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Essex Walks: Mill Green

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

Description & Map

Title: Mill Green
Distance: 4½ miles
Time taken: 1½ - 2 hours
Location: 5.5 miles south west of Chelmsford
OS Explorer Map: 183
Grid Ref.: TL 638 012
Parking: Mill Green Common, Mill Green Road, CM4 0JD
Bus: None < a mile.
Train: No train service
Refreshment: The Cricketers, Mill Green 01277 352400 CM4 0JD
The Viper, Mill Green 01277 352010
PEAR Rating: PEAR Rating Parking: 3/3 Easiness: 2/3 Amenity: 2/3 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 Mill Green Map PDF
View online on 3 different interactive maps: Link to full screen os map Mill Green Map (Ordnance Survey)
Link to full screen Google map Mill Green Map (Google)
Bing map Mill Green Map (Bing OS 1:25k)
Additional information: gpx GPX track
Elevation View Elevation Profile
Display local weather (toggle) Mill Green Weather
Music by Helios

Walk Description  

'Writtle Forest is a wild and lovely place. Nearly everything one sees there is of the fourteenth century or earlier: the great assart surrounded by hornbeam springs and alder slades: the heathland. Pollard oaks, and woodbanks; the lonely cottage with a palfrey grazing on its pightle, on the site of the hermitage where a solitary monk dwelt. This astonishing survival from the depths of the medieval countryside is within 25 miles of St Paul's cathedral.'

So said Oliver Rackham in 1976, and nothing much has changed since. The ancient woodland and common supports a wide range of wildlife including dormice and fallow deer; woodpeckers, nuthatches and coal tits; dragonflies and adders. The strange hollows and pits you will see in the woods and the remains of medieval clay pits, used to make pots and bricks.

The entrance to the car park is tricky to spot: it's about 60 yards north of The Cricketers pub, on the opposite side.


