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Stage 12 - Chipping Ongar  to  Hutton Village  (12.15 miles) 

Start: Grid Reference TL5524903127 Post Code CM5 9JG StreetMap

If you just want to print out the "Route" instructions of stage 12 of this walk, without all the blurb on the website, you can download this as a Word Docx by clicking on the link.

ROUTE DESCRIPTION

We take in the history of Chipping Ongar and continue to follow the Essex Way for a mile, before leaving it for one last time. Then follow St Peter's Way, via fields. thru' High Ongar, onto Blackmore and for another mile, then leave it to follow Beggar Hill to Fryerning. Thru' the village & across fields to Mountnessing. Past Begrums water tower, thru' fields & over a railway. A short walk thru' a housing estate & an industrial estate to enter Hutton Nature Reserve to soon finish at Hutton Village. Some parts of this route can get muddy.

If you wish to read the first part of the write up on the history of Chipping Ongar, read the last few paragraphs of the previous stage.

From Budworth Hall, cross over High Street using the zebra crossing. Once across turn right along the pavement and through what is the oldest part of the street.

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".

Shortly after King's death the cottages were used for teaching and it was not until 1846 when a purpose-built school was completed. 

Going south along the High Street there are many old buildings with one or two narrow side streets breaking off to the left and containing some strange shaped houses and shops. All in all, it gives a feeling of a well preserved, ancient and bustling small town.

The town was at the junction of many old roads and during the coaching era was an important staging point for travellers from London to East Anglia. It was because of its position and its transport links why the town grew. The phrase below is from Essex Council records.

"Chipping Ongar appears to have become a significant staging-point for travellers in the early post-medieval period, and by 1686 there was within the town accommodation for 71 people and 104 horses. The taxation data for 1801 records a population of 595, rising in 1841 to a population of 870. However the main period of growth has been as a commuter town in the second half of the 20th Century." 

This explains the many old pubs and coaching inns along the High Street. The oldest is thought to be The Cock Tavern dating from 1580. The King's Head was built in 1679, is said to be haunted, and there are records of a coach departing from the inn daily from 1848. The inn no longer provides overnight accommodation and until recently organised its own ghost evenings.

The railway reached Ongar on 1st April 1865. It was a single-track branch line from Epping. Steam trains continued to run up to the 1950s when the line was taken over by London Transport and electrified in 1957. Ongar was on the Central Line and was the most north easterly station on the London Underground. Due to low passenger numbers the line was closed on 30th September 1994. Some of the tracks near Epping were lifted but most stayed in place. On 10th October 2004, ten years after the line closed trains were once again running from Ongar. This was thanks to the restoration carried out by members of the Epping Ongar Railway Volunteer Society. The railway was mainly for recreational and educational purposes with vintage DMU (Diesel Multiple Unit) trains running hourly on Sundays and Bank Holidays (except in winter) from 11am to 4pm to North Weald and Coopersale. The railway changed hands in 2007 with the new owner committed to bring steam back to the line. Since then there has been many upgrades, steam-engines have been re-introduced. The line has been extended to just short of Epping Underground Station and vintage bus services to some local towns and to Epping Station have been introduced. Unfortunately, the line cannot be extended the extra couple of hundred yards to Epping, but there are plans to build a new station named Epping Glade. In 2012 the society's work featured in a BBC Essex news article. You can also read more at Wikipedia, at Epping Ongar Railway or watch some of the videos available on YouTube. One interesting paragraph on the railway's website states:

"All distances on the Underground are still measured from Ongar. The change happened in 1972 when the station's location in relation to all the other lines meant it was suitable for selection as a 'datum' or reference point for these measurements. In some way Ongar Station is the 'Greenwich Meridian of the Underground'. There's a London Underground distance marker mounted by the buffer stops showing the starting distance of 0.0km and you will see other similar signs along the side of the track."

Near the bottom of the High Street are Livingstone Cottages. David Livingstone (1813 - 1873) was a Scottish missionary and explorer. He came to Chipping Ongar with Joseph Moore (afterwards a missionary in Tahiti) in 1838 to study with the Rev. Richard Cecil. During their time here, they resided at the cottages. A plaque over the central passageway states "in this room Dr David Livingstone lived in 1838 just before proceeding to his great work in Africa". Livingstone enjoyed walking and on one occasion is recorded as walking all the way to London and back in a day. A circular walk around the Parishes of Ongar and Stanford Rivers is named after him and a guide to the walk is available from the local parish council. I have been unable to find a copy of the guide, but using the information at Essex Life, I have drawn what should be a close representation of the route.

Other famous residents of the town included the "Taylors of Ongar". The Rev. Isaac Taylor moved here with his family in 1811. He was pastor of the local Congregational Church (now the United Reformed Church), at the bottom of the High Street, until his death in 1829. For the first three years of his stay he lived with his wife Ann, their two daughters Jane & Ann and son Isaac at Castle House, before moving to a farm nearby. They were accomplished in many fields, but especially in literature, their children being famous for nursery rhymes and children's stories. The most well-known of their works is "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" written by Jane. The parents and Jane are buried under the floor of the church and there is a memorial to each of them.

