We’re continuing our virtual version of Beating the Bounds on Leyton Marshes, compiled for those that couldn’t take part in person on Rogation Sunday.
We will now follow the map, from 🛩️ Stop no.3 along the boundary between Leyton Marsh and Walthamstow Marshes to reach 🐴 Stop no.4.
“The lands of Walthamstow and Leyton here
Are demarcated by a line of trees.
It’s interrupted by a fence. Keep clear!
A horse hotel! So go no further please!“
This point on the map, at the corner of Leyton Marsh, is close to the ancient Black Path.
🐴 The Black Path
The Black Path, which cuts across Leyton Marsh diagonally, was historically a porter’s way, leading from the fields to the great market of London (Lundenburh, as it was in the late Anglo-Saxon period). It was also a route of pilgrimage.
Sometimes called the Porter’s Way, this was the route cattle were driven along to Smithfield and the path used by smallholders taking produce to Spitalfields Market. In the past, it was also called the Templars’ Way, because further south it linked the thirteenth-century St Augustine’s Church on land once owned by Knights Templar in Hackney with the Priory of St John in Clerkenwell where they had their headquarters.
No-one knows how old the Black Path is or why it has this name, but it once traversed open country before the roads existed. These days the path is black because it has a covering of asphalt, except of course, across the marshes where once ‘the very dark grey sandy clay’ must have made the route difficult to traverse; less so along this ancient well-trodden path.
The Lea floodplain was once known as ‘Black Marsh’ and was home to a farm, stream and meadows yet the Black Path was an important trading route until the advent of railways, waterworks and gas works on Leyton Marshes in the 19th century.
Whilst previous Beating of the Bounds excursions have valiantly kept open the Black Path route running through the horse paddock, recently the path has become inaccessible due to the imposition of fencing and the expansion of the Riding Centre facilities, now including a large private livery by the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority on former Lammas Lands.
The Black Path joins the end point of the Beating the Bounds route, where it crosses the railway, but this way is no longer passable because of the paddock fencing interrupting our traditional Borough boundary route. However, the Black Path also passes by the next waypoint, no.5.