Saturday 30th July 2016

The Ancestor's Trail is an annual biological pilgrimage combining walking, evolution and art. Based on Richard Dawkins' book 'The Ancestor's Tale', the Trail guides its walkers along a time line from the present day back 3.8 billion years to the origins of life.

The event celebrates 'our place' within the biodiversity machine we call evolution. The Trail is made up of several walks of varying lengths, located in Epping Forrest, London. Each of the main trails are guided and start at a train or tube station. As we walk we will slowly join together as our evolutionary histories combine and we all finish together at Cheshunt.

The walking pace for the trails is expected to average 15 minutes/km. Please choose a trail that you can comfortably walk. For the longer trails we recommend that you bring a light lunch for picnicking. The Human, New World Monkey and Gazelle Trails join up before the lunch time refreshment stop (20mins). An Ancestor's Trail volunteer will meet you at the beginning of each of marshalled trails.

Human Trail

19km / 12miles
Chingford Station. Arrive for 09.45 (with two 20 mins food / toilet stops) This is expected to be the most popular trail and it traverses Epping Forest, rolling countryside and finally the River Lee Country Park.

Marshalled Food/toilet stops

Amphibian Trail

14.4km / 9miles
Epping Tube Station. Arrive for 11.30. This trail crosses the rolling Essex countryside and barely goes in to the Forest.

Marshalled Toilet stop

Bacteria Trail

7.2km / 4.5miles
Enfield Lock Station. Arrive for 13.15. The Bacteria Trail is suitable for wheelchairs and follows surfaced paths. It is a riverside path and has the bonus of passing a pub and a café before passing by the Lee Valley White Water Centre. It then winds its way through the beautiful River Lee Country Park.

Marshalled Suitable for wheelchair users

Fish Trail

11km / 7miles
Epping Long Green bus stop. Suggested starting time 13.00. This trail is most suitable for people coming from the Harlow direction and crosses a varied countryside before joining the main body of walkers. There are two pubs near the start of the walk.

This trail is not marshalled for the first part: Trail Directions

Gazelle Trail

18.5km / 11.5miles
Loughton Tube Station. Arrive for 10.05 (with two 20 mins food / toilet stops). This is the second main trail that explores Epping Forest and joins the main body of walkers before they reach the 1st stop at High Beach.

Marshalled Food/toilet stops

Plant Trail

4.8km / 3miles
Waltham Cross Station. Arrive for 14.10. This is the shortest walking trail. It goes up the Greenwich Meridian line. From the station we will take a short bus ride to Waltham Abbey to start the trail.

Plant Trail – Extended
There will be an optional 2 mile marshalled walk leaving Cheshunt YHA at 14.00 to the start of the Plant Trail. Anyone coming by car, may want to consider driving to the Cheshunt, parking at the YHA and joining this trail.

Marshalled Toilet stop at Waltham Abbey

Bird Trail

11.4km / 7miles
Upshire bus stop. Suggested starting time 12.55. This is a longer trail for people wanting to start from Waltham Abbey. It joins the main trail after about a mile.

This trail is not marshalled for the first part: Trail Directions
Important Information

After the Trails

After the walks there will be a celebration at Cheshunt YHA. This celebration will carry on into the night with an evening meal and entertainment.

Those who wish can also stay the night at the YHA.

On Sunday morning there will be breakfast followed by a series of talks from invited speakers on aspects of evolution.

We are a non-profit and booking post-trail activities allows us keep the trail free to all. Please consider joining us after the walks.

Information on booking the entertainment and the YHA will be shown after you register.

Come join us on a biological pilgrimage!

Thanks to all who came on the 2015 trail. We had a great time.

Here's a video of one of the Sunday talks by James Rosindell, Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Imperial College London.

In his presentation James shows the diversity of life life on earth and how it is related using the tree of life explorer OneZoom. He focuses on the path through the tree of life that connects Thyme to its closest and then more distant relatives including eventually to ourselves, humans.

More Information

Richard Dawkins' book The Ancestor's Tale, on which our trail is based, takes us on a journey back through time meeting up with our increasingly distant common ancestors. A new version of the book is now available in hardback an eBook.

The One Zoom allows you to explore the tree of life in a completely new way: like a map, everything is on one page, all you have to do is zoom in and out.

Stated Clearly explains the theory of evolution through animations and writings in clear language that anyone can understand.