Father Thomas Byles was Rector of St Helen's Catholic Church from 1905 until 1912. He was to go to New York to conduct his brother's wedding. He left for America on the Titanic, but like over 1,500 others, perished when the ship hit an ice-burg in the North Atlantic at 11.40pm on 14th April 1912 and sank 2 hours and 40 minutes later. On the day of the accident he had conducted services for many of the less wealthy passengers. According to some of the 700 survivors he died a hero, helping other onto the lifeboats, giving up his own place and comforting the dying.  He was characterised in both the 1979 movie S.O.S. Titanic and the blockbuster 1997 Titanic movie. His body was never recovered and a door was installed at the church by his brothers as a memorial to Father Byles. There is also a blue plaque to the priest on the wall of Ongar Station.

The Parish Church of St Martin of Tours is the oldest surviving building in the town with the chancel and naves dating from the 11th Century. It is built of flint and has Roman bricks and tiles in its walls. In Medieval times a hermit was enclosed for life in the walls and his window, overlooking the altar, can still be seen. The foundations of a Roman building are said to have been dug up in the churchyard and inside is a black marble slab which marks the grave of Jane Pallavicini (died 1637), a cousin of Oliver Cromwell. There is also a 15th Century font which was dug up in the garden of a local house and restored to the church in 1963. The church website has a very detailed history and some good photographs.

To read an in-depth and factual history of the town, the archaeological diggings and the people of Chipping Ongar visit the Essex County Council website and download the council's Historic Towns Assessment Report of 1999. The Ongar Town Council website is also well worth a visit.

On the History House website there is an incredible story taken from a newspaper dated 31st December 1823. It tells how a local man led his wife into the market, exposed her, and auctioned her to the highest bidder. She was sold for 10 shillings, from which he had to pay the auctioneer's fee. However, it doesn't say why the man would carry out such a deed.

Two miles south east of the town, just off the A128, hides one of Britain's darkest secrets - the government's secret nuclear bunker at Kelveden Hatch. It was to be the focal point from where the country was run from in the aftermath of a nuclear war. However, with the ending of the "Cold War" it has become a tourist attraction and is now open to the public.

After 150 yards and just before large round Ongar sign, turn left signed Essex Way. Then right and onto a path past the Parish Church of St Martin of Tours. At road (Castle Street) turn left.

It's at the church where we join another long distance path, St Peter's Way, (see way-marker disc).  This starts here and runs for 45 miles to the ancient Chapel of St Peter-on-the Wall at Bradwell on Sea. You can download a leaflet of the walk at Essex County Council.

We follow St Peter's Way for 1.65 miles, to Westland Springs. We rejoin it, 1.75 miles later, at Paslow Common Farm and then follow it for over 3 miles to Beggar Hill. The first 6 minutes and 20 seconds of a video at YouTube, entitled "St Peter's Way: Chipping Ongar to Margaretting", shows the parts of the route where we follow St Peter's Way.

After 70 yards, go through wooden kissing gate (next to old lamp post marked "Spring Meadow"), and onto a footpath signed Essex Way. Follow the path past Castle House, and then as it veers right and gradually left around what was the outer bailey of the castle.

Castle House was built in 1542 in the castle grounds. Through the trees to the left of the path is part of the old moat (still filled with water) to the right is a large open field. There are also views of the other earthworks of the Norman castle.

The path soon leads to a small open area with outbuildings on the right. Turn left past the entrance to Castle Farm, then right along a wide, straight and fenced off track between fields.

A path to the left, just as the track straightens, leads around the northern edge of the Norman Motte & Bailey Castle. It gives the best views of the old earthworks and leads to the car park behind the town library, on the High Street almost directly opposite Budworth Hall. In the car park there is a sign giving information and a map of the remains of the Norman Castle.

You can read an detailed history of Chipping Ongar by visiting British History Online.

Follow the wide track for 180 yards, then right past a children's playground and cricket pitch to its left. After another 100 yards the track turns left and eventually leads through a gap into an open field with a housing development to the left.

Turn right and go along the edge of the field and gradually downhill to the bottom corner. Go straight on through a gap into a large open meadow.

At this point the Essex Way turn left and departs for the final time on its way to the coast at Horwich. It has been a good servant and it has helped make our route possible.

After going through the gap follow the path as it veers slightly right and downhill to a footbridge over the River Roding (at 1 mile). Once over the bridge follow the path straight on, leading uphill and across the common. In 400 yards the path leads to and through trees, then up steps and out onto small common with houses opposite. Turn left along the grass (keeping the common and the houses to the right) and after 200 yards along a path between houses to a road (Mill Lane) at High Ongar.

High Ongar is much smaller than Chipping Ongar and our route only passes through the southern edge of it. The main part of the village is a short distance to the left along Mill Lane. Once again, much of the village is designated a Conservation Area and is built around the 12th Century Grade 1 listed parish church of St Mary the Virgin. Immediately east of the church is a late 16th Century timber-framed building called "Post Office Cottages". It is thought to have originally been built as a rectory, at one time it had a "lock-up" and is now divided into three cottages. The village has two pubs the Red Lion (17th Century and now a restaurant) and The Foresters Arms (18th Century). There are many other old buildings of note within the village.

To read more about High Ongar visit British History Online and the entry on Wikipedia.

