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This Week's Walks - Archive

Please see the Saturday Walker's Club This Week's Walks page.

This is an archive of walks done by the Saturday Walker's Club. You should only need to use this page if the SWC website is down.

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Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Wednesday Walk - Rolling Essex Countryside and historic Saffron Walden: Great Chesterford to Newport (Essex)

Length: 18.5 km (11.5 mi), Ascent/Descent: 174/153 m [shorter ending at Audley End]
Net Walking Time: ca. 4 hours, Toughness: 3 out of 10
Take the 10.28 Cambridge North train from  Liverpool Street (Tottenham Hale [Victoria Line] 10.40), arrives Great Chesterford 11.35.
Return trains from Newport (Essex): xx.13, xx.43. Buy a Great Chesterford return.

Most Essex walks feature lines of pylons marching across enormous crop fields and this one is no exception. On the plus side, most of the farmland walking is along wide grassy field edges and there are pleasant interludes through small woods and river valleys to add variety.
The centrepiece of the walk is the historic market town of Saffron Walden. Originally called Chipping Walden, the town acquired its present name in the Middle Ages when it became the centre for the saffron crocus industry; the yellow pigment was used in cloth-making, food-colouring and medicine. The north-west corner of the town has retained many attractive medieval buildings with fine examples of pargeting, the East Anglian craft of decorating external plaster walls. You enter the town through the elegant Bridge End Garden and after lunch you could visit the Fry Art Gallery of works by local artists and the impressive church of St Mary the Virgin, the largest parish church in Essex. If you have time for a longer tour of the town you can see a notable Museum of local and natural history, the Norman ruins of Walden Castle and the largest surviving historic Turf Labyrinth in England.
Immediately after leaving the town the walk route goes through the spacious parkland surrounding Audley End. The house was adapted from the buildings of a Benedictine monastery (Walden Abbey) and since the Dissolution there have been many alterations by a succession of owners. Now one of Britain's finest stately homes, the mansion mostly dates from the 18thC, with interior rooms designed by Robert Adam and parkland landscaped by Lancelot “Capability” Brown.
From Audley End the Main Walk route follows part of the Harcamlow Way, a long-distance walk linking Harlow and Cambridge; Newport is the crossover point of this unusual figure-of-eight walk. This large village acquired its (rather confusing) name at a time when “port” meant a town with market privileges.

Lunch: 5 pubs in Saffron Walden (8 km/5 mi), recommended is The Eight Bells (food to 15.00).
Tea: The White Horse in Newport, 10 mins from the station (open all day).

For walk directions, map, photos, height profile and gpx/kml files click here. T=swc.130

1 comment:

Thomas G said...

The ground is getting a bit muddier, finally, this late in winter, although only one stretch was really annoying (it was a long one though: an ascending, newly made up with chalky clayey topsoil, farm track). We saw snowdrops practically everywhere, especially around the Audley End estate, in some places together with Winter Aconites (don't ask, just google it), which made for a nice picture. We saw a muntjac (we think), and lots of geese (Brent/Canada/Barnacle, who knows?). The landscape was mildly rolling, the sky grey, the views far enough and the temperature mild. And Saffron Walden as impressive as ever.
About half the group lunched at the 8 Bells, and we had the magnificent 16th century ex-barn dining room almost to ourselves (it is always fully booked on weekends). The leader ("The SWC does NOT have leaders." Ed.) then stealthily made that group of diners walk off-route, up to Norman Castle and Turf Maze, and on we went. Audley End (closed for the winter) was quiet and peaceful as never before, the miniature railway was closed as well, and then 4 split off to end at Audley End station, claiming early appointments back in the Smoke.
The remaining 4 of this group then met 3 of the picnickers on the platform at Newport, just in time for the 17.13.
16 off the train, 1 an hour later, he walked in from Audley End station to the lunch pub in a roundabout way, i.e. n=17, which incidentally seems to be a record attendance for this particular walk!