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       DEBDEN Central Line (Epping)  LONDON TUBE RAMBLES  WALK

This ramble takes you through the Roding Valley Meadows Nature Reserve  starting at Debden and ending at Buckhurst Hill, about 3 miles. For detailed information about the flora and fauna that can be found,  click on the 'Read More'  arrow under the image on this Essex Wildlife Trust link where you will also find some interesting historical facts.  The 160 acre reserve continues to be managed as closely as possible in the ancient way that produced such rich diversity. It is at its finest from June up to 15th July when every year the meadows are cut right back, though a margin is left as a habitat for wildlife - something that all farmers are encouraged to do. (The actual marshland is only shorn every five years.)  In the autumn and winter rare-breed docile Longhorn cattle graze, providing natural fertilizer.

To get to this amazing area, turn left out of the Tube station and, crossing Rectory Lane at the lights, go left again towards the visible M11. Don’t be dismayed,  the entrance  to the reserve is only a couple of minutes away in Oakwood Hill. You may find it useful to study the info board there before entering the woodland.

Walk to the right, turning right again at the London Loop sign, then keep left going parallel with meadowland glimpsed through the trees. Ignore a bridge into the fields, but cross a second bridge straight ahead just before some flats. After a row of posts turn left. On the left again are steps and a gate leading into fenland (Upper River Mead).This bit would be rather tricky for buggies. Go straight across this until you get to a T junction. Turn right here along a path which follows the meandering river Roding.  At the end of the trail go through a gate and across a culvert,  temporarily leaving the Nature Reserve and entering a recreation ground.  Walk left until the Charlie Moules bridge. Cross over this to reach the western part of the reserve. You can now potter about the fields freely,  finally returning to the bridge to regain the hard path. Continue left as before.  Eventually you will come to a lake which was created when gravel was excavated during the construction of the M11. 

At the end of the water,   go diagonally left across the recreation ground (you may be able to make out a church spire in the distance) to pick up the surfaced path that leads to  the Roding Lane exit. I have no idea why there isn't a proper path here where one is so clearly needed. At Roding Lane go right (it becomes Palmerstone Road). Cross at the lights into Victoria Road where the Tube station is a couple of minutes away.

RAF Chigwell Route

Those interested in WW2 history may like to see the remains of RAF Chigwell and a curious memento of the time when it was involved in a 'hush-hush' operation. The RAF occupied the area near what is now the David Lloyd Leisure Centre off Roding Lane from 1933 to 1958. During the early part of WW2 it provided barrage balloon protection against air raids,  but in 1943 it was central to  'Operation Intone'. For many years this remained a mystery, but it is now known that it was the code name for an anti-submarine operation in which Coastal Command was supported by the Mobile Signals Unit from RAF Chigwell.  During the Cold War the station was involved in Britain's nuclear early warning system. In another secret operation, the Royal Observer Corps had a bunker near the old launching areas until 1991 when it was closed down.
To get to the site of the old station, after crossing Charlie Moules bridge walk straight ahead up the field (Hither and Middle River Mead) towards a wooden gate. Pass through and turn right. Soon there is another gate, after this go diagonally left towards trees. You are now in Twenty Two Acres. Another gate leads to a concrete track - part of the old airfield. At a T junction go left to discover a round track with a semicircular hedge and some benches.This area was one of the balloon launching sites. Nowadays, if you're lucky, you might hear skylarks singing, as they nest in the adjoining field. Return to the junction and continue ahead. A few feet along on the right is a concrete slab at ground level with '1943 Intone' picked out in pebbles.  You can read more about the story behind this curious object on a notice nearby (Click on the photograph to enlarge it.)
 When you have finished pondering on what life must have been like up here in those dangerous times, retrace your steps to the Charlie Moules bridge. Alternatively, but only if conditions are really dry and you're wearing stout shoes,  continue along the concrete path, following it as it bends to the left.  Where the left-hand field ends near a bench, go through an opening in the trees on the right and walk down the hill on the trail across a field to a gate on the left which gives access to a slight mound. Wander over this, turn left and follow the very narrow and possibly overgrown path by the river. Another gate. You will be able to see the lake mentioned above through the trees.   Just one more gate, then a curved bridge will take you over the river and to the southeastern end of the lake from which you can get back to the recreation ground, turning left to get to Roding Lane.

Easy Access Route.
From the Roding Lane entrance in Buckhurst Hill there is a surfaced path of about one mile suitable for wheelchair users.

It is best to arrange your visit during fine weather so as to be able to explore as much of the reserve as possible. As you might expect, in winter parts are liable to flood, or at least be very muddy.

This is just one walk from the many to be found at London Tube Rambles. There are architectural gems, beautiful country views, historic places and quirky buildings to be found in the area covered by the outer London Underground stations. Usually the discoveries are within a mile of the Tube - often only five minutes walk away. If you reached this as an individual page via a search engine, you might like to click on the link above and see the other destinations explored. You'll be amazed at what's out there!

© DR