At Mill Lane turn right for 60 yards, then turn left to cross over and go through a gap in the hedge, next to a small electricity sub-station and into a large field. Turn half right to follow a path across the field.

The field is huge, and the path seems to go on forever. However, thanks to the local farmer for keeping the paths through it well maintained and wide. I just wish all farmers would be as thoughtful so people on foot would not have to fight their way through, possibly causing them to veer from the paths and as a consequence get lost and thread on the crops.

On reaching the opposite side of the field, follow the path straight on through some trees and to a wide track.

This long, narrow wood of ash and hornbeam is a local nature reserve, named Westlands Spring. The name probably explains why there are a couple of small ponds hidden in the wood to our left.

It's at this point we divert from St Peter's Way. We turn left along the wide track / bridleway, whilst St Peter's goes straight ahead across the fields. The reason, I chose the route I did was I thought it was more well-defined, making it easier to follow. However, we will rejoin it in 1.75 miles, at Paslow Common Farm. 

Turn left along the lane (marked bridleway on OS maps) for 0.75 miles, then right and left around the back of the farm buildings at Paslow Hall. A few yards after the last building (at 2.5 miles), and immediately past a pond, turn right onto a wide track / bridleway.

After another 140 yards follow the main path / bridleway across crop fields for 350 yards and then with a hedgerow to your LHS. 85 yards later veer slightly left onto an enclosed track which soon leads to a field. Stay straight on along the RHS of the field for 470 yards to the southern corner. Go straight on along what seems to be an ancient wooded track for 400 yards and out past a house onto a road (Nine Ashes Road). Cross straight over and follow the lane into Paslow Common Farm. The route has now re-joined St Peter's Way. It is signed by circular discs with an inverted crucifix and cross keys. 

On approaching the farm buildings, the lane divides in two. Veer slightly right keeping the farm buildings to your LHS. Soon veers left to the back of the buildings (DO NOT follow a bridleway going straight on / right). Here turn left behind a long farm building and with fields to your RHS. At the end of the buildings turn 90 degrees right onto a narrow path across the fields and directly towards the spire of Blackmore church in the distance. NOTE: At this point it's tempting to take a track made by the farmerís vehicles just to the right, but the spire of Blackmore Church in the distance shows the correct direction.

The small hamlet of Paslow Common once had a beer house called the White Horse. It was just south along Nine Ashes Road from Paslow Common Farm. However, it appears to have burnt down just under one hundred years ago. Next to the beer house was a pub named the Black Horse. This closed around 2002 and is now a private house.

There is an old story about a local resident, John Maryon, born here in 1825 and later a keeper of the White Horse ale-house on Blackmore History.

After 340 yards the path crosses a footbridge, then runs next to a deep ditch on your LHS (be careful not to fall in). Then in another 350 yards turns right with the path, along a line of isolated trees. After another 70 yards turn left over a wooden footbridge and straight on across a large crop field to Blackmore.

Be wary as sometimes this path is very overgrown, even above head height, but from experience it is dead straight after the bridge and you can get through.

At the opposite side of the field the path comes out onto and enclosed path, then a lane (Green Lane) and soon to a T-junction with a road (Blackmore Road). Turn left along Blackmore Road and after 140 yards (and immediately before Meadow Rise to your LHS), turn right to cross over the road and through a gap in the hedgerow to follow a path straight on across a common. 

On approaching the trees, at the opposite side of the common, veer left at fork of paths (at 4.5 miles). Then after 50 yards, right through trees to a lane past the church (on your RHS). On reaching the lychgate to the church follow the road left (Church Street). 

Blackmore name means black marsh (or swamp) due to the black clay it is built on, although it does have associations with the "Black Death". In 1349 the plague hit Essex and Blackmore is recorded as the most affected village. Of its 450 inhabitants at the time two thirds were killed by the disease.

The Church of St Lawrence dates from the 12th Century and has one of the finest 15th Century timber bell towers in England. It is unique in having three layers to the tower. Behind it are the remains of a 12th Century Augustine priory. This was one of the first monastic establishments to be dissolved by Henry VII. The adjoining Jericho Priory is built on the site of a 16th Century house. The house is associated with the saying "Go to Jericho" as it was used by Henry VIII as a country retreat and Jericho is where his servants said he was going to when he was coming here to visit his long-time mistress Elizabeth Blount (born 1502). She was the daughter of Sir John Blount of Shropshire and a maid of honour to Henry's first wife Katherine of Aragon. There are no pictures of her but all accounts said she was very beautiful. It was at Blackmore on 18th June 1519 where she gave birth to Henry's natural son and the only illegitimate child whom he recognised, Henry Fitzroy, 1st Duke of Richmond. Fitzroy was adored by his father and married Mary Howard, daughter of the 3rd Duke of Norfolk in 1533 at the young age of 14. However, he also died very young and just a few days after his 17th birthday on 24th June 1536. If he had lived he would have probably become king. Although, Elizabeth Blount married a few years after her affair with Henry VIII, the king still kept an eye on her welfare up to her death in 1540.

The Blackmore Area Local History website has lots more information on the history of the village. It somewhat contradicts the story of Henry VIII meeting his mistress in the village, but does recognise his illegitimate son was born here. It suggests that when Elizabeth became pregnant, she was sent here to be away from the eyes of the royal court, to rest and to give birth to Henry's son.

