So, what will actually happen when I finish the Lea Valley Way? Will there be a tiny deluge or will the river itself disappear? (No, no one is suffering from illusions of grandeur in here, no one.)
Lea Valley Way is the 50-mile long-distance walking route following the River Lea from its birth spring in the suburbs of Luton to the Thames near Limehouse.
It can be pleasantly walked in 4 days or so the Internet says. When I was planning to walk it in one go last summer, there was only one proper description of all stages available online.
I’ve walked the Lea Valle Way:
– Lea Valley Walk, Stage 1 / 17.07.2015 / ~ 36 km; read about that stupidly lucky walk here
– Lea Valley Walk, Stage 3 / 19.07.2015 / 23 km
– Lea Valley Walk, Stage 4 / 26.09.2016/ 7.9k km
– And on 16.04. 2016, S-L, G and I set out to do the Lea Valley Walk, Stage 2 (25.9 km)
Stage 2 of the walk stretches from Hatfield to Broxbourne. By all accounts it should be pleasantly doable in one day, during the warmest sunlight hours. “I can’t believe I’m finally finishing it today!” I told my lover, my friends and my housemates when leaving for that last stretch that Saturday morning.
The first half of the walk was cloudy, but after leaving Hatfield behind and lunching in Hertford, the skies lit up and our step got faster. (Sadly, G actually had to go home, since his foot had managed to seriously convince him it was too exhausting to move.) I also witnessed my goldenest golden hour during this stage of the walk. Everything was going brilliantly.
We continued on, following the lovely water. The darkness had long-ago fallen when S-L and I reached Dobb’s Weir – a location separated from the Broxbourne train station by a few kilometers. Finishing the Lea Valley Way was going to happen tonight. Suddenly, all the tiredness was gone from my legs as we started to cross the canal (the river has been directed into a canal around those parts already), I could clearly imagine reaching the station within the next half an hour and… and… and… The road was closed. Blocked (even cordoned off, maybe?; can disappointment also create false memories?) off by a large road works sign. Somewhere not far off in the darkness we saw the orange working lights of the industrial vehicle. But. Not all was lost yet!
I dashed off to talk to a security man. And yes, all types of roads were closed. However, he directed us to a path in the forest which would take us straight to Broxbourne train station. So we entered the dark forest-like area with the help from the flashlights on our dying phones. We walked to the railway (“When you’ve reached the railway, you’ve gone too far,” the man had also said). Upon then retracing our steps we found the path. Also to be blocked off.
And we decided to call an end to our day.
I asked for local cab numbers but the security van gave us a lift to the train station. (Reminder to self! Always carry chocolate around to give to nice people!)
I still have roughly 3 km to finish, which I will do at some point this year. How else can I ever say that I’ve followed an entire river, right?
1) Never underestimate a journey;
2) If destination becomes a goal the journey will lose a bit of its magic;
3) Passing a race track in the dark makes you feel like a character in a James Bond movie;
4) Trips can be undertaken that take you to a beginning of a journey which itself is actually shorter than the trip to get there. (Which part of the journey is the real journey? she asks in an ominous voice.)
My dear and much-esteemed last kilometers of the Lea Valley Way, I’m coming to find you in 2016.