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Stage 1. Epping to Willingale

Monday 20th August 2018

 

Distance Time Elevation in meters

Km
Elapsed
Hrs-Mins
Moving
Hrs-Mins
Gain Loss Min Max
22.57 5H30 4H36 162 170 41 119

   

   

 

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Start of the walk.... Epping Underground Station

The original Essex Way marker

Footbridge over the railway track

The new style marker just visible on the footbridge

The footbridge leads into Hillcrest Way, which comes on to Bowers Hill. The path marker is easy to miss, and
is immediately opposite Bower Vale. I made the mistake of going down Bower Hill for 100 meters to
"The Orchards" before realising I was wrong. The path actually goes off to the right of Bower Court

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Heading down to Stewards Green Road.

Heading towards Stonards Hill

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The path comes out onto Stonards Hill; a short distance to the right is The Theydon Oak pub

The Theydon Oak

The path goes off to the left just after the pub

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Gernon Bushes Nature Reserve
 

Gernon Bushes

79 acres of ancient woodland containing hornbeam pollards and mossy bogs managed by Essex Wildlife Trust. Pollarding has been practiced since at least Anglo-Saxon times. About every 15 years the trees would be cut to a height of 2 - 5 meters. The lopped-off branches would be used for fencing and fuel, and new shoots would sprout beyond the reach of grazing cattle and deer.

 

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This is the last remnant of the old Coopersale Common that once linked Epping Lower Forrest along the hill ridge to Ongar Park. Now managed by Essex Wildlife Trust this woodland was originally common wood pasture with the grazing of cattle, pigs and deer during medieval times. It contains many ancient hornbeam pollards.

The reserve descends steeply to the south from the plateau of the ridge across pebbly clay drift and Claygate Beds to London Clay lower down. This gives rise to two springs that descend the steep sided valleys through a series of bogs and extensive patches of marsh fern. Other notable plants include lady fern, bogbean (in one of its few Essex sites), marsh valerian and ragged robin.

Gravel workings throughout the northern part of the site have developed into temporary seasonal ponds and most of the woodland consists of birch and immature oak.

Gernon Bushes has a good variety of resident and summer migrating birds. Sparrowhawk and great spotted woodpecker breed regularly. Pipstrelle bats, grass snakes and slow worms have been recorded.

 

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At the sign board I should have kept to the right through the wood to come out by the M11 footbridge; for some reason (perhaps I was mislead by a sign) I exited the wood and walked through a housing estate. By this time I was quite confused and lost sense of direction, and it was only when I came to the Gernon Bushes pub that i realised that I had to go down Garnon Mead to get to the motorway bridge.

My deviation

Garnon Bushes pub

Re-entering Gernon Bushes at the end of Garnon Mead

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Approaching the M11 footbridge

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Reassuring to be back on the right path

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Leaving the woods behind and heading into open countryside

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Even though we had had some rain, the ground was baked hard and cracked

The Green Man pub

 

Toot Hill

Toot Hill means lookout post. The pub name "Green man" is quite common and the "face in the leaves" is also known as "Jack in the Green", the "old man in the Woods" or "Green George". He has been a symbol of fertility and renewal since pagan times, appearing in churches and cathedrals. He is the central character in traditional Morris dances.

 

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Not obvious at first, the path goes in front of this modern cottage

Right towards Chipping Ongar

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Chipping Ongar High Street

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The Essex Way is clearly sign posted on Chipping Ongar High Street

St Martin's Church, circa 1080

The Essex Way shares a path with St Peter's Way for a short while

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I shared the path with two walkers from Colchester for a while,
the only people I saw walking the route in the whole day

Approaching Willingale

St Christopher's Church

St Andrew's Church

  Willingale is unique in Essex for having two churches in one churchyard - St. Andrew's and St. Christopher's. One popular local legend tells how the whole of the village lands were held by two sisters, who fell out one day over where they sat in the pew. One sister determined never to sit with near the other again, so, being wealthy, she built her own church next door! This tale is undermined somewhat by the fact that there is 200 years age difference between the churches. The churches were actually built in two separate parishes, Willingale Doe and Willingale Spain.