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Essex Walks: Admiral McHardy Way

  1. Description
  2. Directions
  3. Photos
  4. History

Description & Map

Title: Admiral McHardy Way
Distance: about 9 miles
Time taken: 4 hours
Location: Little Baddow, 4 miles East of Chelmsford
OS Explorer Map: 183
Grid Reference: TL 762 086
Parking: Church Road, north of the bridge over the Chelmer
Bus:bus Bus 31A - Chelmsford
Train: No train services nearby
Refreshment: The Generals Arms, Little Baddow, CM3 4SX
PEAR Rating: PEAR Rating Parking: 1/3 Easiness: 3/3 Amenity: 3/3 Refreshments: 2/3

[Click image to enlarge]

OS map extract 
[Click image to enlarge]

Download and print all 3 for your walk: 1. pdf Download Directions PDF
2. pdf Download PDF photo-set
3. pdf Download Admiral McHardy Map PDF
View online on 3 different interactive maps: Link to full screen OS map Admiral McHardy Map (OS)
Link to full screen Google map Admiral McHardy Map (Google)
Bing map Admiral McHardy Map (Bing OS 1:25k)
Additional information: gpx GPX track
Elevation View Elevation Profile
Display local weather Chelmsford Weather
River Chelmer, Little Baddow

Walk Description  

This lovely route takes you along the banks of the Chelmer before heading across farmland, along the historic Grace’s walk, and through a variety of woodlands before heading back down to the river for the final walk back to the parking. This circular route, created in 1990 to commemorate 150 years of policing in Essex, is well sign-posted, and although there is some road walking, there’s not much and in the main the roads are just quiet lanes.
Admiral McHardy Way is named after the first Chief Constable of Essex


pdf Download Description & Directions PDF here

A. From the parking (P), take the footpath on the north end of the bridge, heading west (2). You will be walking along the Chelmer River bank, on the northern side of the river. After about 400 yards you will come to a bridge over the river, with footpath waymarkers pointing in a bewildering variety of directions. Keep going along the northern river bank, past the lock gates (3).
B. The river meanders gently at this point; stay along its northern bank as you head north west and then turn south west. At a point about 1½ miles from the start there is a footpath junction with a large path heading straight ahead, going under the A12 towards Chelmsford (4). Don't take this, instead turn left to stay besides the river bank as it curves around to head south.
C. At about ¾ mile from the junction there is a green iron bridge over the river (5). Cross the Chelmer here and follow the path eastwards across the fields. Cross the stream using the small footbridge, then continue across the next field walking just to the left of a pylon (6).
D. At the roadside, go straight across (7). This takes you along a long, straight track, called Grace’s Walk. Look out for Alice’s Ghost, said to haunt the area near the bridge! (8)
E. As you walk up from the bridge, you come to Great Graces (9). Go through the farm gate to the roadside then cross to the footpath opposite. This takes you through an orchard and then out onto a lane (10). Turn left on the lane, heading up hill, past the gates of Riffhams, to a T-junction. Turn left going past Riffhams Lane and look for the entrance into the woods on the right side of the road, just by the ‘SLOW’ roadsign painted on the road (11).
F. Turn into the woods. Follow the path as it heads into the National Trust area called Lingwood Common (12). The path snakes through the trees, going gently up hill, until you come to the 2nd bench on your left overlooking a valley to the right (13). Turn sharp left here, behind the bench, to head northeast. The path goes alongside a fence before emerging onto the main village road 'The Ridge' (14). Cross the road and turn left.
G. Walk along the road for about 250 yards then turn right into Fir Tree Lane leading to Darcy Rise. Continue along this lane past all the houses and into the woods (15). You will see the Smaller Poors Piece Nature Reserve on your left, but continue straight on until you come to a large junction with a sign for the Danbury Ridge Nature Reserves. At this point turn left along a wide bridleway (16).
H. Follow the bridleway northwards until you reach a small gravel lane. Walk along this to the end (Postman's Lane), then turn left along the tarmac Spring Elms Lane. After a few yards you will see Mill Lane on your left: opposite this, on the right, you need to walk along a gravel drive towards a house (17). As you approach the front of the house you will see a path to the left, beside a wooden fence. Follow that into the woods called Heather Hills.
I. The path continues through the woods for a while then emerges onto a field edge. The field slopes gently down from here all the way to the Chelmer, giving wonderful views across the Essex countryside. There is some evidence of ancient earthworks in the woods to your left, meaning these views have probably been enjoyed for thousands of years.
J. Continue along the field edge with the woods on the left until you come to a paddock (18). Turn right here, then left at the hedge to go past Tofts Farm. Follow the concrete track until you come to the front entrance to Tofts. On the opposite side of the access road you will see a stile into a field; (19) climb over this and make for the south west corner of the field. Here you will find a stile taking you into some more woodlands.
K. After a few yards you emerge from the woodlands into a green lane, which takes you to a farmtrack. At this point the route ahead becomes quite overgrown, so turn right on the farmtrack (20) and then left on the road, to head back to the village.
L. Turn right in the village to head downhill. Take the second road on the left, turning into Spring Close (21).
M. As you walk along Spring Close you will see it forms a T-junction. Straight ahead at the junction you will see a path between 2 houses (22). Follow this, heading west across a field and into Hollybred Wood. Go straight on through the woods and out the other side, heading straight across another field.
N. About ¼ mile into this field you will come across a waymarker right in the middle of the field. Although (apart from the waymarker) there are no features to guide you at this point, you can see a small distance away on your right a few trees and the remnants of a low hedge, indicating where a field boundary used to lie. Turn right towards this hedge, heading downhill (23).
O. With the field boundary on your right carry on north towards the end of the field. Turn left (west) along the facing hedge to find a waymarker pointing north to the River Chelmer. You now have to cross some ground which can be a very boggy after rain: keep going north as best you can until you reach the south bank of the Chelmer (24).
P. Turn left along the Chelmer enjoying the waterfowl, then cross the roadbridge back to the parking spot.

