Why Loughton Is A Must Visit Area In West Essex


From historic buildings and legendary stories, to 21st century television fixes, this part of West Essex has plenty to entertain

Loughton sits on the edge of northeast London offering a leafy retreat and gateway into Essex. It is connected to the Capital’s bus and tube network, the M11 and M25 motorways and pathways, cycle routes and horse tracks through Epping Forest, which lies to the west of the town. Along its south-eastern side, the River Roding flows into east London passing through Roding Valley Meadows, 1.5 miles of traditional river-valley habitat managed by the Essex Wildlife Trust and open to the public.

Loughton’s village history can be traced back to the Domesday Book and its growth into a town began in 1615 when a new road was built from London to Newmarket and Cambridge. Loughton became an important coaching stop bringing inns, smithies and shops to cater for travellers. It also brought opportunities for highwaymen, including the legendary Dick Turpin who started out as a local butcher but found that robbery paid better and hid out at Loughton Camp, the remains of an Iron Age fort deep in Epping Forest.

Loughton Camp
Loughton Camp

Another boost to the town’s growth came in 1856 when the Victorians made it a stop on a new railway into London. This enabled the daily transport of fresh farm produce into the city. It also allowed city workers to move out and created Loughton as the commuter town it remains today. As train travel became accessible to all, the railway brought Londoners out into the countryside for leisure, to enjoy the charms of country living and the delights of the forest. Today, as the Central Line tube trains emerge into open countryside and travel to and beyond Loughton, the views and thrill of escaping the city is just as exhilarating as the Victorians must have experienced from their steam-hauled carriages.

Loughton sits in the south of Epping Forest District and is one of six distinct towns sharing the landscape with scattered villages and hamlets found around the forest in the south, along the Lee Valley to the west and amongst farmland and greenbelt stretching to the north. A network of footpaths, many treading ancient routes, link these communities making Loughton an ideal starting point for exploring both Epping Forest and further afield. With its restaurants and pubs, explorers can fortify themselves before venturing out or reward themselves upon their return.

Loughton’s café culture also rewards those who just enjoy relaxing and watching the world go by, or who might hope to glimpse celebrities from the popular TV series The Only Way is Essex. Loughton features in TOWIE and shops in the High Street are directly connected to cast members. For those looking for retail therapy, Loughton offers a range of shops with their own renowned sophistication and style. This extends to adjacent Buckhurst Hill and Loughton Broadway. Both locations are just one stop on the Central Line either side of Loughton. Debden is the stop for Loughton Broadway and the Epping Forest Shopping Park which sits a stone’s throw from the Bank of England’s print works, where all the English bank notes are printed. Also worth seeking out close to the station is Crate Loughton, a community of local start-up retailers within an enclosed courtyard, each trading out of stylishly stacked and converted containers.

High Beech Tea Hut
High Beech tea hut

Situated alongside the eastern edge of Epping Forest, Loughton is the ideal starting point for those wishing to spend time exploring this ancient woodland. On offer are rare and important habitats from forest with open glades to grassland plains, heathlands and wetlands plus numerous ponds and lakes. It is enjoyed by walkers, cyclists and horse riders with paths and tracks specially prepared for each. The forest is managed by the City of London, overseen by 12 members of the Court of Common Council and four locally elected Verderers. Entering the forest from Loughton, visitors step straight from pavement into dense canopied woodland and can follow in the footsteps of Dick Turpin to reach Loughton Camp. Then go further to find a second Iron Age fort in the forest, Ambresbury Banks. Walking amongst these ancient earthworks, surrounded by majestic beech trees, is like travelling back in time.

Or take a different direction towards High Beech, an open high point in the forest from which retreating Londoners watched their city burn during the Great Fire of 1666. Here visitors will also find refreshments in the form of the Kings Oak pub and two tea huts, one hut by the car park and the other just off the Epping New Road. This second hut is a popular stop for walkers, horse riders and especially motorcyclists for whom the area has historic significance being the location of the country’s first speedway track opening the 1928 with an inaugural crowd of 30,000 travelling out from London. Today the pace is far more relaxed both in the pub, behind which the track was situated, and the tea hut which is still run by a member of the original family that served all those speedway fans.


Travelling further southwest the forest opens up at Connaught Water, a popular spot for bird watching and fishing, with trails around the lake and on to the nearby visitor centre alongside Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge. Built in 1543 for King Henry VIII and renovated by order of Queen Elizabeth 1, the lodge is open to visitors and offers one of the best views of the forest from its top floor.

Loughton, and its surroundings, makes a fascinating and rewarding destination for all tastes and ages, and one that is easily accessible by road and tube.

To find out more about Loughton and all the district-wide attractions and activities, including Epping Forest, visit visiteppingforest.org or visitessex.com

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