A circular walk from Purleigh that passes close to three excellent pubs using footpaths, bridleways, byways and short sections of country lanes. Along the way, it joins St Peter's Way for a while, follows a disused railway track and goes through vineyards before meeting a WW1 airfield. A walk for all seasons, although sections can be muddy after rain.
Please see the Useful Information section for important information regarding the aerodrome.
Calculated time is computed with the distance, the height difference, and an average speed of 2.2 mph. For an intermediate walker, this time includes small breaks.
The suggested parking is on an access road to a BT building. This is used at times, so please park considerately.
(D/A) Walk along the access road to the gates then take the footpath on the left of the BT exchange. Enter the playing field and immediately turn left over the footbridge. Head up the hill, keeping close to the hedge on the left. At the top of the field, cross the stile and keep left. The path follows garden fences for a short distance. When it enters the churchyard, keep straight ahead, on a barely discernible path, with the fence of The Old Rectory on the left. On meeting a white gravelled footpath, turn right, walking between yew bushes to a double metal gate.
Go through the gate to leave the churchyard. Turn sharp left following the paving slabs at the rear of The Bell pub to reach a narrow road at a fingerpost with The Old Gatehouse opposite. Turn right, heading along The Street towards a private road. This is St Peter's Way. Continue along this road, going through the gate adjacent to Purleigh Hall Barn. Where the track curves right, heading towards Purleigh Hall, the path goes straight ahead to a stile.
Cross the stile and pass a pair of field gates on the left that are marked 'No Footpath'. A little further along the fence from the gates is a stile with a St Peter's Way marker. Cross the stile and head for a footbridge and stile on the opposite side of a field. Cross these and, keeping ahead in the same general direction, aim for a gap in the hedge on the opposite side of the field, passing to the left of a power line pole - the path is generally well reinstated. Going under the power line the footbridge in the hedge ahead should now be obvious.
(1) Cross the footbridge, climb the steps to cross the track-bed of the disused Maldon to Woodham Ferrers railway line, descend the steps on the other side and continue straight ahead on a cross-field path to a wooden swing gate. Go through the gate and bear half right to another gate at the end of a garden fence. Leave the field through this gate and turn right on Roundbush Road. After a few yards, where the road turns sharp left by farm buildings, take the clearly marked byway on the right.
(2) Just after the byway enters a wooded area the track splits three ways - here keep to the centre track between a hedge on the left and three trees on the right. There is a marker post here but it is often obscured by vegetation. After some way, the track becomes better surfaced, and where it dog-legs left and right, take a footpath on the left through a swing gate into a field. Cross the field diagonally and go through the gate into a narrow footpath between fence and hedge.
After a few yards, ignore a footpath on the right over a makeshift footbridge, continuing ahead to a gate and a path ahead over a raised section of plastic planks. At the end of this, turn left to follow a path between fences with a derelict barn on the left. When the path emerges at a track, turn right; it soon becomes Crown Road which meets Fambridge Road with the Cold Norton village sign opposite. Cross the road.
To visit The Norton pub, cross St Stephens Road and walk downhill on Fambridge Road for 200 yards.
(3) Walk down St Stephens Road, passing the primary school. At the bottom of the hill, ignore a footpath on the right beside an Essex and Suffolk water compound, following the road left and crossing an old railway bridge where there are two entrances to a bridleway. Take either of these, almost immediately ignoring a footpath that goes ahead to join a field edge but instead, turn half right on to the bridleway. Follow this for a little over 1/2 mile to Honey Lane.
(4) Drop down to cross Honey Pot Lane and rejoin the bridleway on the other side. Various tracks from the Three Rivers golf course cross and join the bridleway here, so beware of golf buggies and balls. Ignore all these paths keeping ahead on the bridleway. Just after going under an old railway bridge, at a sign for Stow Maries Nature Reserve, a path joins from the left down a raised earth bank - this was the site of the Stow Maries Halt platform. At a second sign for the nature reserve, at a waymarked post, there is a detour due to an unsafe bridge ahead (see Useful Information below).
(5) Turn left at the post to join a footpath. On meeting a short section of fence, go to the right of this, cross the footbridge and stile going through the hedge. Turn left and follow a field edge path with the hedge on the left. Where the hedge turns left, go straight ahead on a cross-field path heading initially towards a small tree in the field. This path used to be indistinct and rarely reinstated, but at the time of writing, it appears now to be a six foot wide grassy track with cultivated fields on either side.
