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Essex Walks: Elmdon

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

Description & Map

Title: Elmdon
Distance: 11 miles
Time taken: 4½ hours
Location: Elmdon, nr. Saffron Walden
OS Explorer Map: 194
Grid Ref.: TL 488 384
Parking: [Limited] Littlebury Green, CB11 4XB (one car only)
Bus: No regular service
Train: No service
Refreshment: Chrishall - The Red Cow, SG8 8RN
PEAR Rating: PEAR Rating Parking: 1/3 Easiness: 1/3 Amenity: 3/3 Refreshments: 1/3

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

Walk Description

Tucked away in the north west of the county is this beautiful and remote rural area. The route is quite hilly, for Essex, which means there are some amazing views to be enjoyed along the way. The walk also takes you through some of Essex's more secluded villages, several of which seem to have hardly changed for the last hundred years!

Right from the start, as you emerge into the fields south of Littlebury Green, you have a wonderful panoramic view right along the valley in front of you. You stroll downhill into this valley, then up the other side with the valley now on your right so you can continue to take in the views. Then it's over the hill into Duddenhoe End with its proliferation of thatched cottages. Next the path goes through fields and along an old Roman road to Langley, where you can sit on an enormous wooden bench overlooking the village cricket green. After this, you wander through meadows to the highest point in the county before sweeping slowly down into the valley, this time with extensive views over Chiswick Hall and Chrishall Church.

From the valley floor the path climbs gently up through the churchyard and then through Chrishall village itself before taking you off to walk along the Icknield Way to Elmdon. In Elmdon, the village itself has a pleasant, timeless feel. Finally, you walk along Freewood Lane with lovely views across the countryside on either side, then through the farmyard and across fields to the parking spot. What better way to spend a few hours exploring Essex!


