The Lea Valley 2.


After several months of tunnelling, we emerge, blinking in the sunlight, onto the non-coastal side of Essex at Hertford, on the River Lea. Which means that this blog, like a British political party, does not do what it says on the tin. Hertford is, of course in Hertfordshire and not Essex at  all, but the plan is to follow the Lea which roughly forms the Essex border as it flows south towards London to join the Thames at the Limmo Peninsular and Bow Creek. The first walk took us from Hertford, through Ware down to Rye House. On that occasion I forgot my camera, which is not a good way to start a photo blog. There is therefore, no Lea Valley 1. The second leg takes us from Rye House to Waltham Abbey.

Rye House, or what  remains of the 15th century pile, rests in the arms of a branch in the railway  at the point where the Hertford trains leave or join the London-Cambridge main line. The house is cushioned snugly by the neighbouring sewage works, and embraced by all manner of waste disposal technology.

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This is the view if you turn  around.

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There is an adjoining speedway track (‘The Home of Karting’) which has a aeroplane  mysteriously perched on its perimeter.

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A brisk trade in oil rig life boats along this stretch of the canal. My bet is that these will be converted into desirable residences for London commuters, and  I would  be happy to have this theory refuted or confirmed.

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Ebb Tide and Secret Informant inspect the bridge  which carries commuters to and from Liverpool  Street. Or  are they planning sabotage? Impossible to tell.

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A little further and we pass the point at  which the River Stort flows into the  Lea.

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The gas turbine Rye House power station.

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A sign says ‘beware of the dog’. On seeing the dog, we are aware of it.

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We come across a group of fishermen landing a pike. Secret informant reminds us that we are on the route travelled by Isaak Walton, described in The Compleat Angler. Of the pike Walton says ‘…the skin very thin and little of it.’ No matter, everything caught on the Lea is supposed to go back. Do  dogs eat pike? Do pike eat dogs?

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We chose to walk the canal because other places are wet and muddy at this time of year. However,the canal side can be a straight line kind of experience…

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…never being ones for the straight and narrow we  attempt to cut into Fisher’s Green nature reserve…

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…unsuccessfully.

As we approach Waltham Abbey, there is barbed wire fencing behind which there are bunkers, buildings and a narrow gauge railway. The map tells us it is a ‘Government Research Establishment’. Now why does that sound sinister, even before you’ve seen the place?

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A dog walker tells us it’s the back end of the gunpowder mills.  Reputedly the biggest industrial complex in the country in the early 18th century, it went on to provide enough gunpowder to build an empire, before diversifying, post 1945, into ejector seats. It is in the process of being converted into an explosive-related theme park.

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2 thoughts on “The Lea Valley 2.

  1. Thanks for the interesting post and pics. There’s always something tragic about an Essex walk: whilst there is beauty, there is lost opportunity too, places overrun by waves of human activity, forgotten buildings, uncleared rubbish, fence succeeding rusting fence. In our rush to grasp what we temporarily own, we so often leave a legacy of decay and scorched earth. I guess one has to rejoice in what nature remains…

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