Pass to the right of the small chestnut tree and then a second one, heading towards a marker that can be seen on the hedge ahead. On reaching the marker turn right to follow a field edge path downhill. At the corner of the field there is a footpath that crosses the ditch on the left - ignore this to stay on the grassy path in the direction of the railway line. Pass under the power lines, swing right and in the field corner cross a stile and footbridge. Bear left to follow a faint path through trees, passing two waymark posts and up steps to the bridleway.
To visit The Prince Of Wales pub take the footpath directly opposite, following it alongside Poorhouse Wood. Cross the road, turn right and walk along Woodham Road for a little over 200 yards.
(6)Turn left to continue along the railway track bridleway. At the end of the path drop down to the right passing beside a gate to meet Woodham Road. Cross the road going half left to enter a bridleway beside a concrete block. Follow it gently uphill until, after 1/3 mile, it eventually curves to the right and enters a vineyard. Go straight ahead uphill between vines and hedge.
(7) At a marker post for a four-way crossing of paths, keep ahead towards the wood ahead, leaving the last of the vines on the right. Continue on the bridleway just inside the edge of Hawe's Wood, still going slightly uphill. At the top of the rise, follow the waymark sharp left, then shortly afterwards sharp right, passing the yellow signs warning that this is a working airfield. Where the bridleway meets a tarmac lane from the left, go ahead on the lane.
(8) Where the lane turns right, follow it, passing a sign for Flambirds Private Road and more yellow warnings. Go through the gate at the end, crossing the track in front of the entrance to Stow Maries Great War Aerodrome and take the footpath that is virtually opposite, walking alongside the airfield fence.
(9) After 200 yards, where there is a defunct stile in the fence, bear half left to follow a usually fairly distinct path that snakes its way towards a gate in the fence ahead. Go through the gate and at this junction of paths turn sharp left to follow the field edge and fence. At the corner of the field, go through the hedge and cross the footbridge, keeping ahead on another field edge path. Cross a second footbridge and again keep ahead along a field edge path. Although the term 'path' is used here, there is no real sign that this is a path - it's just the edge of the fields. Cross a third footbridge, cross the concrete track, and again keep ahead along the side of the field. Go into the next field, crossing the ditch between ash and oak, once again keeping straight ahead.
(10) At the end of this field, cross a fourth and final footbridge and follow the waymark through scrubland with a reservoir bank on the right. The path meets a wider grassy track at a large oak, go ahead and through a gap in the hedge - on the right, there is an attractive pond. There is no waymarking here - keep close to the hedge on the left through this private garden. On reaching a gate and Hackmans Lane, leave the garden to the left of the gate, cross the lane and take the fingerpost marked path opposite - St Peter's Way. Take the path directly ahead, between abandoned trucks on the left and hedge on the right, passing underneath telephone lines.
Follow the path along the field edge with a hedge on the right. Where the hedge ends, continue in the same direction to cross the field aiming for buildings and a (just visible) marker post. At the post (or the other side of the field if it has fallen down completely) do not go into the next field but turn right along the edge of the field and then left to meet Birchwood Road.
Turn right on the road and after a few yards, turn left, down Lodge Lane. Shortly after the entrance to Scotts Farm ignore footpaths left and right, continuing on the lane which begins to descend to the village. At the 30 MPH signs, immediately before the first building, turn right at the fingerpost for St Peter's Way, along another byway. The path doglegs right and left then curves left and begins to climb.
(11) Just before some black farm buildings on the left, look out for a partially obscured adjacent stile. Cross this into a horse paddock, heading diagonally right to a stile in the paddock corner. Cross the stile, going straight ahead to follow St Peter's Way ignoring paths on the left (marked) and unmarked (right). Disregard any side paths, keeping ahead on the wider grassy path. It enters a wooded area and emerges on to Chelmsford Road - the B1010.
(12) Cross the road entering into New Hall Vineyard over the footbridge opposite. The path originally went through the vines but now turns right, following waymarks at the edge of the field with the road on the right. At the last row of vines, with a concrete access road ahead, turn right up a low bank and carefully cross the B1010.
