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Essex Walks: Ulting

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

Description & Map

Title: Ulting
Distance: 8 or 11½ miles
Time taken: 3 or 4¼ hours
Location: 5 miles east of Chelmsford
OS Explorer Map: OS Explorer 183
Grid Ref.: TL 801 088
Parking: [Limited] Near All Saints, Church, Ulting, CM9 6QU
(main church car park now locked due to mis-use)
Bus: Limited service: No.73 Maldon (First) every 2+ hours
Train: No train services
Refreshment: Paper Mill Lock Tea Shop, open every day from 10 a.m.
The Queens Head, Boreham
The Sportsmans Arms, Nounsley CLOSED
PEAR Rating: PEAR Rating Parking: 1/3 Easiness: 3/3 Amenity: 3/3 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 Ulting Map PDF
View online on 3 different interactive maps: Link to full screen OS map Ulting Map (Ordnance Survey)
Link to full screen Google map Ulting Map (Google)
Bing map Ulting Map (Bing OS 1:25k)
Additional information: gpx GPX track
Elevation View Elevation Profile
Display local weather Ulting Weather

Walk Description

This walk takes the form of a figure of eight. It takes you along the banks of the Chelmer, before crossing the river and heading briefly up into the hills around Boreham. The route travels along farm tracks almost back to the river then heads north east across the fields to Nounsley, before returning through the countryside to Ulting.

This walk is perfect for a balmy summer's day: the first section of the walk is mostly a gentle stroll alongside the refreshing river waters, and away from the river there is now only one lovely pub to slake your thirst, after yet another country pub, the Sportsmans Arms, was closed in early 2013.

If the whole 11½ miles seems too long, you can cut out the western loop completely, and you are still left with a lovely walk of just under 8 miles (see the instructions at paragraph L).


pdf Download Description & Directions PDF here

Ulting to Paper Mill Bridge (4 miles)

A. The parking at All Saints Church, Ulting is now behind locked gates, but a stroll up to the riverside church is worth a visit before you begin your walk. A small space to the right on the track outside of the gates may be available (P). Please don't block other users in, or obstruct the gate. To start the walk, go back up the access road and follow it round to the roadside.
B. Go straight ahead on the road passing some houses and the old school on your right (1), and carry on walking eastwards for another 320 yards to a corner. As the road swings round to the right, take the track on the left up into a field.
C. Go past the Angling Association barrier and a few yards later turn right to go over a stile and across the field, heading roughly north east and aiming for a large tree at the inverted corner of the facing hedge (2).
D. When you reach the corner walk along the field edge with the hedge on your right. 130 yards later you will come to the facing hedge. Right in the corner, go down a slope, cross a footbridge, then bear right along the field edge heading south (3).
E. Exit the field via a wooden gate onto Ulting Lane, and take the footpath virtually opposite into some woods. After 30 yards bear left across a footbridge, and then exit the woods into some rough grass. There is a lake on your right. Bear right around the lake.
F. 200 yards later you will see a sign on the right regarding fishing (4). Turn left here passing in front of a telegraph pole and walk down to the banks of the Chelmer.
G. Turn right along the tow path and walk with the river on your left for 350 yards until you come to Hoe Mill Bridge (5).
H. Go through a wooden gate onto the roadside and walk over the bridge then cross the road to continue along the southern bank with Hoe Mill Lock on your right (6). From here the route continues along the southern bank of the Chelmer for 3½ miles and you don't really need these instructions again until you reach Paper Mill Bridge at picture (10) for the shorter walk or Church Road Bridge at picture (12) for the whole route.
I. Walk along the bank for about a quarter of a mile until you reach a footbridge crossing the millstream (7). Carry on over the bridge and keep going, with the river still on your right.
J. Continue along the river's edge for about a third of a mile where you will see Ulting Church on the opposite side of the river. Keep going as the river snakes past some woods, then an open meadow (8) before passing Rushes Lock.
K. A third of a mile after Rushes Lock you will pass a white footbridge over the river (9). Continue along the tow path with the Chelmer on your right for another mile to Paper Mill Bridge (10).
L. Paper Mill Bridge is situated at the middle of the 'figure of eight' of this walk, and you can cut the walk short and return to the parking from here. To do so, cross the river using the bridge, follow the road round to the right, and rejoin the route by walking along the private road as described in paragraph W below.