pdf Download Description & Directions PDF here

A. From the car park on Mill Green Common (P) head north west, away from the road, wending your way through the gorse bushes along a well-trodden path (1).
B. After about 250 yards you will reach the Mapletree Lane. Continue ahead along this unsurfaced road, with the woods on your right and a few houses ahead on the left (2).
C. Walk along this muddy and pitted road for almost half a mile until you reach a right turn (3) after which the woods on the right stop and there is a field beyond the hedge. This is the ancient assart, or forest clearing, in which a hermitage once stood. The boundaries of the assart have barely changed since medieval times.
D. Continue straight ahead along the track for a further 250 yards passing a couple of houses on the left and then an ineffective vehicle barrier. As you approach the woods (called Birch Spring), there is a junction on the left. Ignore this, and head straight on north west along the very muddy path into the woods, passing an information board on your left (4).
E. Keep going along the track through the woods in almost a straight line for a little over half a mile, to the roadside. There is another information board here on the right. Cross the road and continue ahead through Parsons Spring woods along the concreted Old Barns Lane (5).
F. After a quarter of a mile you will see open ground ahead through the trees on the right. Turn hard right through a wooden barrier and along the footpath, initially at the edge of the woods (6).
G. Follow the footpath east south east for about a quarter of a mile to the roadside, where the path disintegrates into a pond. Unless it's been very dry, it might be easier to scramble over the woodbank to the left of the wooden barrier, rather than wade through the proper exit. Cross the road and walk along Metsons Lane opposite, towards Barrow Farm R.D.A. (7).
H. Continue along this lane past the riding school, keeping an eye out for the slightly unusual fauna lurking in the trees.
I. You will pass Metsons Cottage on your left then, 150 yards later, emerge from the trees to see a beautiful fishing lake on the right. Continue along the track passing J Oddy & Sons Fencing Suppliers on the left. At the roadside, turn left to head north along the Ingatestone Road (8).
J. 65 yards later, turn right into Cock Lane. After 250 yards you come to a Y-junction. Bear right past a bungalow (9).
K. 70 yards later the road stops. Go straight on into a field along a bridleway. Almost immediately, leave the bridleway by turning left into the woods along a footpath (10). These woods and nearby fields are home to a large herd of wild fallow deer.
L. Follow a wide, fairly straight path through the woods heading east south east After a third of a mile, you will reach a crossroads. Go straight on across a wide rutted track to continue along a narrow footpath. 100 yards later, cross a small wooden footbridge and continue along the path to the edge of the woods. Cross another footbridge to exit the woods.
M. There is a wide open field ahead of you, and sometimes the way ahead is not clear. You will see a copse of tall trees ahead on the left (called Finches Spring): aim towards the right-hand edge of these trees (11). As you get closer you will see the copse is square shaped: head for the nearest corner where you should see a waymarker, then keep straight on with the wood on your left.
N. 50 yards later cross a footbridge in the facing hedge and walk up the slope aiming just to the right of a large oak tree (12).
O. Turn right along the road, passing a couple of houses on the left, then after 70 yards, turn left over an impressive footbridge and along an enclosed footpath (13).
P. When you emerge into a field 50 yards later, keep going south up the field edge with a hedge and ditch on your right. Shortly after you pass a dead tree, the field edge curves round to the right before disappearing completely. Continue along the field boundary and as you ascend, have a glace back behind you – there are some lovely views from up here. Aim for the right hand edge of a patch of woodland, and climb over the first of four stiles (14).
Q. Walk along the field edge with the woods on your left, climbing over another (very awkward) stile 90 yards later. Continue beside the woods to a third stile in the south west corner of a field beside a giant tree stump. Climb over the stile into the woods (15) and 70 yards later, cross the final stile onto a wide track which forms part of the route of St Peter's Way.
R. Continue along the unmade road for a few yards towards a house on the right. You will pass a three-trunked tree on the right. If you want to go to The Viper, keep walking along this road to Mill Green Road and the pub is just across the road.
S. To continue the route, look for a footpath on the left just past the three-trunked tree into another patch of woodland. This path is easy to miss: it's about 70 yards past the barrier, and a few yards to the right of a telegraph pole (16). The wooded area is part of Mill Green Common. Get your bearings before you go in: it's easy to get lost. Some people have been wandering around in there since the 80's, still wearing their shell suits and trainers, and listening to Depeche Mode on their Sony Walkman. If you meet one, he'll ask for batteries. Don't give him any. Batteries act as a gateway drug to much worse music: he'll end up lying under a bush listening to Rick Astley (or even Dollar) and weeping silently.
T. Head roughly south west through the woods, as best you can. Mill Green Common is an 'open access' area meaning you are free to walk wherever you wish, and don't have to stay on the footpath. This is handy, as the footpath signs peter out after a hundred yards or so. Also, the terrain is complex: steep slopes, ponds, and thick bushes conspire to ensure you cannot walk in a straight line. You will probably have to retrace your steps more than once.
U. At some point you should emerge onto Mill Green Road. Turn left, towards the village (17). Continue south along Mill Green Road back to the car park entrance. The Cricketers is 50 yards south of the car park entrance, on the opposite side of the road.

pdf Download Description & Directions PDF here


Download PDF photo-set here pdf
P Mill Green Common 1 Mill Green 2 Mapletree Lane
3 Mill Green 4 Mill Green 5 Mill Green
6 Mill Green 7 Mill Green 8 Mill Green
9 Mill Green 10Ellis Wood 11Mill Green
12Mill Green 13Mill Green 14Mill Green
15Stiles 16St Peters Way 17Mill Green Road



Medieval Woodland

Wood bank

Writtle Forest was once part of the Royal Essex Forest, an area set aside since Norman times for the hunting of red and fallow deer by the King and included Epping, Hainault and Hatfield Forests. Although it included large parts of woodland, the term 'Forest' was a legal term relating to the hunting rights of the monarch, with strict penalties for breaking the 'Forest Law': which also acted to fill Royal coffers through rents and fines. Medieval hunting forests like Writtle consisted of a mixture of heath, woodland and other habitats in which a variety of game could flourish, and where deer in particular could find both open pasture for browsing and woodland thickets for protective cover. Commoners were allowed to graze their pigs and cattle in open areas, but sheep were kept in enclosed areas called 'lawns' because their grazing made the grass too short for deer to co-exist.