Church Street is long and narrow, stretching from the centre of the village to the church. This was the approach road to the old priory and it still gives a feeling of being sent back hundreds of years in time with all the old houses looking over the street and some of them even over-hanging. 

To the right, approaching the northern end of Church Street, is The Bull Inn (presently closed). It was built around 1385 and is a fine example of a medieval building. It has a wealth of exposed beams, a priest hole and escape tunnels left over from the time of the Reformation. It is said to be haunted by at least three ghosts with sightings claimed by many customers and staff over the years.

Swan House, at the entrance to Church Street, and immediately north of The Bull, is a great example of pargeting with lots of decorations of nursery rhyme characters all over the white walls. This practice is very common in Essex and the neighbouring county of Suffolk.

The centre of the village has many interesting old buildings, and a mile to the north is Fingrith Hall.

On exiting Church Street, cross over and turn right along the pavement (The Green).

Fingrith Hall Lane (which we don't follow) goes north from The Green and after a mile leads to Fingrith Hall. The Manor of Fingrith dates back to at least Norman Times and is mentioned in the Domesday Book as "Phingearia". At the time the main settlement in the area was concentrated around the manor, but this seems to have moved with the building of the Augustine priory and the growth of the current village around it. A Medieval hall built on the site of Fingrith manor was once home to Sir Walter Mildmay (c1520 - 1589), Chancellor of the Exchequer to Queen Elizabeth I and founder of Emmanuel College at Cambridge.

Blackmore has two greens. One directly north of Church Street is called The Green, is in the shape of a small square and is the centre of the village. The Leather Bottle pub dominates its north side, with The Prince Albert pub and a few old houses to its south. For a village it's not bad, you have three old pubs within less than 100 yards of each other. The post office is on the west of The Green, up until recently, had all its traditional parts, but like so many others, has now been closed and services moved to the nearby village store. The old post office really was the icing on the cake for the centre of this picturesque village. I feel it's a shame when historic things like this are lost to what is claimed to be progress.

A few yards east of The Green is the second green. This time it's larger, is partially dissected by the road and still called The Green. The war memorial is on the corner, to your right. Soon after this are the ancient stocks where locals were shackled to punish them for their transgressions.  A few yards later, a comical warning says "Slow Ducks Crossing". There are two village ponds, just afterwards, one on each side of the road. I presume the ducks walk from one pond to the other as it's a short distance for them to fly. The village sign sits behind the duck sign.

There is a lot going on here and it does make a lovely scene. The main part of this green is to the right. There are many benches around the green and the pond, plus some picnic tables.  The pond to the left takes up most of that side, and is fronted by houses and the road. Both ponds are surrounded by trees and are connected under the road. You'd think, if the ducks could hold their breath, it would be more sensible to swim under the road. Plus, if you are thinking about this, well yes, there is another Slow Ducks Crossing sign, by the road, just after the ponds and pointing in the opposite direction.

Each year, at the late May Bank Holiday, the village also holds the popular Blackmore Village Fayre which is attended by thousands of people.

It's no surprise that, between 1982 and 2003, Blackmore has been voted "Best Kept" village in Essex at least seven times. However, by loosing the Bull Inn and the old post office, this maybe more difficult to win in future.

You can read more about Blackmore at Wikipedia and at the Blackmore Conservation Area Appraisal.

On reaching the T-junction (with Chelmsford Road), turn left for 40 yards, then turn right to cross the road and onto a footpath directly away from the road and across a crop field. The path is St Peters Way and is signed by an inverted crucifix and crossed keys on a red circular disc. These discs can be used as a guide for the next mile to the hamlet of Beggar Hill.

Follow the path directly across the field for 350 yards to the other side, then through a gap and straight on along the LHS of a second field. After another 300 yards the hedgerow turns left to form a corner and thus widening the field to the left. Go straight on across this opened area of field to reach the LH hedgerow after 220 yards. Turn left through a gap in the hedgerow into a third field and go directly across it, passing a large pond surrounded by trees in the middle of the field.

On reaching the other side of the field, turn right along a wide track / path with the hedgerow to your LHS. Follow this for 570 yards, then along the edge of a wood to your LHS (at 6 miles) and a large house (Stoney Lodge) with a pond to your RHS.

Continue along what is now the drive to Stoney Lodge to a set of large white gates. Cross the stile, next to the gates and then straight on along the road.

After exiting the gates to Stoney Lodge the road crosses over an old green lane / bridleway going off on both sides in a straight line. Mapletree Lane dates back many hundreds of years, possibly even to Roman times or before, as suggested by the Archive.org link below. It also suggests this was one of the ancient main routes through here connecting Ingatestone and Fryerning to Blackmore and further afield. 

After 500 yards stay straight on past a road, signed Blackmore, to your RHS.

Just few yards after we pass this road is where we part company with St Peter's Way, for the last time as it turns left to follow a path away from the road.

Follow the road (Beggar Hill) for almost a mile to a T-junction with Mill Green Road in the centre of the village of Fryerning.

