cookie Like most websites, Essex Walks uses cookies.
 By browsing this site you agree to our use of cookies.
  Click to find out more


Essex Walks: Hatfield Broad Oak

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

Description & Map

Title: Hatfield Broad Oak
Distance: 11 miles
Time taken: 4½ hours
Location: 5 miles south east of Bishop's Stortford
OS Explorer Map: 183 & 195
Grid Ref.: TL 546 166
Parking: [Limited] North of the junction between Feathers Hill and Cage End CM22 7HD
Bus:busBus: No.5 hourly to Bishops Stortford and Saffron Walden
Train: No train services
Refreshment: Takeley: The Four Ashes and the Lion and Lamb
Hatfield Broad Oak: The Duke's Head and The Cock 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 Hatfield Broad Oak Map PDF
View online on 3 different interactive maps: Link to full screen OS map Hatfield Broad Oak Map (OS)
Link to full screen Google map Hatfield Broad Oak Map (Google)
Bing map Hatfield Broad Oak Map (Bing OS 1:25k)
Additional information: gpx GPX track
Elevation View Elevation Profile
Display local weather Hatfield Broad Oak Weather
Hatfield Forest

Walk Description

This lovely walk takes you through the water meadows alongside Pincey Brook, then through the majestic Hatfield Forest. The Forest is a Country Park and you can wander anywhere you like within its boundary: we have suggested a way through but feel free to find your own route. You need to head to the Flitch Way which runs along the northern boundary of the Forest, there are several points of access between them. From there you head east along the Flitch Way. The final section takes you through green lanes and open countryside back into the historic village of Hatfield Broad Oak.


