Stage 11 - Epping Station to Chipping Ongar (7.7 miles)
Start: Grid Reference TL4621601593 Post Code CM16 4HW StreetMap
If you just want to print out the "Route" instructions of stage 11 of this walk,
without all the blurb on the website, you can download this as a
Word Docx by clicking on the link.
If you just want to print out the "Route" instructions of stage 11 of this walk, without all the blurb on the website, you can download this as a Word Docx by clicking on the link.
From Epping Station, we follow the Essex Way for our whole route. Thru' fields and an ancient track to Coopersale Street, then across fields to Gernon Bushes Nature Reserve. Cross over the M11 and go in a straight line towards Toot Hill - this bit can be very muddy. Thru' Toot Hill village and fields to Greensted and onto Chipping Ongar. Two videos at YouTube, one by John Rogers and a second by voxley19, both cover this whole walk.
Start at the entrance to Epping Station. Turn right and after 50 yards turn right again to climb and cross a footbridge over the railway.
At Epping Station we join the Essex Way at its start, and follow it for 8.6 miles to just after the town of Chipping Ongar. It is marked with Essex Way discs with a logo of two red poppies.
On the front
wall of Epping Station is a
which commemorates the opening of the
in 1972. This is a long-distance path which stretches for 82 miles across the
county and finishes by the coast at Harwich. Each year in early September a 10
stage relay race "The
Essex Way Relay"
is held along the length of the path. It starts at Epping Station and finishes
at the Old Lighthouse at Harwich. The
website has an informative and pictorial guide to the
as a town has been important for many centuries. It is 17 miles north of
Through the years Epping was a place where important roads ran through. It became a staging point on the way to East Anglia and in the early 17th Century, when horse racing became popular in Newmarket, it also proved to be a stopping off point for Londoners on their way to the races. By the late 18th Century there were up to 16 coaching inns in the town. This may explain why the routes to and from Epping were popular with the notorious highwaymen who held up the coaches and robbed their wealthy inhabitants.
reached Epping in 1865 when the Eastern Counties Railway Company extended the
As you cross
over the footbridge, look down to your left to see the now
closed railway line
which used to take the London Underground on towards Ongar.
A video at YouTube, entitled
Ongar Railway, 1994. Last Train from Ongar",
shows the last journey on 30 September 1994.
A video at YouTube, entitled "Epping Ongar Railway, 1994. Last Train from Ongar", shows the last journey on 30 September 1994.
A wonderful old video from 1980, and filmed by the driver of the train, shows the journey from Epping to Chipping Ongar. The video last for 41 minutes. The first 15 minutes show the line to Ongar. The rest is the return journey back to Epping and onto Loughton.
footbridge leads to a residential road (Hillcrest Way). Follow Hillcrest Way to
a T-junction with Bower Hill. Turn right and go downhill for just 35 yards to a
sign for Bower Court on the opposite side. Cross over onto an enclosed footpath,
for a short distance follows an enclosed path and soon comes out into and across
an open field. Follow the path as it goes through a gap in the hedgerow into
another field and turns left. Continue gently downhill along the edge of the
field and eventually to a road (
isolated houses form a tiny hamlet called
Stewards Green. A few hundred yards further along the road is one of my
favourite place names, Fiddlers Hamlet. It's
basically a crossroads with a few houses and a 19th Century pub
Apparently, it has connections with Morris Dancers and people playing music on
violins (or fiddles) whilst enjoying a few beers
hence the name. There is also a small
next to the pub .
The track past the houses from Stewards Green is pleasant and enclosed on both sides with banks and trees and on maps is called Stewards Green Lane. The lane acts as a bridleway and is part of an ancient road from London to Newmarket. It is narrow and sometimes overgrown. A few years ago, it was used by the Epping Forest District Council in a team-building exercise where they cleared the lane of bramble, scrub and overgrown trees. I enjoy seeing local councils out doing hands-on work like this - they most probably enjoyed it too.
After 0.6 miles the track leads to the tiny village of Coopersale Street. At the junction turn right along Stonards Hill, signed Fiddlers Hamlet and Toot Hill and past the Theydon Oak Pub.
