Valley of discovery


Francis Castro, senior nature conservation ranger for Vision RCL, is keen to champion the Roding Valley and invites you to join him for a late summer walk through this local hidden gem. Valley photo by Anna MacLaughlin

The Roding Valley is one of the hidden gems of east London, part of the area’s industrial landscape but also retaining some of its rural charm. It is a great way to explore the borough and for those looking for a more rural getaway.

The Nature Conservation Ranger Team, part of the Parks Team for Vision RCL, have a walk scheduled for 7 September, which will be our longest walk yet, completing the trilogy of Roding Valley guided walks we have held throughout the year. It will take in the entirety of the Roding Valley through Redbridge, as we make our way to Wanstead Park, starting from Ray Park in Woodford Green.

Totalling around 7km each way, we will be travelling along one of the great assets the borough has in terms of a green corridor, one that maybe not too many people know about.

The aim of our walks has been to showcase the value of the Roding Valley in terms of a walking route and for its connection with other green spaces.

As a dog owner and keen walker who lives locally in the borough, finding nice walking routes in and around the Roding Valley has been something I have been doing for many years, not only to keep my dog fit but also myself, physically and mentally.

The Roding Valley is largely what we term a country park and wild space. This does not mean we do not manage it, but its management is geared towards wildlife and protecting the naturalness and wildness experience, which is what we want visitors to take away with them. It is not easy, especially with the M11 and A406 roads thundering right through it (it has taken many years, but I seem to be immune from the hum of the motorway), but somehow the Roding Valley and the River Roding have persevered from what has been, quite recently, disastrous disturbance and destruction, through the passion and action of those who have and are managing it, as well as committed volunteers and residents.

It will never be the same or have the same value for wildlife and people as before the motorway came through. Some people will even remember the area before the M11 and A406 and how rural the Roding Valley used to be and the meanders the river used to have. However, this does not mean it has no value. Indeed, we must do the upmost to protect what we have and make it better.

We still have regular sightings of kingfishers and little egrets along the river; grey wagtails can sometimes be seen using the river as well. The valley is also home to many small mammals, from weasels and water shrews to badgers, with other creatures of interest including stag beetles and grass snakes, which you can sometimes spot while walking the paths. On the river, you may get lucky and spot a juvenile otter that has strayed south from its breeding grounds further north in Essex. Unfortunately, the habitat quality means that, at the moment, we have not recorded otter being able to breed or survive along our stretch of river. Eels can sometimes be spotted in the water too – the River Roding used to be a good place to see them – however, their decline has been noted.

Our walks are put together to help improve local knowledge of this hidden and not so well known wild space, and to inspire its continued use, protection and the ways we can make it better for the future. We look forward to seeing you on one of our walks soon.

The Roding Valley late summer walk will depart from the James Leal Centre in Ray Park, Woodford Green at 9am on 7 September (free; booking required). The walk will last approximately five hours and is suitable for children aged seven and over. Some paths will be unsuitable for wheelchairs. For more information, visit swvg.co.uk/rodingwalk or call 020 8559 2316