Description & Map
This is a nice, easy stroll in the countryside of rural west Essex. It follows some very well maintained, wide and clearly signposted footpaths and bridleways. From the tiny church car park you walk across a field then beside the bluebell woods of Quendon, with views across the M11 valley, and then into the pretty village of Ugley. The return route goes through some more woods and across fields to Rickling Green, before returning along the Harcamlow Way to Quendon. Although there is some road walking, it is along small country lanes.
A. Access to the small church car park is via an easy-to-miss steep single track road off the B1383 heading east. Look for a large half-timbered white house, the track is immediately to the right (P). Please avoid on 2nd Sundays and other days of church services (see website for details)
B. Leave the car park along a bridleway opposite the access road, heading initially east (1). After a few yards, the bridleway turns right then 50 yards later, reaches a field. Turn left along the field edge.
C. After another 50 yards, at the corner of a small copse, turn right to cross the field diagonally towards Quendon Wood, heading south east (2) . Turn left to walk eastwards alongside the woods.
D. At the end of the woods go through a field entrance and turn right to walk south with Quendon Wood on your right (3). About two thirds of a mile later, climb over a stile and turn right then left to continue alongside the woods (4).
E. At the end of the woods, climb over another stile and head diagonally across the field towards some houses (5) . Half way across the field there is a mysterious crater-shaped dell.
F. Go through a gate adjacent to one of the houses, and turn right along the road through the village of Ugley, passing some thatched cottages (6).
G. At the bottom of the hill is the B1383, and The Chequers is on your left.
H. Cross the B1383 and continue westwards into Broom Wood opposite (7) . The route through the woods is a straight line on the map. In practice it twists and turns. At one point a farm track crosses the footpath, ignore this and continue along the waymarked footpath.
I. Emerge from Broom Wood via a stile (8) then turn right to walk for about 50 yards with the woods on your right. Bear left to cross the field along a diagonal footpath towards an oak tree, about 50 yard to the right of a house with an orange roof. (9) .
J. Turn right at the oak tree (10) and walk along Brixton Lane towards Rickling Green.
K. Turn left at the village green, and go past the cricket pavilion (11). The Cricketers Arms is on the far side of the village green, opposite the pavilion. Bear left by the village sign, along Brick Kiln Lane towards Rickling church.
L. After 400 yards the houses on the right stop. Turn right at a lay-by and walk along the bridleway (the Harcamlow Way) (12). You will pass several tracks off to the right into the woods. Once you are past the woods the bridleway turns to the left and goes downhill.
M. As you go down the hill, look out for a waymarker post on the right. Leave the track here and turn sharply right heading up the hill with some bushes on your right (13).
N. As you approach a large cream house, fork left cutting off the corner of the field. Look for a well-mowed footpath to the left of the house (14) .
O. Follow the enclosed path to the roadside, emerging at the Providence Cottage bus-stop. Turn right for 75 yards then cross the road and go back up the access road to the church car park.
Quendon is derived from the Old English words 'cwene' and 'den', meaning women's valley. Palaeolithic and Neolithic remains found in the area suggest people were living here thousands of years ago. Both Quendon and Rickling are situated between the converging River Stort and the River Cam or Granta, and the quality of the soil for agricultural use is very good. The Domesday Book lists Rickling as "Richelinga" meaning "Ricola's people", referring to Ricola, the 6th century Queen of Essex, the wife of the East Saxon pagan Sledd.
North of Quendon, Quendon Park originated as a medieval deer park, possibly dating back to the 11th century. The existing Grade I listed Quendon Hall dates from the 17th century and the deerpark was re-modelled at that date. The fieldscape comprises a complex network of fields of ancient origin, probably of medieval date, though some may be even older, interspersed with linear greens and a number of former common fields of which the last pieces were enclosed in the 19th century. To the west of Quendon and north of the Harcamlow Way significant cropmarks indicating the presence of a possible mediaeval moat have been observed with substantial ditches of up to 25 feet in width.There is a significant proportion of ancient woodland in the zone, both in the parkland and outside with a significant block surviving at Quendon Wood. Many of the roads as well as the green lanes and bridleways are intricate, twisting and sunken, indicating their ancient origin.
A Motte and Bailey castle was constructed in Rickling in the 11th-12th century. Rickling Hall was built in the 15th century within the perimeter of the castle, and today is a listed farmhouse. Both Rickling Hall and Quendon Hall were the chief employers of a primarily rural community largely reliant on the land. Quendon Hall is now known as Parklands, and hosts wedding parties. Rickling Hall is still privately owned.
The church at Rickling almost certainly pre-dates the extant 13th century structure. However both the remnants of the village and the church is a mile and a half from the large village green where most people live. The villagers may have moved south to what is now known as Rickling Green to escape the plague in the 14th century, giving local tracks back to the church the nickname of "coffin trail". Originally separate parishes, Rickling and Quendon were eventually merged in the 1940s, and currently has a population of 587.
Historically, Quendon church was not dedicated to any particular saint, although it is more recently referred to as St Simon & St Jude. The nave and north and south arcades date back to the 13th century; the chancel to the 1500s. The gleaming weatherboarded belfry is from the 1960s. Bettley and Pevsner consider it a "curious looking but attractive building" notable for three distinctive features, namely the "nave roof which covers the aisles in a single sweep; the conspicuously small chancel ... And the timber bellcote by Stephen Dykes Bower". The church was brutally restored in 1861. Rodwell in his 1977 survey "Historic Churches - A Wasting Asset " said: "In all, Quendon provides a good example of how mis-directed zeal for restoration and 'tidying' over the course of little more than a century has achieved a near-total destruction of the church's archaeological, architectural, historical and ecological heritage - although immaculate, it is but an historical sham."