Roding Valley Way in Aldersbrook Exchange Lands

I was sorry to hear - although not surprised - that the City of London Corporation appears to have submitted to pressure from the cycling campaign and the London Borough of Redbridge to allow the Roding Valley Way to pass through Aldersbrook Exchange Lands - the old sewage works site.

Early in the 2000s, together with local resident Don Kinnibrugh, I accompanied a surveyor who was working on behalf of LBR (I believe) on a visit to the Exchange Lands and nearby areas to look at possibilities for the route. We agreed that it would be a shame and unnecessary to route the proposed RVW through the site of the sewage works because of the increased disturbance to the area caused by channelling bicycles through there.

If this had been the only option, then it would be understandable, but an existing parallel route was - it seemed - a realistic alternative. This was the route known locally as "The Bridle Path" which runs alongside the City of London Cemetery fence. This would have meant that an existing and pleasant route for both pedestrians and cyclists be maintained (which it rarely is) and an alternative, primarily but not exclusively, for pedestrians remain un-surfaced in the Exchange Lands. In addition it may have been possible to open the fence by the NE corner of the cemetery, which would give access to and from that part of the Bridle Path into the area of the old sewage works known as "Redbridge Field", routing the surfaced track alongside that area's boundary hedge and thus give the track a junction with the east-west route. An opportunity for increased and alternative access and routes has been missed. It might have been argued that whoever owns Redbridge Field (and it seems to be uncertain who does!) may not have agreed, but if this were so then the route could have veered north-east at the corner to access the Exchange Lands just for the northern stretch.

As it was, the stretch of the Roding Valley Way from near Little Ilford towards Wanstead Park was created along its own orientation, destroying a nice piece of "meadow land" by the  Alders Brook in the process, and its orientation by the Exchange Lands was pre-emptedly aimed right at the old gates to the sewage works instead of by the existing Bridle Path. This - as I understood - was before the City of London had accepted that the route would pass across their land here and thus necessitating the change in surface now proposed. In addition, a year or two ago, signposts were erected between Redbridge Roundabout and Aldersbrook Exchange Lands showing the RVW route as established, when indeed it was not!

Aldersbrook Exchange Lands 

The existing track across the exchange lands


Prior to pylon-work being undertaken in 1994 this track had something of the feel of a grassy country track. When brick-rubble was laid to provide access and support for heavy vehicles, it was left in a rough state with ankle-twisting bricks protruding from the surface. Only in the last few years have these virtually disappeared to provide the sound surface that we see in the photograph taken in 2010. It also gives something of the feel of the country-like atmosphere it once had.

Now it is proposed that it be disturbed again to complement the cycle-oriented Roding Valley Way,


Now it is proposed that a surfaced track be laid from where the existing RVW track ends at the old gate and at precisely the point where Epping Forest begins across the Exchange Lands following existing routes as far as the existing east-west hard-surfaced track near the concrete bridge across the Roding.

I feel disappointed that the City of London Corporation seems to have bowed to pressure from LBR and the cycling lobby at the expense of the aesthetics, the ecology and ambience of the area and allowed these changes to be made. I think that the existing surface is perfectly satisfactory for pedestrians, horses and indeed cyclists and requires no upgrade. On the other hand, many parts of Wanstead Park are a no-go area right now for me (as a pedestrian) because of the abominable condition of the paths which - even without re-surfacing - could be made more easily, comfortably and safely passable simply by clearance and slight widening.

I am sorry to have to say that I despair of "the Corporation's" policies with regard to the use of their land by the sometimes conflicting requirements of pedestrians, cyclists, horse-riders and nature. On the other hand, I was pleased that I was contacted by the Conservators to advise me of this and to ask if I knew of any particular species that might be present in order that they might be protected. My thoughts are that sometimes it is not only the wildflowers and animals that require to be protected, but the place itself.

Paul Ferris, 5th January 2012