To the left
just before the pub, is the entrance to Houblons Hill. This road climbs up to
the village of Coopersale; on the way it passes
(17th Century) to its LHS, which has some interesting history. The
name of the road has connections to
Sir John Houblon,
Lord Mayor of
Coopersale Street is a small hamlet and conservation area consists of several old houses, the oldest being Coopersale Lodge which dates from the mid-15th Century. There are a few from the 16th Century and the inviting Theydon Oak Pub is 18th Century. As you can see from photos on the pub website one of the locals is singer, Rod Stewart. The website also suggests the pub maybe haunted by a quiet and non-interrupting ghost. Directly opposite the pub is "The Old Barn", 16th Century and now completely restored and converted to a private dwelling. Coopersale Lodge is the last house, on the right and just before where the road turns right. It is hidden behind trees but visible from the entrance to its drive. The house has a very interesting tree growth forming its front porch.
Coopersale Street (see entry at Wikipedia) Coopersale and Fiddlers Hamlet do seem to have lots of history to them, but there are only a few references on the Internet. One of the best I have found is a book written by Fred Brown (1918 - 2005) which is available at the Hudgell Family website.
180 yards after the Theydon Oak Pub, and immediately before the road turns right, turn left onto a footpath, by a wooden fence and just before a drive, signed Essex Way (at 1.4 miles).
The house to
the right of our path at this point was a former lodge of
Follow this path for 90 yards, eventually to and through a gap into a large field. Veer left and follow the path along the LHS of the field and for 300 yards into an even larger field. On entering the second field, bear left cutting off the corner of the field. On reaching the field edge, turn right to follow the path along the LHS of the field. Follow the path straight on through a wide gap and into a third large field. Stay straight on keeping along the LHS of the field and at the far corner and enter a wood.
The path along the edge of the above fields is elevated and gradually climbing with the fields dropping away gently to the right. However, because of their size there are good views to the right across the M11 motorway and into the distance.
Just before entering the wood is a carved wooden bench. This is a great spot to sit for a while after your long climb and enjoy the views. The wood is also a nature reserve and classified as a SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest).
Go through gap in the fence, then over footbridge and turn left, by way-marker. Continue straight on with ditch on LHS and woods on RHS (at 2 miles). Then over two footbridges and bear left up steps and along track.
At way-marker, next to noticeboard and with a kissing gate to the left, turn sharp right to follow track.
The woods form
part of the Gernon Bushes Nature
Reserve. It takes its name from Robert Gernon, Duke of Boulogne, who came over
Just outside the kissing gate a path leads through the car park of a nursery school to the road at the village Coopersale. Across the road the Old Rectory (now private) and just left of this is St Albans Church. The church was built in 1852 with lands and funds donated by Harriet Archer-Houblon who lived nearby at Coopersale House. She also funded the vicarage and provided the village with a school.
track leads past a school to your LHS and then to a kissing gate. Go through
kissing gate and stay right along the wooden fence at the south edge of a
cricket ground. At the end of the fence
down some steps and into the woods, then go straight on past a path to right.
At fork bear right, then eventually over a boardwalk and to a junction of paths.
At junction turn right and follow a wide bridleway to a footbridge over the M11 motorway. Cross the bridge and continue straight on, along a wide track with fields to the left and woods to the right. After 275 yards, and as the main track turns right, continue straight on along a bridleway with fields still to the left. Within a short distance this leads into a wood (Birching Coppice) and continues straight through for 0.8 miles - do not be tempted to turn away from this onto any other path.
Note: the whole route through here is along the Essex Way and it is well marked with circular discs containing two poppies. Also, as we walk along here, after a while, the wood's name changes to High Wood and then to Ongar Park Wood.
On leaving the wood (at 3.7 miles), the bridleway continues straight on through open fields, parts of which can be very muddy at times. Part of the route through here has been artificially elevated to keep it above the mud.
After exiting the woods, the route initially runs along a line of trees between fields. 175 yards along this line we cross the route of an old Roman Road that connected London to Dunmow. It ran in a north easterly direction, is marked on some maps and visible on Google Earth. However, I don't think it's visible on the ground.
The bridleway stays straight on for 0.65 miles to reach the edge of a small wood, to your RHS. Continue for 80 yards, then turn right thru a gap in the tress, signed Essex Way (DO NOT miss this or continue uphill towards the water tower).
Thru' trees, veer left to cross to gap in hedgerow. Then stay along LHS of field for 300 yards. At field corner cross a stile and follow path across paddock to reach road after 200 yards. Turn left along road (School Road), staying on the LHS.
village sign, on the
small green just 80 yards to the right. Just south of the village green and a
short distance along School Road is
Toot Hill Golf Club.
