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Stage 13 - Hutton Village  to  Thames Chase Forest Centre  (10.85 miles)

Start: Grid Reference TQ6347395123  Post Code CM13 1RR (nearest)  StreetMap

ROUTE DESCRIPTION

We follow Hutton Village, then off-road past the old church and cross-country to Ingrave, past the huge pile of Thorndon House & thru' Thorndon Park North. As well as the park, the route takes in many other properties owned by the Thames Chase Community Forest, including Warley Gap, Codham Hall Woods & Franks Wood. We pass thru' Little Warley, Great Warley and skirt the outside of Upminster on our way to the finish at the Thames Chase Forest Centre at Broadfields Farm.

Start at the entrance to Hutton Village and next to the old wooden bus shelter. Follow Hutton Village, signed Hutton Church, for 550 yards, staying on the LHS. Immediately before, where the road turns sharp right, turn left onto a path through the trees, signed public footpath. After just a few yards, turn right onto a path with trees and wooden fences to the right and grassland to the left.

Just to the right of the path, but hidden from view, is Hutton Hall. It stands on the north end of a large rectangular moat which has been partially filled in. The present house dates from the 17th Century with later alterations. Evidence suggests an older house on this site dated back to at least Norman Times.

The path leads directly to the car park of All Saints Church. Go straight through the car park and onto a lane. Turn right along the lane and past the church. Immediately past the church turn left onto a footpath, signed "Footpath 94 to Bridleway 72".

Hutton is a large village in Essex, but really can be described as an outlying suburb of Brentwood. In Saxon times it was called "Atahou" (translates to "at a ridge"). By the 13th Century the name had changed to Houton (Manor at Hou).  It is recorded in the Domesday Book as a village which exported fish, thus it must have had many ponds - we do pass at least one which still remains, it's just north of the church.

The small All Saints Church is Norman and has a long list of rectors dating from 1325. According to a leaflet from Brentwood Council the church is built on the site of a crossed spring, which suggests pagan rituals may have been performed here before Christian ones. The church website indicates the adjacent Hutton Hall was once the site of a moated Saxon farmhouse whose owner Gotius disappeared after the Norman Invasion of 1066. This suggests the moat we still see today maybe Saxon. However, there is evidence on even older settlers here, at least back to Roman times and of a medieval house on the site. The hall and the church are so close together and so set away from the village. It appears the church was built for the Norman lords after taking over the previous Saxon farmhouse. All Saints Church website does give a good history of the place. However, I do really feel there are gaps and there must be a lot more history to this area - let me know if you can fill in any of the gaps.

The village got national news coverage a few years ago when a car wash opened where cars were cleaned by scantily clad young ladies using their busts and backsides to wash while the occupants stayed inside. BBC News covered this. I watched the programme, but I don't know if any news footage still exists or if the young ladies managed to clean all parts of the cars.

Hutton also has a darker side in its history for being in the news. The first police officer of the Essex Constabulary to be killed whilst on active duty was Robert Bambrough - he was drowned in a pond in Hutton by the criminal, He was escorting William Wood from Billericay Magistrates Court on 21st November 1850. Wood overpowered him and put his head in a pond at the junction of Rayleigh Road and Church Road. When the police officer refused to let go of Wood, the criminal forced mud into his mouth. It was all seen by an 11 year old girl from a window at Hutton House. Wood ran off, but came back to take Bambrough's head out of the pond then ran away again. By this time the police officer was unconscious and the young girl's screams alerted local workmen who soon arrived. They pulled Bambrough from the pond and took him to the nearby Chequers pub, but he died soon afterwards. Wood was later caught, and brought to the pub to show him the body of the man he had just killed. He claimed he never meant to hurt the policeman and later was found guilty of manslaughter. Maybe he didn't as he felt guilty and came back to take Bambrough from the pond that helped save him from being hanged for murder. A memorial stone was erected in 1990 next to the A129 in memory of the dead officer.

Follow the footpath straight, with the wall of the churchyard to the left. Then straight for 350 yards on across a field (past a pond to the right at one point) and out onto a lane at the opposite side.

The photo at the link is taken from the lane and looking back along Footpath 94 towards Hutton Church. This is the path we've just walked along. The trees to the left of the photo are by the pond we have just passed.

Go straight across the lane and past a gate onto a wide track along the edge of a field signed "Bridleway 72 to Ingrave". After another 0.43 miles follow the track through a gap in trees, and then as it veers right along the edge of a wood to your RHS and a large field to your LHS. 

The track eventually turns left then right, always with the trees (Hall Wood) to the RHS and the field to the LHS and after 0.35 miles comes to a T-junction with a farm to the left.

Turns right and follow the lane / Bridleway 72 for 0.7 miles where it turns left at fingerpost (Do not go straight on).

