The Ancestor's Trail is an annual biological pilgrimage combining walking, evolution and art. Based on Richard Dawkin's book 'The Ancestor's Tale', the Trail guides its walkers along a time line from the present day back 3.85 billion years to the origins of life.
You can see what Richard Dawkins Foundation says about the event here.
The event celebrates 'our place' within the biodiversity machine we call evolution. Although the aim of this walk is to provide a shared experience for non-religious people, our common origins belong to us all and so we warmly extend an open invitation to everyone.
The Trail itself remains free and open to all, but we are delighted to open booking via our website
Trail Descriptions and Journey Planning
Please note that an Oystercard can be used at Cheshunt Station. They can’t generally be used on the buses outside Greater London. The train/bus times below are a guide. Please check them yourselves as well. For longer trails we recommend bringing a light lunch.
At the end of your walk you will be able to relax at the Lee Valley Youth Hostel from[masked]pm. There we are providing some entertainment in the form of our small brass band, which will provide a great backdrop to help you unwind as you chat to friends old and new. If you’d like to pre-order refreshments there you will need to do this with us at the beginning of the trail as they will have limited spare supplies. They do however have a bar. After 5.30pm only those booked in overnight or for the evening’s entertainment will be able to remain beyond the bar/reception area.
If you’re going to walk one of the trails please Register on this site under the Booking tab, so that we know numbers and can also keep you informed about final trail details as the day approaches. On registering you’ll also see other options relating to refreshments, trail guides and other activities associated with the Ancestor’s Trail week-end.
Human Trail (Chingford)
There are trains from Liverpool Street arriving at 09:29 (departure 09:03) and 09:44 (departure 09:18). From Cheshunt the 08:50 only gives 4 minutes to find the Chingford train and so we recommend taking the 08:29 Cheshunt train.
The Human Trail is 12 miles (19km) long and starts from Chingford Station which is reached by train from Liverpool Street. The starting time for this trail is 9:45am. The Human Trail goes through a major part of Epping Forest and stops for a 20 minute lunchtime stop at High Beach at about 11:45. Walkers then continue through the Forest before entering the open Essex countryside and making another short stop, on their way to the watery delights of the Lee Valley Park. There are toilets at High Beach and near to the second stop. A small brass band will accompany us on the final leg of the walk.
Gazelle Trail (Loughton)
To arrive at 10:05 you will need to leave Liverpool Street station on the Central Line at 09:36. Trains run every 5 minutes. From Cheshunt we advise leaving at 08:50 to give yourself plenty of time as the next train arrives 26 minutes later.
The Gazelle Trail is one of the longer walks at 11 ½ miles (18.6km) and it is easily accessible from the Central Line as it starts outside Loughton tube station. The paths may be a little muddy after recent rains. Aim to arrive at 10:05. The Trail goes through a major part of Epping Forest and joins the main trail after 4km, just before a brief lunch stop. Walkers then continue through the Forest before entering the open Essex countryside, where we make another short stop. There are toilets at High Beach and near to the second stop. We then carry on through the beautiful Essex countryside to the watery delights of the Lee Valley Park. A small brass band will accompany us on the final leg of the walk.
Amphibian Trail (Epping)
To arrive at Epping for 11:30 you will need to leave Liverpool Street at 10:51. Trains are fairly frequent, the previous one being at 10:46. To make the connection from Cheshunt we recommend the 10:21 train, which arrives at Liverpool Street at 10:44.
The Amphibian Trail is the main medium-length trail at 9 miles (14.7km). It is easily accessible from the Central Line as it starts outside Epping tube station. Aim to arrive for 11:30. It barely touches on Epping Forest but walkers go along the edge before entering the open, slightly undulating Essex countryside. We meet the main trail after 5km and eventually descend in to the watery delights of the Lee Valley Park. There are no toilets on this route, although a diversion can be made. Froglife, an amphibian charity, will be joining us for a while and will offer us an interactive experience along the first part of the walk! A small brass band will accompany us on the final leg of the walk.
Plant Trail (Waltham Abbey)
There are two possible ways to get here. The first is travelling from Cheshunt Town Centre (Tescos) by bus to Waltham Abbey. For this you’ll need to catch the 251 bus at 13:43, which arrives at Quaker Lane, Waltham Abbey at 14:03 (the bus pauses in Waltham Cross bus station for a couple of minutes. Do not get off).
The second is travelling from Stratford to Waltham Cross on the Mainline and then taking a bus to Waltham Abbey. We recommend leaving Stratford on the 13:00 train which arrives in Waltham Cross at 13:31. This gives plenty of time to catch a 251 bus (should be every 20 minutes).
To get to the Sun Inn just walk across the car park behind the bus stop. It has a back entrance by the car park or you can walk in to Sun Street for the front entrance.