The golf course covers an area much larger than the village and claims to be one
of the most testing in
50 yards south of where we come out onto School Road is an old red phone box and post box. The red phone box has been purchased by Stanford Rivers Parish Council and turned into a tourist information kiosk.
There are some pleasant old cottages along the main road through the village and also a few large old houses and farms. One worth a mention is Rose Cottages. We pass it after 50 yards The pink house has an old red Post Office mail box built into the front wall as its letter box. I have spoken to the owner and, yes, they do sometimes have people use it as a post box. He does understand their mistake and always transfers the mail to the correct village post box.
Next door is The Green Man pub. It was originally a large house with stables at the rear (see link). Maybe at one time it was a coaching inn, but I can't seem to find a lot of information or even why it's named Green Man. According to Pub History it has been a pub since 1845. It also burnt down in 1896 and was rebuilt in 1907. It has a restaurant named The Courtyard, provides accommodation and is also home to the Toot Hill Folk Club. The pub sign has been changed in recent years. The older one depicted the leafy head of a green man above an image of Stonehenge. There are many pubs around the country named Green Man. They are usually connected with Robin Hood, outlaws who lived in forests, religious, pagan, witchcraft and druid traditions, with Roman Gods, life and rebirth or even ghosts. The area seems to suggest forest as this would have once been part of Epping Forest and earlier part of the extensive Forest of Essex. However, the older sign seems to suggest druids or something ancient because of the image of Stonehenge. Earlier, in stage 2 of our walk around London, we passed the old Ankerwycke Yew at Runnymede. Every time I visited the old yew it had many ribbons pinned to its trunk and, on research I know it has a witches' sect named after it, has connections with druids, religion and much more. I find it an intriguing subject, you can research it if you wish or just read the Green Man entry at Wikipedia.
Soon after the Green Man a road to the right leads to the small village hall. It looks to have potential, but on my few visits, I seen very little activity here.
Next are a few small late 20th Century housing developments, set back behind a communal green.
Soon to the left is Mill Lane. The windmill was next to T-junction. It was built in 1824, but five years later was badly damaged by lightning and the miller was seriously injured (read The Times Report from 24th June 1829). Some money was raised for him and his family, the mill was repaired and it continued to operate until 1900. It was struck by lightning again in 1910 and then was damaged by a fire in 1928. The locals eventually gave up on the mill and it was demolished in 1935. Very little sign of the mill remains today and Mill Place is built on the site. On my last visit (a few years ago) the then owner showed me some old metal weights sitting at the front of his house and as far as he knows this is all that remains of the windmill. Windmill World does have an old photo of the mill, but you need to scroll down at the link.
There are probably many famous people with connections to the village. One, Olly Murs, has become a very successful singer after finishing second in 2009 The X Factor.
Continue along the road (now Toot Hill Road) staying on the LHS as there is a grass verge. After 220 yards, and as the road turns sharp left (at 5 miles), turn right, past an entrance to a farm and onto a path, signed Public Footpath and finger-posted Essex Way.
One local resident, Olly Murs, has become a very successful singer after finishing second in 2009 The X Factor.
Across grass keeping the cottages / farm to your RHS and through a gap into a field and turn right along RHS of field for 35 yards. Turn right to cross footbridge, then immediately turn left and go east along LHS of field.
Go straight on for 160 yards with a wire fence to your RHS and hedgerow to your LHS. Cross over a footbridge, then a stile and follow the path straight on along the LH edge of another field. After 150 yards cross over stile then footbridge and stay straight on along LHS of fields for 750 yards (keep hedge on your LHS at all times).
Past farm to your RHS (Widows Farm). At fence corner stay on along path for 40 yards to way-marker. Turn left through wooden kissing-gate and go straight on along the LHS of four paddocks and metal curtain gates (lift clasp and close) there can be animals in fields - now going north.
After exiting the 4th paddock bear left downhill and after 40 yards turn left through a wooden kissing gate. Once through turn right along the RHS of a field for 170 yards to reach Greensted Road. Bear slightly left and cross road to fingerpost and cross footbridge past "Keep dogs on a lead" sign (DO NOT enter Greensted Wood Farm).
As you walk along here there is a small stream to your LHS and through the hedgerow is Greensted Wood Farm. It sits in the southwest corner of a small wood (Greensted Wood) mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086.