The lane (Middle Road) is a pleasant walk but soon passes a sewage works (sorry about that). Then past Ingrave Hall and farm and a couple of isolated houses (at 2 miles). When it turns left, we pass a large house named Heatleys.

The Manor of Ingrave dates back to at least Saxon Times with the name coming from Old Saxon - Ging-Ralph (land or people owned by to Ralph).

According to IngraveHall.com (Link broken):

"We have been told that the village of Ingrave goes back to Anglo-Saxon times when it was named as a shortening of Ralph's Ingas - meaning the "people of Ralph". History suggests that Ralph was a Domesday tenant and that he lived where Ingrave Hall now stands. A lovely legend that is certainly supported by the evidence of a moat fully surrounding the site (much of which is now filled) and the beautiful cone shaped pond."

There are the ruins of the 12th century St Nicholas Church just west of Ingrave Hall. In c1736 it was replaced by St Nicholas' Church, just over half a mile south of here, on Brentwood Road in the centre of the village.

During an archaeological dig, of the old site on Middle Road, in 1975, it was discovered that Roman tiles were used in the old church's construction, but it is not known if there was a Roman settlement here.

The Rectory of the old church dates from 16th century and is still standing. It is to the LHS where I wrote "Do not go straight on above". It has been renamed "Heatleys" after the Rev. Henry Heatley, the last rector of the old church. There is a bit of a sprawl of buildings on this corner with a small lake in the grounds (you can see it through the trees on the LHS 60 yards before the corner of the lane). The Old Rectory has been developed through the years but some of the original building still exists. It is grade II listed.

In 1903 composer Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872 - 1958) came to Brentwood to give a series of lectures on folk music. After one of these he was approached by two middle aged ladies, Georgina and Florence Heatley, daughters of the Rector of Ingrave. They invited him to tea at their father's vicarage and offered to arrange for some of the locals to sing folk songs for him. Vaughan Williams cycled back to Ingrave on 4th December 1903. On his trip he visited 74 year old Charles Potiphar, an illiterate labourer living in a cottage in Rectory Lane (now 43 Middle Road, Ingrave). He heard Potiphar sing many traditional songs including "Bushes & Briars". Vaughan Williams was so moved by what he heard that the event was to influence the rest of his career. During the next 10 years he went on to collect over 800 songs. A book has been written on the event by Frank Dineen entitled "The Ingrave Secret - Ralph's People". In 1972 Ralph Vaughan Williams featured on a Royal Mail postage stamp.

The lane after Heatley's is pleasant with flowery verges, hedgerows, trees and fields on both sides. There are no pavements, but it's practically traffic free. 

500 yards after the lane turn lefts we enter housing at Ingrave Village. Go straight for 140 yards, soon past Common Road to the RHS and then stay with Middle Road as it veers right and leads to a T-junction with the busy A128 (Brentwood Road).

At the T-junction cross over the road, using the zebra crossing just to the right, and turn left along the pavement. After 50 yards, turn right into Thorndon Gate.

After 220 yards and immediately after passing the entrance to Thorndon Hall turn half right onto a footpath, signed "Public Footpath 42", and through some trees. The path soon passes in front of the large hall (Thorndon Hall, at 3 miles), to your RHS (see photo), and continues through the woods and deeper into Thorndon Country Park North. After 0.66 miles it comes out onto a wide track.

The entrance to Thorndon Hall Chapel is a couple of hundred yards north along lane and to the right. It is hidden in the trees and as far as I can ascertain has been inaccessible to the public for many years. However, a news article in the Times Online dated 10th January 2009 states the Historic Chapels Trust have announced they are to take on the preservation and restoration of the Thorndon Hall Chapel. It reads: 

"...chantry chapel in the park of Thorndon House in Essex, the seat of one of England's oldest Catholic families, the Petres. After years of neglect, caused by a dispute that prevented access for repairs, there were holes in the roof, blocked gutters, saplings seeding themselves and heavily eroded stonework.

The simple exterior gives no clue of the angel roof within, as richly carved as that in any medieval Suffolk church. Attributed by Pevsner to Pugin, the chapel is now known to be the work of William Wardell, whose health failed in 1858, prompting him to emigrate to the warmer air of Melbourne where he recovered to become chief government architect for bridges, docks and handsome public buildings."

For updated information on Thorndon Hall Chapel visit the Petre Chapel section at Historic Chapels Trust.

Cross over the lane onto a path / bridleway going west and signed "Wildside Walk", and we follow this until the end of the stage. (Be careful as sometimes where we join this walk moves, but only a few yards each way. Some maps have it to the right, some to the left and some straight over). 

After 350 yards at junction of footpaths, turn right and going north, for 175 yards. Then left at junction of tracks and west along a wide path. After another 380 yards turn right (now going north and still Wildside Walk, at 4 miles) and follow the wide path to a car park. Turn left along the southern edge of the car park to the entrance gate of Thorndon Park North Countryside Centre.

