at the start of the Main Walk you could take the other path (or indeed walk along the grassy strip between them). Whichever route you take, in 600m you will come to a track at the end of the open area, where there is a Stag Beetles sculpture.
A simple route would be to take one of the paths straight ahead, but the suggested route is to turn right briefly onto this track. After crossing the stream immediately turn left onto a path alongside North Metropolitan Pit. On the other side of the stream the alternative routes pass a Play Boulders sculpture and all routes rejoin at a brick bridge over the stream after 500m.
The surfaced path continues on the right-hand side of the Small River Lea. In 400m fork right, avoiding another bridge over the stream at Turnford Brook. In 50m keep ahead on an unsurfaced path, leaving the main path which veers right. Ignore a small bridge on your left and follow this woodland path between more fishing lakes, keeping the stream on your left.
In 500m the path bends right and weaves its way through the trees, soon coming out in front of the Lee Navigation. Turn left and go along its towpath for 250m to Aqueduct Lock.
Turn off the towpath and again take narrow paths between a series of small lakes before returning to the River Lea at King's Weir. Follow its towpath for 1 km to reach a gate leading into a water meadow, Silvermeade. Either take a grassy path all the way through this meadow or simply remain on the towpath. The routes rejoin where a mill-stream flows into the river and the path splits.
At the far end of the lock you could simply remain on the towpath, but the suggested route is to turn left down steps onto a path signposted to Ashley Lake. Turn right at a path T-junction in front of a lake (which is actually Marsh Pit). Follow the path up a small flight of steps, heading NW with the lake off to your left. In 200m the path turns half-right, crosses a ditch and goes through a patch of scrubland to a small car park for anglers.
Ignore a path opposite and turn left to go out along the car track, which immediately bends right to head N. You pass Railway Pit on the left, Boot Pit and then Lee Pit on the right. At the end turn right onto a lane and follow it back towards the Lee Navigation. After making your way around a metal fieldgate ignore a sharp left turn onto a lane, but turn left onto the towpath in front of a bridge over the river, keeping the navigation on your right.
For the next 1 km it is simplest to follow the towpath, although near the start you could veer left down the bank and go through a large grassy picnic area, dotted with trees. On the towpath you would pass King's Weir and continue alongside the wide River Lea, navigable on this stretch.
At the end of the picnic area you come to Wharf Road car park and the only continuation is along the towpath for a further 600m. At the start of a line of trees there is a wooden kissing gate on the left with an information panel for Silvermeade6.
The suggested route goes through this water meadow and returns to the towpath 650m further along. However, if you have already taken this route on the Long Circular Walk (or the meadow looks flooded) you can take the alternative route in §13b.
Go through the gate and turn half-right to follow a faint grassy path across the meadow, parallel to a stream on your left and passing several small fenced-off areas. Unless you want to take a slightly longer detour on the other side of the stream, ignore a footbridge across it after 150m and keep ahead for a further 250m.
On the far side of the main part of the meadow (where the detour mentioned above rejoins across another footbridge) go straight ahead through a wooden kissing gate and cross a tree-lined stream on a wide bridge. As the direct route across this other part of the meadow can be waterlogged it is advisable to turn right and go around two sides of the triangular area. At the far end leave through a wooden kissing gate, rejoining the towpath where a mill-stream flows into the river.
Ignore the gate and continue along the towpath, rejoining the other route where a mill-stream flows into the river and the path splits.
Either take the left-hand path past a café and the remains of an old mill (with an optional extension on a boardwalk circuit through some wetlands), or the right-hand path if you want to visit the Crown Inn. The routes rejoin at a footbridge over the mill-stream where a path leads under the B194 into the station car park.
The suggested route to the station goes past a café and includes an optional extension on a boardwalk circuit through some wetlands. If the café has closed or you need something stronger, either take the alternative route in §14b or go all the way along Mill Lane to the town's High Street (see map).
Take the left-hand path, going under a low railway bridge into a car park for the suggested tea place, the Old Mill Retreat Café. In the marshy area behind the car park there is a short “Wetlands and Woodlands” trail which you could do as an optional extension.
You can do this horseshoe-shaped extension in either direction, but it is advisable to check the car park before starting on the woodlands section: if the back of the car park is under water, part of the boardwalk in the wetlands section will be flooded too.
The wetlands section starts from the back of the car park; the woodlands section between the café and a Canoe & Cycle Hire shed. Whichever direction you take, ignore steps up to an exit at the far end and return on the other path.
To complete the walk, go past the Canoe & Cycle Hire shed to a road junction and turn right. Cross the mill-stream and immediately veer left through the ruins of Broxbourne Mill22. Continue on a tarmac path running between the stream and a small picnic area. Just before this goes under the railway, turn left up steps onto a metal footbridge.
Take the right-hand path, across the mill-stream on a footbridge. Go up to the next bridge and turn right onto a narrow lane to cross the main river. The Crown is directly ahead.
To complete the walk, retrace your steps over the road bridge and follow the lane round to the right. Go past the Lee Valley Boat Centre and across another river channel. Behind the steps on the right is the site of Broxbourne Lido23, but for the station go down steps on the left and diagonally across a car park. In the far corner follow a tarmac path under the railway and immediately turn right up steps onto a metal footbridge.
Cross the river channel and follow the path up a slope and under a road. The station3 is at the far end of its long car park, with the entrance on the left. All the platforms are accessed via an overhead walkway, with trains to London leaving from Platforms 1 or 2.
» Last updated: March 28, 2018