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Essex Walks: Ashdon

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

Description & Map

Title: Ashdon
Distance: 7 ¾ miles
Time taken: 3 hours
Location: 3 miles North East of Saffron Walden
OS Explorer Map: 209
Grid Ref.: TL 580 416
Parking: [Limited] Off Fallowden Lane, Church End, Ashdon, CB10 2HL (one car only)
Bus: No regular bus service
Train: No train service
Refreshment: Bartlow: The Three Hills
                     Ashdon: Rose and Crown Inn
PEAR Rating: PEAR Rating Parking: 2/3 Easiness: 2/3 Amenity: 3/3 Refreshments: 3/3

[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 Ashdon Map PDF
View online on 3 different interactive maps: Link to full screen OS map Ashdon Map (Ordnance Survey)
Link to full screen Google map Ashdon Map (Google)
Bing map Ashdon Map (Bing OS 1:25k)
Additional information: gpx GPX track
Elevation View Elevation Profile
Display local weather Ashdon Weather

Walk Description  

Right on the borders of Essex and Cambridgeshire is this quiet and secluded area, rich in history. The walk passes two medieval churches and the resplendent Bragg's Mill, but perhaps the most remarkable place along the route is Bartlow Hills, believed to include the largest burial mound in northern Europe. Aside from the history, the walk wanders through the undulating hills of north Essex, with extensive views across the fields. There is a nice mix of terrain with field edges, farm tracks, green lanes and tiny narrow roads. You will also see old tumbledown farm buildings, well maintained thatched cottages and the glorious windmill. The two villages each has a variety of beautiful old buildings, a stream running through, and a friendly and welcoming pub. Idyllic.


pdf Download Description & Directions PDF here

A. From the car park (P) turn left along Fallowden Lane and walk west for about a third of a mile to the end of the road, where a disused railway line branches off to the left (1). Continue straight ahead for another 50 yards, passing to the right of Halt Cottage.
B. At the facing hedge turn right in front of a gate and walk north around the field edge with a hedge on your left. Continue alongside the hedge as it turns left then right. 140 yards later, just in front of a group of trees, turn left through the hedge (2).
C. Walk ahead to a tiny lane, and turn right to Ashdon Street Farm. Take the path ahead, with a functional but ugly barn on your left and a number of decaying but delightful barns on your right. Immediately past the farm buildings, bear right along a field edge with the hedge on your left for 100 yards, then bear right again to cross the field towards a telegraph pole (3).
D. Continue ahead with a hedge on your right for 50 yards, then cross a wooden footbridge and a couple of yards later, go down a steep slope into a sunken green lane and walk along it for about 300 yards. Just past another wooden footbridge, at a footpath junction, turn left to head north west, with a hedge on your left (4).
E. At the top of the field there is a large oak tree apparently blocking the way: go around the tree to the right then cross a grassy bridge behind it and continue north west, now with a hedge on your right. (5).
F. 200 yards later, go through a gap in the facing hedge and bear right to cross the next field diagonally, towards the near corner of a small wood (6).
G. Walk towards the white house (Great Bowsers) with the woods on your right. Turn right immediately in front of the garden wall and head east - north east along a concrete bridleway (7).
H. Stay on the bridleway for almost a mile. The concrete peters out and the path continues eastwards along a well-defined farm track. After walking downhill beside a small wood, turn left at the T-junction to walk northwards along a byway (8).
I. Near the crest of the hill is a line of pine trees. About 350 yards past this, ignore the farm track off to the right and continue along the byway for another 100 yards to a field entrance (you can see Rivey Hill water tower on the horizon). Bear right to continue downhill along a farm track (9).
J. Continue along the track for 500 yards to the Bartlow Road, and turn right (10).
K. Carry on past what remains of the railway bridge (where you leave Essex and enter Cambridgeshire: remember to remove your white stilettos and put on socks and sandals), over a stream and past Blackditch Barns, to a T-junction. Turn left, heading northwards into Bartlow. 150 yards later you will pass (or pop in to) The Three Hills, which was doubling up as the village polling station when we were there.
L. Continue northwards for 75 yards to the crossroads and turn right. After 150 yards look for a turning on the right just past The Old Coach House, which takes you into the churchyard of St Mary's (with its unusual round tower). Fork left through the churchyard (11). You are now on the Harcamlow Way.
M. Follow the path along an enclosed alleyway, over a stream and the disused railway, and into Bartlow Hills. The exit from this astonishing Roman burial site is found by walking eastwards between the first and second barrow, and then along a fenced path ahead (12).
N. The fenced path brings you to the roadside. A few yards before the road, turn left and climb over a ridge then up a slope to walk south through some woods. Be sure to stay on a narrow footpath parallel to the road, heading south, not the wide farmtrack leading away from the road (13).
O. After 200 yards go down a few steps onto a drive, and turn left then bear right to pass between a farmhouse with free range children and a curious round tower. Carry on to the field edge, and turn left (14).
P. Walk up the side of the field with a hedge on your left. Continue for a little over half a mile along the track (and the county boundary) until the hedge stops and the track turns sharp left. At this point, you are about to re-enter Essex. Please take a moment to re-apply your fake tan, then turn right to leave the farm track and head south west along a grassy footpath, with a bank and then some trees on your left (15).
Q. 300 yards later you will come to another small copse: continue ahead passing it on your left. Keep going for another 250 yards to a footpath crossroads. Go straight across and walk south along an avenue (16).
R. Go past some paddocks, then the walled grounds of Waltons. You can glimpse some 17th century cottages at the far side of the lawn. Keep going downhill along the driveway, with buildings on your left. Continue along the driveway to the roadside. Cross the road and go up a slope, through a gateway and into the field opposite (17).
S. Keep to the left field edge. At the facing hedge, climb over a stile and go ahead across the field towards Bragg's Mill. As you get close, bear left to go towards the back of the mill (18).
T. The windmill site is open to the public, so you can have a look around before continuing along the tiny lane behind the windmill. Walk past a cottage on the left, then bear right over mowed grass, and head downhill along a green lane. This can get very muddy, and it looks as though by custom and practice, people use the field edge to the right when the bridleway is impassable (19).
U. After 125 yards turn right leaving the lane and walk west along a field edge with the hedge on your right (20).
V. Follow the hedge line westwards for almost half a mile as it meanders gently downhill. As you approach Ashdon you can see the exit from this field on your left: continue around the field edge to the exit into Kate's Lane (21).
W. Turn right along Kate's Lane to a T-junction, then turn right again towards Ashdon (22). At the next T-junction, the Rose and Crown is ahead of you.
X. Turn left along Church Hill heading south west. After 300 yards look out for Ashdon Museum on the left side of the road. Take the footpath to the right of the museum (23), and turn right after 30 yards, in front of the footbridge. Head south west, parallel to the road but behind some houses. After the last house the path bears left to cross the meadow towards some woods (24).
Y. Bear right in front of the woods to walk up the slope with the woods on your left. Exit from the south west corner of the meadow (25) and carry on in roughly the same direction along an enclosed path past Ashdon Hall towards All Saints Church. The remains of medieval Ashdon is in the field to your left, although there's little to see (26).
Z. It's worth wandering around the churchyard to see the Guildhall, on the south side. Leave the churchyard via the north gate and turn immediately left to go through a graveyard to the main road. Turn right to return to the car park.