Writtle Forest appears on the Ordnance Survey map as Stoneymore and Deerslade Woods, Birch Spring, Barrow Wood, Parsons Spring and College Wood. Its original name 'Heywode' became 'Highwood(s)' in 1274. Writtle Forest is unusual in that the 'common' areas of wasteland are on the edge of the forest, unlike for example, Hainault where the cleared areas lie within the woods. Mill Green Common is a surviving part of the open areas used by commoners.

As well as a place for hunting deer, wild cat, wild boar and hare, woodlands were an important economic resource. Trees such as hornbeam were harvested periodically using pollarding and coppicing to ensure a constant supply of straight, narrow, flexible wood for use in agriculture, building, and the manufacture of domestic goods as well as for fuel. This walk takes you along Mapletree Lane, a broad ancient green lane, bounded for much of its length by a ditch alongside woodbanks topped with huge coppice stools of hornbeam and massive oaks. The banks within the forest were built to delineate ownership, and to differentiate between coppicing zones. These banks were often hedged to prevent grazing animals damaging the new shoots.

In some areas, the woodland was completely cleared of trees which were uprooted to prepare the land for farming. There were 'assarts' – something normally illegal in Royal forests, but allowed by Crown permission. The assart to the north of Mapletree Lane once contained the Bedemansberg Hermitage set up at the behest of King Stephen in the 12th century. The Hermitage was to have "two monks…always praying the mercy of god for the salvation of the living king and for the souls of dead kings". The site is now known as 'Monks and Barrows' farm.

Barrow Farm, Riding for Disabled Association

Barrow Farm, Riding for Disabled Association

The Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) encourages disabled people to ride horses and ponies for pleasure and for therapy. Therapeutic benefits occur because the warmth and three dimensional movement of the horse is transmitted through the rider's body, gradually making it more relaxed and supple, strengthening core stability, reducing spasms and improving balance, posture and co-ordination. Disabled people can improve in confidence through riding, through building relationships with volunteers and the horses, and by achieving individual goals. Equally importantly, riding offers an element of risk, often missing from many disabled peoples’ lives. Barrow Farm RDA has been helping people with special needs and disabilities to develop their abilities and enrich their lives through horse riding, since 1976.

In the words of Anne Mitchell, the founder:

"In April 1976 a leaflet about R.D.A. was put through our door. It suggested ways to help or maybe start a group. I had just left my job as a riding instructor in Middlesex and was at a loose end. We had ponies and fields. So we thought, we could start a group, mum would be group organizer and I could teach one morning a week, do my bit for charity... The first ride was on a Monday in May 1976, twelve children arrived in the mini bus and as they tumbled out I did wonder how we were going to manage. I had never seen children like them. Although we had visited the school and been shown round it was very different seeing the children out of the classroom, near my ponies. But with the confidence of youth I just got on with it. My mother had put together an excellent team of helpers, and with advice and help from Mrs. Carey and Mrs. Best from Woodlands (a school for children with learning disabilities) the first session was a success. I remember one girl was very frightened and spent six weeks leading Fern round the paddock. But once she plucked up the courage to get on she loved it and made speedy progress. We were all hooked, the smiles on the children's faces, the pride of their parents at our first open day, made us all feel that we were really making a difference. It was a far cry from my previous teaching experience and a thousand times more rewarding."
Hole left by clay extraction

Mill Green Pottery

Mill Green ware conical jug The many pits and ponds in the woods near Mill Green are the remains of clay diggings. In the late 13th and early 14th century Mill Green potters produced large quantities of elegant and distinctive red earthenware. In particular, a variety of jugs were made and widely distributed throughout Essex and Kent and into Hertfordshire and Cambridge. Some of the jugs included images of human or animal faces, like early Toby jugs. Between 1270 and 1350, up to 20% of the pottery used in London came from Mill Green. The majority of Mill Green vessels found in London have been coated with a layer of white slip and a green glaze. The slip was applied by hand, and the wipe marks are still visible. Undecorated and unglazed coarse ware was also produced for local use, along with domestic pottery and floor tiles. Production is believed to have stopped around 1400. This pottery was originally known as 'West Kent ware' but is now known to have originated in Essex. Images of Mill Green ware can be viewed here: Mill Green Ware