Thorndon Hall was designed by architect James Paine for Robert Edward, the 9th Lord Petre (1742 - 1801). It was built between 1764 and 1767. The grounds were landscaped by Capability Brown between 1766 and 1772. In 1778, fearing an invasion from France, many thousands of militia were camped nearby at Warley Common. In October, George III and Queen Charlotte visited Lord Petre at Thorndon Hall to inspect the troops. The review included a mock battle in which 10,000 men were engaged. The camp broke up the following month, but was reformed in 1779, 1781 and 1782.

The original Thorndon Hall was situated a mile south of the present one and dates back to at least the early 15th Century. It was called West Thorndon Hall and purchased from the Mordaunt family by Sir John Petre in 1573. In 1603 he became the 1st Lord Petre. The family fortune had been acquired by his father Sir William Petre (1505 - 1572). William was born at Tor-Brian, in Devonshire. He was knighted in 1535, and became one of the chief secretaries of state in 1543. He was Secretary of State to Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary and Elizabeth I, but still retained his Catholic faith and his lands. John was William's only son and inherited his father's wealth and the family seat at Ingatestone. Shortly after buying the Thorndon Estate, he demolished the hall and built a magnificent new one on the site which is now referred to as Old Thorndon Hall and through successive generations the lands around the hall were developed into what is now Thorndon Park.

Over the years the Petre family maintained their strong Catholic faith. The family produced two bishops and was instrumental in preserving Catholicism in England. In the main it did not hinder their statues. However, William (1626 - 1684) the 4th Lord Petre did get implicated in the concocted Titus Oates Plot (or Popish Plot) in the late 17th Century which claimed the lives of at least 15 prominent citizens. The last being Oliver Plunkett, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland (now Saint) executed on 1st July 1681. William Petre was arrested in 1678 and imprisoned in the Tower of London. He was held there without trial until he died of bad health in 1684.

Robert, the 7th Lord Petre inspired Alexander Pope to write his famous poem "The Rape of the Lock". It was written as a favour to his friend John Caryll who wished to diffuse a family feud between the Petre and Fermor families, both Catholic and interconnected. The young Lord was an admirer of Arabella Fermor and without her permission cut a lock of her hair. Arabella a beautiful young society lady took great offence and a family feud followed. The original poem was a mock piece written in less than a fortnight with the intention of making the two families laugh at the incident and bring them together again. Pope published it on 20th May 1712. Over the next couple of years Pope extended it and republished it on 2nd March 1714. A final version was completed by 1717, and by this time Robert had already died of smallpox and Arabella was married. It is recognised as one of the finest mock epic poems in English language.

Robert James Petre, the 8th Lord Petre (1713 - 1742) from an early age was very green fingered with a huge interest in horticulture. He collected trees and plants from all over the world and grew them in his park at Thorndon.  He became the most prolific collector of American trees and shrubs in Europe. In total he collected over 200,000 species. It's believed the first Camellias grown in the West were at his nurseries at Thorndon Park.

The old hall was demolished by Robert Edward Petre, the 9th Lord Petre in the late 18th Century after building the current Thorndon Hall, but a few remnants still remain in the Old Park.

You can also read a full history of both Thorndon Halls at the LINK.

In 1878 a devastating fire caused a great amount of damage to the "new" Thorndon Hall. It fell into disrepair and left vacant for many years. In 1920 a group of businessmen leased the remnants of the hall along with 240 acres of park. Their intention was to build a championship golf course and magnificent private housing development. The course was designed by Harry Colt, but with building restraints the housing development never materialized. Initially Thorndon Park Golf Club used part of the large hall as their clubhouse. Over the years the golf club purchased the land and in 1968 bought the hall. However, in 1974 a new clubhouse was built and the following year Thorndon Hall was sold to a building company. They restored the facade of the Palladian mansion to its former glory and converted the building into luxury apartments. The building is grade 2* listed.

In the early 20th Century when the Thorndon estate was broken up and sold off, parts of it were bought by Essex County Council. The present country park occupies 385 acres of this and includes the North Park and the South Park. In 1992 the Woodland Trust bought 136 acres from Hatch Farm and once again united both parks. According to Essex Wildlife Trust:

"Thorndon Country Park is in two parts, the northern section on a gravel ridge and the southern part on clay soil lower down. The two parts are now linked by Old Thorndon Pastures, which is farmland that has been restored to a traditional farming landscape with small hedged fields, grazed by cattle.

