(Shonks Mill bridge to Loughton)


WHERE IS IT?: South-west Essex and east London. Landranger sheets 167 and 177.

PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: Put-in below the houses at Shonks Mill bridge 528982 there is a footpath off the minor road on the east side. Take-out in the park/nature reserve Roding Lane, Loughton, car park at 430942. It should be possible to paddle from Ongar to Shonks Mill and further from Loughton to Ilford and the Thames at Barking.


TIME NEEDED: Three hours.

ACCESS HASSLES: Contact the River Advisor (details in BCU handbook) for up to date situation. There is no access agreement as such, but as it only goes in flood the fishermen tend not to be around.

WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: There are several gauges: at the ford 485976 opposite a garden centre, reading 0.95m; Abridge bridge downstream side 2.35m; Epping Forest country club 0.95m. As a rule of thumb if the fields are flooded it is high enough.

GRADING: Grade I, with considerable tree hazard.

MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: Trees, lots of them. Very low farm bridge just after the M25. At very high levels there will be numerous low bridges particularly on the golf course. Weir at mill 501974, weir at 442956 after the M11 and A1168.

GENERAL DESCRIPTION: Put-in below the houses from the footpath on the left bank to avoid the low bridges. For the first km the river is reasonably open. Just after a farm on the right it runs into trees with a large fallen trunk almost blocking the channel. Fight through on the left or climb over on the right. Another km with numerous trees and bushes past flooded fields brings you to the M25. Wave to the motorists in the traffic jam. In a few hundred metres there is a very low bridge, almost certainly a portage. 1 km further on is the A113 at Passingford bridge (possible access)and shortly after a mill (501974) with a weir just upstream of a footbridge. Completely washed out at the level described it seems to have 2 V shaped gullies. More trees and bushes and a low pipe crossing the river in the next 2km. After the ford (access) and gauge (485976) the channel is wider and more open meandering through fields and passing under the brick bridge at Abridge. After meeting the M11 the river enters a golf course, the many low bridges may be a problem in very high water. Shortly after passing under the M11 and another road bridge is a concrete gauging weir. Again this washes out at high levels but normally has a drop of only about 250mm. Two more km with park on the right and nature reserve on the left to the take-out.

OTHER NOTES: It is a big ditch, with a certain novelty value in paddling under 2 motorways.

CONTRIBUTED BY: Colin Smith, Southend Canoe Club.