Lee Valley Park

An adventurous and challenging walk following the gunpowder trail at Waltham Abbey


Waltham Abbey


6.75 miles (10.9kms)

269ft (82m)

About the walk

You could spend an entire day doing nothing more strenuous than enjoying the recreational facilities of the Lee Valley Country Park. The 1,000 acres (405ha) on either side of the River Lee between Waltham Abbey in Essex and Broxbourne in Hertfordshire consist of lakes, waterways, open space and countryside linked by paths, walkways and cycle tracks. This walk takes you along river paths and bridleways, which explore the edge of an ancient forest, rewarding you with fine panoramic views of London.

The Royal Gunpowder Mills

On your meanderings through Lee Valley you might mention the gunpowder plot to the residents of Waltham Abbey and they may well return a quizzical look. Guy Fawkes might have procured some gunpowder hereabouts, but the only plot is the Royal Gunpowder Mills consisting of 175 acres (71ha) of parkland, complete with 21 buildings, and now a tourist attraction. This walk takes you along the perimeter of the former 300-year-old gunpowder factory. Cut off from the urbanisation and development of the surrounding area, it became a wildlife haven and today boasts the biggest heronry in Essex. You'll pass alder woods where trees once produced charcoal, and in Galleyhill Wood, part of Epping Forest, you'll discover coppiced and pollarded trees.

Gunpowder was first manufactured here in the 1600s. In 1735 John Walton bought the Gunpowder Mill and his family churned out the stuff for the next 120 years. It was bought by the Crown in 1787 and became particularly handy during the Napoleonic Wars, when production soared to 25,000 barrels a year. The factory sprawled across the Lee Valley and was connected by a complex network of canals to the Lee Valley Navigation, and later by a railway to the arsenal and ammunition factory at Enfield. It also provided employment for local women during World War I, before becoming an explosives research and development establishment.

Walk directions

From the rear of the car park at Cornmill Meadows, take the gravel path to the information board and go straight ahead through woodland. At Cornmill Stream turn right, with the stream down on your left-hand side, and enjoy views across Cornmill Meadow. At the footbridge turn right, following the perimeter fence of the Waltham Abbey Royal Gunpowder Mills.

Go through a kissing gate at a Fishers Green Lane fingerpost. Keep the fence on your left, and at a Hooks Marsh fingerpost the path curves left across the field towards alder woodland. Turn right along the field-edge path, with the brook on your left, to a stile. Turn left onto Fishers Green Lane, which leads to a car park and information board.

Cross two footbridges over the streams, and go through the kissing gate on the right signposted 'Fishers Green'. Follow the gravel path bounded by Seventy Acres Lake on the left.

After 600yds (549m) at the signposts indicating 'Lee Valley Park Farm', cross the metal footbridge and turn left through a picnic area. Follow the riverside path until you emerge at the tarmac road to a car park. Bear right to walk through this, and turn left along a tarmac road to Fishers Green Sailing Club.

Just before the entrance to the sailing club, turn right and then bear left along the field-edge path, keeping the sailing club on your left. Stay on the path as it bears right uphill to a stile.

At the top of the hill look back for wonderful views of north London and Hertfordshire. Follow the footpath sign for Clayton Hill, cross the wooden bridge and turn right to Coleman's Shaw. Turn right onto the B194 and follow the road as it goes downhill.

At the T-junction, turn left at The Coach and Horses pub into Waltham Road. Cross carefully and walk uphill past Denver Lodge Farm on the right. Cross the stile on the right and follow the field-edge path to Galleyhill Wood. Cross the next two stiles and continue, keeping the woods on your right, to the break in the trees. Walk through, and at the cross-path turn right onto the green lane past Galley Hill Green to Aimes Green. Here, turn right and after 100yds (91m), turn left in front of houses to join Claygate Lane. Eventually emerge onto a driveway to Monkhams. Cross Crooked Mile Road to the meadow and turn left through the kissing gate. Take the left fork to return to the car park.

Additional information

Grassy riverside, steep field paths, green lanes prone to mud after rain, short stretch of road

Country park, woodland, waterways and marshes

A lot of time on lead; Waltham Road unpleasant

OS Explorer 174 Epping Forest & Lee Valley

Free car park at Cornmill Meadows, closes at 6pm

Near the Bittern Watchpoint at Fishers Green

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About the area

Discover Essex

Essex is full of pleasant surprises. It has the largest coastline of any county in England, with its fair share of castles, royal connections and scenic valleys. Take Colchester, for example, which was built by the Romans and is Britain’s oldest recorded town. Its castle contains the country’s largest Norman keep and yet, a stone’s throw from here, East Anglia’s newest arts centre promises to put Colchester firmly on the map as Essex’s capital of culture.

Tidal estuaries are plentiful and their mudflats offer migrating birds a winter feeding place. Essex was known as the land of the East Saxons and for centuries people from all over Europe settled here, each wave leaving its own distinctive cultural and social mark on the landscape. Walking a little off the beaten track will lead you to the rural retreats of deepest Essex, while all over the county there are ancient monuments to explore: 

  • the great Waltham Abbey
  • Greensted, thought to be the oldest wooden church in the world
  • the delightful village of Pleshey has one of the finest examples of a former motte-and-bailey castle
  • Hedingham Castle, magnificently preserved and dating from the 11th century.