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St. Peter's Way Stage 1.
Chipping Ongar to St. Peter's Bridge, West Hanningfield

Approx 16 miles - 8 hours

30th July & 1st August 2012

 

 

Wikipedia (http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/St_Peter's_Way) describes the route as follows:-

St. Peter's Way is a long distance footpath, 41 miles in length, running from Ongar to the Dengie Peninsula near Bradwell-on-Sea, Essex. Starting in Ongar the trail runs eastwards through agricultural land visiting many historic Essex villages, with scenic views of Hanningfield Reservoir and the Blackwater estuary on the way. At Tillingham, the route traverses the Essex Marshes and joins the coastal footpath heading north to the site of St. Peter-on-the-Wall, an ancient Saxon chapel built on the ruins of a Roman fort by St. Cedd in 654AD.

The route was planned in 1970 by Len Alcott of the West Essex Ramblers Association, and the trail markers display crossed keys over the Cross of St. Peter (ie an inverted cross), on a red disc. St. Peter's Way crosses two other long distance paths in Essex: the Essex Way and Three Forests Way.

 

 

 

Another excellent reference to the route is published by Essex County Council and is downloadable in pdf format from http://microsites.essexcc.gov.uk/publications/docs/St.%20Peters%20Way.pdf

This guide states that "The St. Peter’s Way is a 45 mile walk meandering through the countryside of Essex, from Chipping Ongar to the ancient chapel of St. Peter-on-the-Wall at Bradwell on Sea" The ECC download gives a very useful outline map, but they recommend that it is used in conjunction with Ordnance Survey Explorer maps numbered 183, 175 and 176. They are not wrong!! Although St. Peter's Way is a recognised route it does not appear to be used very much, and whilst the ECC guide is most useful there are places where the route is not clear. It is overgrown in parts and it is easy to make a mistake and go off course! Hence I tackled Stage 1. twice, on Monday 30th July going from Chipping Ongar to Stock, and on Wednesday 1st August going from Chipping Ongar to St. Peter's Bridge ("the Blue Bridge") that crosses the new A130 east of West Hanningfield on the way to East Hanningfield.

The 1:50,000 Landranger Map 167 is useful to get an overview of the route, but it is essential to have the 1:25,000 Explorer Map 183 for this stage of the walk (although Stock is just off this map).

 

 


  The walk starts in Chipping Ongar High Street. Just after the pub the King's Inn by the Chipping Ongar town sign is a direction arrow pointing to the Essex Way, the route going beside St. Martin's Church. Further down the high street is the pub The Royal Oak, opposite Castle Street. St. Peter's Way can be accessed via Castle Street. Both access routes lead to the "Spring Meadow" entrance to the walk.  

The Kings Inn in Chipping Ongar High Street

The Chipping Ongar Town sign

St. Martin's Church, built in 1080

Spring Meadow, the start point behind St. Martin's Church and at the top end of Castle Street.

The red disk of "St. Peter's Way" with the crossed keys and the Cross

Heading to open country

Past the Recreation Ground and play area at Love Lane

Alongside corn fields with High Ongar in the distance

Over the gang bridge, with the path leading straight ahead to High Ongar

 

As you approach the first houses at High Ongar, there are two routes that you can take.

 

 
     

 

 

On the Monday, having only the ECC guide map and the Landranger 167, I turned right along the road shortly after reaching the houses, and then left up Millfield until I reached the T-junction on the main road. Here I turned right and walked up the road, past Mill Cottage and Meadow View Farm on the right, until I came to Mill Mead and Westlands Lodge on the left. Here there is a farm gate and a signpost "Bridleway". Whilst this route means you have to walk on the road for a short while, the road is not busy. This bridleway goes all the way to Paslow Hall Farm, but after a short way I cut back on a track to the right to try to regain St. Peter's Way path proper. The path between points "B" and "C" in above was quite overgrown and it was not obvious that it was the proper St. Peter's Way path, so I carried on as shown in blue and rejoined St. Peter's Way just after Sparks Farm. In this area there are many interlinked paths, so if you stray from the official "Way" it is easy to find a route to rejoin it.

The official route leaves High Ongar across the fields and crosses the Bridleway at point "A". I have not walked this, but from the Bridleway it appears to be overgrown.

 

The entrance to the Bridleway just after Mill Mead.

Point "A" where the official route from High Ongar crosses the Bridleway. This path looked to be overgrown.

The Bridleway route (Blue in the map above)

 

The path goes through a small wood as you approach Paslow Green,
and comes out next to a house called "White Gates"

"White Gates".... the path emerges on the right. The lane (Woolmongers Lane) continues until it reaches the main road,
from which it is a short walk to the left to Paslow Common Farm

Entrance to Paslow Common Farm

 

On entering the Paslow Farm area you soon come to a farm yard with four possible route choices. From the 1:25,000 map it looks as though the route goes to the right, where there is a small sign to "Buckinghams". As you go around the farm buildings and come to a parking area at the back, Buckinghams have a barn or shed at the end. The route is not clear and is not marked. There is a path to the right hand side of the field (marked in blue below) which I took on my Monday walk, but this goes south-east and brings you out onto the Blackmore Road near Twites Farm, almost opposite the road to Hook End. This is not the correct route, and involves a mile-long walk up the road to get to Blackmore and back on track.

