Take a dip in any of Uttlesford’s five rivers in between climbing to the highest point in Essex, Norfolk, Kent and Suffolk and visiting the oldest museum in England.
Swim in the shadow of the Essex warrior queen, at Uttlesford, or paddle the shallows of a stately home.
Wallbury Hill Fort
Boadicea may be buried under a cork tree on the west bank of these grounds, nearest the River Stort. I don’t doubt for a moment she swam here. The southern section can be accessed from Dell Lane for a peek of this private, 12 hectare Iron Age fort enclosure. A better alternative, I’d suggest, is swimming in the shadow of Wallbury and Boadicea’s resting place.
Park in Little Hallingbury, and walk in via the footpaths north of St Mary the Virgin.
Paddle into Audley End from this river bridge? OK, I’m only joking. But the River Cam is deep and cool here.
Park around the north west edge of Saffron Walden and walk just 10 minutes to the bridge along the footpath beside the brook known as The Slade. 52.024346, 0.21828085
Visit in summer to find the Stort river bed drier than a digestive biscuit; arrive after winter rain and she’s lapping at the front door of surrounding cottages. Buzzard and red kite hunt above the rodent holes around Chalkpit Lake – only a five-minute walk from the road.
Park in Clavering (51.966613, 0.14708698) and walk 2 minutes to the byway and footpath (known as The Druce).
Park at Radwinter’s St Mary’s Church (52.010444, 0.33945233) and walk 15 minutes along the River Pant to this fresh water pool.
A last dip before leaving Essex? The only path north of here is along the Icknield Way; the second oldest road in Britain, and leads to Bartlow Hills.
Park in and around Church Street, in Chesterford, and walk footpaths south out of Rose Lane to the river in 10 minutes. The footpath south of the way brushes past the Cam here by way as a treat.
Rock Lane Track
Take a dip in Essex’s sleeping giant of a river; placid in dry weather, a raging torrent after rainfall. Somewhere between the two to savour the pleasure.
Parking around Ashdon Village Hall (52.054809, 0.31303391) and walk 20 minutes south across the fields on bridleway and footpath (known as Rock Lane Track) that follows the river.
Arrive at dawn for a glimpse of four species of deer in Uttlesford, seven species of wild orchid and 1,200 year old coppice stools
Great Bendysh Wood
The best place in Essex to see all four of the county’s deer in one day: red deer and fallow deer, roe deer, muntjacs. Footpaths link up with the adjoining Little Bendysh Wood. Good place to divert for shelter from treks and cycles on either the Harcamlow Way, just north, or the River Pant to the west
Shad well and Hales woods
Seven species of orchid in Shadwell Wood, including greater butterfly orchid and Bird’s-nest Orchid. Hales Wood is less than half a mile away and has similar plants. Shad Well is on the Harcamlow Way.
After the Bendysh woods, the best place to see deer in Essex. Native red and roe deer have been in the county for more than 10,000 years.
Ancient woodland on chalky boulder-clay. This site is classed as a ‘wildlife reserve’, but it is actually a tree and fauna reserve. Essex Wildlife Trust supports the culling of deer to protect rare plant species; a necessary measure maybe when any eco system becomes depleted. Elm trees also are here. A visit to West Wood should be combined with a hike or cycle west to Romney Woods and Debden Water.
Like most of north west Essex woodland, this area was re-planted with conifers by the Forestry Commission for revenue. Thankfully, it has been allowed to returned to native woodland. The deer continue to hamper efforts to restore the damage the Forestry Commission inflicted, but thankfully, Essex Wildlife Trust has no hand here in there culling. Links up beautifully as part of a tramp to or from Debden Water and Debden Church.
More than four hundred species of plants, including about thirty trees and shrubs.
Deer and cattle still graze. Pollards are over 600 years old and some coppice stools 1,200 years old.
Elm trees have survived around Uttlesford’s woodland. Hike the meadows, lakes and rivers to see rare plants like salad burnet or unique lime woodland.
Little Hallingbury Marsh
Wet grassland and fen next to the River Stort. Essentially, a swamp.
Breeding dragonflies use the areas of open water.
Garnetts Wood and Barnston Lays
One of the few places in the UK to find elms trees. The smaller Barnston Lays has some invasive field elm, and, in the north, wych Elm; neither of which are known as English elm, although wych is the only native species. The bark is smooth and grey when young, becoming grey-brown and fissured after 20 years. Caterpillars of the white letter hairstreak butterfly that were once common in thee 1970s feed on these elms. One of the best examples of lime woodland in Essex.
