Back from Harlow

These notes were made from my first experience of the Harcamlow Way, part with my walking partner Dave Travers and part solo, during 1993-98. I have revisited it often since, particularly in 2011-12 as I prepared my Cicerone guide Walking in Essex.

29 March 1993 and 31 January 1998. Harlow to Standon, 16 miles.

You continue from Harlow along the river Stort, though the A414 dual carriageway is often close by across open fields, to the large village of Roydon. Two other tributaries of the Lea, the Ash and the Rib, provide this day’s highlights, and the second in particular has one of the prettiest little valleys in the home counties. It really does feel quite remote. I remember, on the first day, getting thoroughly confused around TL 409 137, the path junction near Hunsdon, trying to follow Matthews and Bitten, only to find the turn easily the second time, relying more thoroughly on the map. Lunch both times was in Wareside, a bit of a diversion from the route, partly using the old Buntingford railway. On the solo trip, I stayed at a B&B in Puckeridge, but as it had a Standon address I unnecessarily walked all through Standon to find it.

Overview map for Harlow to Manuden

Overview map for Harlow to Manuden

30 March 1993 and 30 October 1998. Standon to Newport, 17 miles.

Not much that is all that special, in the first half at least, though there are some nice manor houses to look at. Manuden, in the upper Stort valley, is a pretty village with pub at the half way point, and after the isolated Rickling church a green lane descends to Newport. One of the ‘additional’ walks on this site uses the Harcamlow Way out of Manuden.

16 September 1995. Newport to Bartlow, 12 miles.

Overview map for Manuden to Bartlow

Overview map for Manuden to Bartlow

This is an eventful day by any standards. You are in another catchment area now, that of the Cam, with its outflow to the Wash, instead of the Thames-bound Lea. The crossover point on the figure 8 is by a tiny tributary of the Cam, Debden Water; just above here there are good retrospective views. The park and house at Audley End, and soon after it the town of Saffron Walden, are tourist destinations in their own right. The little village of Ashdon is a relic of a once-prosperous small town worthy of a guild hall, and you pass also its long-closed railway halt and preserved post mill – rickety in 1995, I noted, but in much better shape in 2012. Finally, the three Romano-British burial mounds of Bartlow Hills include the largest barrow in Britain.

13 April 1996. Bartlow to Fulbourn, 13 miles.

A Roman road and a Saxon earthwork are the dominant features. Both run west-noth-west, the first from just outside Horseheath village and the second from Balsham. You are on top of this latter, the Fleam Dyke, for an hour of walking, which gives plenty of time for reflection on the effort to construct it 1200 years ago – but it has a still greater twin, the Devil’s Ditch, a few miles to the north. (The Stour Valley Path , just outside Newmarket, takes in part of the Devil’s Ditch.)

27 April 1996. Fulbourn to Cambridge, 14 miles.

A day on the edge of the fens, finishing with a memorable march in to Cambridge along the Cam. Before this, the highlight is the mile beside Quy Water into Lode – I remember the hawthorn being in full bloom. In Lode itself, you should (although we did not) make time to visit either Anglesey Abbey or Lode Mill, if not both.

Overview map for Bartlow to Cambridge

Overview map for Bartlow to Cambridge

Ash valley

Descending to the Ash valley

Author in the Rib valley

Author in the Rib valley, 1995

The Rib valley

The Rib valley

Rickling

Rickling

Ashdon windmill

Ashdon windmill

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