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Long-Distance Walks with Mark Moxon

London Loop: Day 14: Chigwell to Harold Wood

View across fields towards Chigwell
The first sweeping views of the day, looking back towards Chigwell

There's a definite theme to this section of the Loop, a theme that's surprisingly lacking in most of the rural walking of the previous few days. Today is most definitely a day for wide-open spaces and large skies, and although the scenery isn't breathtaking and things go a bit askew for the last couple of miles, this is another pleasant piece of Green Belt walking.

Hainault Park

The lake in the middle of Hainault Park
The lake in the middle of Hainault Park

After a short but intriguing passage through Chigwell Row, where the Loop seems to pass straight through people's private gardens, the path crosses an A-road and plunges into Hainault Park, a lovely stretch of parkland and forest that's quite rightly in the process of applying for Nature Reserve status. Initially the Loop strides along pretty birch woodland and along a broad bridleway, but suddenly it bumps into a lovely little lake that's home to plenty of wildlife. You might see the odd fisherman casting away, but a large portion of the lake is protected from human interaction with the express purpose of encouraging wildlife, and if you ignore the high-rise blocks in the distance, it's a pleasantly rural scene.

Into the Redwoods

The village stocks and whipping post in Havering-atte-Bower
The old village stocks and whipping post on the green in Havering-atte-Bower

Try not to take any notice of the build-up that the official guidebook gives to Havering Country Park; calling it an 'awesome moment' might be pushing things, but there's no denying that this, the second largest plantation of redwood trees in the country, is a great place to explore. There are apparently 100 trees in the park, and although they're relatively young, they're easy to spot as the Loop wanders through the trees. London feels a long, long way away.