This is a nice circular walk which takes in some lovely countryside scenery around both Abridge and Lambourne. Once again following some very old footpaths in a loop going anticlockwise around the Southern edge of the Abridge section of the Mid Roding Valley then sweeping North back into the Valley to follow the river West, along what is arguably one of the most beautiful and tranquil stretches of the river Roding. Abridge has a lot of history and a number of old buildings remain in the village and surrounding lanes. There are still some remnants of the Roman past of Abridge with the site of a Roman Villa near the river to the East of the village and a footpath following the route of a Roman road to the North East of the village at Hobbs Cross, which once went from Dunmow to London.
Starting off at the centre of Abridge village I walk East along the A113 Ongar Road until I reach New Farm Drive on my right & I then walk South along New Farm Drive until the road becomes a rough track, then after the last house on the left just before the sign for the Cattery I go through a gate on my left into a paddock which is the home of the Abridge Alpaca. The footpath cuts diagonally South East through the centre of this field and continues through a second paddock before running South alongside a wooded plantation. At the top of the plantation I go through a style and keep right along the fence line of Soaply House until I come out onto a small road called Church Lane. Looking North from here are some great wide views over the Roding valley and distant fields the other side of the river.
Here I turn left following the lane East and very soon behind the trees to my right St Mary’s at Lambourne church appears. This is a small church situated on a hilltop overlooking the Roding valley which has a very long history, there has been a place of worship here for almost 1000 years & the central Nave is original. On my visit after being spotted by a group of parishioners taking a picture outside, I was fortunate enough to be invited inside to meet the Vicar who very kindly allowed me to look around in the church. I had timed my visit perfectly as the inside had been decorated for the village flower festival. I can only really describe this church as beautiful both inside and out. The weather boarding under the spire is unique and quite unlike anything I have seen on my travels, and inside are a number of memorials and wall sculptures dating from both the 16th century and 17th century. This church has a very personal and intimate feeling inside and is clearly highly valued by it’s devoted congregation, whom i found very kind and welcoming.
If you have an interest in old churches, this is definitely one to visit. A lot of information about the church and it’s history can be found at their website on the following link.
Continuing East past the church, I go past the church cottages to my right and enter the field in directly ahead of me and continue toward Mutton Corner on the South Western point of Lambourne Woods. From here I walk North East along the edge of the treeline keeping the woods to my right, then when I reach the corner of the woods I turn left heading North West away from the woods along a hedge keeping the hedgerow to my right. A short way along here is a small wooden footbridge on the right crossing a drainage ditch where the path heads North, which takes me through the centre of some commercial units at Patch Park Farm. Walking along a track straight through here I pass Pryors Farm on my right, and more very good countryside views over the Roding valley open up to me looking North and North West giving some really good scenery for photos.
A short distance further down the track I pass Crowther Nurseries and Mayhem Paintball on my right. Eventually I reach the bottom of the track and come out onto the A113 Ongar Road where I cross over turning right then left through a gap in the hedge that takes me to the elevated narrow walkway which goes over the river Roding. From here all the way back to Abridge i walk along the edge of the river through fields which form seasonal flood plains, through what I consider to be one of the most beautiful stretches of the river.
Turning left as I cross the foot bridge I keep the river to my left and head West. Just beside the bridge is a Ford used by farm vehicles to access the cornfields which this section of the river runs through. I follow the river as it gently winds it’s way through the fields like a babbling stream, finding it hard to believe that this very same stretch of the river is completely impassable in winter when the fields around me are completely submerged under floodwater. I cross two fields in a North Westerly direction before crossing a small wooden bridge over a tributary and into a horse paddock. Once inside this paddock I keep the river to my left and either go through a gap in the hedge and continue west in the neighbouring field, or I continue North West to the gate of the paddock coming out onto Epping Lane then go straight back into the neighbouring field through a gap in the hedge immediately on my left.
From here I walk South keeping the hedge of the paddock I just exited to my left until I reach the perimeter of the sewage treatment works, where I turn right and head West along the fence. On reaching the gate of the water works I cross the track heading South West, then immediately South to continue around the perimeter eventually reaching the bank of the river once again. From here I continue West with the river on my left and a number of cornfields to my right through the most beautiful section of the river I’ve found. The wildflower and insect life on this section are notably abundant in summer with what seems like clouds of butterflies everywhere i look, and the river quietly winding its way through the fields beside me is so wonderfully tranquil here.
It really is easy to spend a lot of time here and I always stop to eat lunch on this section and enjoy the views to the North back up the side of the Roding valley towards Theydon Garnon. It is below the fields on this section South of Hill Farm that an extensive Roman Villa was found, containing a lead coffin. There are walls & foundations below the grass here complete with tessalated mosaic floors, only a small section was excavated but what was found here suggests that this was one of the richest Roman settlements of its kind in Essex. The stories this site could tell are unimaginable.
Historic England gives a tantalising insight into Roman life in Abridge
The fields here always seem to stretch forever at this point and the views over them really are beautiful. It is usually along this part of the river I see Buzzards circling above as I head back to Abridge. Keeping the river to my left as I continue following it, I reach another small paddock before crossing a style onto the last field through which the path goes diagonally South West in a straight line to the large mock Tudor building which was once a pub on the riverbank beside the humpback bridge in the village.
This is where this delightful circular walk started and now ends, but it’s one which I know i will return to again in future as one of my regular walks. In winter the riverside section of this walk is usually cut off by flood water and the paths submerged, but it really does make the most wonderful walk on a summer day & I cannot recommend it enough if you want something a bit different which is only just across the M11 from Debden.