pdf Download Description & Directions PDF here


Download PDF photo-set here pdf
P Fallowden Lane 1 Halt Cottage 2 Ashdon
3 Ashdon 4 Ashdon 5 Ashdon
6 Bowsers 7 Ashdon 8 Lang Meadows
9 Ashdon 10Bartlow 11Bartlow
12Bartlow 13Bartlow 14Bartlow
15Bartlow 16Ashdon 17Waltons
18Windmill 19Ashdon 20Ashdon
21Ashdon 22Ashdon 23Ashdon
24Ashdon 25Ashdon 26Ashdon
Download PDF photo-set here pdf


Bragg's Mill

Bragg's Mill was built in 1757 by William Haylock, a local carpenter. In 1813 it is known to have had two pairs of millstones. It operated until 1912. From 1894 until it closed, the mill was owned and operated by John Bragg. By 1932, the side girt on the left had failed and the mill had to be propped up. An attempt at renovation occurred in the 1950's, but the mill was derelict again by 1974. Further repairs were carried out then, but during 1990 the sails had to be removed. In the year 2000 it was given to the people of Ashdon. Since then, the frame of the mill has been straightened, the weatherboarding replaced and repainted, the roundhouse restored, the sails replaced, the tailpole and steps have been renewed: and it looks fantastic. Hats off from Essex Walks to the people of Ashdon! The mill is open to the public on the second Sunday of each month through the summer, starting in April each year.


Ashdon Church End

Ashdon All Saints Ashdon village consists of two distinct parts. The smaller, older part, the hamlet around the church, dates from pre-christian times. The medieval village has largely disappeared although ditches and 'platforms' in the field to the east of the church can still be seen. South of the church is the impressive Guildhall (built in the late 15th century and mentioned in the will of Sir Roger Bryte in 1501 when left his tenement with 2 houses on it to the Guild of St Mary the Virgin. The building appears to have become a guildhall by 1518) and the Rectory, built around 1600. All Saints Church was built on the site of an earlier church. The current building dates mainly from the 14th & 15th centuries, but was restored in the 18th and 19th centuries. There is a story that the altar rails were restored in 1927 after being used for almost 50 years as henhouse perches. The larger village in the valley was established during the 13th or 14th century, possibly in an attempt to avoid the Black Death.


