Tube Walks – Epping Forest

When Epping Forest is mentioned, the first thing that usually springs to mind is its reputation as a dumping place for bodies, rather than its impressive status as the largest tract of ancient forest land around London.

Its vast area, relative solitude and complement of grisly stories may make it sound more like a nightmare scenario than an enjoyable walking destination, but that is far from true.

Easily reached on the central line, I disembarked at Theydon Bois, the pronunciation of which, much like ‘Petty France’ made my French companion laugh with derision.

Theydon Bois is like the suburban ideal of a rural village. Neatly cut lawns, big houses and a well patronised local are all there, it seems bizzare that there is a direct link into central London.

From the tube station, entry into the forest is about a five minute walk. I slipped in through a pathway next to a churchyard where a man walking his dog was the only other person to be seen.

Once inside, the options for the route you want to take are almost endless. Covering almost 6000 acres there is certainly plenty to explore. What struck me most was the variety of terrain within a relatively small area, from dense woodland to wide, tree lined paths, bracken swept plains and avenues of grassy mounds and hillocks. You can really keep walking indefinitely, but there are plenty of opportunities for circular walks, including one from the tube station that is marked throughout.

For such a tranquil spot within easy reach of central London it’s remarkably quiet. I visited mid afternoon on a Sunday and only came across a dozen people at most and the majority of these were on the main thoroughfares.

I caught the trees just before the fall. Leaves were still firmly on branches and there was only the faintest hint of the rich orange hues that Autumn will bring. To visit the forest in Autumn proper will surely be a fantastic sight and I will definitely be returning before the year is out.

No hike would be complete without a pint at The Bull, the pub by the station, and once on the tube it’s only a 35 minute journey back to Liverpool Street.

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Tube Walks – Chiltern Hills

Everyone knows that London is severely spoilt when it comes to parks, from the sprawling open space of Hyde Park, the tree strewn acreage of Regents Park and the multitude of more modest, but no less beautiful, green spaces in between, as a city London is blessed by bucolity.

But, I think everyone yearns for something a little more untamed, a litter wilder, ‘real countryside’ for want of a better phrase. Finding this with any ease however can be easier said than done. Firstly, for many Londoners, relying solely on public transport can limit your choices. Secondly, if you gamble on a train to a quaint sounding destination how can you be sure that it’s actually worth visiting.

I am compiling a list of walks, hikes and rambles that can be started and finished entirely on public transport and no more than an hour away from London, with a finish point that is finishing at.

The first such walk that I planned and walked was from Chorleywood to Great Missenden.

Easily reached on the Metropolitan line, it takes about forty five minutes from Kings Cross, Chorleywood is a tiny commuter town just next to Rickmansorth. It’s always interesting to follow a tube line from its centre point to its terminus as the city slips away in front of you.

I had planned to followed the South Bucks Way, which is well signposted enough to mostly negate a map, but to reach it I had to weave a little through footpaths and minor roads, joining the path proper just past the small village of Chalfont St Giles.

This walk takes you through the famous Chiltern Hills, which never seem to be mentioned without the qualifier ‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’. This route however includes no major ascents and is generally flat.

After meandering through wooded outcrops and an endless ribbon of fields, the trail passes through Amersham’s old town. The last stop on the Metropolitan line, Amersham was picture postcard quaint, neat rows of tudor buildings, cosy pubs and boutique shops that melted away into a myriad of small lanes pocked with villages, smallholdings and farms.

Eventually the path wound its way into Great Missenden. A town where Roald Dahl lived and wrote and is now home to the striking Roald Dahl museum. For me, who has always been a fan, this is reward enough in itself, but there are also couple of popular pubs that can offer you liquid, and more solid, refreshment.

From Great Missenden there is a direct train back to London Marylebone.