The meadows supports many rare plants including salad burnet and downy oat. Unique.
A narrow river valley that links with the River Cam at Newport.
Debden Water is a freshwater stream that runs over chalky boulder clay surrounded by tall fen, grass and broad-leaved trees.
Ancient oak hornbeam coppice on chalky boulder clay of north-west Essex north of Saffron Walden. Supports one of the largest known colonies of early-purple orchid, rare oxlip primula and wild strawberries.
Hatfield Forest lake
Lake containing pike, tench, roach, rudd and perch surrounded by marsh. The fen area at the northern end is fed by Shermores Brook, and is one of the largest known island marshes in the county. Contains many rare orchids.
Cycle the lanes and bridleways around Uttlesford to see Audley End, wild camp and Debden and explore the Icknyeld Way.
Audley End House
Chain your bike to the bars at the front of the house. You may need to explore this pad for a while, before looking for a camp in the surrounding wilds. Best to arrive via the outstanding bridleways out of Debden, that sometimes double up with the Harcamlow Way. Overnight parking in Debden if you’re not planning on returning for a few days.
In my opinion, the most important feature of the Audley End tour, although I tend to make these prehistoric earth mounds part of a northerly exploration from the Saffron trail and onto the Icknield Way, via Littlebury Green. No public access. But worthy of looking on from outside for a sense of the place, before cycling west on Chestnut Avenue. The point marked below means standing on the causeway edge that looks on the map like the end of saucepan handle that tracks slightly north west, before opening out into the longish frying pan that is Ring Hill.
Saffron Walden Museum
Saffron Walden Museum said to have the oldest purpose build museum in England – built in 1835. Visit as part of a cycle tour along the River Pant to the south of the town. A mixture of bridleways, green ways and expansive footpaths means popping back to the museum throughout the day can be beneficial.
Wild camp around the highest point in Uttlesford and Essex, visit the county’s largest standing stone and a stone age mound in Hatfield Forest.
At the edge of the parish is Chrishall Common, this hill – at 147 metres (482 ft) – is the the highest point in East Anglia: Essex, Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire. It is also the place where Cambridge, Hertfordshire and Essex meet. The village was listed in the Domesday Book as Cristeshalla, or “nook of land dedicated to Christ”. In 1422, (1 Henry VI), it appears in a record as “Cristeshale”. It is one of only two English settlements whose name contains the word “Christ”. The Icknield Way, a Neolithic track, passes through the parish.
The largest standing stone left in Essex. Also known as Newport Stone, it is a large sarsen stone near the village of Newport. The name Leper Stone probably derives from the 12th century hospital of St. Mary and St. Leonard a nearby hospital for lepers. Passers by could have left offerings of alms for the hospital residents in a small depression atop the stone. 51.992320, 0.21226868
Better know as Portingbury Hills, this mound in Hatfield Forest dates back to the Iron Age, and likely much earlier.
The rounded earthwork is set on a hill and connected by a zig-zag causeway formed by two almost parallel ditches. There is some suggestion that the mound is aligned astronomically with Wandlebury Hill via a series of equally spaced, hand-carved, stone monoliths forming a Loxodrome. Eleven of the original twenty-six markers are still in situ, such as the Leper Stone. Others have dismissed the theory.
The best food and drink in Uttlesford.
The Chaff House
A clean and good value B&& close to Audley End.
Ash Grove Barns, Littlebury Green, Saffron Walde, CB11 4XB.
The Spotted Dog
Essex souffles on a roast dinner and large portions.
Bishops Green, Barnston, Great Dunmow CM6 1NF, 01245 231598.
The Green Man
Well… this is deer country, so it would be rude not to try the venison. Is it local though? Of course it is. As are the vegetables.
Mill End Green, Great Easton, Great Dunmow CM6 2DN, 01371 852285.
Hamperden End Caravan Site, Staines Farm, Hampered End, Saffron Walden, CB11 3NA, 01279 850 309.
High Street, Great Chesterford, Saffron Walden, Essex.
The Fighting Cocks
London Road, Saffron Walden, Essex.
Talks, workshops and Essex tours
Workshops for schools, scouts, guides, community groups or businesses. Learn how to wild camp and forage, or where to hike, canoe and cycle in Essex. Also, talks on the unique history of land ownership in Essex, and how to enjoy the outdoors by understanding all the laws of access.
Phone – 07947 160007
Email – firstname.lastname@example.org