Towpath cafe walks: The River Stort – London

Amble beside this nature-rich, rural stretch of water just 30 miles north of central London

Canal & River Trust


A tributary of the River Lee, the River Stort weaves past water mills, maltings and nature reserves through the pretty Hertfordshire countryside. South of Bishop’s Stortford, the river was canalised in 1769 to transport malt barley from the watermills to the breweries of London. These days, this nature-filled waterway is a world away from the urban sprawl of our capital, despite it only being a mere 30 miles north of central London.

This circular walk begins and ends at Harlow Mill Station, taking in the river and Pishiobury Park – an open parkland with patches of woodland and grazing longhorn cattle. Keep your binoculars handy for green woodpeckers and grey wagtails. The station is a stone’s throw away from Redricks Lake, where you can end your walk with a waterside picnic with only hovering dragonflies for company. The lake is also a licensed open water swimming site, which runs coached sessions every Wednesday evening throughout the summer, should you fancy a dip. Hot showers, fishing and canoe hire are also available.

If you hear someone yelling “Porky Pete” they’ll be affectionately referring to the owner of the lakeside cafe, who cooks up whopping great bacon sandwiches. What better way to end a canalside walk, than with a hearty breakfast among the reeds and cow parsley?

Redricks Lakes Cafe, Redricks Lane, Sawbridgeworth CM21 0RL