Beggar Hill is a quiet narrow road with quaint old, Arts & Crafts and large new houses scattered along it. According to Visitor UK:

"Beggar Hill is supposed to have got its name from the 'men of the road' who used it on their way to St Leonards where they would be given a meal and a night's lodging. Blanket Hall, for years known as Fryerning Grange, was so named because these men would call there for a blanket."

The walk along Beggar Hill is pleasant with some great views across green belt fields. However, be careful as there is no pavement and there are some hills. On the way look out for some old street furniture and other little quirks. There's an old red phone box, next to a red mail box and in front of a small pond, an old weather-boarded beer house, stories of smugglers, ghosts, ancient industries and long-gone pubs.

I could say I have found very little information on Beggar Hill, but I have found a lot. It's just difficult to make sense of it all. This lane is very narrow, a backwater, but over time there seems to have been a lot going on here. An old book at Archive.org entitled "Ingatestone and the Essex Great Road with Fryerning" has a lot of history on Beggar Hill, Fryerning and Ingatestone. It's a long read, extending to almost 500 pages, but I'll refer to it a few times below.

The link above is to a book published in 1913. It refers to many old pubs in the Beggar Hill / Fryerning area. One called the Boot is referred to as:

"Boot. From an artistic point of view we must lament the departure of this old house. It stood at the end of Beggar Hill, and was pulled down a few years ago by Mr. E H Sikes, who, after leaving the site to air for a while, built two, more commodious if less picturesque, cottages upon it. In the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries it was a house much frequented by smugglers, who brought their goods here, "from the water" - whether the Thames or the Crouch I cannot say. Not only the men's tobacco and spirits were smuggled in those days, but the ladies' tea and laces, and many other things, the result of heavy duties then levied. Far from the village, with tracks to Mill Green and through Howletts Hall and Maple Tree Lane, it was a convenient spot in which to conceal and disperse their goods. Moreover, the woods close by would have afforded hiding-places when the excisemen were on the smugglers' tracks; I cannot help thinking that the white ghost, which I am told frequented at one time the hollow just beyond the old inn, was a very useful ally of the illegal traders. The house ceased to be an inn many years ago, and was for a time a little shop, and later on it was occupied by two cottages. I regret that I never photographed this interesting though decayed old building before it was pulled down, but it is only lately I have learned its past history from Mr. Osborn."

There are probably many more stories to Beggar Hill. This old narrow road probably hides a lot of tales. However, I hope you enjoy the walk along here. On approaching the T-junction look right through the hedgerow and you can catch a glimpse of the old 13th century barn behind Fryerning Hall. We'll pass there soon.

A T-junction, turn right along Mill Green Road, signed Ingatestone & Blackmore. After 175 yards stay straight on past a road signed Ingatestone to your LHS. Soon Mill Green Road becomes Blackmore Road. 

From Saxon Times up to 1889 Fryerning was once a parish in its own right but then merged with Ingatestone to form the Parish of Ingatestone and Fryerning. Today it is classified as a village with Beggar Hill a small hamlet just north west. Both places are well spread out and built on green belt. Most of the properties are very private and well hidden from the narrow roads through the village. Some are occupied by professional footballers and first-class cricketers. Apparently, Fryerning is the most expensive village in Essex to buy a house and one of the top ten in the UK.

There are a couple of explanations as to where the name Fryerning is derived. From late Roman times to early Norman times some of the lands around this part of Essex were known as "Gings" or "Ings". The words come from a group of Saxons from mainland Europe who came across c.5th or 6th Century and lived by cultivating the land. The words "Ging" and "Ing" meant meadow or pasture, but could also mean part of, son of, or a possession or property. The Fryers (friar) may relate to the Knights Hospitaller of St Johns Jerusalem who owned the area in Medieval Times, but it could also mean earlier Saxon friars. When the Knights owned the area, in what is now Fryerning, it was called Ging Hospital. In ancient records other parts of the local area were referred to as Ings or Gings. In total there were six parishes: Fryerning (Friars' Ing, Ingatesone (Ing by the stone), Mountnessing (Mountney's Ing, or land belonging to Mountney), Ingrave (Ing belonging to Ralph), etc. It all sounds a bit convoluted but I'm sure the explanation is in there somewhere. The name of the village was only changed to Fryerning during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I (1558 - 1603).

The Knights were gifted the church and lands here by Gilbert de Montfichet in 1167. According to "Ingatestone and the Essex Great Road with Fryerning":

"He gave it so as to ensure prayers being said for the soul of his father William, who had died many years before, and the soul of his mother yet alive. He gave the manor, but retained the outer woods called Westfrid for himself and his heirs. His son Richard confirmed the gift."

We came across Gilbert, earlier in our walk around London, at Runnymede. It was just across the River Thames from there, where he founded the Benedictine Priory of Ankerwycke c.1150.