Follow the path straight on along the left-hand edge of three fields, and after 1,000 yards, at the far side of the third field, cross over a small footbridge onto a part concrete lane.
right along the lane for 100 yards to a converted barn. Stay straight on through
a gate and past the tasteful front doors of the cottages built in the
old barn. Do not be
tempted to go straight use the
farm track as it is
private property. The public right of way is through the forecourt in front of
Once past the barn go straight on along the lane past a large house and then an old wooden church. Immediately after the church turn left onto drive - public footpath signed Ongar and with signed Essex Way disc (at 6.8 miles).
village, hidden well off the beating track is called
Greensted, or to give its full name
Greensted-juxta-Ongar. In literal terms this means a settlement in a green area
(or clearing) adjoining Ongar
most likely a clearing in what was a huge forest at Epping. The large house just
after and behind the barn is
and the small wooden church immediately past it is
Although Greensted Hall dates back to at least Norman Times, the current one is mainly red-brick and that rebuilt by Alexander Cleeve between 1695 and 1700. In later years it has connections to other well-known people.
Julia Warren Farr
(1824 -1914) was born here as Julia Hutchinson. In 1846 she married George Henry
Farr, an Anglian clergyman. Through circumstances they immigrated to
resident of Greensted Hall was Gerard
Corley Smith (1909
1997). He was British ambassador to Haiti in 1960, but was expelled for his
Papa Doc Duvalier's
oppressive regime. His next post was British ambassador to
The Church of St Andrew's dates from c1053 AD, but research suggest earlier
churches on the site may date back to the 4th Century and there is
evidence of Roman occupation in the parish. It is the only Anglo-Saxon log
church still standing, is thought to be the oldest wooden church in the world
and the oldest wooden
It is recorded
body laid here overnight in 1013 on its way from
The church and
area are also connected to the Tolpuddle
Martyrs. They were a group of six agricultural labourers from Tolpuddle in
By 1836 they
had become heroes to the people of
they continued their trade union activities by forming a local
association. This did not go down very well with the wealthy
One of the martyrs, James Brine, was married in the church in 1839 and his name can be seen on the church register.
In 1844, due to
pressure from wealthy landlords and the local vicar, five of them moved to .
The old log church is really worth diverting the few tards to visit for a walk around the grounds. Every time I have visited it has been open and never ceases to amaze me. On one particular occasion, in July 2005, I came across two men replacing the tiles on the steeple, see photo. I spoke to the older of the two, his name was Peter Harknett. He was born in the early 1930s in London and at this time was the oldest steeplejack in the UK. The tiles he was using were oak, from trees blown down during the Great Storm of 1987. On adding to this section (2018), I see he's advertising his new book, "A Steeplejack's View of Life" by Peter Harknett.
For a short video, showing the exterior and interior of the church, see YouTube.
Go straight on for 45 yards and through a wooden gate in metal railings and through gap into a field. Follow path for 170 yards to north eastern corner. Go through gap and into a second field. Veer half left (barbed wire fence to RHS) and follow LHS of field for 200 yards. Exit field via kissing-gate and cross straight over lane to cross a footbridge into a large field.
Follow the obvious track straight on, gradually downhill and directly east. After half a mile go straight on over a concrete bridge over a stream and onto a lane (Bansons Lane) follow it straight past Sainsbury's and up to a T-junction with Chipping Ongar High Street.
If you look away to your left, as you cross the large field towards Chipping Ongar, you may catch a glimpse of a steam train puffing its way along the local heritage railway. I'll come back to this later.
right along the pavement for only a couple of yards, to the zebra crossing, in
front of Budworth Hall, where we finish the stage .