The Plant Trail, at 3 miles (4.8km) long, is our shortest trail but is a very interesting one as it starts in the historic town of Waltham Abbey, in the grounds of the old abbey. The starting time for this trail is 2:15pm at the Sun Inn (Sun Street) or 2:25pm by The Forge by the Abbey Gardens car park, by the roundabout. It is worth arriving early and exploring the town and abbey beforehand if you don’t know it. It has more musical accompaniment than any of the other trails and merges with the Greenwich Meridian line, at the end of which we join the ever-growing band of fellow pilgrims, many of whom will have walked all the way from Chingford. The Plant Trail is wholly within the Lee Valley Park and gives you a taster of the Park’s watery scenery. The small brass band will also accompany us on the final leg of the walk.
Bacteria Trail (Enfield Lock)
From Cheshunt take the 12:59 train which arrives at Enfield Lock at 13:04.
From Stratford take the 12:30 train, get off at Tottenham Hale at 12:43, then check which platform for the 12:55 to Enfield Lock (arrives at 13:04). There is a later train from Stratford at 13:00 which will just get you to the start in time.
The Bacteria Trail is especially suitable for wheelchairs and buggies but it is not our shortest trail (that is the Plant Trail) as it is 4 ½ miles (7.4km) long. It is the only trail starting from the west side of the Lea valley, starting from Enfield Lock station which is reached from Liverpool Street. Please arrive for 13:15. The paths are very good with no hills, stiles or squeezes to navigate. For part of its length the trail goes along the river (passing a pub and a café) before entering the Lee Valley Park proper and a watery wonderland. It passes the Lee Valley White Water Centre and many interesting art works, whilst it also passes through more watchable bird life than any other trail, with Kingfisher a real possibility for those at the head of the walk. We only join the main band of walkers near the end, after which a small brass band will accompany us on the final leg of the walk.
If you’re planning to try any of these trails then send an email to [masked] before the day for detailed instructions, including planning to make your rendezvous with the main trail for the (almost) exact time. Otherwise it is intended to put the instructions up on our Meetup site, along with the photographic guide, before the day.
New World Monkey Trail (north-west Chingford)
The New World Monkey Trail is one of the lesser trails and is unmarshalled, so it is for the more adventurous. It is the longest trail at just over 12 ½ miles and starts from Yardley Hill bus stop on the A112 Sewardstone Road. It begins with a steep climb up in to the forest. The suggested starting time for this trail is 09:50, although later if you plan a brisk pace. It is 3.6km through woodland and meadows before you join the main trail, which then proceeds to High Beach for the lunchtime break at about 11:45. Walkers then continue through the Forest before entering the open Essex countryside, on their way to the watery delights of the Lee Valley Park. A small brass band will accompany us on the final leg of the walk.
Platypus trail (Theydon Bois)
The Platypus Trail (about 15.7km) is one we plan to try another year, but if you are feeling very adventurous you might like to try it and see if you can work out your own times to arrive at the Rendezvous Point with the main trail at about 13:20, after about 4 ½ km. It is accessible from the Central Line station of Theydon Bois. The first section just keeps in the forest but it is not long, once you join the main trail, before you are walking through the gently undulating Essex countryside. There is a 20-minute break planned for just after you join the main trail. Eventually the trail descends in to the watery delights of the Lee Valley Park. A small brass band will accompany us on the final leg of the walk.
Bird Trail (Waltham Abbey/Upshire)
The 7 mile Bird Trail (11.4km) is one of the lesser trails but it covers a gap in our trail lengths, between the 9 mile Amphibian and 4 ½ mile Bacteria Trails. There is only a short 1.5km walk before joining the main trail. There is a 20-minute break planned for just after you join the main trail. Evolutionary speaking it is a very interesting trail as it appears that birds are descendants of the dinosaurs, or a group of them anyway, so they didn’t actually die out. It makes you want to watch Alfred Hitchcock’s “Birds” all over again doesn’t it? The trail starts from Princesfield Road bus station in Upshire, Waltham Abbey. We suggest a 12:55 start. The walk covers a lovely section of open Essex countryside before descending in to the watery delights of the Lee Valley Park. A small brass band will accompany us on the final leg of the walk.
Fish Trail (Epping Green)
The Fish Trail is a minor trail and is the most awkward to get to, unless you live in Harlow or villages nearby, as it starts from the bus stop in Epping Green village. To compensate for this awkwardness there are two pubs to choose from in the village if you need refreshments before you start. The trail is about 7 miles (11.1 km) long and joins the main trail after about 4.1km. We recommend a 13:15 start. The walk goes along ancient green lanes and across open Essex countryside before descending in to the watery delights of the Lee Valley Park. A small brass band will accompany us on the final leg of the walk
The walk is free, but those who have paid £5 can join us for refreshments and entertainment at the end of the walk between 4.30 and 5.30 pm.
Supper 6,45 to 7.30pm and staying until late for our evening entertainment is another £20