Thorndon Country Park offers a variety of habitats including ancient woodland, parkland, ponds, a marsh and meadow. There are some stunning ancient trees including Giant Oak and Hornbeam pollards, that are reminders that this was once a deer park. Parts of it used to be heathland, now a scarce habitat in Essex, and to restore it parts of the park, both north and south, are being grazed by goats and sheep. park attracts a large number of woodland birds and sees more than its fair share of passage migrants and winter visitors. For example, large flocks of Siskins and Redpolls often gather in the birches, and bramblings can be seen near to the centre feeding on beech mast. There are many butterflies to be enjoyed including the uncommon Purple and White-letter Hairstreaks.

The park is managed by Essex County Council's Ranger Service who are returning Conifer plantations to grassland or woodland as mature trees are harvested."

The South Park has a visitor's centre named the South Pavilion. It was opened by the 18th Lord Petre of Ingatestone in 1992. It has a restaurant and toilets and holds an exhibition of art which reflect the landscape, history and wildlife of the area. There. There is a barbeque and picnic area, many walks through the woods, the "Old Deer Park" dating from the 15th century, the "Ruin Wood" where the remains of the old hall can be seen and close by "Old Hall Pond" for which tickets can be purchased to fish.

The North Park has its own deer park and woods. Childerditch Pond at its south-west corner is formed by a clay dam which dates back to the 13th Century. However, there are no fishing rights as it is managed for conservation and is a haven for waterfowl. There is also the Thorndon Hall Chapel where the Petre's and other local Catholics practiced their religion out of sight of their suppressors. There is the Thorndon Park Countryside Centre is built from timber blown over in the 1987 storms in the park. It has permanent exhibition, a shop selling gifts and a small restaurant. There is an ample car park used by walkers, some running clubs and other countryside users.

It's great to see that this ancient deer park and woodlands, reorganised by Capability Brown, in the late 18th Century is still being looked after and improved by our local councils today.

You can download the map to see the alternatives and also read more about Thorndon Park on the Healthy Life Essex website.

The "Wildside Walk", which we follow, is part of a 5 mile walk around of the north and south parks, takes in most of the points of interest and starts and finishes at the Visitor's Centre at the end of this stage. NOTE: What's at the links and my route may differ slightly. However, both are about the same distance and the main objective is to get to the Visitor's Centre.

Thorndon Park Countryside Centre was built from timber blown over in the 1987 storms in the park. It has a permanent exhibition including interactive displays, a shop selling gifts and a small restaurant. There are public toilets just south of the centre and many things of interest close by. They include a 130 million year old tree fossil, the wooden Thorndon Man sculpture, a community garden, many footpaths going off into the woods and much more. The Essex County Council Ranger Service is based at the centre. They spent much of their time conserving and improving the park and offer a wide range of service to the public, including educational and fun activities to all ages.

Go north to exit the car park and turn left along the road - you can use the verge. After 350 yards out through the main gate. Immediately after a black way-marker post, to the LHS and just before the main road, turn left onto a footpath through the woods (do not take the bridleway going sharp left).

The woods form the northern edge of Little Warley Common. An information board on the LHS of the path provides more details and a map of the common. Little Warley Common covers an area of 115 acres but was once much larger. According to British History Online:

"Little Warley has always been a mainly agricultural parish. In 1086 there were 2 plough-teams on the demesne and 3 belonging to the tenants, woodland for 700 swine, and marshland pasture for 100 sheep. Since 1066 one plough-team had disappeared from the demesne; otherwise there had been no change.

The most striking Domesday figure is that relating to swine-pastures, which shows that Little Warley was one of the most densely wooded places in Essex. At that time the north of the manor probably consisted mainly of woodland and scrub, some of which still survives as Little Warley common."

"Commoners" were allowed to graze here up to the late 19th century. After this most of the common was colonized by trees. At the southern end some grassland still remains for grazing. Also, at the southern end is a beacon, one of the many erected in the late 20th century to herald the new millennium. For more information on Little Warley Common visit Thames Chase.

Follow the bridleway for 320 yards to a road (Childerditch Lane). Cross over the road and go just a few yards right to a crossroads. Turn left, signed Great Warley and staying on the LHS pavement along road (Eagle Way).

After another 0.45 miles go straight on along the LHS pavement past the entrance drive to the Ford Motor Company.

After another 175 yards turn left into Clive Road - Ford is still to the left. Continue along Clive Road staying on the pavement on the LHS. 

If you look ahead and to your left, shortly before turning left into Clive Road, you should be able to get a view of the huge Warley Water Tower. 

According to British History Online:

"A temporary military camp was set up in 1742 on Warley Common, in Great and Little Warley. The common was used for other camps on several later occasions in the 18th century. The 1778 camp was visited by George III and by Dr. Samuel Johnson.

In 1805 the War Office bought 116 acres of the common and built permanent barracks for two troops of horse artillery. From 1806 to 1815 Warley House, formerly on the SE. corner of Eagle Way and Warley Hill, seems to have been the commandant's quarters. Various army units used the barracks until 1832, after which they lay empty for a decade.

