Description & Map
This walk goes through sections of Epping Forest, Warlies Park, and Copped Hall Park, sometimes on open access land. This means that parts of the route do not follow official footpaths. The terrain is hilly, and there is a mix of open meadow and ancient woodland. You have to cross and re-cross the M25 (bridges are provided!) which is noisy and dusty but within a few yards either side of this you are in the heart of rural Essex.
Upshire itself is a tiny village just outside Waltham Abbey which sounds like it belongs in Middle Earth, but sadly the village itself isn't at all hobbitty. However the surrounding parkland and ancient forest more than compensate. Parking is in a long layby on the northern side of Crown Hill, opposite the Good Intent, Copthall Green.
A. The parking consists of a long layby on the northern side of Crown Hill, opposite the Good Intent in Copthall Green. (P).
B. Walk along the grass beside the road heading uphill. Look for a metal vehicle barrier and, ignoring the footpath signpost, follow a track leading from the barrier into some trees (1).
C. When you emerge from the trees 40 yards later, walk northwards along the edge of a meadow with a hedge on your right, for about 250 yards. Bear left across the meadow along a poorly defined path heading due north towards a telegraph pole (2).
D. Look for a small path twisting through the narrow woods opposite. This path should take you onto a minor road (Long Street) near the point where the road forks (3). If you can't see the junction you've come through the narrow woods at an unexpected place! No worries, if there are posh houses opposite then you're too far south and need to turn right along the road: if there's no houses then you're too far north and need to turn left.
E. From the junction, take the left fork and walk northwards along the road with trees on either side for 400 yards. Just before the entrance to Nicholls Farm turn left along a footpath (4).
F. The footpath takes you gently downhill through some beautiful woods. After about 380 yards you might be able to see Queen Boadicea's Obelisk in the field on your right. The Obelisk was built in the early 18th century at the place where she was believed to have died after her Iceni warriors were finally defeated by the Romans at nearby Ambresbury Banks in Epping Forest. Continue through the woods for a further 220 yards to the roadside and turn right past Obelisk Farm (5).
G. Walk along the lane for 50 yards. You will pass a wooden 5 bar gate on your left. 15 yards later go into Warlies Park via a pedestrian entrance set back from the road, near a telegraph pole. You should see a Corporation of London sign by the entrance gate (6).
H. Once through the entrance gate turn left through a hedge gap and walk up a hill towards the Temple, built in the early 18th century out of Portland stone (7). You won't see a footpath up the hill; Warlies Park is mostly open access and you can take any route you choose.
I. At the Temple turn right and go back down the hill heading westwards. Go through a field entrance, then bear slightly left to walk up the hill opposite heading southwest past some fenced young trees. As you walk up the hill you can see Warlies Park House in the valley to your right. Near the top of the hill, just past a copse of mature trees, there is an exit gate (8). Go through this, up the slope then through a carpark, to the roadside.
J. At the roadside turn right towards The Horseshoes. Cross the road and take Footpath 54 adjacent to the pub heading south (9).
K. Continue south through a field with a hedge on your left for 300 yards. At the bottom of the hill cross a footbridge and 15 yards later, turn left along a bridleway (called Sergeants Green Lane) (10).
L. Walk along the bridleway east for 140 yards then follow the path round to the right at a T-junction. Walk south (along Blind Lane) for 240 yards, then at another T-junction, turn left to walk uphill with Potkiln Wood on your right (11). This green lane is known as Green Lane.
M. Continue along Green Lane for about 500 yards. After a few yards you will have an open field on your left and at some point you will probably start to hear the M25. When you reach another T-junction (at the entrance to the Woodredon Estate) turn right to cross the motorway bridge (12).
N. On the far side follow the winding track ahead. You will pass Green Lane Bungalows on your left, then 50 yards later the track turns to the right. Leave the stony track and go straight on eastwards along a tree-lined unsurfaced path through some trees (13).
O. 400 yards later the path kinks slightly left, then bears right to continue as a narrower path, still with trees on either side (14).