To understand why a Norman lord kept the forests for himself you need to go back to that time. Much of the wealth came from there. The wood in the trees, the deer and other animals who lived there. They provided the timber for construction and the food for the king's and the wealthy noble's tables. For ordinary people caught stealing from the forests the punishment was severe. Again, from the book above:

"The soil of the forest was sometimes in the hands of the Crown and sometimes in the hands of private owners; but any case the right of the forest "vert and venison" as it was called, was in the hands of the Crown. The forest laws were very severe. For chasing a royal stag "till it panted" a free-man was imprisoned for a year, and a serf for two years; for killing a stag or roe, the penalty was the loss of an eye. The "vert" was the trees. There were strict laws as to cutting wood; for cutting it unlawfully a man was fined the value of the horse and cart, used in carrying away the spoil. For cutting an oak "or a tree which bears fruit for deer" the fine was 20s. Hawthorn, crab, and holly were included in "vert". Courts were held in forests to try the various cases. The archbishops, bishops, earls and barons might take a deer when they travelled through the king's forest, but the must sound a horn to let the forester what they were doing, "so as not to appear like a thief". Permission was often given to enclose and cultivate part of the forest land; this permission was called a licence to assart. Such pieces were not fenced off in any way at first, but in 1221 the order was given to make ditches and fences round, or the king would take the piece of land back. The Knights Hospitaller licence to enclose their woods at Ginges, That is Fryerning, in 1230."

The Knights Hospitaller held this land up until 1540. After the English Reformation, and during the Dissolution of the Monasteries, they refused to take an oath of allegiance to Henry VIII. All their lands were confiscated by the Crown. Some of the Knights were put to death, some were imprisoned, whilst many of the rest escaped to Malta.

The village has two pubs, the Woolpack (closed) passed on-route, and The Cricketers to the north on Mill Lane. Mill Lane also has an old windmill, but now obscured from view in the gardens of Mill House. The mill dates from 1759 and has a few stories to tell. In 1774 a local farmer died after being struck by the sails. Another incident took place in 1852 when the miller got struck by and caught on the sails. He endured at least ten revolutions before being rescued. He was lucky to get away with just a fractured thigh. The mill stopped working in 1905. However, although hidden away, in recent years owners of Mill House have worked on restoring the mill. 

As you walk along Mill Green Road, soon to your RHS is a long pond and immediately after is Fryerning Parish Room. Just past this, and over a wall, is a larger pond. One of the characteristics of the area is the large number of ponds. They seem to be everywhere. Their origins relate to old industries such as mills, brick-making, beer-brewing, tanneries, fisheries, etc. They are fed by small streams, by springs and by rain.

Next to the junction of Mill Green Road and Fryerning Lane is the Woolpack pub. It closed a few years ago and has been converted to a house. According to "Ingatestone and the Essex Great Road with Fryerning" published 1913 (page 331):

"The present Woolpack, Mr. Stewart says, was called the Maypole. It is reputed to be an ancient alehouse, dating back, according to some, "as long as beer has been drunk, according to others, to 1100...

The Maypole was a very likely name for an inn in that position, adjoining the little green where the Whit-Wednesday fair is still held, and where the May Day celebrations would have certainly have taken place..."

The small green opposite the Woolpack is triangular shaped. It is referred to as The Green, Fryerning Green and also Church Green. It is surrounded by three roads, dominated by a large oak tree, has a bench, the village sign and each of the three corners has an old finger-post. According to The Essex Field Club,

"Fryerning Green is a small triangular patch of grassland - about 50 yards long on each side - that directs traffic either to Blackmore, on the left, or Mill Green and Highwood on the right.

The fine oak tree .., which dominates the Green, is younger than it looks. It was in fact planted in 1936 to commemorate the coronation of King Edward V111, so is just under eighty years old. The late Charlie Cox, who was a boy at the time, told me that there was a bit of a fuss as it was not an English bred oak but imported from abroad, where I'm not sure, possibly Spain. It is certainly a little unusual as the branches sweep down - almost touching the ground in places - before curving skywards towards the tip and they form a deeply shaded canopy that covers a good two thirds of the green. It is a magnificent specimen for what in terms of oak longevity is a mere adolescent. It has a long way to catch up with the oldest oak in the parish - in the grounds of nearby Fryerning Hall... Legend has it that it was mentioned in the Domesday Book but Mark Hanson measured it at 26` round the trunk, which suggests an infancy dating back to Elizabethan times, so it is a venerable tree nonetheless."

After another 170 yards, turn right, just before the Lych Gate and through a wooden gate and into the grounds of Fryerning Church. Go straight on past the church to your RHS.

On the right, soon after The Green, is Fryerning Hall. It is one of the oldest houses in the village and dates back to at least the 15th century. It has had many additions through the years and is grade II* listed. Behind the house is the 13th century Knights Hospitaller barn which has now been converted to residences. It is also a listed building. In the grounds of the house is an ancient oak dating back to Tudor times.

The nave of the Church of St Mary the Virgin dates back to the 11th Century and contains courses of Roman bricks. The stone tower was added in the early 16th Century by the Knights Hospitaller and replaced an older wooden one. The font is 12 century and is carved from Caen stone. It has iron staple marks on top, fitted in 1236, so it could be locked to prevent the holy water from being stolen. The church is listed in the top 100 historical churches in the UK and there are many interesting things to see in and around it.

Squadron Leader Claude Ashton (1901 - 1942) is buried in the graveyard. He played football for England against Northern Ireland in 1925. It was his only appearance and he was captain. He also played first class cricket for Cambridge University and Essex. He died on 31st October 1942 when the plane he was piloting was involved in a mid-air collision whilst training with the Royal Air Force in North Wales.