pdf Download Description & Directions PDF here

A. Go through a gate in the top left corner of the car park (P) and walk diagonally down the hill to a footbridge in the northwest corner of the field (1).
B. Cross the footbridge (the barrier at the far end is quite tricky) and turn right to walk northwards through the water meadows, with a fence on your right (2).
C. Keep walking northwards. You will encounter several sets of gates and stiles: continue north along the fence or hedge line for over a mile, until you reach a small lane.
D. Turn immediately left at the lane, through a field entrance (3), and left again to hairpin back south along the field edge with a hedge on your left.
E. You will see a ditch 50 yards south of the field entrance, running east - west across the field. Cross this ditch, then turn right to walk between the fields with the ditch on your right (4).
F. Bear left along the field edge following the line of the ditch, then 200 yards later bear left again around a small copse. Keeping the hedge on your right, walk down a slope through an area of rough grass (5) and continue straight ahead to the roadside.
G. Turn left on the road and walk for 175 yards to the entrance to Hatfield Forest (6).
H. Once you are in Hatfield Forest you can wander as you please and make your own way to the northern edge of the park, where you join the Flitch Way. We have suggested an easy and attractive route through, and any distances quoted relate to that route. If you do take a different route through, please re-join our description at point N below.
I. Walk through the park, initially with the boundary fence on your right (7).
J. Continue ahead as the path goes between trees, until you come to a T-junction. Turn right here along a wide grassy track (8).
K. Walk northwards; after about 250 yards you will come to a gravel drive. Keep heading north for another 200 yards then turn left along an avenue heading north west (9). This is the Forest Way.
L. Keep going for about a third of a mile, to the junction with the Harcamlow Way (10) and go straight across. Continue north west on the Forest Way for another 200 yards then immediately after crossing over another smaller path, follow the avenue around to the right.
M. You are now heading roughly northeast. Keep going in the same direction for almost half a mile until you emerge from between the trees into a grassy area. Turn left for about 300 yards then right towards a gate onto the Flitch Way (11).
N. Turn right on the Flitch Way, and walk east for about a mile. You will pass several other exits from Hatfield Forest on your right along the way. If you decide to take another route through the Forest you can join the Flitch Way at one of these junctions: TL538212 (51.868666 0.233046) or TL546211 (51.86753 0.245323) (i ). Keep going until you walk over the bridge above the road.
O. Continue along the Flitch Way for another half a mile after the railway bridge until you come to an exit bridleway on the left (12). You can turn off the Flitch Way here for a pub break in Takeley, or keep going straight ahead to continue the walk.
P. To go to The Four Ashes, turn left here and walk up the bridleway, along Chapel Fields and bear right along The Pastures. At the junction with the B1256 turn right and walk to the main road junction: the pub is on the left.
Q. To return to the Flitch Way, take Station Road heading south then turn left into Elm Close and immediately right into Sycamore Close. Follow the road round and you will see the old station building on your right. Turn left along the platform and re-join the Flitch Way.
R. Otherwise, continue along the Flitch Way going under Station Road bridge and passing the old station on your left.
S. About a third of a mile past the station, you will pass under another road bridge (13).
T. Two thirds of a mile later you will see a gate across the Flitch Way ahead of you (14).
U. To go to the Lion and Lamb, take the footpath on the left 25 yards in front of the gate, to the B1256 and turn right to the pub.
V. To continue the walk turn right into the field, 25 yards in front of the gate.
W. Walk southwards for about 250 yards until you meet the corner of the woods on your right. There is a telegraph pole ahead of you. Go through the gap between the woods and the telegraph pole (15) and walk along the field edge in a south westerly direction with the woods at your right.
X. After about 110 yards the woods drop back. Continue ahead across the field passing to the left of another telegraph pole (16) then through the hedge and over a stile.
Y. Cross the next field diagonally still heading south west then carry on along the field edge heading for a cylindrical silo at Little Bullocks Farm (17).
Z. As you approach the silo you will see a metal gate in the corner of the field on your right. Go through this into the farmyard then turn immediately hard left to walk along a green lane (called Oak Lane) (18).
AA. Continue along Oak Lane as it meanders through the countryside.
AB. After about a mile the lane, now called Cuckoos Lane, becomes surfaced. Keep going past Cuckoo Cottage
AC. Continue along Cuckoos lane until you come to Hellman's Cross (19).
AD. Cross the road. You can see the old stocks and whipping post on your left. Carry straight on between Clovelly House on your right and The Old Forge on your left, to walk along another green lane (Boxley Lane).
AE. Keep walking along Boxley Lane turning left then right along the byway.
AF. After a little over half a mile you will come to a junction with a footpath to your left. Bear right to stay on the byway (20).
AG. Continue along the byway until you pass Aldburys Farm and arrive at the roadside by a small triangular traffic island. Turn left on the road and walk south for 80 yards.
AH. Turn right along a narrow bridleway, which looks more like a woodland path (21).
AI. Walk the length of the bridleway (about a third of a mile) until you come to a wide grassy area and then a lane (22).
AJ. Cross the lane and go over a small plank bridge under the trees, then continue ahead westwards along the edge of a field (23).
AK. Keep going around two sides of the field edge until you reach corner diagonally opposite the entrance.
AL. Go through the large gap in the hedge at this point and continue walking in the same direction, roughly south west, but with the hedge now on your left (24).
AM. Carry on along the edge of this field until you approach a thatched cottage with cartwheels against the wall, then turn right to the roadside (25).
AN. Turn left on the B183 Dunmow Road and walk into Hatfield Broad Oak village.
AO. Follow the road round to the right in front of The Duke's Head (26).
AP. Walk along the High Street with the magnificent St Mary the Virgin church on your right, until you pass The Cock Inn on the right.
AQ. Continue to the T-junction near the post office, then turn right up Cage End and continue straight ahead up the no-through-road to the car park.