Ashdon Halt Railway Station

Ashdon Halt

Ashdon Halt was opened on 14th August 1911. An old Great Eastern Railways carriage was added in 1916 to act as a waiting room. The station closed on 7th September 1964. The following description of the line comes from 'The Only Way was Essex: Tough Times and Simple Pleasures', by Spike Mays:

'Standing off a single line track connecting Audley End Junction to Haverhill - the Cambridge line to the Colne Valley - the halt featured the furious whistlings and puffings of four trains a day as they approached and departed. From those whistlings we could tell the time and we did. We had no watches. The Halt and its sounds are no more. Instead there are now jet-shreikings from fighter aircraft at Duxford and other such places. George Sutton, the thin, bearded, thirsty railway guard will never wave his red and green flags there again. His trains are gone, his track overgrown. I shall always remember when he blew his little whistle in vain after emerging from the pub in Audley End and rushing into the guards van. The engine driver whistled his usual reply and the engine chugged its way to Saffron Walden... leaving George in his van wondering why he had failed to notice that the passenger carriages had not been coupled to that departing, whistling engine.'

St Mary's Church, Bartlow

St Mary's Church, Bartlow

From the outside this church is charming, with an unusual round tower which was built in Norman times. The remainder of the church is 14th century, with alterations added in the 15th century. If it is open, it's worth a look inside: there are fragments of wall paintings still remaining from the 15th century, including a portrait of St Christopher, a picture of St Michael weighing souls (the devil can be seen trying to weight the scales in his favour, but is thwarted by the Virgin Mary), and a dragon: but no St George. Sadly the church was shut when we visited.


Bartlow Hills

Bartlow Hills The 'hills' in Bartlow are Romano-British barrows, or burial mounds. Originally there were seven hills, but four of these have disappeared. They were built in alternate layers of chalk and surface soil, and then turfed, so that their external appearance is pretty much unchanged since they were built. The hills were excavated several times during the early 19th century, each revealing the cremated remains of a single person and sundry burial goods, of exceptionally high quality (including a chased bronze jug inlaid with silver, a folding magistrates chair, and a gilded and enamelled globular bronze urn). Sadly most of the grave goods have been lost: items recovered during a dig in 1815 were simply given away to local people. Later investigations through the 1830's were more organised: a detailed list of the objects discovered was produced, and the objects themselves were removed to Easton Lodge for safe keeping. Ironically, Easton Lodge was destroyed by fire shortly afterwards and now the only remaining artefacts are those were recovered from the populace as a result of the 1815 distribution. The contents of the barrows have been dated to between 90 and 120 AD, and so are almost contemporaneous.

Incidentally, although the barrows were intended to contain the remains of a single individual, one of them at least contained a further grisly secret.

'In January 1930 the old excavation tunnel of 1840 in the northernmost large hill fell in at the entrance and going along it I found that the hill had been dug down from the top at some time and the shaft filled up with rubble. In this rubble lies a skeleton, largely cleared by rabbits. It is laid out on its back in a natural position, covered and surrounded with large flints... There is no doubt whatever that the skeleton is not an original burial, but lies in a much later shaft, the filling of which must have taken place long after the hill itself had consolidated. But who the man is and how he got there must remain a mystery. I suppose the easiest solution is that an unsuccessful treasure hunt was carried out some hundreds of years ago and the pit thus formed, disused and remote, formed a very useful place in which to put away an inconvenient body.'

(Taken from 'Substance of a short sketch given on the site by C G B to the Cambs and Hunts Archaeological Society in May 1932') (Essex Walks has been unable to discover who 'CGB' was. If you know, please contact us. We'd love to give full attribution.)



The cottages you can see beyond the lawn were built early in the 17th century, of red brick. The roof tiles are laid in a diaper pattern. The chimney stacks are original, one with 4 shafts (the inner two being octagonal and the outer two, square set diagonally) and another with 2 octagonal shafts. The building was renovated in the 20th century. Within the grounds, but not visible from the footpath, there is a 16th century wall, 9' high, with archways, which is subject to a preservation order all of its own.


Ashdon Museum

Ashdon Museum

Ashdon Village Museum   Tel.: 01799 584253

Ashdon Museum has a remarkable collection of artifacts representing village life. In particular, agricultural and domestic implements from the 19th century feature strongly. There are a number of old coins, historic photographs, and loads and loads of objects of interest including a replica of the Ashdon meteorite that fell in 1923 together with an interesting presentation on the subject prepared by the British Museum. The museum chock full of fascinating things, and its labyrinthine layout gives it a Tardis feeling. The museum's founder developed his interest in local history when digging up old bottles as a young boy, and the enthusiasm felt by that lad back in the 1970s is still present in the museum today. Refreshments are available when it's open, and the chocolate cake in particular has had special mention on line. The museum is very well worth a visit and is open from Easter Sunday to Michaelmas on Sundays, Wednesdays and Bank Holiday Mondays 2 - 5 pm; Michaelmas to Christmas on Sundays only, and is closed from Christmas to Easter.