The East India Company bought the barracks for 15,000 pounds in 1843, and in the next 15 years greatly altered and added to the buildings, further land being purchased in 1858. In 1861 the India Office transferred the barracks once more to the War Office."

The British East India Company would train over a thousand recruits at a time here before sending them off to look after their assets in India. However, a few years after the Indian Rebellion of 1857 the men and barracks here were absorbed back into the British Army. Later to become the home of the Essex Regiment.

To the right, at the end of the Clive Road and, is the Essex Regimental Chapel. It was built in 1857 for the British East India Company, but with the establishment of the Essex Regiment Barracks and Depot at Warley it became the regiment's home church in 1925. It was unique as the Essex Regiment was the only one to have its own freestanding church. The barracks and depot were demolished in 1961 to make way for the Ford Building which was completed in 1964. By 1967 the building became the Ford Motor Company's European HQ and at its peak in 1975 around 2,000 people worked in the building. In 1958 the regiment joined with the Bedfordshire & Hertfordshire Regiments to form the 3rd East Anglian Regiment, which in 1964 was merged into the then new Royal Anglian Regiment. Today all that remains of the Essex Regiment is the chapel. However, the 1st Battalion Royal Anglian Regiment does maintain its links with Essex. The church is a Grade 2 listed building and its interior contains displays of regimental history, memorials, heraldry, and old regimental colours.

If you look across Clive Road, just before the junction with Warley Gap, you can see the old wooden lychgate of the church. On the ground, to the right of this, is an old milestone / War Department estate boundary marker.

At Britain From Above you can see some old photos of Warley Barracks and the surrounding area taken in 1932. You should be able to make out the regimental chapel, where the main barracks sat and where Ford is now.

You can read more about Warley Barracks at Wikipedia and about the regimental chapel at Thames Chase.

Just past the chapel Eagle Way becomes Warley Gap. To the right is the "Brentwood Karting Centre". Also known as Brentwood Leisure Park, it has a kart circuit, a dry ski slope, a golf driving range, an indoor children@s adventure playground and much more.

Turn left along a lane behind Ford and after just 30 yards, then turn right onto a footpath into the woods of Warley Gap. There is soon a choice of paths, take the one to the left. This goes downhill through the narrow woods. At points there can be tree trunks deliberately laid across the path to stop cyclists going down here at speed. The trunks are low and are easily stepped over.

The Warley Gap is part of Thames Chase Community Forrest and is an old narrow belt woodland running south from Ford at Little Warley and steeply downhill. It is mainly made up of oak, beech and silver birch and on the ground are the remains of pits and banks created by old gravel works. Some of these are very popular with mountain bikers doing stunts - hence the trees across the paths.

In 1903 Warley Gap was the scene of a crime of passion. Bernard White, a 21 year old soldier of the Essex Regiment beat his 20 year old ex-girlfriend Maud Garret to death after finding out she was seeing someone else. He was found guilty of the crime and executed on 1st December 1903. It was the first Springfield Prison execution at which the famous hangman Henry Pierrepoint had officiated.

After 0.65 miles the path comes out onto Magpie Lane. Turn right and immediately take the left fork, soon to a T-junction with Bird Lane (at 6 miles). In front is St Faith's Farm owned by the Pennorth and Stockdale Studs.

Turn left into Bird Lane and immediately past St Faith's Farm buildings turn right to cross the road and cross a stile onto a footpath across a paddock with the farm to your RHS. The path crosses a few more stiles and soon straight on and downhill along an enclosed path along the right edge of a field, with the hedgerow to your RHS and a fence to the LHS.

To the left are good views across southern Essex towards the Thames Estuary. The path is narrow with hedgerow to the right and a wire fence to the left separating the horses in the field from the path. However, horses are friendly, intelligent and inquisitive, so don't get upset if they come towards you. At one point an old oak tree almost blocks the path.

The path leads to a footbridge over a stream and into another field. Continue straight across the field. At the opposite side cross a stile to follow the path straight on along the LHS of a third field.

At the other side of the field cross a stile to come out onto Great Warley Street (B186). Directly across the road is the Church of St Mary the Virgin. Cross over the road and turn left along the pavement.

Warley comes from the Anglo-Saxon "Wareleia" meaning "wood or clearing near a wear". In Norman Times there were the two manors here, the Manor of Warley Abbess (or Great Warley) and the Manor of Warley Franks. The manors were rural, mainly agricultural and land use has not changed greatly since, apart from the building of the M25 and A27 (T) through it. The original parish church of St Mary dates from the 13th Century or before. It was a mile further south along the B186 on the southern side of the A127 (T) in Church Lane and next to Great Warley Hall. From reports, parts of it kept falling down and thus needed many repairs during the years. People eventually gave up on it and all that remains today are some old gravestones. In 1892 Rector Bailey built a wooden church in the grounds of his home "Fairsteads" near the north end of Great Warley Street. This seated 140 people and was much more sensible as it was on higher ground and at the centre of the community. The old church did continue to be used for burials. The wooden church was used until 1904 when a new church was completed. On Bailey's death (in 1900) he bequeathed the wooden church to the parish of Balidon in Yorkshire. In 1904 it was taken down and re-erected there.

