The first ramble in 2011 and a party of fifteen gathered at Chingford, including a new recruit to ORRA, Paul, a recently arrived resident of Ockendon Road. With our redoubtable journey planner taken to his bed with influenza, Tony elected to draw out his compass along with his map and take the lead through the somewhat squelchy highways and byways of Epping Forest.

The morning started overcast but dry and our first port of call was at the Queen’s Hunting Lodge which gave us a taste of times and menus past. It also turned out to be the main highlight of the walk as the paths and walks were seasonally damp and soggy and the sun did not emerge until after our lunch at the King’s Oak gastro pub.

At Connaught Waters the map indicated that the path went straight across the lake but we decided perhaps it was the wrong season to attempt this feat and continued around it instead. To avoid the wettest routes we passed through holly formed tunnels, jumped fast running streams and bypassed gigantic puddles. The beech and oak woods were scattered with birch and some gnarled shapes, with evidence of pollarding and Epping Forest husbandry. The only spoiler taking the form of somewhat jarring notification that you can walk but you can’t ride off the main routes, failure to observe would be subject to a penalty of £200 and, by the way, use of bicycles was likely to cause upheaval to pathways. Good job we were walking then.

At a certain point Tony’s map reading needed a bit of help from a rather reluctant iPhone Google map (poor signal) and consultation with some passing horse-riders and Epping Forest rangers.

Before leaving to continue our route onwards, we took advantage of the pubs steps to assemble our group photo, facilitated by a willing onlooker.

The way home took us past the church of Holy Innocents at High Beach where the decorations over the gate indicated that someone had forgotten that twelfth night had been and gone. However, by this time the sun had added a bit of colour to the walk and we strode through the woods fortified with a handout of chocolate courtesy of Mark and Norah.

Words and pictures by Annie