A linear walk overground to the underground crossing the M25 tunnel.
Distance 4 miles (6.4km)
Minimum time 1hr 30min
Ascent/gradient 217ft (65m)
Level of difficulty Medium
Paths Forest and grassy tracks, some urban streets
Landscape Undulating ancient forestland, common and town views
Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 174 Epping Forest & Lee ValleyTQ 465990TL462016
Dog friendliness Dog-friendly woodlands and welcoming watering holes, can be off lead in forest
Parking Pay-and-display at Theydon Bois and Epping underground stations. Free off-street parking by The Green, Theydon Bois
Public toilets Theydon Bois and Epping underground stations
1 Turn left outside Theydon Bois underground station, passing the Railway Arms, into Coppice Row. Turn right and walk uphill passing The Green on your left and the Queen Victoria pub on your right. Cross Piercing Hill and soon afterwards you pass the Theydon Bois schoolhouse, built in 1840, followed by St Mary's parish church with its delightful porch inscribed, 'There is no death'. Pause a moment here to admire the oak tree and the war memorial in the graveyard. Coppice Row changes its name to become Jack's Hill. After the church, walk 200yds (183m) and turn right. Follow the path left through the forest, now walking uphill parallel with Jack's Hill. I
2 Continue uphill with the B172 a few paces away on your left. At the cross path, with the car park on your left, go straight on, and at the next car park turn right on to the path known as the Centenary Ride. This is the Green Ride bridleway from Epping to Loughton. Keep to the main path, which is bounded by coppiced oak and hornbeams, many with gnarled trunks and grotesque shapes, which all add to the sinister atmosphere of the area.
3 The path dips after ½ mile (800m), where to the left through woodland is a sign indicating the Iron Age earthworks at Amresbury Banks. Legend has it that Queen Boudica fought her last battle against the Romans here but there is little evidence to support this story. Continue along the main forest path and you will see evidence of the 1987 storm damage, during which many trees were brought down. At the end of the ride, take the path half right across grassland to Theydon Road. Turn left with Ivy Chimneys Road on your right and walk towards Bell Common and cross Ivy Chimney Road.
4 Pass the Forest Gate Inn on your right and follow Bell Common Road with its attractive 18th-century cottages and houses, into Epping. Keep left on the grassy path across the common with the High Road close on your left. After crossing Hemnall Street, you will see the water tower, built in 1872, one of three tower landmarks which stand on a ridge of the main road and which can be seen for many miles around.
5 Continue along the attractive High Street with its weather-boarded cottages and shop fronts. Turn right beside the police station and right again into Hartland Road. Turn left into Station Road and downhill to Epping underground station - the end of the Central Line.
Many parts of Epping Forest are well used, yet as the largest open space in the vicinity of London and Essex it is still possible to find tranquil niches even during the height of summer. One of these areas is in the northern reaches of the forest at Theydon Bois, where you don't even need your car to get there, as the area is well served by the underground. This walk takes you through the forest to emerge at the little town of Epping. Just 17 miles (27.4km) north east of London and at the end of the Central Line.
Jack's Hill is named after Jack Rann, a most notorious highwayman who robbed anything that moved. He was nicknamed 'Sixteen String Jack', because he appeared at the Old Bailey with 'sixteen coloured ribbons streaming from the knees of his breeches'. In Jack's Hill, the Sixteen String Jack pub, complete with inn sign, shows the grinning rogue preparing to meet his death at the gallows. On the woodland path that leads off from here, it's easy to imagine a posse of highwaymen lurking among the trees and ditches, plotting their next robbery as stage coaches sped along the main London road to and from Aldgate.
As you cross Ivy Chimney Road, look right and in the distance you can see vehicles on the M25 seemingly emerging from the ground beneath your feet. During the building of the busy M25 motorway in the 1980s, it was proposed to route the M25 over Bell Common. Fierce opposition from local citizens, forest lovers and the Conservators of Epping Forest resulted in a tunnel for the traffic, which has preserved the area we are walking on today.
Epping High Street is a Conservation Area with many listed buildings dating back to the 18th century. Some of the oldest are an attractive group of 17th- and 18th-century cottages at Nos 98 to 110. Look for the plaque on the weather-boarded Co-op building, once the site of much electioneering by Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965), before he became Prime Minister.
There is no shortage of eateries on this route. Fill up on the all day breakfast at the Railway Inn at Theydon Bois or lunch at the Bull next door. In Epping High Street choose from the Duke of Wellington or tuck into fish and chips at the adjacent Smith's Restaurant. There's also the Half Moon and the George & Dragon and tea shops and cafes galore.