The new parish church at Great Warley was built between 1902 and 1904 using lands and money donated by Evelyn Heseltine. De Rougemont Manor - a Tale of Two Families The Heseltines & The Hiltons gives more information on the donor's background. Below is a small quote from the source.

"Evelyn Heseltine was an extremely successful stockbroker, a man of immense wealth and energy; he set to work not only on Goldings but also on Great Warley. He built many properties in the village, he also owned several local farms and employed large numbers of staff to work in them and also handpicked "favoured" residents to be part of his private staff. Practically every local family worked for Mr Heseltine and he was much respected.

Perhaps, the most renowned of these building projects was the creation of the wonderful mother-of-pearl church, St Mary the Virgin only 300 metres down the road, which was dedicated to the memory of his brother Arnold, Evelyn was particularly close to his younger brother Arnold, who died in 1897, leaving a widow and a baby son, Philip."

The design and furnishing were under the control of the architect, Charles Harrison Townsend, with the sculptor and interior design by William Reynolds-Stephens. The result was this magnificent church which is believed to be their best work.  St Mary the Virgin, Great Warley is listed Grade 1 and its lych-gate Grade 2. The Art Nouveau interior needs to be seen first hand to be properly appreciated. Materials used include many metals, marble and mother of pearl, together with walnut furniture. The elegant windows blend in beautifully with the rest and the attention to detail is incredible. During World War II the church was damaged by bombing and again in 1975 by an act of vandalism. However, everything has been painstakingly restored. Locals often refer to it as "the Pearl Church" because of the extensive use of mother of pearl. At times, other than when there is a service, the church is kept locked. However, visits can be pre-arranged by contacting the caretaker. I was very lucky in 2008 when I first came across the church, as the caretaker was tending to the grounds and happily gave a few friends and myself a guided tour.

The Shelwin.com website is by a descendant of the Heseltine family. It gives a very good account of the history of all three churches. There are also some good photos of the art nouveau church.

Another story worth a mention, before leaving Warley, happened in 2001 and affected the whole country for most of that year. It was on 19th February 2001 when the first case of foot & mouth disease was detected at Cheale Meats abattoir at Little Warley. This was the first signs of an epidemic which would basically close down the whole countryside of the UK, resulting in many sporting events such as horse-racing meetings being cancelled and international rugby matches postponed. Ramblers were banned from going off-road and public parks were closed. In total millions of animals had to be slaughtered and British meat was banned throughout the world. The total cost to the country was estimated at 8 billion pounds. It also resulted in the cancellation of our charity relay run, the Green Belt Relay, that year.

Continue south along Great Warley Street for 750 yards, staying on the RHS. Then turn right into Codham Hall Lane.

Shortly before turning into Codham Hall Lane is the old Great Warley Pumping House. According to British History Online it dates from 1881. The site lay derelict for years, probably because it sat on green belt land. Recently, the four pump house buildings and the two subterranean reservoirs have been converted to offices.

Follow the lane for 720 yards to where it turns sharp left. To the right is a narrow lane (leading to Hole Farm) and in front is the entrance to a field, with a large green metal gate. Go around the gate and into the field. Then immediately turn right on a wide path, past a public bridleway fingerpost and along the RHS of the field. Follow the bridleway around edge of the field for 0.4 miles - it goes north, then west, then north, then west, then south. It eventually turns right through a gap in the hedgerow and to a footbridge. Once over the footbridge turn left.

I was hoping to use a cross-country route between Great Warley Church and the green gate on Codham Hall Lane, but to my surprise on contacting the local council I discovered Hole Farm Lane was private and had no public right of way.

The lane past Hole Farm was used by pilgrims during the Middle Ages. According to British History Online:

"In the Middle Ages a second, more westerly road apparently ran south from the green to St. Mary's Lane; it passed Hole Farm, Codham Hall, and Franks manor-house, and still existed in the 19th century as a series of footpaths and lanes known as Pilgrims Way."