pdf Download Description & Directions PDF here


Download PDF photo-set here pdf
P Hatfield Broad Oak 1 Hatfield Broad Oak 2 Hatfield Broad Oak
3 Hatfield Broad Oak 4 Hatfield Broad Oak 5 Hatfield Broad Oak
6 Hatfield Broad Oak 7 Hatfield Broad Oak 8 Hatfield Broad Oak
9 hatfield_broad_oak 10hatfield_broad_oak 11hatfield_broad_oak
12hatfield_broad_oak 13hatfield_broad_oak 14hatfield_broad_oak
15Hatfield Broad Oak 16Hatfield Broad Oak 17Hatfield Broad Oak
18Hatfield Broad Oak 19Hatfield Broad Oak 20Hatfield Broad Oak
21hatfield_broad_oak 22hatfield_broad_oak 23hatfield_broad_oak
24hatfield_broad_oak 25hatfield_broad_oak 26hatfield_broad_oak


Hatfield Forest

Hatfield Forest 
[Click to enlarge]

Most of the English countryside looks the way it does because of the impact of farming. From the middle ages onwards, people have cut down forests, dug ditches, laid hedges and grubbed them up, improved tracks into paths, lanes and then roads, created ponds and later, filled them in: all in the interests of improving farming and trade. It is incredibly rare to find a large piece of land which has been left untouched by this swathe of human activity.
Hatfield Forest is one such area. It was a once a Royal hunting forest, and as such has not been ploughed since at least Norman times. The ancient coppices and wood pasture are likely to be managed relics of the original wildwood and are now extremely rare. The whole forest is an SSSI.
Oliver Rackham in his book 'The Last Forest' said that

Hatfield is of supreme interest in that all the elements of a medieval Forest survive: deer, cattle, coppice woods, pollards, scrub, timber trees, grassland and fen, ... As such it is almost certainly unique in England and possibly in the world ... Hatfield is the only place where one can step back into the Middle Ages to see, with only a small effort of the imagination, what a Forest looked like in use.

Flitch Way

Flitch Way 
[Click to enlarge]

The Flitch Way is a walking and cycling path which runs along the old track bed of the Bishops Stortford, Dunmow & Braintree Railway line. This line opened in 1869, initially transporting both passengers and freight. However the passenger service was never really profitable and although it operated for nearly 100 years, it was closed in 1952. The real profits came from freight transport, bringing agricultural produce from Essex back into London (including bananas from the Fyffe's banana ripening facility in Felsted). This traffic continued after the passenger service had ceased but during the 1960's, more and more freight was being transported by road and in 1972 the line was finally closed completely. During WWII the line was used for many different purposes, including the transportation of hard core for the building of Saling Airfield, and later, the carriage of bombs to the same destination. After D-Day, ambulance trains used the line to bring back wounded soldiers.


Hellman's Cross

Stocks and Whipping Post, Hellman's Cross 
[Click to enlarge]

Hellman's Cross is roughly in the centre of the parish of Great Canfield, and was the site of the stocks and whipping post for the parish. These have been preserved for posterity, although they haven't been used since 1860 when a drunk was put in the stocks. The same site was also used for witch burning in 1683 when Elizabeth Abbot, a local woman, was put to death here. This is unusual because the majority of witch burnings in Essex took place forty years earlier, during the time of Matthew Hopkins (the self-styled Witchfinder General) when a total of about 300 women were executed. It is widely believed that witch hunting ceased completely following the restoration of the monarchy in 1660: but not apparently for poor Elizabeth Abbot.


Hatfield Broad Oak

Hatfield Cage End 
[Click to enlarge]

Hatfield Broad Oak is a lovely, unspoilt village. There are many beautiful old buildings including The Cock, an old coaching inn dating from the 15th century, and the Duke's Head, a far more modern establishment first recorded in 1755.
The parish church of St Mary is huge, dominating the north side of the High Street. It is all that remains of a medieval Benedictine priory which once graced the village but which was dissolved by Henry VIII. No trace of the priory can be seen today. The village was once one of the busiest market towns in Essex, partly because of the priory, and partly because it was well served by the medieval road network, with several main routes passing through or close by the village. Today though, it is well off the beaten track giving it a peaceful grace and charm.