P. Continue along this path heading southeast for a further 300 yards, until you find yourself going up a fairly steep slope into Epping Forest. Epping Forest is open access, which means you don't have to stick to footpaths but can walk anywhere. Any paths which do exist are poorly defined because there is little undergrowth in this part of the Forest. As best as you can, continue straight on walking south east. Look out for some bridleway markers (consisting of a post marked with a horseshoe shape) (15) and follow these south east for about 400 yards.
Q. When you reach a reddish beaten earth track, turn left along the track (16) until you pass between some wooden posts onto the old Lodge Road (now closed) (17).
R. (If you reach Epping Road, the B1393, you've somehow missed the reddish track. Look for a bus stop in a layby adjacent to a closed road which is now an Emergency Access point into the forest. The closed road is the old Lodge Road.)
S. Turn left (north) along the old Lodge Road. After 50 yards you will pass a car park on your left, after which the road surface disappears and the route becomes a forest path (18).
T. Walk northwards along this path for 600 yards. When you reach the roadside (Crown Hill) you will see the magnificent lodges and entrance gates to Copped Hall, on the opposite side of the road. Cross the road and go through the side gate on the left, which is on a public footpath and is left unlocked for walkers (19).
U. Much of the remainder of this walk is within Copped Hall Park. This is a sensitive area for wildlife. Please keep dogs on leads at all times and respect any seasonal restrictions or diversions during key breeding seasons, which will be clearly signed.
V. Continue northwards along the driveway for another 400 yards to the M25 bridge, then carry on over the bridge and along the driveway for a further 200 yards, with some woods on your left. When the woods end (just before the track you were following bears right) turn left to skirt the woods (20).
W. 120 yards later, when the woods stop, go through the facing hedge and turn right to walk north along a field edge with the hedge on your right for 40 yards (21).
X. Go through a gap in the facing hedge then bear left along a farm track. Walk over the crest of the hill and down the other side, past a small strip of woodland known as the Selvage (22). As you descend, there are good views of the ruins of Copped Hall.
Y. At the bottom of the hill go through a metal gate. 40 yards later turn left along a lane, and 150 yards further on go straight on past another gate beside a pretty cottage (23).
Z. Bear left a few yards later to walk southwest along a track. Roughly 300 yards after this is the fork you first encountered in paragraph D. Look for the gap in the hedge you emerged from early in the walk, and retrace your steps back to Upshire.
Warlies derives its name from Richard de Warley, who owned land at Upshire in 1338. The present house is late 18th century, with alterations and extensive additions in the late 19th century, designed by S. S. Teulon. The south front has a tall bow-fronted Ionic portico. The park has permissive access for walkers, and contains an 18th century classical rotunda (known as the Temple) and obelisk, said to commemorate the death of Queen Boadicea. Sadly the land surrounding the Boadicea obelisk is now in private hands, although it is visible from the footpath. From 1851 to 1921 Warlies Park House was owned by the Buxton family, who were brewers and philanthropists. Sir Thomas Buxton played a major part in legislating for the abolition of slavery, and in reforming the penal code. His grandson, Sir Edward North Buxton, was a keen advocate of the public provision of open accessible land. He (together with his brother Thomas) played a significant role in saving Epping Forest from enclosure and donated several hundred acres of his land to the forest. He also bought Hatfield Forest and gave it to the National Trust. Warlies was later sold to Dr Barnardo's, and for over 40 years was run as a children's home. Today it operates commercially as office accommodation.
Epping Forest was afforested in the 13th century, during the reign of Henry III. "Forest" in medieval times was a legal term meaning an area where the King owned all the deer (and other game) and he alone had the right to hunt. The term did not imply woodland: many forests included open areas, moors and heaths. Nor did it imply ownership: forests were often owned by local gentry with rights of access (to gather wood and graze livestock) for commoners. Instead, afforestation was a way of asserting dominance – the King had the authority to keep his deer on other peoples' land – and of protecting his stock. Laws designed to protect both the vegetation and the wild animals were administered by forest courts, and abuses of the laws were punishable by fines or (rarely) by physical punishments. Foresters, verderers, agisters and surveyors were employed to police the system. Medieval Kings were poor, and the fines generated by these laws were a useful source of income, and the honorific sinecures were a handy way of rewarding faithful service. Furthermore, making the killing of deer illegal except by royal decree made venison a rare and precious meat and thus a valuable gift.