The pilgrims were usually on their way to the shrine of Thomas a Becket, at Canterbury Cathedral. He was Archbishop of Canterbury and murdered by followers of king Henry II in the cathedral in 1170 and soon afterwards was canonised by Pope Alexander III. According to Thames Chase:

"By this time pilgrim routes had grown up between Canterbury and York passing through this area, improving the local economy, and recorded at places like Pilgrims Hatch, Herongate, South Weald, St. Thomas Chapel, Brentwood; Great Warley and Hole Farm Lane to Warley Franks where local guides could take pilgrims across the marshes, then on to Stifford Bridge and Grays and the Thames ferries at places like Rainham, Purfleet and Tilbury."

The small woods, just passed, around to the north of the large field just exited are for some reason called "Un-named Woods". A great name to call a wood you can't be bothered to name.

Continue straight on the bridleway along the LHS of a field, then through a gap and along the LHS of a second field and going directly south. After another 100 yards a track to the left leads to Codham Hall Farm. Ignore this track and continue straight on past it and eventually into Codham Hall Wood.

To our right, along this path, the constant hum of traffic can be heard. This is due to the M25 being only a short distance away and running parallel.

Codham Hall Wood is owned and managed by Essex County Council. With the building of the M25 motorway (opened in 1986) the wood got cut in two and, with a major road intersection (M25 / A127) built here, almost half of the wood was lost.

The bridleway through the woods is pleasant and well maintained. It leads to a picturesque wooden footbridge over a stream and nestled amongst the trees, then further through the woods to come out onto a road. 

Continue straight on (south) through Codham Hall Wood, avoiding a footpath going off to the RHS. The bridleway soon crosses a footbridge (at 8 miles) and eventually out onto quiet road.

A few yards in front on exiting the wood is the busy A127 and to the right are the M25 and the intersection of these two major roads. Don't get confused with all the hustle and bustle of the surroundings, as somehow the route manages to keep to a quiet and well protected route screened off from those who are speeding back and forwards.

I don't think I would have ever found this route without the help of pleasant young lady who at the time was the Essex County Council Public Rights of Way Officer - and it works so well.

Turn left along the road, the busy A127 is just to the right and running parallel. After 175 yards a road going off to the left leads to Codham Hall Farm. However, stay on straight past this and soon gradually climbing uphill to turn right over a wide footbridge / road bridge over the A127. Once over follow the track as it turns right again and descends parallel to the A127, but this time west and back towards the M25.

It seems obvious from the size of the track, width of the bridge and the large storage park immediately south of the bridge that this was all originally built to give farm machinery and other vehicles access. However, through the work done by Thames Chase, in providing the public with more access to the countryside, this is route serves us well, as there seems to be no other safe ways to cross the A127.

Follow the track for 500 yards to just before the busy A127 / M25 intersection.

This was the junction we turned away from three quarters of a mile ago as we left the Codham Hall Wood. In real terms, as the crow flies, it's only a distance of 160 yards. However, we have covered 0.66 miles, but there is no alternative so we should be thankful.

From the track it is easy to read the motorway signs and see the expressions on the faces of vehicle occupants as the speed past. Luckily the track turns left to run parallel to the M25 as it climbs above to hide on an embankment. The hum of the motorway is almost removed and to the left is pleasant countryside stretching off in the distance. I often wonder if man had found this route before now as I have never come across another human being along this stretch. However, there are a few tell-tale signs to contradict my theory.

When I first walked this route in 2005, accompanied by Mike Hutchins, then a young and active octogenarian, I had a few reservations as to where all this would lead. When we eventually came out the other end his first comment was "That was remarkable, and it works very well". This made me realise it was good, it did work really well and what a varying mixture of landscape it was. However, through time this has changed so please read the update below.

ADDITION NOTE / CAUTION: Since 2009 there has been a lot of road-works going on in the area of this busy road junction. In the nine years since then a large community of road workers living in caravans has built up here. There are new roads, heavy machinery and even a temporary reservoir to supply water for concrete making.  However, the route is still accessible and next to the track is now a service road for "motorway maintenance".  It appears all road construction for this part of Essex and maybe even most of the M25 is based here. I don't know when work finishes, but have been assured by the local council (on 25/09/18) that the public right of way will remain in place and any movement of the bridleway should be marked. I have researched why this "new temporary village" has grown up here. It was due to a M25 motorway widening project, intended to last until 2014, but now seems to be lasting forever. You can read about this HERE. 

Turn left to cross over the new service road and follow the wide bridleway / track as it veers right, then as it turns left to runs parallel too and below the M25, and soon under a large electricity pylon.

The crop fields to the left and the width of the track make it obvious that farm or other heavy vehicles also come this way, so PLEASE BE CAREFUL.

After half a mile the track reaches a railway line. Turn right to follow the path next to the railway and under the M25. Stay straight on, along an enclosed path, with the railway to the left and fields to the right. After 380 yards, follow the path straight on into a wood (Franks Wood).

Across the railway, after passing under the M25, is Franks Farm. This has a manor house dating from the 15th century, built on what seems to be the site of the original manor house.

