March 23rd, 2008


A-Z walk, the fifth.

Page 26 column K (Chingford Station) to page 37 column K (Chigwell Station).

So after an enormous break of over three months, I resumed the A-Z walks on Monday 17 March 2008. (One major reason for the hiatus was that I'd been doing a different kind of exploring — visiting a particular area and wandering around circularly rather than linearly. I did e.g. Brockley, Sydenham, and Ilford.) caramel_betty happened to have some leave days that needed taking, so he joined me on this one. This wasn't a "real" A-Z walk, but rather a "fill in" one to get me from the eastern edge of the top row to the eastern edge of the next row down.

We started out eastwards from Chingford Station, making a brief diversion to have a look at Queen Elizabeth's hunting lodge. This diversion set the tone for the rest of the first half of the walk; mud, mud, and more mud. We squelched our way along the edge of Chingford Plain, circled around where we thought the lodge was, then headed back roughly the way we'd come, separated from the lodge by a tall fence which resisted all attempts at peeking through. We eventually identified the lodge with the help of a sign; it turned out to be smaller and rather less impressive than one might expect, and completely dwarfed by the Harvester (?) pub next door.

What should have happened next was a nice stroll through some woodland to the Warren Wood pub. It seemed quite easy, especially as there's yet another section of the London Loop which should have led us right to it. Unfortunately we managed to end up heading in completely the wrong direction, and after a good deal more mud ended up pretty much due south of where we'd entered the woods, instead of due east. Personally, I blame the fact that it was too overcast to see the sun, and there were no satellite dishes handy, so I had no idea where south was. I promise to buy a compass at some point.

Anyway; we eventually stumbled on a landmark in the form of a lovely, lovely road sign. I looked it up on the map, cursed silently, apologised to caramel_betty, and led the way onwards to Buckhurst Hill, where my intention was to have a pint and some lunch in the Three Colts. It was, of course, closed. Plus it was about to rain.

Interweb-on-mobile-phone was employed, and we decided on a plan B of Rocky's, which sounded kind of awful but would at least provide shelter from the rain, and it was just down the road. Upon arrival, we learned that Rocky's had been renamed to the Players Lounge. This disturbed me somewhat, as it honestly did sound and look like it was some kind of swingers' club. Now I have nothing against swingers, but I did worry that it might be, well, rude to walk into a swingers' club with unbrushed hair, scruffy clothes, and mud up to one's armpits. Thankfully I was completely imagining everything. It was a perfectly fine place to drink, with surprisingly good service, and they even had Hoegaarden. (I do have a strong suspicion that it's the kind of place that's utterly, utterly grim in the evenings, mind.)

Rain evaded, Hoegaarden quaffed, and lunch eaten, we headed out again with renewed energy. Skipping blithely across the M11 (and past a minor car smash), we peeled off north onto Roding Lane. This proved to be a mistake, as the pavement ran out very quickly, meaning we had to walk on the road. As previously documented, I know how to walk safely on roads, but that doesn't mean I like it — and checking the map later revealed that had we continued along Chigwell Rise we could have rejoined the London Loop and walked along an actual footpath. Oh well.

At the end of Roding Lane we passed Chigwell School, noting in passing that while in my day kids used to hang around the edges of the school grounds to smoke a sneaky cigarette and actually have conversations, these days they seem more interested in sending text messages and ignoring everyone around them. So exactly like grown-ups in pubs, then.

Just past the school was Ye Olde Kings Head, an enormous Chef and Brewer pub where we had a couple of pints of Bombardier. This is the point at which my earlier warning to caramel_betty began to become true — after a certain point, every A-Z walk turns into a pub crawl. The Kings Head was followed by the King William IV (Timothy Taylor Landlord and a couple of decent enough pizzas), and then, for some reason, the King Edward VII in Stratford. I have no idea which of us decided that we should go drinking in Stratford, but it was an excellent decision. Despite a bit of wobbling on my part when we failed to immediately discover the pub, and memories of mstevens' stories of Stratford muggings began to resurface, the King Eddie turned out to be a hidden gem, a saving grace, an excellent way to round off the day. A pint of Nelson's Trafalgar, a pleasant and spacious seating area, and some interesting music just on the right side of "too loud" — and a food menu that looked plenty interesting enough to merit a return visit at some point.

See also: Google map of our route (no Flickr photoset as I only took photos of pubs, and you can see them by following the RGL links).

Next up: Chigwell Station westwards, probably ending up at Highams Park Station.