One well-known person who lived in the village was English soprano, Elizabeth Harwood (1938 - 1990). Whilst resident here she sang in the church every Christmas and is commemorated by a plaque, and a rose named after her is planted by the tower. She died from cancer aged 52 on 21st June 1990 at her home in the village.

In the north wall of the church has a window in memory to Airey Neave MP (1916 - 1979). It contains a picture of Colditz, the notorious German Prisoner of War Camp, from which he escaped, and another of the Houses of Commons where he served as an MP for 24 years and was blown up in a car bomb, later dying from his injuries. To read more about the history of the church and village visit the church website. 

20 yards past the church turn left onto a path going south-west across the graveyard. Follow it through a gate and straight across a field to a road, by a fingerpost. Turn left along the road. 

After 150 yards, and as the road starts to turn left, turn right onto a driveway, then immediately cross a wooden stile, next to a gate and just right of the entrance drive to Longview Cottage and Church Hill Cottages. Go straight on along a footpath next to a fence with a lawn to the LHS. Follow the path straight across fields (at 8 miles), passing a small fishing lake to the left and eventually veering slight right, along a fence (the photo maybe outdated) past new build houses over the fence to your RHS.

On approaching a lane, the footpath veers half left to descend a few steps to a lane (be careful here as the footpath does move about).

Go straight across the lane and cross a wooden stile and onto a path through a few trees and into a field. Veer slightly left to follow the path across the field. Exit the field over a stile and cross straight over the road (Trueloves Lane) and onto a footpath, signed by a fingerpost, across a large crop field.

There are good views across the countryside and the path is well defined. Slightly to the right and in the distance, you can see the white sails of a windmill - that's where we are heading.

After 340 yards the path crosses a footbridge over a stream (be careful to step over the metal bar on the bridge). Continue straight for 700 yards,directly towards a windmill. At the other edge of the field follow the path through the hedgerow and then left past Mountnessing Windmill keeping the windmill to your RHS.

Mountnessing Windmill is a landmark for many miles around. The mill was built in 1807, on the site of a previous mill. There are records of a mill here from at least c1477. It was worked by the Angis family from 1807 until 1933. The local council took it over and restored it in 1937. It was later bought by Essex County Council for one shilling (5p). They repaired and replaced many parts. It still grinds flour which can be bought and is open on the third Sunday of each month between May and October. At Windmill World you can see lots of photos of the old windmill and a few videos.

Thoby Priory is 500 yards north of Mountnessing Windmill (see map). It was a 12th century House of Augustinian Cannons which was dissolved in 1536. Legend has it that during Norman Times when local men folk would go off to the Crusades or were away for other reasons, then the number of available men in the area would not meet the demand of the women folk. The Monks of the Priory were an obvious choice to help meet the demand. The situation got so bad a local law was made for a Leap Day, as every four years, on this day, women had the opportunity to propose marriage and many did to unsuspecting monks, especially after they had a few drinks. The law stated if a woman proposed to a man and he accepted on a Leap Day, and the man was drunk, then the acceptance could not be counted as binding.  For the occasion the monks would brew up an intoxicating mixture. On the given day, all the monks would partake; hence if any fell for ladies' advances on the day, the law could be applied. (Note: I found this story many years ago on the Internet. Update: 17 Sept 2018. I have found the same story in the Essex County Standard dated 29 April 2002, but I'm not sure if this is the original source.).

The priory takes its name from its first prior "Tobias" and has connections with the Knights Templar and the Knights Hospitaller. With the "Dissolution of the Monasteries" the priory was dissolved in 1525 and given to Cardinal Wolsey by Henry VIII. However, it would only be a few years before Wolsey was made to give it back. It was then granted to Sir Richard Page for life in 1530. On 5th May 1536 both Page and the poet Sir Thomas Wyatt were arrested for high treason after they were both accused of being Anne Boleyn's lovers. Fortunately for them, they were subsequently released on the advice of Thomas Cromwell because the claimed affairs were said to have taken place before Anne's marriage to Henry VIII. In 1539 the priory was sold to William Berners. Sometime between 1525 and 1539 the priory was converted to a Tudor mansion. Queen Elizabeth I visited in 1539.

During World War II it was taken over by the War Ministry and later used as a German Prisoner of War Camp. After the war it was sold off by the government and was demolished in 1953. All that remains now is a small section of wall. You can read more about Thoby Priory at British History Online, at British Listed Buildings and at Blackmore History.

After passing the windmill continue straight on (and south) across the playing field, past a pavilion and village hall to your LHS and onto a road. Cross straight over the road and turn right. On approaching a crossroads veer left on a footpath through a small green and then left into Church Road.

The main road through Mountnessing (and the one our route has just crossed) is the B1002 or Roman Road. The name comes from Roman Times when this was part of the main route between two of Britain's most important Roman towns - London and Colchester. Today the A12 bypasses the town to the south and takes away most of the traffic. The whole setting of this area around the crossroads does give the feeling of a small village. With the windmill, the recreation ground, the village hall, a Coronation Memorial on one corner of the crossroads and a war memorial on another. There are two pubs almost opposite the village hall on the south side of Roman Road - The Plough and The Prince of Wales. The only feature missing is the Parish Church. This is the 12th Century St Giles and is over a mile west of the town on Old Church Lane and next to Mountnessing Hall. The town gets its name from the Mountney family who were lords of the manor from the 12th Century. They were based at Mountnessing Hall and the church was built for the manor. The town grew up west of here along the London to Colchester road and in 1873 a new church was opened. This is the Church of St John set back from Church Road, on your LHS just after Church Close, and nearer the centre of the village. It often referred to as "The Iron Church" and is now the Church Hall. 

