• Discover
  • Route planner
  • Features

A riverside ramble from source to Thames — Lea Valley Walk

Peter O'Connor aka anemoneprojectors (CC BY-SA 2.0)

A riverside ramble from source to Thames — Lea Valley Walk

Hiking Collection by Dan Hobson



3-5 h

/ day

53.2 mi

675 ft

1,050 ft

The Lea Valley Walk is a medium-distance riverside hike that follows the River Lea from its source to where it meets the Thames in the heart of London.

Starting from Leagrave Common, in Luton, where numerous springs and ponds form the river’s source, the trail follows the course of the Lea through Luton and into pretty Hertfordshire countryside. At Welwyn, it heads along canalised navigations from Hertford along green waterside corridors past many reservoirs, lakes and nature reserves into England's capital city.

The official route is 50 miles (80 km) long. However, with a few short detours to some worthy sites, this Collection is 53.2 miles (85.6 km) in total.

Flora and fauna are abundant along the way. Keep a look-out for endangered water voles between Hertford and Cheshunt, kingfishers at Leagrave, and myriad dragonfly species in the water meadows at Waltham Abbey. Two of Britain’s rarest plants, creeping marshwort and brookweed, can be observed in Walthamstow Marshes, and more than 200 different bird species have been identified along the trail.

There are at least 25 different spellings for the river’s name. Whilst ‘Lea’ is most common, you will also see ‘Lee’ along the way and past documents record Lay, Ley, Leye, Lyge, and even Lyzan. To complicate matters further, at Hertford the trail picks up the River Lee Navigation; the canalised version of the River Lea, which was built from 1767 and headed by engineer John Smeaton.

Highlights along the way include: Batford Springs Nature Reserve, a wildlife-rich space with fresh springs; King's Meads Nature Reserve, home to 265 types of wildflower and 119 species of bird; Stanstead Lock, which has earned the reputation as the hardest in England; Rye House Gatehouse, one of the first brick houses in the country; Walthamstow Marsh Nature Reserve, one of the last remaining pieces of London’s river valley grasslands; St Anne’s, a striking Grade I-listed church constructed from white ashlar; and Limehouse Basin, the gateway to the Thames.

In this Collection, I split the route into three stages: 17.2 miles (27.7 km), 17.1 miles (27.5 km), and 18.9 miles (30.4 km), respectively. Whilst the distances here may seem a little daunting, there are literally no hills of note, and the well-maintained, easy-going trail is on a downwards trajectory throughout. Every stage has a suggestion on how you can split it, though, making for a super-easy six-day itinerary.

Of course, you can divide each stage into as many days as you are comfortable with. You can also walk any single stage, or a couple of stages. Accommodation and public transport links are good along this trail, making it easy to tailor your route. As such, this is a good choice for seasoned walkers and novices alike. However, those in search of wild and empty landscapes might not appreciate the amount of suburban walking.

To get to the start of the route, you can catch a train to Luton Station which has a connecting service to Leagrave Station. From there, it is a 10-minute walk to Leagrave Common.

As the trail finishes in London, transport links are good, as you would expect. The nearest tube station is Limehouse, which is a four-minute walk away.

On The Map


Do it yourself

Ready to get going? Create and customize your own version of this adventure using the full Tour below as a template.

Lea Valley Walk

53.1 mi

700 ft

1,075 ft

Last updated: November 9, 2021

Plan your own version of this adventure in the multi-day planner based on the stages suggested in this Collection.

Learn More
komoot premium logo

Tours & Highlights

  • Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors

    Stage 1: Leagrave Common to Welwyn Garden City — Lea Valley Walk

    17.2 mi
    2.4 mph
    325 ft
    500 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Stage 1 takes you from the source of the River Lea, through Luton, and crosses the county boundary from Bedfordshire into Hertfordshire.


    Whilst all the hikes in this Collection are similar in terms of effort and duration, the first stage is challenging with 17.2 miles (27.7 km) of distance, 325 feet

    by Dan Hobson

  • Difficult
    17.1 mi
    2.4 mph
    225 ft
    350 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    This hike explores a landscape that can claim the hardest lock in England, one of the first brick houses in the country, and some spectacular views.


    With 17.1 miles (27.5 km) of distance, this is another long hike. However, with 225 feet (69 m) of uphill and 350 feet (107 m) of downhill, it is level and

    by Dan Hobson

  • Sign Up To Discover Places Like This

    Get recommendations on the best single tracks, peaks, & plenty of other exciting outdoor places.

  • Difficult
    18.9 mi
    2.5 mph
    150 ft
    200 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    The final hike takes you through central London and explores one of the city’s last remaining pieces of river valley grasslands before concluding at Limehouse Basin, the gateway to the River Thames.


    The most challenging in the Collection, Stage 3 is 18.9 miles (30.4 km) long with 150 feet (46 m) of uphill

    by Dan Hobson


Like this Collection?



Collection Stats

  • Tours
  • Distance
    53.2 mi
  • Duration
    21:48 h
  • Elevation
    675 ft1,050 ft

You Might Also Like

Revel in peace and nature — weekend walks to escape London

Hiking Collection by Kit P

Wildlife, beauty and utter serenity — Woodland Escapes

Hiking Collection by Country Walking Magazine

Multi day hikes for beginners & alpinists in the Ötztal valley

Hiking Collection by Ötztal

At the roof of the world — mountain biking in China's Yunnan province

Mountain Biking Collection by Steffi Marth