Franks Wood is owned by Essex County Council. According to the British History Online website it gets its name from Frank Scotland who owned land here in the 13th century and also gave his name to the Manor of Warley Franks.

"The manor of WARLEY, later known as WARLEY FRANKS, in the SW. of the parish, consisted in 1066 of two hides, held by Godric. In 1086 Swein of Essex held it in demesne...

By the 13th century the demesne lordship had passed to the Scoland (Estotlond, Escoland, or Scodlaund) family. Osbert was the first member to hold it; Geoffrey was party to a case concerning land in Warley in 1220; and in 1262 Frank Scoland agreed to pay 10 pounds and 1 lb. cummin annually at Christmas to Geoffrey Scoland from whom he was to hold a messuage and 2 carucates of land in Warley. Frank died shortly before 3 April 1285 and was succeeded by his infant son Frank. From one or both of them the manor took its name of Warley Franks."

The link at British History Online also states, Codham Hall belonged to the Warley Franks estate and in 1837 the estate consisted of 640 acres.

The wood is dissected in two by the railway and is classified as a "Site of Importance for Nature Conservation". The trees are ancient hornbeam coppice and to the west is the built-up area of Cranham.

On occasions, when walking through Franks Wood, I have come across some burnt out cars and that old British pastime of fly-tipping.

The path is basically straight through, never going more than a few yards away from the railway. It emerges from the woods into an opening / field (a recreation ground called Cranham Playing Fields). Stay left along the southern edge of the field and soon next to the railway. Eventually, at the far corner, turn left to cross a high metal stile, and cross over the rail line, using the level crossing, to another stile. This is a main line so please TAKE GREAT CARE and make sure no trains are approaching before crossing.

Cranham Playing Fields is also named Cranham Brickfields. The name comes from a previous use of the site. From The Brickfield Birder:

"This nature reserve was once the site of an old brickworks called the Cranham Brick and Tile Company. They established clay digging and brick kilns used for "firing" in 1900, near to Frank's wood and north of the railway. Men from the local area were employed, possibly as many as seventy workers. Prior to the manufacturing process, many men in the area were agricultural workers. A railway spur was built by LTS&R about 1900, from the eastern edge of Frank's Wood to a siding in the brick works for transportation of materials and of manufactured bricks.  The brick-earth began to run out in 1915, and the site was closed in 1920 but the buildings were not demolished until 1929. Part of Brickfields was also claimed during the 1940's to grow vegetables and fruit as part of the wartime governments "Dig for Victory" campaign and then handed back to the local authorities after the war. In the early 1950's much of Cranham housing stock was built and it became more urbanised. It's hard to believe that this peaceful oasis of meadows and scrubland was at one time used for excavating clay to make bricks. These days, Cranham Brickworks site is recognised as a Grade 1 listed place of Borough Importance for Nature Conservation. It is now listed as a Local Nature Reserve and open to all."

You can read more about Cranham Brickfields at Thames Chase. As for Cranham, the area to the north and west of here grew up after World War II. It was one of the towns built to take the overspill of the population from London and now is one of the most easterly suburbs of the capital. Within the next couple of miles, we'll see a different side of Cranham, the older, more rural and more historical side.

After crossing the stile, to leave the railway, go directly south and away from the railway along an enclosed track. This soon leads through a gap and into a field. Go straight on along the LHS of the field and after 360 yards to the southeast corner of the field. Go through a kissing-gate and out on a road (St Marys Lane). 

Directly across the road is the entrance to Pike Lane and to the right are some houses and the Thatched House pub, one of many which we pass on our route managed by Vintage Inns.

Cross over the road, veering to the left corner of the junction of the two roads. Here go through a wooden kissing-gate and stay right onto a path going south along the RHS of Cranham Golf Course and parallel to Pike Lane. After 420 yards (with a gate to your right) turn left to follow the path across the golf course it goes along what was the original lane to Broadfields Farm. Soon past a lake to the right and after 250 yards veer right past a golf tee and to a wooden gate with a kissing gate next to it. Please be wary of golfers as you cross and try not to distract them from their game.

Go through a kissing-gate, to leave the golf course, and onto a lane. Turn left along the lane, towards Broadfields Farm (now the Thames Chase Forest Centre), and finish at the entrance to the Forest Centre.

The Thames Chase Forest Centre, at the end of the stage, is absolutely beautiful and completely built of wood. It is one of my favourite buildings on the whole course. I will talk more about it and let you see some photos of it on the write up for the next stage. 

I was really disappointed to hear the building got struck by lightning on 6th August 2008 and burnt to the ground. However, I am pleased to say the Forest Centre has been rebuilt to the same specifications and re-opened in late 2009.

To read more about Thames Chase Forest Centre, Broadfields Farm and the Thames Chase Forest, see the start of the next stage.

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