Description & Map
Title: Little Hallingbury
This walk consists of two contrasting sections, a riverside stroll and a more hilly walk through farmland.
From the parking in the pretty hamlet of Gaston Green, the route goes down Mill Lane to Little Hallingbury Mill, a beautifully preserved water mill. Then a short walk across the water meadows takes you to the Stort Navigation. Follow the river northwards as it meanders through the valley, passing locks and thatched cottages along the way. As well as the river itself, the boats, bridges, trees and birds, there are magnificent wide open skies to enjoy along the way.
The journey back takes you across the rolling hills of the Essex borders. A pleasant stroll past The Miller's Cottage and through fields and woods brings you to the village of Little Hallingbury, where The George offers a friendly welcome. Leaving the village, there's a final 15 minute walk over the undulating fields back to the parking. The footpaths are clear and well maintained, and the rolling hills make for a pleasing contrast to the flat vistas of the riverside walk.
A. From the parking (P), walk down Mill Lane opposite (1) staying on the lane to the left of a hedge. Continue along the lane for about 300 yards until you come to the mill (2). Walk straight on, over the footbridge and then bear left towards a group of trees.
B. Just before you reach the trees, look for a bridge over the ditch to your right. Presently it's a ramshackle affair, but easily walkable (3). Bear left again, to Tednambury Lock.
C. At the lock, turn right to walk north along the towpath (4) as it meanders along through the water meadows. After two thirds of a mile, cross Dell Lane and carry on along the river bank, past Spellbrook Lock (5)
D. Keep heading north along the river's edge. The trees on the right shield an iron age fort. After a third of a mile you will pass an attractive, white painted footbridge on your left but continue north (6), and two thirds of a mile later, continue past another footbridge.
E. Keep going until you pass through some green metal gates. Turn right (Pig Lane) and after 30 yards, take the footpath through the paddocks of Twyford Livery (7).
F. Carry on through the hedge, over a bridge and straight through the garden of The Miller's Cottage (8).
G. Exit the cottage property through a gate and carry on up through a field still heading south. At the crest of the hill go ahead along a track slightly to your left, with Latchmead B & B's fence on your right (9).
H. Continue along the track, then through the woods. As you come out into a field continue south along the hedgeline until you come to Dell Lane. Turn left along Dell Lane for The George, or turn right to continue the walk (10).
I. After 180 yards, the lane bends to the right, but go straight on along a footpath to the left of a house (11). Walk beside the garden hedge, then bear right just slightly and continue southwards across the field. Aim towards the paddocks; there is a post marking the route through, and large tree in the hedgeline beyond (12). Climb over a stile, then walk between the paddock fences and cross a footbridge through the hedge.
J. On the other side of the hedge turn left for 30 yards to reach the bottom corner of the field, then turn right to walk up the side of the field heading south (13). Continue up to the south east corner of the field, then bear left onto a track (14) with a fence on your left and the black outbuildings of Gaston House in the distance. The stately red brick building is Gaston House itself.
K. Keep on this track (now called Back Lane) as it bears left then passes some houses. When you reach the junction with Mill Lane, turn left to return to the parking.
This mill has had a rich and complex history. A mill has been recorded here since 1641, and 50 years later it was rebuilt as a silk mill. The manufacture of silk continued for about 80 years, after which the mill was converted back to the grinding of corn. By the mid-19th century the mill was closed. A new corn mill was built in 1874 and was in use until the 1950s. In the 1960s the building became the headquarters of a river cruise company and its use as a commercial mill ceased, however the machinery has been fully restored and the mill is still capable of grinding small quantities of wholemeal flour. The building currently houses a hotel and restaurant.
In the 16th century the town of Bishop's Stortford became a major source of malt for the London breweries. However the malt carts churned up the road surfaces so badly that by 1602 it was decreed that all malt should be carried by packhorse between October and March each year, creating major economic problems for the town. Other towns began to send heavy goods into London by water, but the River Stort was a shallow and meandering stream prone to flooding and not navigable along most of its length. By 1766 sufficient finance was raised to make the Stort into a navigable route and the canal came into use in 1769. The Stort Navigation is now used primarily for leisure.
The George is believed to date from the mid-17th century. There is a sad story that during the 1840s, when times were hard, two local lads broke into the pub through the daub walls and stole some wine, bread, cheese and cash. The noise they made woke the landlady and she woke the guests and residents, who went down to the cellar to see what was going on. By the time the landlady got down there, one of the miscreants was half way out of the hole in the wall with one of the guests hanging on to his legs. His accomplice had apparently been outside the pub, trying and failing to drag his friend free. Both lads were sentenced to deportation to Australia for 10 years, and at least one of them never came back, dying there in 1910.
The house date originally from the early 18th century. It was built as a plain red brick house with five bays to the south, but has been modified over the years with an additional wing built in the north west corner and sundry outhouses. It is a grade II listed building.