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Essex Walks: Stebbing

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

Description & Map

Title: Stebbing
Distance: about 7 miles
Time taken: 3 hours
Location: Stebbing and Great Dunmow, about 6 miles west of Braintree
OS Explorer Map: 195
Grid Ref.: TL 662 242
Parking: [Limited] In Stebbing High Street, CM6 3SF.
Bus:bus Bus: 14 (Chelmsford), 314 (Braintree)
Train: No services
Refreshment: Stebbing: The White Hart
Great Dunmow: The Angel & Harp PEAR Rating: PEAR Rating Parking: 1/3 Easiness: 3/3 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 Stebbing Map PDF
View online on 3 different interactive maps: Link to full screen OS map Stebbing Map (Ordnance Survey)
Link to full screen Google map Stebbing Map (Google)
Bing map Stebbing Map (Bing OS 1:25k)
Additional information: gpx GPX track
Elevation View Elevation Profile
Display local weather Stebbing Weather
Great Dunmow

Walk Description  

This uncomplicated circular walk takes you through the wide open fields of mid Essex, and alongside the River Chelmer in Great Dunmow. There is a fairly long stretch which involves walking straight across fields. Although the farmers do their best to keep the route clear, if you are trying to do this walk immediately after the fields have been ploughed, it will be hard going!
Also the walk from Stebbing to Great Dunmow is unusually open, which is great for views and for appreciating the big Essex sky, but could prove chilly in a strong wind.


pdf Download Description & Directions PDF here

A. Stebbing High Street (P) is a residential road with limited parking for visitors. From the High Street turn down Mill Lane (adjacent to the White Hart). At the bottom of the lane, cross over the footbridge and turn left. After about 25 yards you will come to another footbridge; cross this one, as well. Turn left again.
B. The footpaths here are clear but unmarked. About 30 yards after the second footbridge the trail diverges: take the smaller path going up a slope to the right. As you reach the hedge you will see a waymarker directing you to turn left along the field edge (1). At the corner of the field, before you get to the road, turn right along the field edge, with the hedge on your left. You are now heading roughly south west.
C. Continue along the field edge for about 600 yards until the path changes direction slightly, then look for a footbridge through the hedge to your left. Go through the hedge, and continue walking south west, but with the hedge now on your right (2).
D. After a while the hedge stops and you walk straight across a field. If there is no clear path keep to the right of Tooley's Farm and follow the path across the farm track to the next field (3)
E. Head straight across the next field towards the gap in the hedge: in the field after that, you will see three oak trees: there is a footbridge to the left of these trees which you need cross.
F. Once over the footbridge you will see some trees to the right of a telegraph pole. Head for these. The path continues south west along this field edge, with the line of trees to your right (4). You can see Merks Hall through the trees.
G. Continue to the end of the line of trees until the field opens out in front of you. The footpath continues roughly straight ahead across the field. Although you cannot see it from the treeline, there is a footbridge in a dip just behind the curve of the land. Head towards the new Bowling Club, and you'll be walking roughly in the right direction (5)
H. Once across the footbridge turn left until you reach the road and then turn right. Take the second turning on the left, Windmill Close. Towards the far end of Windmill Close there is a small alleyway on the left, next to Number 14 (6). Walk through this and turn right at the end. This takes you into a park running along the banks of the River Chelmer.
I. Bear right along a path which crosses the park towards some trees: when you get there you'll see a bridge over the Chelmer. Cross over the river then head immediately right - there is a selection of footpaths here, take the one nearest to the river (7). Head north west along this path.
J. After about 350 yards there is a single tree alone in the park. Just past this there is a field entrance taking you through the hedge towards the recreation grounds: but don't take this (8). Instead bear right with the hedge on your left, staying closer to the river. Go through the gap in the hedge ahead of you then head for the white house at the top left corner of the field where you will find a gate leading you through to Church End.
K. Turn right on Church End, then left up a very picturesque street to St Mary's Church (9). Walk straight on past the Church and then turn left into the cemetery car park. Go through the wooden gate into the cemetery and out the other side through another gate. Follow the well trodden path across the field towards a footbridge (10).
L. Crossing this bridge brings you onto Bigods Lane, you will see a footpath sign on the opposite side of the road pointing up the hillside. Walk up this path, alongside a small brook. Near the top you will see Marks Farm: stay on the right of the brook until just before the farm fence, then turn left over the brook (11). At the corner of the fence turn right following the fence northwards.
M. At the end of the paddock walk straight on towards a hedge and cross through the hedge into a field. Turn right to follow the field edge far about 50 yards, then look for a footbridge on the right taking you back through the hedge (12). Turn left, and continue heading northwards.
N. At the end of this field turn right. This takes you onto a by-way (13). Walk along the by-way until you come to a small wooded area on your left. At the end of this follow the by-way as it turns right (14) (don't take the footpath straight on) and continue on to the B1057 The Broadway
O. Turn left along the road for about 200 yards then look for a footpath on the right, immediately past a large barn. This footpath follows the route of a farm track. Stay on the farmtrack as it turns to the left and begins to descend.
P. As you get closer to Stebbing you will see the farmtrack turn right in front of a 5-barred gate. (15) Leave the track at this point and go through the gate. There is a waymarker here but it has become buried in brambles! You will see a path heading diagonally across a meadow towards some trees. When you reach the trees cross over the bridge and continue up a track towards the road and a large house. The track turns right towards some buildings but continue across the meadow to find a stile at the top right corner of the field, to the right of the house (16).
Q. Climb over the stile, cross the track and take the footpath which heads south through a small wooden gate. There is an intriguing tiny brick building just to the right of the footpath entrance (17).
R. Follow this path as it heads downhill. On the right you will see Stebbing Mount and its moat. Then you pass a lake. After this the path goes through a tiny gate into a cricket field. Go across the cricket field (watch out if there's a game on!) and exit the field just to the right of a small cemetery, with a tumbledown wall. This takes you back into Mill Lane: turn left to walk uphill back to the High Street. 

