Arkesden, with its thatched houses and more than 30 Grade II listed buildings, has to be one of the prettiest villages in Essex along with nearby Clavering and its ford and castle remains. The circular route also passes fishing lakes, farms and two former windmills.
Coffins and axe Heads
At one time, dense woodland surrounded Arkesden and sheep, cattle and pigs were a common sight in medieval times. Today, arable crops have replaced them but these are ancient lands with traces of Roman and Bronze Age settlements. Towards the end of the walk, near a track called Steven’s Lane, a hoard containing spear and axe heads and sword blades was found and the track itself was used to carry coffins to the churchyard.
A castle and the famous tapestry
The Anglo Saxon Chronicle of AD 1052 mentions a castle north of London owned by ‘Robert’. Historians have long wondered if this was the same Robert Fitz Wymarc who owned Clavering Castle for if so, the castle could be one of the earliest in England predating the Norman Conquest by 14 years. In the famous Bayeux Tapestry, Robert is seen supporting Edward the Confessor on his deathbed.
Today, the site is a Scheduled Monument and you will see a large mound with earthworks and a moat that are thought to date from the 12th century. Evidence shows that there was once a sophisticated water system in place and the medieval pottery, oyster shells and bone fragments found here means that people lived and worked here when it was an important centre of the manor of Clavering.
A link to Captain Cook’s astronomers
The church has a monument on the wall to Mary Wales, wife of William Wales who was Captain Cook’s astronomer during his second world voyage from 1772-5. Her connection with Clavering is highlighted in an adjacent memorial, to the Rev Lancelot Pepys Stephens. At the time of Mary’s death at the age of 87, she was living with the Stephens family at the Clavering vicarage, for William Wales and Mary were the parents of the vicar's wife. Mary’s connections go further as she was also the sister of Charles Green, who was astronomer on Captain Cook's first voyage.
With your back to the Axe & Compasses pub in Arkesden, turn left along the road and just before the triangular green, turn left at Parsonage Farm Cottage to pass beside a metal gate. As the path gently ascends along the left edge of a field, look back for a lovely view of the village and church. Go through a hedge gap and keep ahead along a farm track that passes to the right of Wood Hall and then gradually descends.
At a path crossing keep ahead beside the hedge and where the track curves left keep straight, to the right of the hedge line, and continue along an enclosed path which leads to a road. Cross the road and turn left and just past Court Cottage turn right at the Byway sign. The track runs between arable land and Clavering’s St Mary & St Clement Church soon comes into view over on the right. The track later becomes enclosed and heads downhill to a lane.
Turn right and before the ford, turn left over the footbridge and at the T-junction, turn right at the public footpath sign beside Barnards, a thatched cottage. At the end of the driveway go through a wooden gate into the churchyard and keep ahead beside the fence. To the right is the site of Clavering Castle. Go through a metal kissing gate on the right and cross a meadow to reach a lane via a footbridge.
Turn left along the lane and just after Grange Farm turn right along an enclosed path beside Ponds Corner Cottage. Follow this all the way to a lane and turn right. Turn left opposite Clavering Mill and its windmill, then past another former windmill and follow the road to a sharp right-hand bend.
Turn left through the gates to Clavering Farm & Lakes (gates open from 6am until 8pm) and follow the undulating tarmac lane, past The Lodge, to Clavering Farm. Keep ahead to join a concrete track between farm buildings to reach a lake. Turn right and follow the path as it skirts the right side of the lake, to a stile. Go over the stile and another soon after and bear left through a belt of woodland.
At a junction of paths bear right uphill along an enclosed path and at the waymarked fingerpost keep ahead to pass Little Fosters and join an enclosed public footpath. Cross a gravel track and join the bridleway opposite. After 0.25 miles (400m) turn right at a fingerpost to walk along the right-hand edge of a field. At a metalled track, turn left and continue to a road. Turn right along Hampit Road and at the triangular green Arkesden Church is along to the left. Bear right though to return to where the walk began.
Field edge paths, country lanes, enclosed footpaths
Far reaching views and two villages
On a lead near paddocks
OS Explorer 194 Hertford & Bishops Stortford
In the road, opposite the Axe & Compasses pub, Arkesden
None on route
Walking in safety
Read our tips to look after yourself and the environment when following this walk.
Also in the area
About the area
Essex is full of pleasant surprises. It has the largest coastline of any county in England, with its fair share of castles, royal connections and scenic valleys. Take Colchester, for example, which was built by the Romans and is Britain’s oldest recorded town. Its castle contains the country’s largest Norman keep and yet, a stone’s throw from here, East Anglia’s newest arts centre promises to put Colchester firmly on the map as Essex’s capital of culture.
Tidal estuaries are plentiful and their mudflats offer migrating birds a winter feeding place. Essex was known as the land of the East Saxons and for centuries people from all over Europe settled here, each wave leaving its own distinctive cultural and social mark on the landscape. Walking a little off the beaten track will lead you to the rural retreats of deepest Essex, while all over the county there are ancient monuments to explore:
- the great Waltham Abbey
- Greensted, thought to be the oldest wooden church in the world
- the delightful village of Pleshey has one of the finest examples of a former motte-and-bailey castle
- Hedingham Castle, magnificently preserved and dating from the 11th century.