The Blackmore Area Local History website has a very detailed history of Mountnessing with many old photos, sketches, paper-clippings and much more.

To the west along Roman Road is Brentwood, which is brushed by the route, a new R.C. Cathedral, designed by Quinlan Terry, was opened in 1991. Brentwood was built on what was the route of many Pilgrims going to the shrine of Thomas Becket at Canterbury.  He was killed by soldiers of the king in 1170. At the time the area was covered by a great forest and when a clearing was made by fire, it was named Burnt Wood - hence Brentwood. The town is now very urbanised and the remains of a late 12th Century Chapel of St Thomas a Becket can still be seen in the High Street (see information board).

Brentwood was also the scene of the trigger which started the Peasant's Revolt, when in 1381 a royal official's, John Bampton's, attempt to collect unpaid taxes in the town resulted in a violent confrontation. This soon spread to towns and villages all over the south east, with many ordinary folk rising up against the Crown. You can read more at Wikipedia.

Follow Church Road for 250 yards to cross bridge over the A12 and then another over the railway. The old stone bridge over the railway is narrow and has no pavement. 80 yards after crossing the railway, turn right and into a field, by a fingerpost, signed public footpath. 

About 100 yards in front along the road at this point is Begrums Farm and its adjacent large imposing concrete water tower.

Follow the path south across the field for 0.67 miles to a road. (Some notes on this. After 200 yards there is a ditch to your LHS with some individual trees. After another 250 yards, stay straight on past a wooden footbridge to your LHS. 300 yards later stay straight on avoiding footpath going left).

As path comes out to road (Widvale Road)(at 10.4 miles), turn right. After 70 yards, turn left to cross stile by a fingerpost, signed Public Footpath. The stile can get overgrown and may not be obvious, but it's 60 yards before the railway bridge.

Over the stile, turn left and shortly turn right to cross a bridge over a small river (River Wid). Follow the path diagonally left (directly south) across the field to its edge. Veer right and follow the path along the edge of a narrow wood (Arnold's Wood).

The path leads to a very long footbridge over the railway. Cross the footbridge and follow the path out onto a road (Shaw Crescent).

The footbridge over the railway was opened in 2015. It is almost 100 yards long and crosses two different railway lines with a grass area in the centre. Finding this means I have diverted the original route of the walk. The new route takes in more greenery and removes a busy road with no pavement. However, it does mean going through a housing estate and industrial estate, but I believe it's much safer and a better route. 

Turn left along Shaw Crescent. At T-junction (at 11 miles), turn left along Pine Crescent. Follow as it turns right and after 175 yards stay straight past Pinewood Way. The road name changes to Queenwood Avenue.

After 130 yards Queenwood Avenue turns around to the right. Then just a few yards later turn left onto a wide metaled path.

The path leads to an industrial estate. Go straight on along a road (Tallon Road) through the industrial estate (with care).

After 250 yards, at T-junction with Wash Road, turn left along the pavement. Then just 30 yards later, turn right and cross road into a small car park with height restriction barrier. Go straight on through car park to enter Hutton Country Park.

Hutton Country Park is a wildlife reserve covering 89 acres and is managed in partnership by Brentwood Council and Essex County Council with help from the Brentwood Countryside Management Volunteers. The area is made up of natural grassland, ancient woodland, wetland and ponds. It is bounded to the north by the River Wid and is dissected by the railway. Up to the 1970s this was the property of a local farm which used it to graze their livestock. During the 1970s and 1980s there were plans to develop the site for housing and commercial units and to build a link road across it. However, due to its rich wildlife and nature, the place remained unchanged. Much work has been done to make the park accessible to the public and protect this natural habitat. Hedges have been planted, ditches dug, a wooden walkway over the wetland built, livestock have been reintroduced and there are areas to picnic and just enjoy walking. In 2008 over 500 new trees were planted to add to the already ancient woodland and to preserve the nature and wildlife of the park.

We follow "Public Footpath 84" through the country park. It is signed at places and is the only "official" public right of way through the park. You should be able to follow the signs, but I've put details below.

On entering the park take the path to the right through the trees. After 50 yards follow it as it veers left through a gap and into a field - avoid the wide path going off to the right. Go straight on, diagonally across the field for a few yards and at a fork veer right to a gap in the hedgerow. Go through the gap and along an elevated boardwalk over marshland. The walkway leads south to a path, which in turn leads through a gap to a large field. Veer slightly left onto a path across the field to its south east corner. Go straight on along a footpath between garden fences and after 120 yards follow it as it turns left and out onto a residential road (Goodwood Avenue) with Hutton Stud Farm on the opposite side.

Turn right along the road to a T-junction with Rayleigh Road, then left along the pavement. After just 50 yards and on approaching an old wooden bus stop, on the opposite side, turn right to cross over the road, finish at the wooden bus shelter at the entrance to Hutton Village.

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