Monday, 25 January 2016

The Essex Way Part 1:Epping to Ongar. 24th January 2016

On Sunday the 24th January 2016, I got up late and was rushing around to make sure I was on time to meet Dan at Stratford to catch the tube to Epping Tube Station. As it happened I was 15 minutes early and Dan was late! Anyway we got the tube to Epping where The Essex Way starts its 81 mile journey to Harwich.

Epping is a market town. "Epinga", a small community of a few scattered farms and a chapel on the edge of the forest, is mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086. However, the settlement referred to is known today as Epping Upland. It is not known for certain when the present-day Epping was first settled. By the mid-12th century a settlement known as Epping Heath (later named Epping Street), had developed south of Epping Upland as a result of vigorous clearing of the forest for cultivation. In 1253 King Henry III conveyed the right to hold a weekly market in Epping Street which helped to establish the town as a centre of trade and has continued to the present day (the sale of cattle in the High Street continued until 1961).
 Up to 25 stagecoaches and mailcoaches a day passed through the town from London en route to Norwich, Cambridge and Bury St. Edmunds. In the early 19th century, 26 coaching inns lined the High Street.
After a bit of mucking about trying to find the path we eventually did just that.  For those that may do this walk the path is out of the station turn right and then right again across a footbridge over the tracks and heads the short distance down Hillcrest Way to Bower Hill.Not right and up to the end of the road!
Taking the footpath that runs down between houses and Bowyer Court into a field. We leave Epping and hea over a couple of fields, down to a Stewards Green Road where the route turns left and then left again to head up the narrow, in places quite muddy, byway of Stewards Green Lane.

The path now become very muddy and I begin to find out that I need new boots as these were beginning to let in water.



The route follows Stewards Green Lane down to rejoin the road at Stonards Hill where the route turns to the right and heads alongside the road for a short distance, passing the Theydon Oak pub before taking a footpath off to the left.


The Theydon Oak PH





The Theydon Oak has a  sense of history ,surrounding you with exposed beams decorated with genuine horse brasses and antiques adorning every alcove. An inglenook fireplace with real log fires welcome guests during the cold winter months. Areas of the original brickwork laid down over 400 years ago can still be seen
Mention must be made of the ghost. Rumours abound locally that an apparition has been seen several times in the depths of the cellar, and occasionally passing silently across the inglenook fireplace…..But then again, it is only a rumour…or is it?


We pass by some lovely houses and cottages.


The path  follows the field edges up to Gernon Bushes. As I was along this stretch of path I saw a lone buzzard circling over the woodland.

We stop for a break and something to eat and drink on a carved wooden bench just before the path enters Gernon Bushes reserve.



Gernon Bushes is 79 acres of ancient woodland, containing pollarded Hornbeams and mossy bogs. Pollarding has been practiced since Saxon times. About every 15 years the trees would be cut to to2 to 5 metres. The lopped off branches would be used for fencing and fuel. The site is now managed by Essex Wildlife trust.


A relief here for a while from the constant sticky mud.


We leave Gernon Bushes cross over the M25 and into a Birching Coppice. After we exit from the woods, we walk through more farmland and more mud!







We ensured more slipping and sliding as we both struggled to stay upright throughout the day.


The erection of a concrete water tower to the north-east of Toot Hill has increased the pressure in the public water supply and, more recently, provided a site for mobile telephone masts.
The path bears left ,then to the  right, passing through a hedge to cross diagonally over a narrow section of field before resuming its straight course alongside a number of smaller fields down to join the road in the village of Toot Hill.



Here the path turns left but we go right for a short stretch as I wanted to show Dan the areas Tourist Information centre, based in a Telephone box. It had books to read and newsletters dated 2003!
I stopped here to remove a boot, as they were now squelchy with water and mud. I wrung out my sock and wiped the mud from my foot. Dan suggested it may be easier over on the bench on the green,so we walked over.


Apparently BT withdrew the phone as it was no longer being used enough and sold it to the people of the village for £1 to use as the tourist information booth.



Toot Hill means 'Lookout Post'.