Boreham section (3½ miles)

M. To continue the walk, carry straight on to Paper Mill Lock and keep going along the south bank of the Chelmer, past the tea shop and some moored boats (11).
N. Keep going along the tow path for about a mile until you come to another road bridge (12).
O. Cross both the river and the road. Take the footpath heading west along the northern bank of the Chelmer, with the river now on your left.
P. Walk along this path for about a quarter of a mile until you reach a big green footbridge across the river. Turn right, away from the river at this point. There are several footpaths across the fields: choose the one heading northwards towards St Andrew's Church, Boreham (13).
Q. At the facing hedge, go through a gap and continue northwards along the edge of the next field, with the hedge on your left. 100 yards later, cross through a gap on the left and continue northwards, now with the hedge on your right.
R. Follow the hedge round to the left, then after 100 yards look for a footbridge on the right over a stream. Cross the bridge and walk northwards across the field past a nearly dead tree (14).
S. Keep walking until you reach a fence at the top of the field, then turn left then right around the edge of the field. Continue ahead along an enclosed footpath to Church Road, Boreham.
T. St Andrews Church is opposite on the left, and The Queen's Head is tucked away at the back behind the churchyard. To get to the pub, walk along the access road adjacent to the churchyard.
U. To continue the walk, turn right along Church Road heading east for 300 yards until the road turns right. Just past the corner turn left onto a farm track heading almost due east across the fields (15).
V. Walk along this track for almost a mile, passing Culvert's Cottages on the left, and later, Brakey Wood. Shortly after the woods, the track bends to the right before passing Belstead Cottages on the right, and then bends back to continue eastwards to the roadside. Turn right and walk 200 yards down North Hill.

Paper Mill Bridge back to Ulting (4 miles)

W. If you took the shortcut over Paper Mill Bridge, rejoin the route here. At the bottom of the hill, where the road bends sharply, there is a small private road heading east, signposted towards World's End Cottage and Smugglers Barn (16).
X. Walk along the private road to the end, then go straight on into a field and continue walking with a hedge on your right. Go through a gap in the facing hedge into the next field. Continue with a hedge on your right for another 300 yards then at a waymarker, bear left diagonally across the field passing to the left of a small grey barn (17).
Y. Bear left to walk up a farm track. After 140 yards look for a plank bridge over the ditch on your right (18) and cross this, walking east along a narrow footpath.
Z. After 50 yards or so this path reaches the access track to Botters Farm. From the farm gates, cross the field ahead heading diagonally north east, towards a white house (19). Cross a foot bridge and carry on in the same direction. After the next footbridge, bear left to walk north towards the roadside.
AA. Turn right along Mowden Hall Lane for 150 yards, passing Gardeners Cottages on the left. Immediately past the cottages, turn left (20). Walk down the field edge towards the River Ter.
AB. At the bottom of the field turn right along the river bank, with the river on your left (21). Follow the meanderings of the Ter for about half a mile until you come to a lane.
AC. Turn left over a footbridge crossing the Ter (22), and walk up the lane towards Nounsley. The lane bears round to the right and you will walk past a row of houses on the left.(23).
AD Carry on through the village and look for the junction with Sportsmans Lane on your left. 30 yards further on, turn right along a footpath beside a low black barn (24).
AE. A few yards later bear left into the adjacent field and walk ahead with a fence and then a hedge on your right. Cross under some telephone wires then just before the facing fence look for an easy-to-miss path through the hedge on your right (25).
AF. Follow this path round to the left then walk southwards with a wooden fence and some lovely views on your right. After 200 yards go through a gap in the hedge on your left and continue along a wide grassy track towards some trees.
AG. Once in the trees, the track bends to the left and becomes a path with a high chain-link fence on the right. Walk along this path until just before the Ulting Road, then turn right following the fence line.
AH. Stay on the path with the road a couple of yards away on your left, until the path eventually reaches the roadside. Continue along the road passing a wooden building on your right. A few yards past the wooden building turn left along Ashfield Farm Road (26).
AI. Go past Ashfield Cottage on the right and a pond on the left, then 100 yards later turn right over a footbridge (27) and walk south along the field edge with a hedge on your left.
AJ. At the facing hedge go straight on through a gap, and continue south with the hedge now on your right. As you approach a wooded area, just before the curve of the field corner, turn right into the trees (28). You will glimpse a reservoir to your right.
AK. Go down a short slope into the next field. If this looks familiar, it is because it is the first field you entered at the start of the walk (para C). Bear left and walk along the field edge (29). Follow the hedge line round to the right, then retrace your steps across the field to the stile.
AL. Turn left to go past the barrier and continue to the road, then turn right to walk back into Ulting. Go straight on along the access road to the church to return to the parking area.

