Here's a tip. If you're planning to walk this section of the Loop on a nice sunny day, like I did, then make sure you pack a peaked cap or wide-brimmed hat. I didn't bother because I thought the September sun wouldn't be strong enough to warrant protection from ultraviolet, and as a result I spent most of the walk squinting. This is where the Loop turns south on its journey back to the Thames, and that means you're walking right into the sun. Shades won't be enough; bring a hat, or it'll drive you nuts.
Given proper protection, this isn't a bad walk. It's not fantastic and it's not awful, but it sits happily in the middle strata of Loop sections, and as the walk wears on the Loop moves from the suburbia of Enfield through to some lovely countryside; unfortunately this doesn't last as long as you'd like, and although the rest of the walk is through some of the least offensive suburbia on the entire Loop, it's still pretty uninspiring. Luckily there's a good pub at the end, and the forest sections are good enough to make it a worthwhile walk.
The Lea Valley
The walk starts off by joining the poor, choked Turkey Brook once again; it's a sad start, seeing your walking companion from day 12 suffering from too much rubbish and too little attention, but things soon improve as the Turkey flows into the Lee1 Navigation and the Loop reaches the edge of Enfield. Enfield Lock itself is a fairly forgettable canal lock that's sandwiched between a tacky looking pub and a housing estate, but that doesn't stop this area having an interesting history. In the distance, across the car park, lies a converted factory that might not look that special these days, but back in 1859 this building was named the Small Arms Factory, and it churned out a revolutionary new rifle that would be the backbone of the British Army through the Boer War and both World Wars. The rifle was, of course, the Lee Enfield.
But it's not worth hanging around too long because the best is yet to come, and getting there requires some inoffensive but uninspiring walking. Ducking off the canal and across a car park, the Loop follows the Lee for a while, with its surprisingly clear flowing water; the path can get overgrown but it's not a bad little bit of riverside walking, and the Sewardstone Marsh Nature Reserve through which the Loop cuts is... well, it's green. It's not that thrilling, though.
What is thrilling is the view that you get from the top of a long and boring cinder track that heads up into the Sewardstone hills. The sweeping vista over the huge reservoirs of King George's and William Girling is impressive, especially when you consider that these two reservoirs provide over a quarter of London's water. Unfortunately the views don't last, and the next section involves a small wood, a road and a long driveway, eventually taking the Loop past Gilwell Park – the headquarters of the Scouts movement, no less – and along a bridleway. Ducking off this for a small woodland path is rewarding; the Loop heads down into a small valley, and it's gorgeous. London disappears, and suddenly you're in the country; this is a good spot for a picnic lunch, and the wood at the top of the hill is delightful. Sadly the Loop manages to avoid Epping Forest pretty comprehensively, steering to the south of the forest and avoiding anything substantial, but the walk through Hawk Wood is a wonderful taster of English woodland, and it's arguably the highlight of this entire section. Enjoy.
Back into the 'Burbs
Of course, the walk through Hawk Wood ends all too abruptly, coming out at a road that you don't realise is there until a car zooms past, right under your nose. For the rest of the day suburbia is never very far away, and the road section into Chingford is only marginally improved by following the bridleway that runs parallel to the road, just inside the edge of the wood. However Chingford Plain is open and breezy, and after a dog-leg around the golf course's cafeteria (called, groaningly, the Tee Shop) there's a rewarding bunch of buildings to look at.
Queen Elizabeth's hunting lodge isn't obviously a Tudor building, as it's changed a bit since then, but it's unique in being the only three-storey Tudor grandstand left in Britain. When it was commissioned by Henry VIII in 1542-1543 it wouldn't have had any walls or windows, as it was simply designed to be a viewing platform for the deer hunts in this former royal hunting forest. Next to the lodge is a mock-Tudor hotel from the Victorian age, but more interesting is Butler's Retreat, an early 19th Century barn that's now a restaurant, conveniently positioned on the Loop itself.
The Loop now heads east along a wide grassy avenue and into the suburbs of Buckhurst Hill, where it passes the posh-looking Roebuck Hotel and plunges into a bizarre collection of houses with rounded walls and Disney-esque towers. It's quite pleasant, but it's not long before the Loop is back into grittier parts of town, crossing over the Central Line and up to the shores of a lake formed by flooding the gravel pits used for the construction of the M11, which isn't far away.
Little remains in this section except a long diversion around a sports centre, a crossing of the M11, and a wander into Chigwell, where the Loop ends. But if you're feeling like a refreshment or two, I recommend turning left in Chigwell and continuing along the Loop for five or ten minutes until you reach the Kings Head. Sure, you'll pass this pub on day 14, but you're unlikely to stop for a pint that early in the walk, so do yourself a favour, buy yourself a drink, head out into the beer garden, take a seat, turn around, and marvel at the view. Now you know where all the inspiration comes for the tacky mock-Tudor houses that have taken over this part of Essex...
1 According to the Ordnance Survey, the River Lee is also known as the River Lea. However, everyone seems to call this part of the river the Lee Navigation, while the valley is more often called the Lea Valley. Go figure.