(13) Take the unmarked and undefined path directly ahead between vines, heading towards a large tree at the top of the rise (being a footpath, the width between these rows of vines is slightly wider than between adjacent rows). On meeting a hedge from the right, continue ahead. Looking back for a moment, there are splendid views of the Blackwater estuary. All Saints church tower can be seen ahead (I have been unable to find out why the weather-vane is a fish). Where the hedge bears left, cross into the grassy area beside a vineyard notice board, aiming for the opposite corner. Go through the hedge, down the steps and through a swing gate.
(14) Walk past the church, following the road to leave Church Hill and enter The Street. Pass The Bell and then just past it turn right at a fingerpost and post-mounted letterbox to follow familiar paving slabs to a double metal gate. Go through, follow the gravel path between the yew bushes and just after the church's south door, turn left on the indistinct path close to the Old Rectory fence. Go along Rigbys Path, cross the stile by the seat, retracing the route downhill and across the footbridge to the start. (D/A)
D/A : km 0 - alt. km 0
1 : km 1.39 - alt. km 1.39 - Cross the disused railway line
2 : km 2.25 - alt. km 2.25 - Three way split
3 : km 3.51 - alt. km 3.51 - St Stephens Road
4 : km 4.99 - alt. km 4.99 - Honey Lane
5 : km 5.78 - alt. km 5.78 - Start of the detour
6 : km 6.95 - alt. km 6.95 - End of the detour
7 : km 8.22 - alt. km 8.22 - Four way crossing
8 : km 9.26 - alt. km 9.26 - Flambirds Private Road
9 : km 9.74 - alt. km 9.74 - Disused stile
10 : km 11 - alt. km 11 - Private garden
11 : km 13.18 - alt. km 13.18 - Partially obscured stile
12 : km 13.99 - alt. km 13.99 - Vineyard
13 : km 14.29 - alt. km 14.29 - Vineyard
14 : km 14.78 - alt. km 14.78 - All Saints Church
D/A : km 15.32 - alt. km 15.32
Stow Maries Great War Aerodrome has Flying Days, when Footpath 3 - running alongside it - is closed; the published diversion is not really satisfactory for this walk. There were three closure days in 2019, in May and July. Check at : https://www.stowmaries.org.uk/whats-on
Unsafe Bridge: the bridleway/footpath is closed due to a privately owned bridge, that the path crosses, being in a dangerous condition. However, locals have created their own way around it that drops down from the trackbed, past the bridge, and up the embankment again. This is not too steep, but care needs to be taken. I am that walkers use this 'bypass'; I am just explaining that it exists. It is only a short way from the detour so it can easily be looked at and assessed.
Visorando and this author cannot be held responsible in the case of accidents or problems occuring on this walk.
The St Peter’s Way is a 45 mile walk (and pilgrimage) meandering through the countryside of Essex, from Chipping Ongar to the ancient chapel of St Peter-on-the-Wall at Bradwell on Sea. https://www.essexhighways.org/uploads/fi...
Stow Maries Great War Aerodrome was established in September 1916 during the First World War for the Royal Flying Corps. By 1919, the need for airfields lessened and Stow Maries was closed. The airfield buildings are still mostly intact, with the original windows still in place and were used to store grain and farm vehicles until 2008. The airfield is being restored to a state that it would have been found in 1919. It is open to the public - days and times vary according to the season - details at : https://www.stowmaries.org.uk
The Witham to Maldon branch line was opened in 1848. It was extended to Woodham Ferris (later Woodham Ferrers), opening for passengers on 1 October 1889. The extension was not commercially successful however, so it was closed to passenger traffic in 1939 and completely in 1953.
The Norton (formerly The Barge, The Railway) was saved as an asset for the village by Cold Norton residents who raised £130,000 to secure a mortgage. It reopened in 2009 as a community pub staffed by local volunteers. It was subsequently taken over as a private enterprise by the current landlords in 2016 and was an Essex Life magazine Family Dining Award 2018 finalist.
The Prince Of Wales is an attractive C17th weatherboarded pub which always features an excellent range of real ales and continental beers. It was opened in 1990 by the co-founder of Crouch Vale Brewery in South Woodham Ferrers. Since its opening the pub has gained a reputation not only for its range of beers but also for good food, log fires in the winter and good entertainment.
The Bell dates back to the 14th century. The traditional interior includes an open fire in a large inglenook and three heavily beamed dining areas. The pub has a reputation for good food and up to four ales are usually on offer. Allegedly, it was the home of George Washington’s great-great-grandfather, when he was rector of Purleigh church in the 1640s.
Please check for opening/food service times if planning to visit any of the pubs.
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