pdf Download Description & Directions PDF here

A. From the limited roadside parking in Littlebury Green (P), which is usually only sufficient for a single car, walk in a southerly direction down a driveway to the right of the letterbox. After a few yards, bear right to follow a track skirting a pond on your right, and carry on to the field edge.
Take a moment to enjoy the view, before turning right for about 50 yards then turn left (1) to walk down into the valley with the hedge on your right (2).
B. At the bottom of the hill the track turns left alongside a brook. Follow this along until, after a few yards, you come to the roadside by Bounds Bridge, where the road crosses the brook (3). At this point, turn right on to the road (B1039), walk over the bridge and continue up the road for about 250 yards.
C. At New Farm, turn left to walk up the farm track, to the left of the farm buildings. Once past the buildings, continue up the hill turning right at the T junction, then following the track as it snakes up the hill towards Rockell's Wood (4).
D. The hedge on the left of the track becomes thicker, more like a long thin copse, but not quite a wood. Just before you get to the actual woods, there is a small path to the left through this copse, so that you walk up to the top of the hill with Rockell's Woods on your right. We saw deer here (5).
E. As you start to come down the other side of the hill, still with the woods on the right, follow the field edge around the woods until you come to the hedgerow at the end of the field. There is a gap in the hedge: go through this bearing right and follow the path between paddocks until you come to a gravel track. Turn right on the track until it joins with the main road into Duddenhoe End (6).
F. Walk straight ahead along the road opposite into the village of Duddenhoe End. Keep walking through the village for about a third of a mile until, just past the telephone box (7) you come to a side road called Brooksies. Turn left down here, and at the end of the road on the right is a footpath which takes you through a paddock, heading south.
G. Cross over the stile at the end of the paddock, and continue walking south. The path goes straight on heading roughly south for about half a mile, across 3 fields and 2 footbridges, before coming out onto a small track known as Lorking's Lane. Turn left here (8), heading roughly south east, then after a few yards you will come to the T Junction with Beard's Lane. Turn right here, to head south west.
H. After about a quarter of a mile Beard's Lane becomes a green lane (9). Although it looks so rural, it actually follows the course of an old Roman Road. A quarter of a mile later, you will see a footpath off to the left, then there is a small dip in the lane signifying that this part might be muddy in winter: about 25 yards after this dip, there is another footpath heading off to the right into a field. Turn along here, heading west (10).
I. Continue along this path, with a field to your left and the hedge to your right, for about half a mile. This is the Harcamlow Way. At a gap in the hedge, ignore the farm track crossing through it. Stay on the field edge, with the hedge on your right, heading north west.
J. At the roadside turn left, towards the village of Langley. After about 100 yards, you will see an un-made-up road on the right leading to a small housing development overlooking the village green (11). Walk up this road, and as you pass the last house you will see a hedge with a 5 barred gate in it in front of you, and a footpath on the right between the hedge and the house. Walk along this path for a few yards then turn left to walk between two hedges (12), then out into a meadow.
K. At the far end of the meadow walk through the gap in the hedge and out into the field. Proceed along the field margin with a hedge on your right. When the hedge stops, turn right to head north along the field edge towards some trees, where you turn left continuing around the field. After a few yards the footpath turns right to enter a small wood (13) - this is the highest spot in Essex!
L. As you emerge from the woods walking roughly north, you will have a hedge on your left. After a while this disappears leaving you walking on a strip of rough grass between two fields, heading downhill towards Chiswick Hall. The church you can see in the distance is Holy Trinity Church, Chrishall (14).
M. As you approach Chiswick Hall turn left in front of the fence. Follow the fence along and turn right onto a gravel track between paddocks on the left and a large black barn on the right (15). Once past the metal 7-barred gate, the path goes between the paddock fence and a line of trees, to emerge on the access road to the Hall. Turn left on this and head downhill to the road.
N. At the roadside turn left then almost immediately right over a footbridge, to walk up the hill towards the churchyard (16). Go into the churchyard, heading north-west to pass the church on its left. As you pass the church building continue in the same direction, and as you approach the churchyard boundary hedge, you will come to a stile.
O. Once over the stile, follow the fence diagonally across the next field, still heading roughly north-west. When you reach the hedge go through the gap, and carry on across the next small grassy area before emerging onto a lane. Cross the lane to the footpath opposite. This takes you between fences to a hedge, then west and then north alongside another hedge in the top corner of a field, before going along an enclosed path to Chalky Lane.
P. At Chalky Lane, turn left for a few yards then right by the old pump (17) to walk along the left side of a hedgerow. After a few yards the hedge disappears, but continue along the field boundary as it curves to the left, and another hedge begins. Following this hedge, turn left again to head south-west, and a few yards later in the corner of the hedge you will see a footpath heading north into Chrishall village. This path becomes Hogs Lane.
Q. At the end of Hogs Lane turn right onto the High Street. After a few yards you will come to the village war memorial (18). Opposite this you will see a new side road called Loveday Close; walk along this road and find the gap between 2 houses, with a gravel path: although not marked as a footpath when we were there, this is the route onwards to Elmdon (19).
R. Continue on this path alongside a garden fence until you enter a field, then walk on with a hedge to your left until you come to a stile, placed where the hedge gives way to a fence. Cross the stile to walk with the fence on your right, towards the woodland you can see ahead. As you get closer to the woods you will see a way in, at about a quarter of the way along the edge of the woods from the left.
S. Once in the woods you are on the route of the Icknield Way. Turn right until you come to a crossroads with a barrier across the opposite route (20), then turn left. Keep going until you reach the roadside. Turn right on the road going downhill towards the pretty village of Elmdon. As you pass the Elmdon Dial pub (now closed) bear right, and follow the road down past several thatched cottages, into the valley and up the other side.
T. Keep going up until you are near the crest of the hill and the road, which has been curving to the left, begins to curve to the right. You will see a lane, the access road for Freewood Farm, on your left. Turn along this lane (21).
U. As you walk along the lane there are some lovely views to either side. Keep going for about half a mile until you come to the farm then walk between the farm buildings and a cattle stall (the cattle seemed very friendly) (22) and straight on out of the back of the farm.
V. Continue on this track, initially with woods to your left then later with a hedge on the left (23), for almost a mile, when the path goes through a sort of dog-leg to the right before continuing in the same direction. Keep going and about a quarter of a mile later, you will come to the roadside opposite the parking place.

pdf Download Description & Directions PDF here


Download PDF photo-set here pdf
P parking 1 Start 2 field edge path
3 Bounds Bridge 4 West to wood 5 Rockell's Wood
6 Entering Duddenhoe End 7 Duddenhoe End 8 Lorking's Lane
9Beard's Lane 10Fork to west 11Langley: Upper Green
12Tunnel of green 13Highpoint, Chrishall Common 14Fields south of Chiswick Hall
15Gate 16Footbridge and path north to Chrishall Church 17Footpath to Chrishall
18War Memorial 19Alley off Loveday Close 20Icknield Way
21Freewood Lane 22Freewood Farm 23Return to Littlebury Green



Littlebury Green

The first reference to Littlebury Green occurs in 1008, during the reign of King Ethelred (978-1013 and 1014-1016). In 1008, King Ethelred sold the land that became Littlebury Green (together with other lands) to the Bishop of Ely, in return for for "nine pounds of the purest gold according to the great weight used by the Normans". At the time England was being subjected to frequent and bloody raids by the Vikings. Although Ethelred had tried various strategies to end them (including paying protection money, signing treaties, and even massacring all the Danish men in Britain) the raids kept coming. It is likely that Ethelred was selling Littlebury Green to raise money to build ships, to stop the raiders reaching the shores. But this strategy, like all the others, ultimately failed. In the end, six months after Ethelred's death England was conquered by the Viking King Cnut.
More recently, Littlebury Green has become famous for its crop circles, which have appeared mysteriously overnight. Most crop circles appear in remote locations, fuelling the notion that a bunch of lads with the right kit create the patterns when no one else is around. However one of the Littlebury circles appeared in a highly visible spot - in a field overlooking the M11 - and yet still no-one saw anything! Spooky!