After having lunch and sorting out my boots and feet, we continued back along Toot Hill and passed The Green Man PH. The Green Man dates back to 1851 and it's frequently visited by the cast of 'The only way is Essex' as the owners are the proud parents of Jake Hall. Jake Hall is a TOWIE, I had to Google this to find out, don't watch the appalling programme! Further down the road in the opposite direction is The Mole Trap PH a favourite of mine.



THE GREEN MAN PH
We walk through the Village and into a field and through yep more mud. Here was the closest I came to ending up on my arse. I slipped yelled, swore as I slipped and were it not for a fence behind me I would have been over. I was hanging onto the fence backwards struggling to stay up as Dan turnt to laugh at my struggles!
We exit to cross Greensted Road and continue opposite through some fields and head up yo Greensted Church.


Greensted Church,in the small village of Greensted.It is the oldest wooden church in the world, and probably the oldest wooden building in Europe still standing, albeit only in part, since few sections of its original wooden structure remain. The oak walls are often classified as remnants of a palisade church or a kind of early stave church, dated either to the mid-9th or mid-11th century.

The nave is mostly original, and dendrochronological research in the 1960s dated it to 845. In 1995, however, this date was revised to 1053 +10 -55 years (sometime between 998 and 1063). It is made of large split oak tree trunks, which was a traditional Saxon form of construction. The flint footings of the chancel wall and the pillar piscina inside the sanctuary are all that remain of any identifiably Norman work.
The distinctive white wood-panelled tower was added in the Stuart period (17th century), and is what initially draws the eye. One of the bells is inscribed "William Land made me 1618", and so many consider the tower may in fact have been built earlier. This would not be too surprising as there are a number of medieval wooden towers in the district.

A service was being held so we remained outside, we were covered in mud anyway.



Near the porch, a large, flat, coped stone marks the quiet resting place of an unknown early crusader who is said to have arrived, badly wounded, at the church and died there. The fact that it was made of stone, not a local material, and was placed against the south wall, suggests he was considered as a hero.
Below is a picture of the Leper Squint, a small hole where a cup of holy water was placed for Lepers.


Legend has it that St Edmund was rested here while being transported to Bury from London in 1013. His body being taken to London to keep it safe from the Danes.

The Vicarage

The path continues behind the Church through another muddy field and onwards to Ongar.


We exit the field onto a tarmac road (Bansons Lane), the joy of eventually leaving the mud behind. We past Sainsburys and up to the main Road.

I pass Budworth Hall, containing a Ballroom, Concert Hall and Committee Room which are available for hire.
A Grade II Listed Victorian building on Ongar High Street was erected in 1886, as a memorial to the late Captain Philip John Budworth (1818-1885) of nearby Greensted Hall, and built by public subscriptions.
In the Second World War, the Budworth Hall was utilised for the war effort. In May 1940 troops were billeted in the Ballroom. In January 1942 the building was requisitioned for the purpose of a British Restaurant. The Restaurant and dining area were in the Ballroom and was opened on the 1st June. The Concert Hall and the Committee Room were used as a Social Centre for evacuees living in the district. The building re-opened for public use on the 1st April 1946.
We walked along The pretty High Street.
The name "Ongar" means "grass land" (akin to the German word: Anger). "Chipping" is from Old English cēping, "a market, a market-place", akin to Danish "købing" and Swedish "köping".
 Ongar was an important market town in the Medieval era, at the centre of a hundred and has the remains of a Norman castle . The Church of England parish church, St Martin's dates from the 11th century and shows signs of Norman work.
The nursery rhyme "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" is reported to have been written in Chipping Ongar. Knowleton Hall is the most well known home in Ongar due to its interesting history.
A quick look down to St Martins Church dedicated to a Roman Soldier who became a Christian bishop. Built in 1080 out of flint rubble. In the north wall is a ankar-hold, a hole where a hermit could take part in the service without being seen. We didn't go in as we were covered in mud.




We walked back onto the high street to find the bus stop to take us home.

We had 45 minutes to kill before the 501 bus arrived to take us back to Epping. Thsi bus runs every two hours on a Sunday!

So we stopped for a half of  Doombar in The Two Brewers, a lovely friendly pub!
Built in 1791.



We caught the bus back to Epping Station and made our way home after a 7.5 mile walk!