pdf Download Description & Directions PDF here


Download PDF photo-set here pdf

:Photos for longer version of route

P Ulting church 1 Ulting 2 Ulting
3 Ulting 4 Ulting 5 Ulting
6 Hoe Mill Lock 7 Hoe Mill 8 Ulting
9 Ulting 10Ulting 11Toilets
12ulting 13Ulting 14Boreham
15Ulting 16ulting 17Ulting
18Ulting 19To Fairfields 20ulting
21Nounsley 22Nounsley Ford 23Nounsley
24ulting 25Ulting 26Ashfield Fm Rd
27Ulting 28Ulting 29Ulting
Download PDF photo-set here pdf


All Saints Church, Ulting

All Saints Church, Ulting

The church in Ulting was originally built in 1150, and restored in the 1870s. It's such a quiet and tranquil spot these days, it seems hard to believe that this tiny church was once a significant site for pilgrimages. The Guild of the Blessed Virgin Mary flourished in Chapel of Our Lady of Ulting, a separate building joined onto the west side of the steeple of Ulting Church. The Chapel was built in the mid fifteenth century and the Guild formed in 1477. At the centre of the cult was a statue of the Virgin Mary, perhaps a miracle-working statue. This attracted bequests and gifts from wealthy benefactors across the region, and the chapel itself was visited by pilgrims whose itinerary also included the shrine of the Virgin Mary at Walsingham and of St Thomas a Becket at Canterbury. In 1548 the Guild was dissolved and its building demolished, and the church reverted to its former tranquillity.

Tow path along the Chelmer

The Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation

The River Chelmer was originally a sluggish, slow river meandering through the level plains of Essex. In 1793 The Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation Company was formed in order to deepen, widen and straighten the river so that it could be navigated and used to bring goods from the coast into Chelmsford. By 1797 the building work, including 12 locks and 6 bridges, was largely completed although further straightening work was carried out in 1812. Barges mostly full of coal, bricks and timber would come from the sea at Heybridge Basin, rising 77 feet along the way to Chelmsford. The lock chambers were built to a larger specification than those on most other canals because the local barges were wider than normal but had a draught of only 2 feet, to cope with the many shallows along the canal. The lock gates were built from locally grown oak and elm. Trap doors (paddles) cut in the in the bottom of the gates are raised and lowered using the winch handle on a cog and ratchet mechanism attached to each gate.

After commercial use of the river ceased in the 1970's, its main use is now for pleasure craft, and although the navigation was built for 60ft broad beam barges, narrowboats have become increasingly popular. During a wildlife survey undertaken in 1891 along the banks of the navigation 82 species of flowering plant were noted, and virtually all these species can still be found in the canal, bankside and nearby meadows.


Hoe Mill Lock and the Sugar Mill

Hoe Mill Lock

Hoe Mill Lock has the largest drop on the Navigation, at 8 feet and 3 inches. As a result there is a danger of swamping the boats when filling the lock, and so the lock paddles on the upper gates are located in underground side culverts. The lock is named after a corn mill which had existed near the site from Saxon times to 1914 when it was demolished. In 1795, Hoe Mill was bought by Robert Marriage. His sons, Robert and James, inherited the mill. They were both Quakers and deeply opposed to the slave trade.