pdf Download Description & Directions PDF here


Download PDF photo-set here pdf
P parking 1 Field 2 Footbridge
3 Tooley's Farm 4 Merks Hall 5 Footpath diversion
6 Windmill Close 7 Right path 8 Riverside
9Church Street 10to footbridge 11Brook crossing
12Footbridge 13Byway 14Byway southeast
15Gate 16The Downs 17FP to the Mount



St Mary the Virgin, Stebbing The village of Stebbing has a rich and colourful history. It is believed to be the site of a Roman encampment, providing a resting place for soldiers en route between Colchester and London: it then seems to have been occupied by a Saxon lord: and by the time of the Domesday book it was shared by two Norman lords.

The Church, St Mary the Virgin, dates from 1310 and is particularly remarkable for its beautiful medieval stone rood-screen, of a type found only in two other churches, one in Great Bardfield, 5 miles to the north and the other in Norway. The village itself boasts 85 listed buildings, several dating from the 15th and 16th Century, and many of which can be admired by simply strolling along Stebbing's High Street.

Stebbing Old Friends Meeting House

Friends Meeting House 1674

For hundreds of years the people of Essex have been famous for not doing as they were told. From Wat Tyler leading the Peasant's Revolt in 1381; William Hunter being burned to death for his religious beliefs in 1555; the Peculiar People, a Wesleyan sect who worshiped in the county from 1838 to 1956 and beyond: Essex people have a proud tradition of doing things our own way.

In 1655, a young man called James Parnell came to preach in Stebbing. He was a follower of George Fox, founder of the Society of Friends (or Quakers). At that time people who dissented from the strictures of the established religion were persecuted, tortured and imprisoned. However despite the dangers, several Stebbing residents believed in Parnell's message. Quaker meetings began to be held in secret in the village, and some of the villagers began to refuse to pay their church tithes. As a result, 2 local men (John Chopping and Francis Marriage) were imprisoned in Colchester Castle, where they were later joined by James Parnell. After 12 months Chopping and Marriage were released, but James Parnell died in prison. A plaque commemorating his life has been placed on the wall of his cell.

In 1672 the laws against non-conformist religions were repealed and Chopping, Marriage and other local people bought a plot of land in Stebbing and built the Meeting House. Realising correctly that the atmosphere of religious tolerance was likely to be short-lived, they set the building back from the road behind a cottage. The meeting house was completed in 1674.

Great Dunmow

Great Dunmow is the home of the Flitch Trials. The Dunmow Flitch Trials are essentially a test of a good marriage. Married couples from anywhere in the world, come to the trials and if they can satisfy the Judge and Jury of 6 maidens and 6 bachelors that in 'twelvemonth and a day', they have 'not wisht themselves unmarried again', they win a prize of a flitch - that is, a side - of bacon. This is an ancient custom: first held in Little Dunmow, it is mentioned the Canterbury Tales (the Wife of Bath's Tale), written by Geoffrey Chaucer in the 14th Century.

St Mary's Church

St Mary's Church dates from around 1280 and was first re-built in around 1350, although much of the building including the west tower dates from the 15th Century. The row of houses leading up to the church is also thought to date from the 15th century.

Stebbing Mount

Stebbing Mount is all that remains of a motte and bailey castle, of the sort built by Norman lords to quell and suppress the local Saxon landowners.

When William the Conqueror took the English throne he believed he was entitled to the crown, by blood as well as by battle. He therefore tried to be a diplomatic king, initially allowing the Saxon lords to keep their land, and trying to learn English. However the indigenous Anglo-Saxon peoples had other ideas and there were many rebellions against Norman rule. Each time, the Norman army marched to the site of the rebellion, defeated the rebels - and built a castle as a permanent reminder of the might of the Norman army.

Many of these castles were of the motte and bailey design - a high mound with fortifications on top being the motte, surrounded by a palisaide within which lived the villagers and craftsmen.

Stebbing Mount is 225 ft in diameter and surprisingly high for these kind of structures, at 51 ft. It is surrounded by a ditch, with a narrow crossing on the west side. There are no obvious traces of buildings on the motte. The fishpond to the south is possibly contemporaneous. Sadly, there is no public access to the mount.