If you live in East London and you ever want to escape the city for the day, I highly recommend a trip to Epping Forest.
We set off around 10am and cycled up to Hackney Marshes where we joined the path alongside the River Lea. You could actually join the path from elsewhere if it’s easier (eg Victoria Park or Broadway Market) and follow the canal up to the River Lea. It’s lovely cycling along the canals – you don’t come across any traffic other than that of the pedestrian kind, or the occasional flock of geese and you can can pretty much take the path all the way up to Epping Forest.
It is a beautiful cycle up there, with a backdrop of canal boats, wetlands, the river and a huge amount of different birds, including swans and if you’re lucky, some stunning herons! At this time of year the ducks, geese and swans all have a number of babies in tow, and there were other locals about that we had to stop and say hello to (see pony pics below).
The cycle up to the forest took us about 2.5 hours (it’s roughly 15miles) but that was largely because we stopped a lot to look at birds or pat ponies, or take photos. We also stopped for a coffee break, but if you want something a bit stronger there are countless pubs along the way where you could try a tipple or two in the sunshine.
Once we got to the forest we got off the bikes and instead opted for a bit of a walk around. There are loads of different routes you can do, from small loops around the middle of the forest, to much longer treks that could take you the best part of the day. There’s a visitor centre at the top where you can get free walking maps so you don’t get lost, and most importantly there is a pub there too. So if you get hungry after a long walk (or thirsty) you can sit in the sunshine and rest before heading back down.
If you don’t fancy cycling the 15miles there (and back), there is loads of parking up there too if you wanted to drive up and do more walking.