pdf Download Description & Directions PDF here



Download PDF photo-set here pdf
P Parking: Church Lane 2 Admiral McHardy Way 3 Admiral McHardy Way
4 Admiral McHardy Way 5 Admiral McHardy Way 6 Admiral McHardy Way
7 Admiral McHardy Way 8 Admiral McHardy Way 9 Admiral McHardy Way
10Admiral McHardy Way 11Admiral McHardy Way 12Admiral McHardy Way
13Admiral McHardy Way 14Admiral McHardy Way 15Admiral McHardy Way
16Admiral McHardy Way 17Admiral McHardy Way 18Admiral McHardy Way
19Admiral McHardy Way 20Admiral McHardy Way 21Admiral McHardy Way
22Admiral McHardy Way 23Admiral McHardy Way 24Admiral McHardy Way


Admiral McHardy Way sign

Admiral McHardy Way

This 9 mile walk around Little Baddow was created in 1990 to commemorate 150 years of the Essex Police Force. Admiral McHardy founded the force in 1840, following the 1839 County Police Act, and was its first Chief Constable.

Admiral McHardy

Captain John Bunch Bonnemaison McHardy was appointed Chief Constable on 11th February 1840. John McHardy had a long and distinguished career in the Royal Navy and the Coastguard before joining the new police force. He had joined the Navy at the age of 11 and made good progress through the ranks gaining command of his own ship in 1828. According to Clowes’ History of the British Navy, McHardy was ‘the terror equally of pirates and slavers in the West Indies’. In 1831 he left the Navy and joined the Coastguard service. He continued to receive promotions in accordance with naval practice.

Admiral McHardy had a keen appreciation for both the processes of policing, designing forms and systems for managing the men under his command, and for discipline, discharging many men for offences such as drunkenness or lack of cleanliness. The result of his endeavours was that Essex County Constabulary became so highly regarded that Essex policemen were regularly recruited by other, newer police forces.

Little Baddow

St Mary the Virgin

There is evidence that Little Baddow existed as a settlement in Roman times, and some of the farms along the river were originally established by Saxon farmers. The parish Church of St. Mary the Virgin was originally Norman, built in 1086. In 1922, the then vicar of the parish, Reverend Berridge, noticed an entry in the accounts of 1749 regarding ‘plaistering about the new door and putting out St Christifer’. He then noticed a tiny spot of colour on the wall and together with his son, removed a layer of plaster to reveal a painting of St Christopher dating from 1370. Subsequently a ‘devil’ fresco, even older than the St Christopher, was also discovered.

This church would originally have been a Catholic church; however Little Baddow also has a strong Protestant history. Both Thomas Hooker (who fled England to America in 1633, later founding Conneticut and drafting one of the first written constitutions in the western world) and John Eliot (who also went to America and became famous for his work in converting Massachusetts Native Americans to Christianity, translating the Bible into the native language) lived in the village for several years. The United Reform Church in the village is one of the oldest in the country, dating from 1708.

River Chelmer

The River Chelmer was originally a small river flowing from Chelmsford to the coast. In 1793 the decision was taken to make it into a navigable waterway to link Chemlsford with the port at Maldon, and the work required for this was completed in 1797. The river was used for transporting coal, wood and many other products for more than 150 years, with commercial use finally ending in 1972. Little Baddow was a convenient stopping point for the boatmen being roughly halfway between Chelmsford and Maldon. Some boats would moor there overnight (stabling for tow horses was provided), with others off loading their goods for onward road transport to Chelmsford. When commercial traffic ended in the 1970s, the canal was opened for pleasure craft.

Grace’s Walk

Graces Walk 2008

Graces was the home of Sir Henry Mildmay who married Alice Harris (1588-1615). After 6 years of marriage, Alice drowned herself in Sandon Brook near here because her husband "was unkind to her", and ever since her ghost has haunted the area. When Sir Henry died in 1637 he asked to be buried next to Alice and left £40 to erect a tomb in the chancel of the Church


Danbury Ridge Nature Reserve

Danbury Ridge is gravel ridge running between Maldon and Chelmsford. There is evidence of Napoleonic defences near Danbury Common and Lingwood Common, indicating Danbury's military past. The Nature Reserve is a 240 acre site on the Danbury Ridge managed by Essex Wildlife Trust, and includes Poors Piece, Birch Wood, Scrubs Wood and Pheasanthouse Wood.

Holybred Wood

Holybred: Little Baddow Parish Council

The walk passes through the coppiced Holybred Wood, a 21 acre designated ancient woodland, managed as an amenity by Little Baddow Parish Council. In the 16th century the nearby farm baked bread and brewed ale to be sold for the benefit of the church or 'parish funds'. Hence it's name "Holybreds".


Heather Hills

This steep valley has become overgrown in recent years but was once covered in heather. Little Baddow Parish Council has donated funds to Essex Wildlife Trust to get rid of the overgrowth, including some tree cover, and to re-seed with Ling heather.