On my Wednesday walk I tried to find a route that goes almost due east towards Blackmore, but there was not obvious path. I set off across the field along tractor wheel tracks which seemed to go in the desired direction. This route was heading towards the house that could be seen in the distance. After crossing a small ditch, heading for a hedge on the left, and skirting the edge of the field, I came to the marker post and a way leading into Green Lane, Blackmore.

 

 

     

No obvious path in front of Buckingham's shed

No obvious route down the side of Buckingham's shed

Classic Essex countryside

Route almost due East, heading towards the white house on the outskirts of Blackmore,
along a tractor track through the corn field

After skirting the second field, I eventually found the way marker and an overgrown
path leading to Green Lane, Blackmore

Turning left out of Green Lane along the Blackmore Road, the way goes off to the right
opposite Meadow Rise towards the Priory Church of St. Laurence.

St. Laurence's Church, Blackmore

The stocks in Blackmore

Blackmore village sign

  The Way passes through Blackmore by the village Green until it reaches a T-junction on the Ingatestone Road. A short was to the left the Way goes off again across fields. The Way skirts two fields and then past a strange triangular-shaped area to the left, clearly visible on the map. The market post has fallen down at this point, but the triangular area acts as a good reference point as the Way goes off to the left towards a small wooded lake.  

The wooded area ahead conceals a small lake.

  After skirting around the lake the trail goes off diagonally across the field until another junction point is reached. Here, if you go straight on (as I did no Monday!), you come to Howletts Hall (Private land) where many horses are stabled. Instead, you take the route to the right along the hedge line. This eventually leads to Stoney Lodge next to Bell Grove (marked on the ECC map). Here you have to walk along the drive of Stoney Lodge until you reach their impressive electrically-operated gates; you feel as though you do not belong along this stretch as it smacks of a private drive, but it is reassuring to note the stile by the side of the gates provided for walkers.  

 

Stoney Lodge

Stoney Lodge drive, with the stile to the right hand side of the gates

  After passing the gates you continue down the road, past Hunter's Lodge, past Grange House on the right, until you come to Brickhouse Farm and a road junction leading to Blackmore on the right. A few yards past this is Meadow Farm on the left, with a stile taking the footpath into an adjacent field.  

The stile, next to Meadow Farm, is just to the left of the telegraph pole.

  The path passes through Meadow Farm's stable area, and then into a field with horses; the path goes straight across the field between electric fences to keep the horse contained. At the end of this stretch is a stile leading straight ahead into the next field. In the right hand corner of this next field, possible 100 yards ahead, is a way marker telling you to go left along the edge of the field, and 15 yards along this is a stile to the right hidden in the hedge leading to Maple Tree Farm. This is very easy to miss unless you know it's there, as I did on my Monday walk!  

 

Field leading to Meadow Farm's stable area

Meadow Farm stables

Llamas at Meadow Farm

St. Peter's Way goes across the field between the electric fences

The stile leading to the next field

The Way Marker can just bee seen in the corner of the field on the right, but can you
see the stile leading to Maple Tree Farm?

The gap in the hedge is just below the word "Stile" and is so easy to miss! There is no marker here!

It is not obvious that this is the route even when you are close by!

But there is actually a marker on the stile when you get into the hedge!

The path through Maple Tree Farm is a bit overgrown

Maple Tree Farm

  Exiting Maple Tree Farm puts you on a small lane....... Maple Tree Lane..... which takes you down to the main road at Mill Green. Here you turn left and walk along the road through a wooded area until you come to The Viper pub on the left.  

The Viper at Mill Green

Classic Essex cloud formations

  The trail goes off to the right, immediately in front of The Viper, and after a short while you go to the left over a small stile next to a 5-bar gate. Shortly after this you come to another stile/small bridge, which leads onto a path in the next field which goes to the right and left i.e. at 90 degrees to the stile. Although not marked, the left hand trail goes to Handley Barns.  

The route to the left heads towards Handley Barns after you have crossed the stile and the small bridge

  This next section was quite overgrown, and as it had been raining I was soaked from water hanging on the foliage. The path came to yet another stile with a path left and right the other side; St. Peter's Way is to the right past Handley Barns.  

The second stile; St. Peter's Way is to the right.

Looking back along the path between the two stiles, which is quite overgrown.

 

Passing Handley Barns; the path does a dog-leg to the left after a couple of hundred yards

 

After Handley Barns and the dog-leg, you join a small road called Dog Kennel Road. Unless you have the 1:25,000 map (or have previous knowledge) it is easy to go wrong here. The ECC guide map gives the impression that you just follow this lane until it comes to the A12, and then you go through an underpass to Margaretting. What the ECC guide map does not tell you is that there is a turn off to the left, which is not obvious unless you know about it.