Holy Trinity Church, Chrishall

Holy Trinity Church, Chrishall Chrishall is said by some to be the first place in Essex where Christianity took hold: in the Domesday Book the name of the village is stated as 'Cristehalla', meaning the home of Christ. Much of the current church was rebuilt in the 19th century, but there are some remains of a smaller 12th century church. It is believed that a much earlier Saxon church once existed here. There are the remains of a medieval Motte in the woods within 100 yards of the church, an indication that in the past the village might have been located nearer to the Church than it is at present.



Chrishall is believed to have ancient royal connections. It is said to be the place Queen Matilda, wife of King Stephen, grew up. Matilda (or Maud) married Stephen in about 1125. At that time Stephen was the younger nephew of Henry I and not expected to ascend the throne because Henry had named his daughter Matilda as heir. However on the death of Henry in 1153 Stephen seized the throne while Matilda was overseas, with the assertion that on his deathbed Henry had had a change of heart and named Stephen as heir. Matilda did not take this lying down and began a military campaign to regain the crown, finally beating Stephen at the Battle of Lincoln in 1141. She then went to London to claim the crown, but although at first the populace were supportive, she refused a citizens request to halve taxes whereupon they threw her out of the city, effectively re-starting the civil war. Maud, Stephen's wife, played a significant role in these affairs. Stephen was captured and imprisoned during the Battle of Lincoln, and during his imprisonment Maud took up arms herself, winning several victories and capturing one of Matilda's allies. After this Maud was able to negotiate a prisoner exchange, freeing Stephen. Stephen continued to reign until his death in 1154, but the civil war raged throughout. The Anglo Saxon Chronicles summed up Stephens reign as follows: 'In the days of this King there was nothing but strife, evil, and robbery... And so it lasted for nineteen years while Stephen was King, till the land was all undone and darkened with such deeds, and men said openly that Christ and his angels slept'.


The Elmdon Dial - St Nicholas' Church

Stained Glass Window Dial Although aspects of this lovely church date back to 1320, the church was virtually rebuilt in Victorian times. However the west tower is 15th century, there are 16th century memorial slabs in the floor, and the 'Elmdon Dial', a stained glass window dating from the mid-1600's, which was probably made by a craftsman called John Oliver. It was quite unusual for a stained glass window to be commissioned for a church at that time: following the rise in puritanism, church buildings had become much less ornate and many ecclesiastical artefacts containing Catholic imagery had been destroyed. Artists restricted themselves to images which could not be considered papist. The Elmdon Dial is essentially a memento mori, depicting an hourglass, a sundial, and a fly: all images designed to make people think about the fleeting nature of life, and their impending, inevitable meeting with St Peter. The mottos read 'Sic Vita' (such is life!), and 'Nulla dies sine linea' (no day without a line). The hourglass and sundial are obvious metaphors: it is thought that the fly represents disease, or decay. John Oliver used the image of an insect in several of his works. He used to paint the wings of the insect on the upper surface of the glass, and paint the rest below, giving a very realistic image. This window was originally installed in St Dunstan's church nearby, and was moved to St Nicholas following its closure.

Icknield Way

The Icknield Way is the oldest road in Britain. It stretches from Ivinghoe Beacon near Dunstable, to Knettishall Heath in Norfolk along the line of a chalk escarpment, and is marked throughout its length by ancient sites such as barrows, mounds, sacred stones and fords. In places, indentations can still be seen in the ground indicating the volume of traffic that has used the path over hundreds of years.


Elmdon is one of a chain of villages (including Chrishall, Strethall and Littlebury Green) lying in the chalky uplands of north-west Essex, which have been largely untouched by the desecrations of the countryside in the post war years. Main roads between the large population centres tended to use the valleys, leaving the hilltop villages relatively isolated. As a result, Elmdon feels almost unchanged since the 19th century, with a good number of thatched cottages and weather-boarded buildings still in use in the village.

The Elmdon Dial

The Elmdon Dial - the battle for the Village Pub

In 1997, the Kings Head, the only pub in Elmdon, was bought up for conversion into residential property. Local villagers were enraged by this, and went to court to prevent what they saw as the loss of the only meeting place in the village. The fight lasted for 8 years, with the locals organising fundraising events - including converting the village bus stop into a pub, 'The Kings Headless', twice a year. The pub eventually re-opened as The Elmdon Dial in 2006. There was a large and pleasant beer garden, useful for walkers.

Sadly, The Elmdon Dial is now closed. This pub closed its doors in the middle of May 2013 and joined the growing band of establishments now shut. Another tear in the fabric of English rural communities.