From Tudor times, the Crown's interest in forests gradually declined leaving them to the landowners, but still with access rights for commoners. Over time various Enclosure Acts were passed allowing landowners to extinguish these access rights. In the mid-19th century local landowners began to enclose Epping Forest. Social reformers of the time (including Sir Edward Buxton) objected to this believing that access to nature was an essential right, especially for people in urban environments. The situation was finally settled by the Epping Forest Act of 1878, which appointed the Corporation of the City of London (who had brought the land from the Crown) to be Conservators of the Forest, with the duty of keeping the forest as an open space for public recreation. All the enclosed lands, except those actually built on, were opened again. Lopping rights were extinguished but the other rights, including the right to graze livestock, were retained. Verderers, originally enforcers of forest law, became representatives of the users of the forest. The forest was saved, in the words of Queen Victoria "for the use and enjoyment of my people for all time".
The extinguishment of lopping rights is interesting. Traditionally in Epping Forest, the right to gather wood had included lopping wood from the trees through the winter months. Most of the mature and stately ancient trees in Epping Forest were regularly pollarded in this way over hundreds of years. The process extended their lifespan. Lopping no longer takes place and many of the trees in the forest look top heavy and unbalanced as a result. It will be interesting to see whether in future, there is a return to lopping as a means of protecting the trees – and if so, whether the service is provided for free by local people as before, or paid for through the rates!
Copped Hall is a stately Georgian mansion, completed in 1758. A new wing was added in the 1870's. In 1887, at the age of 19, Ernest Wythes inherited Copped Hall. He was immensely rich – his grandfather had made a fortune building railways – and he began spending money on the house almost immediately. A new stable block was built in 1894. The next year, the new wing was pulled down and rebuilt.
At around the same time the roof line was given a balustrade and elaborate chimney tops, the windows were given stone architraves, and on the western front, the central portion was given a classical makeover by adding stone pilasters and a carved pediment. Elaborate ornamental railings and gates were added, and a large stone conservatory was built to the south, linked to the main building by a glazed corridor. The interior was remodelled and filled with fine art and elegant furnishings. 58 staff were employed in the house and gardens. During WWI, many of the staff went off to war and the house was used as a hospital for wounded soldiers. In 1917 there was a catastrophic fire and the main block was burnt out. Mr Wythes and his family never lived there again. After his death in 1949 the estate was sold and anything of value stripped out. The house remains a ruin although the grounds have been saved from developers by the Corporation of London and the house is slowly being restored by the Copped Hall Trust with a view to establishing relevant educational, cultural and community uses.
This walk takes you through parts of Warlies Park, the Woodredon Estate, and Copped Hall Park. These all form part of the 1778 acres of Buffer Lands owned by the Corporation of London. The aim of the Buffer Lands is to maintain the links between Epping Forest and the countryside beyond. Warlies Park is mainly pastoral in nature, with open land dotted with ancient trees, small copses and hedges. The Woodredon Estate is more agricultural, having been farmed since the area was originally cleared of trees by the Abbots of Waltham Abbey 700 years ago. Copped Hall Park was originally a medieval hunting park, but is now primarily agricultural with some magnificent views. Across all the Buffer Lands, landscape management has concentrated on restoring hedgerows, planting more trees and improving the habitat for the benefit of wildlife. Pastures are maintained by grazing to encourage a flower-rich sward, and future plans include the creation of wildflower meadows. At certain times of the year some species of wildlife are particularly sensitive to disturbance (for example, ground nesting birds during the breeding season and fallow deer during fawning). Periodic restrictions may be placed on walkers during key seasons: please look out for relevant notices.