On my Monday walk I followed the lane and came down to the A12 past Little Hyde Farm. Here I had a problem as there is no underpass! A local person told me that I might find an underpass (but she was not sure) if I skirted to the left along the A12 along the edge of the fields through Osborne's Wood. Not knowing whether or not this was a right of way, and not being certain that there was actually an underpass there, I decided to back track up Little Hyde Lane to The Grange, and then turn left back down towards the A12. There is an underpass here that leads into Ingatestone and comes out by the side of the International School.

 

The A12 underpass leading to Ingatstone

  On my Wednesday walk I had the advantage of having the 1:25,000 map, and having had a chance conversation with walkers Ian and Lorraine outside The Viper pub. Ian and Lorraine told me to look out for the mill stone after Handley Barns, as the track goes off to the left there to the Margaretting underpass through Bushey Wood.  

Dog Kennel Lane. It is easy to miss the turn to the left for Margaretting.

The mill stone

The stile on the left next to the mill stone. You can just see the red "St. Peter's Way" disc.

Exiting Bushey Wood

The A12 underpass for Margaretting

  Having passed under the A12, the path takes you right through Tollgate Farm stables, and you come out on the B1002 road in Margaretting. There is a path clearly sign posted right opposite Tollgate Farm where you come out on to the B1002, but this is not the path for St. Peter's Way. You have to turn left along the road, past the Red Lion Inn until you come to Speedwell Service Station/Margaretting C of E School/Pennys Lane. The St. Peter's Way path goes off across the fields towards the railway line on the opposite side of the road. A low underpass takes you beneath the railway line.  

 

Tollgate Farm stables, Margaretting

The Red Lion, Margaretting

The railway underpass

The railway underpass is only about 6 foot high

  After going through the underpass I followed the route towards Margaretting Tye, eventually emerging on Swan Lane via a stile. Here I met three walkers from Billericay heading towards Stock, and walked with them for a short way along Swan Lane. They had done the walk many times and had decided to give the route through Fristling Hall a miss this time, so we parted company at a bend in the road. There parting comment was "Well at least you have the right colour on!" referring to my red jacket and rucksack. A short way down this lane, just before you reach the new kissing gate leading to Fristling Hall, was a big sign saying "Beware of The Bull"! Fristling Hall appears to be under new ownership and a great deal of renovation work is going on. The new kissing gate is clearly signposted "St. Peter's Way" but you still feel as though you are intruding on someone's private property. Once in the field it is not clear where the path goes, but I headed across the field diagonally to the left of the buildings and found the next red marker disc.  

 

Around the Fristling Hall area a new style of "St. Peter's Way" disc starts to
appear..... apart from confirming that you are on
the right path, they give a better indication of the direction you should take

Fristling Hall...... the path goes diagonally across the field to the left of the white van

Looking back to Fristling Hall.... there is a kissing gate for walkers to the side of these imposing main gates.

 

  St. Peter's Way goes off the Explorer Map 183 just after Fristling Hall, and as I did not have my back up Landranger 167 map with me I had to rely on the ECC guide map as far as Stock. Half way down Fristling Hall's drive, there is a route off to the right across the fields marked with the red disc, but another sign warned of the fact that there was a bull in the field! Being unsure, I decided to carry on down the drive and to head for Stock along the road. The road went down Swan Lane, and although there was another walking route off to the left it was not marked with the red disc, so I carried on along the road. Passing the Swan & Cygnet Woods, I arrived in Stock at the end of Swan Lane. From here I turned left, past the War Memorial and The Hoop pub, before turning right down Common Road past The Baker's Arms. The path turns into Mill Lane on the left hand side and goes past Stock Windmill to the Recreation Ground. Passing diagonally across the Recreation Ground and down a narrow (overgrown) ginnel, you come out on the B1007 opposite Steel's Farm. Here you turn right and walk for a short while on a very busy (and dangerous!) road up Leather Bottle Hill. The path goes off on the left hand side down Seaman's Lane, but I was watching the oncoming traffic so conscientiously that I missed the lane and eventually came to Great Prestons Lane. A sign at the end of Great Prestons Lane indicated that it lead to a footpath, so rather than going back and looking for Seaman's Lane, I carried on down Great Preston's Lane and made my way round the the left to rejoin St. Peter's Way.  

Stock War Memorial

Stock Village Sign

The Hoop Pub

Stock Windmill

This is Corner Cottage on Leatherbottle Hill; Seamans Lane is accessed by the side of
this cottage through the 5-bar gate.

Entrance to Seamans Lane

Markings on route to West Hanningfield where the trail makes a 90 degree
turn to the right. Although the sign is faded it is clear that there is
"NO FOOTPATH BEYOND THIS POINT" if you were thinking of going straight ahead!

Reaching West Hanningfield, where the path goes through a kissing
gate next to "Tarlings" and "The Old Bakery"

 

  The path goes to the left after this point, until you reach a junction next to "The Compasses" pub where you turn right. The route continues along the road past some pre-fabricated-style houses, before going of to the left behind "The Spot" by the school. The path is a bit muddy and overgrown here but eventually comes out on to a wide stretch as you work your way towards St. Peter's Bridge over the A130.  

Wider section of the path

Gang bridge starting to get overgrown

The end of my walk... St. Peter's Bridge crossing the new A130