They decided to build a sugar beet mill on the banks of the canal, believing that locally produced beet sugar would undermine the importation of cane sugar largely produced in the Caribbean using slave labour. Their aim was "a desire to obtain the best information and to promote the abolition of slavery, by producing an article of free labour." The mill was sited half a mile downstream from Hoe Mill, near where this walk first joins the towpath. The mill employed 30 men, women and children. The process of converting beet into sugar consisted of first rasping the sugar beet roots and then crushing the beet to a pulp which was pressed. The resulting liquor was reduced by boiling and then clarified, then finally any remaining liquid was evaporated off and the residue crystallised. The left-over pulp was used as cattle feed. Sadly the mill failed after just 2 years partly, it is believed, through the resistance of various influential businessmen who wished to continue to import from the West Indies.


Paper Mill Lock

Paper Mill Lock

The history of milling around Ulting, and its relationship to waterways, goes back to Saxon times, although the first named miller in written records is Richard Ulting in 1496. In fact the village name 'Ult-ing' is derived from the old Anglo-Saxon name for the river, the 'Ult', (probably the River Ter) and the settlers or 'ingas' living there.

The original water mill on the lower island at Little Baddow was built in Saxon times, and by 1573 a second mill, Huskards, had been built on the same island. Both mills were run by one John Hawes, who was fined 2 shillings because:

'by penning of his waters above his mark hath and doth damage to all the Queen's tenants and farmers of the honour of Bewleigh in drowning the meadows and low grounds and for not drawing up his gates upon rage of waters in the hay time and also hath marred a certain highway or lane leading from Baddow bridge unto the mill called Huskardes mill which the said miller is to repair and amend for the avoidance of further inconvenience'.

At that time Huskards Mill operated as both a corn mill and as a mill for fulling cloth. In the 1750's it became the first paper mill in Essex, run by Thomas Hodges and employing 3 men with papermaking skills and an apprentice. In around 1800 the mill was taken over by Benjamin Livermore who continued to operate it as a paper mill for almost another twenty years until it was re-converted for grinding flour. Following the creation of the canal in 1797 a wharf was built here, together with an overnight bothy for the bargees, stables for the horses (now the tea house), and paddocks for livestock.

With thanks to Sheila V Rowley for her fascinating and detailed account of the history of Little Baddow. Little Baddow- An Essex Village Vol.1, Vol.II, Vol.III.



St Andrews

The village of Boreham has been a peaceful, agrarian place since Roman times. The Church of St Andrews has some Norman features but largely dates from the fifteenth century, and has an extraordinary covered walkway, believed to be the longest in the county. Opposite the church is an impressive 15th century house and some pretty 18th century cottages, and the Queens Head dates in part from the 16th century. In 1593 Agnes Haven was tried for witchcraft in Boreham. She was accused of bewitching a John Brett, so that he was 'grievously afflicted in divers parts of the body'. She pleaded not guilty, but was hanged and buried outside the churchyard. 350 years later, during the building of a nearby WWII airfield, her grave was accidentally broken open by a bulldozer. Many farmers in the area subsequently suffered poor harvests and damaged crops which were believed by local people to be caused by the curse of the witch.

Towards the end of the nineteenth century, Britain began to import cheap grain and meat from America. This caused difficulties for indigenous farmers. An enterprising Boreham man, William Seabrook, realised that a living could be made through intensive fruit growing, and from the supply of fruit trees to others. His business thrived and because it was labour intensive, the local area benefited also. By the 1950s Seabrooks had 1150 acres of orchard and nursery, and employed 200 local staff as well as many temporary staff during the fruit picking season. Sadly in the 1980's, following membership of the EU, agricultural policy changed allowing less imported goods and insisting that orchards be grubbed up and the land converted into more productive farmland, growing predominately wheat. One immediate consequence of this was that instead of importing wheat, Britain began to import fruit. The longer term consequences in terms of rural employment patterns and biodiversity have yet to be understood.

Sportsmans Lane, Nounsley


Nounsley seems to be a very quiet village in which the only notable event was that the village was completely cut off for 3 days during the severe winter of 1962. The Sportsman's Arms though, gets good reviews on on-line message boards and is the sole purveyor of Nounsley Best, brewed by Wibblers, a micro-brewery based in Mayland.