Around the fringes of Upminster and Cranham
Spring or summer
Songbirds and wild flowers in the nature reserves; wetland birds and dragonflies along the Ingrebourne.
Nowhere are you out of hearing of traffic for long; one or two paths cross arable fields that may be ploughed; electric fences may be in use close to the footpath.
Start and finish at Upminster Bridge tube station (District Line), or park on Hacton Lane (point B) and start from there.
Gently undulating terrain, apart from a sharp descent to the Ingrebourne from River Drive; mostly well-defined unsurfaced footpaths, plus some short sections on roads; a number of stiles and gates.
Click on a marker on the map for route details
Stage AB: Upminster Bridge to Hacton Lane
Turn right outside Upminster Bridge station and walk under the railway bridge then over the river bridge and turn right into Bridge Avenue, signposted to Hornchurch Stadium. You come to the stadium entrance about 200m along, opposite Brookdale Avenue: turn in and walk down towards the turnstiles, turning left into the car park just before you reach them. Just across the car park in the lefthand corner is a gated surfaced track: follow the track up the slope and across the playing field and before long you join the River Ingrebourne. When you reach a footbridge on the right, cross it and continue along the surfaced path if you wish to visit Hornchurch Country Park and the Ingrebourne Marshes further down the valley, but to continue this circuit walk past the footbridge and across the grass towards Hacton Lane, which crosses the river about 100m ahead.
Stage BC: Hacton Lane to Parklands
Turn left on Hacton Lane and follow the footpath up the slope, past the Optimist PH and round left into Little Gaynes Lane. Take the footpath a short way up across the road on the right. This runs past a sports field and then a horse pasture on the left, then between horse pastures. Where it meets a bridleway, take the footbridge and stile straight ahead, then follow the path right and then shortly left around the verge of an arable field, next to a reedy ditch. Turn right at the backs of houses where another footpath crosses. Follow along the edge of the field then half left, past the end of Parklands Avenue, into a stretch of woodland. Soon you emerge into Parklands open space, which was once part of the grounds of a mansion house. Turn left through the car park and walk up alongside the lake, usually occupied by a few anglers, through the ornamental trees. Shortly after passing the bridge on your right, you arrive at Corbets Tey Road.
Stage CD: Parklands to Cranham Marsh
Meadowside Road leaves Corbets Tey Road opposite, a short way up to the right. Cross and walk up it and turn right on to the footpath at its end, turning left again where it meets a fence. You emerge into an open field with large bramble patches and hawkbit. Follow the path, which turns left down to the stream – a tributary of the Ingrebourne – then turns right to follow it up towards Cranham Marsh nature reserve, with Gaynes School playing fields on the left and South Essex Crematorium on the right. Entering Cranham Marsh via a kissing gate, go across a footbridge then turn right to go over another and out into open grassland. Follow the path across the first meadow then along the edge of several more, until you pass a tool hut on the right and swing left then along a ride beside a wood to exit from the reserve via a squeeze post.
Stage DE: Cranham Marsh to St Mary's Lane
Walk up the grassy track away from Cranham Marsh with Cranham Church and the grounds of Cranham Hall visible ahead. Turn into the churchyard and take the righthand fork in the path that leads to a stile. The path continues between two hedges and emerges into an arable field, crossing the middle towards a bridge under the railway opposite, with an angling pond on your right. Turn right beyond the bridge and follow the path around two sides of the field then out through a gap in a strip of woodland, then right and around the edge of a second field, bringing you out on to Pike Lane. Cross Pike Lane and go through a gap in the hedge opposite, then turn left across the entrance road to Broadfields Farm and follow the path along the edge of the golf course and out on to St Mary's Lane, via a stile.
Stage EF: St Mary's Lane to Frank's Wood
Cross St Mary's Lane slightly left and take the footpath running directly away from Pike Lane, via a kissing gate. Towards the end of the field the path wanders right to join a Green Lane and meets the railway. Cross the railway and you enter Cranham Brickfields LNR, coming out on to close-mown grassland. Turn right to head across the short grass towards a gap where you enter first rougher grassland then Frank's Wood. Walk through alongside the railway (that has cut the wood in two) and turn left at its end by a patch of broom, with views of the M25 ahead, then exit on to an arable field via its north-east corner.
Stage FG: Frank's Wood to Moor Lane
Go straight ahead across the arable field, heading for a way marker at the righthand end of the hedge opposite, then continue along the verge of the field with a hedgerow on your left. At a waymarker, turn left over a footbridge and stile into a scrubby area. Follow the grassy path through it then past back gardens as you approach Moor Lane. Turn right on to Moor Lane and follow the road past the barrier where the houses and tarmac end, and on through dense scrub up to a waymarker on the left, pointing to Front Lane.
Stage GH: Moor Lane to Bird Lane
Turn left on to the footpath and follow it through scrub and open areas. Later the path narrows, with a hedge on the right and a series of back gardens on the left, and narrows yet again for the short final section to Front Lane. Turn right on to Front Lane, looking for a waymarker on the left about 100m up, pointing to Bird Lane. Follow the narrow path between two fences then over a stile into Pot Kiln Wood, a Woodland Trust nature reserve. Follow the main path straight through between enclosures for horses then through grassland with scattered scrub patches, then over a stile and across an arable field to another stile into Bird Lane.
Stage HI: Bird Lane to Ingrebourne bridge
Continue straight ahead along Bird Lane, first passing a row of houses and then open fields before reaching the busy Hall Lane. Turn left and walk along the wide grassy verge, crossing over before the mini-roundabout then turning right down River Drive and walking down right to its end, where a footpath continues down into the valley of the Ingrebourne through overgrown woodland. At the foot of the slope you come into a damp glade with a footbridge over the River Ingrebourne ahead.
Stage IA: Ingrebourne bridge to Upminster Bridge
Cross the footbridge over the river then follow the footpath to the left parallel to the river and round the edge of a meadow. Go straight on over the stile and forward beside the school fence, then follow the path around the edge of three arable fields until you come to a waymarker to Benets Road on the left. Walk up Benets Road and straight on (on Wingletye Lane) over the railway bridge. Take the first left into Minster Way and follow it down to the main road where you see Upminster Bridge tube station across the road opposite, turning left to the crossing about 50m down.