River Stort Way: A walk along the River Stort
from Bishop's Stortford to the River Lea

24 March 2007

On a rather gloomy morning, Stephen and George got the train to Bishop's Stortford for a walk along the River Stort Way. Or at least, that part of the River Stort Way which runs along the River Stort - the Way in total forms a large loop, but what the purpose of the rest of the route is, going back to the beginning, is unclear.

River Stort in Bishop's Stortford
We join the River Stort in Bishop's Stortford and begin our walk south/south-west towards the River Lee

A1060 Hallingbury Road just south of Bishop's Stortford
Very soon we are confronted with a closure of the towpath. Just 20 metres of the path was closed, but the result was a 1300 metre diversion alongside this road. If there had been road workers, there would have been a speed limit, but with walkers pushed onto the barely adequate verges, cars and lorries were flying past at 60 miles per hour. The sign announcing the closure was in two parts - the first announced that the towpath would be closed at some point in the 6 months from mid-March, and that the works would last two weeks. What on earth is the point of an "advance notice" like that? It doesn't enable anyone to plan for anything. Fortunately, the second half of the notice did at least say that the works were now in progress, though didn't say when they had started or would finish.

builder's yard, Bishop's Stortford
The diversion of the River Stort Way - very scenic!

Twyford Lock, River Stort
Safely back by the river, and we reach the second lock, Twyford Lock, viewed from the footbridge over the weir-stream.

Aeroplane coming in to land at Stansted Airport
A feature of the early part of the walk was aeroplanes - starting close to Stansted Airport, they were almost constantly overhead.

Gaston Green mill, River Stort
As we walk past Tednambury Lock, a look across to the mill at Gaston Green

barge on River Stort, Sawbridgeworth
As the houses of Sawbridgeworth draw nearer, a British Waterways barge lies against the offside.

Waterside flats, Sawbridgeworth
A little basin among flats in Sawbridgeworth, with a red narrowboat just peeking into view.

Overflow paddle gear
Disused paddle gear to control the overflow weir

River Stort flood plain
The floodplain as we approach the outskirts of Harlow

Harlow Mill Beefeater restaurant and Harlow Lock
Harlow Mill, now a Beefeater restaurant, and Harlow Lock. Very efficiently, as well as walking the River Stort Way, we are also now walking part of the Three Forests Way and the Harcamlow Way.

George on a footbridge as the River Stort skirts the northern edge of Harlow

River Stort and footbridge in Harlow
Below Latton Lock, a footbridge is about to take the towpath back to the southern side of the river

Signpost on River Stort in Harlow
Roydon, 3 miles, is our next destination: the signs have already stopped signing Bishop's Stortford

Wooden art by the River Stort in Harlow
As we approach Burnt Mill Lock, a number of wooden carvings are to be found near the River Stort

Wooden art
More wooden art

Narrowboat and marina in Harlow on the River Stort Navigation
A boat, presumably eventually aiming for the gap into the marina

River Stort marker
More art in this attractive River Stort marker

Parndon Mill and Parndon Lock on the River Stort
From the western end of Harlow to Roydon, George and I are on familar ground, having walked this section of the River Stort Way two years ago. Here we have reached Parndon Mill and Parndon Lock.

Towpath on the River Stort
Once past the section of the Way that runs alongside the A414 dual carriageway, we pass Hunsdon Mill Lock and then enter this section of the towpath, which is almost a tunnel with the vegetation on both sides.

Overflow paddle gear on the River Stort
When we last passed this way, these large cogs and paddles were open to the air, but someone has dictated that they should be protected inside this ugly wire cage, which take away most of the beauty of their simple engineering

Advance notice of towpath closure
This out-of-date notice is even more annoying that the one in Bishop's Stortford - we've closed the towpath for three months, there's no way round, so tough! Fair enough for people regularly using this bit of towpath, but for occasional travellers such as myself (who I suspect make up a large proportion of travellers on an isolated bit of footpath) it is useless - either you are lucky as we were to find that the closure is over, or you are unlucky and find such a notice and blockage. In fact, there look to be several ways round using footpaths on the south side of the river, so it wouldn't be a disaster, but is it really impossible to carry out such works without closing the footpath?

We now say goodbye to the Three Forests Way and the Harcamlow Way, which we have also been walking since we left Sawbridgeworth. Maybe one day, but for now, on with the River Stort Way.

Roydon station and One Railway train over River Stort
A 'One' train from Cambridge passes over the River Stort and through Roydon station on its way to London.

Roydon Mill
Through the village of Roydon and George and I are on new ground again. Here we reach Roydon Mill

Brick Lock, River Stort
Gerontius is moored below Brick Lock

Lower Lock sign, River Stort
Lower Lock, number 15 of our walk and the River Stort Navigation, is the last before the Stort meets the Lee

Feilde's Weir footbridge, River Lee Navigation
George on the bridge above Feilde's Weir - a rather confusing location since as well as the point where the Stort meets the Lee, it is also the site of Fielde's Weir Lock on the Lee, and the point where the Lee Flood Relief Channel starts. Perhaps we missed the signs, but once across the weir, the Stort Way traveller is rather abandoned, with no advice to be seen on how to find the River Lee Walk.

Feilde's Weir, River Lea
Part of Feilde's Weir

Electricity pylons going to Hoddesdon power station by the River Lee Navigation
Having eventually found the River Lee Navigation, we continue southwards under loudly buzzing power lines heading for Hoddesdon power station

Dobb's Weir, River Lee Navigation, Hoddesdon
We manage to shake the power lines off, and reach the ever delightful Dobb's Weir and the end of our walk. It was a shame the weather wasn't quite as good as originally predicted, but it was a pleasant walk.

Total 22.7km (nominally downhill all the way) taking 5 hours 55 minutes (including 65 minutes stopped) - George's longest walk, and probably Stephen's longest since 1996, helping to build up a bit of stamina!


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Unless otherwise stated, all images copyright (c) Stephen and Lucy Dawson