dates back to at least Saxon times and may be much older. An article in the
Independent on 10th
states a substantial Roman Road had been uncovered in Leyton. Research suggests
the road stretched north east from
Most of the
town is now designated a
and contains over 100 listed buildings. There are many old buildings on the High
Street and it's
a delight to see it's
not overcrowded with multi-national shops, like most high streets throughout the
rest of the
the right at the junction of Bansons Lane and the High Street is
It was built in 1886 as a public hall for the recreation of the people and as a
memorial to Captain Budworth, a local Justice of the Peace. The clock on the
tower was added in 1887 to celebrate Queen
originally a Saxon settlement in the middle of a
an area of land which supported 100 families. Ongar Great Park, to the west of
the town, is the oldest recorded park in England, first mentioned in an
Anglo-Saxon will of 1015. It is known there was a Saxon fortification here from
before the Norman Invasion of 1066. The town was protected by Crispey Brook to
the west and the River Roding to the east. At the time of the Domesday Book it
was recorded as being owned by Eustace, Earl of Boulogne. In the 12th
Century the manor was gifted by the King Henry II to Richard de Lucy, Lord Chief
The mound was surrounded with water and had a wooden "keep" on its top. The keep was a lookout point and was the last line of defense if attacked. It was protected by an inner "bailey" on its west and a larger kidney shaped outer bailey on its east. Either the keep or inner bailey would have housed the Lord of the Manor and his family. The baileys also housed knights and servants, and would have had a kitchen, workshops, stables and possibly a church. The ditches around the motte and baileys were filled with water and they were connected by drawbridges. Outside the castle was the town with its traders, potters, blacksmiths, weavers, brewers, bakers, builders, and ordinary people (or peasants). The whole settlement was enclosed by a surrounding ditch.
For ordinary people, the small farmers, most tradesmen, and all their families, even monks and priests, times were hard. Today these are equivalent to your carpenters, electricians, plumbers, builders, small businessmen, nurses, lower ranks of the emergency forces and white-collar workers who can afford to live in nice houses. There was no going to your local supermarket to stock up on food. Meals such as breakfast and lunch (then called dinner) usually consisted of stale bread and hard cheese washed down with weak ale (water was not safe to drink). Supper in the evenings was a hot bowl of a crude vegetable and oat stew called pottage and if you were very lucky it may contain some meat. Sometimes people even went for days without eating because they could not afford it. There was no birth control and if you had more children than you could afford feed, new born babies were often left in the forests to die at the hands of wolves or foxes. Most people worked from daybreak to dusk to feed their families. The houses were basic (if you were lucky enough to have one) usually made from mud, timber and straw with a hard bed of rushes to sleep on. There were no toilets and diseases flourished and killed many, even the young and strong. Underwear was not part of the clothing, not even wonder bras, thongs or boxer shorts. Over garments were your only clothes and these didn't get washed very often. Women were not respected like they are today and children had no rights apart from those granted to them by their kin. Brothels were more common than ale houses, but condoms did not exist. It usually meant the girls and women who occupied them were well fed and could sleep in a soft bed, but their life expectancy was short. You could say the Lord of the Manor ruled the roost. He controlled the gaming writes to the forest, the rivers and lakes and if you wanted to do anything yourself you either paid taxes to make it legal or were punished severely if you were caught doing it illegally. The only charity came from monasteries where monks may let you in just before dark, give you some stale bread and weak beer, a roof over your head, a hard floor crowded with many others to sleep on and kick you out at daybreak. The common people were basically owned by the Lord and in many instances were not even allowed to leave the town without his permission. On the other hand, the "well-born" and wealthy ate to excess. Their meals were long lasting and always extravagant with various meats and fishes, fresh bread and the best vegetables washed down by good quality beers and wines. The leftovers ware usually fed to their pets or thrown in the rubbish. The servants were not allowed to finish off what was left, yet they did out of view of their masters, but were punished if caught.
Ongar was now a very important site. It levied its own taxes, administered the laws for the district and had its own market. The first recorded mention of the market was in 1287, but this is believed to be the successor of a previous market going back to Saxon times. In medieval times part of the High Street was widened to accommodate the market, a feature which it still retains today.
The castle buildings were demolished in the 16th Century and a stone mansion was built on top of the mound. This was demolished in 1744, but the "motte", "bailey" and ditches from Norman times are still well preserved and although most of the site is on private property and partly overgrown by trees, there is a path around two sides of it making it easy to view these old earthworks. An information board behind the library and next to the path has a map and aerial view of original Norman castle and town. VisitEppingForest.org has a section entitled Medieval Ongar and is well-worth a visit.
Just past Budworth Hall and on the same side of the High Street are the King's Trust Cottages. They are named after Joseph King, a local property owner. A plaque on the front states:
"JOSEPH KING (died 28th FEBRUARY, 1679) left this row of properties in Trust to provide out of the rents schooling for poor people of the Parish. The Trustees continue to use the income for educational purposes".
death the cottages were used for teaching and it was not until 1846 when a
purpose-built school was completed.
To read more about Chipping Ongar see the start of the next stage.
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