As the name suggests Greenstead Green is indeed a green and pleasant place. Situated on a ridge between the Colne valley and Bourne Brook it has a fine, Victorian church with a tower and spire that are visible for miles around. In this long village, houses straddle the main through road where there is a popular farm shop and café. The surrounding fields are mainly arable and planted with cereal crops which create an ever changing landscape as the wheat and barley ripen into golden hues.
Legion of honour for the doctor
The Courtauld family were a huge influence in the area and Dr Elizabeth Courtauld converted the congregational chapel into a village hall in 1925-26. Several houses were also built in the village for her employees. St James Church was maintained by the family too and inside is a brass plaque commemorating Dr Elizabeth, who was awarded the Legion of Honour (Legion d’ honneur) for her services in field hospitals during the First World War. She was one of the first women to qualify as a doctor but had to obtain her medical degree in Belgium since it was not yet possible in 1901 for women to qualify in this country. She lived at Perces on the outskirts of the village until her death in 1947.
Thanks be to Mrs Gee
Built in 1845 by the Victorian architect George Gilbert Scott, St James Church was paid for by a local millionaire, Mary Gee, who had married into a wealthy Essex family and later became a rich widow. The vicarage and a school, now a private house, opposite the church were also built thanks to Mrs Gee. The north wall of St James Church has two plaques, one of which is dedicated to her and the other, to an American airman whose plane crashed nearby during the Second World War.
An estate for the public
A little to the south east lies Marks Hall Estate which has a deer park, gardens and arboretum and is open to the public. The Estate’s ancient woodland is still coppiced - when the trees are cut back and allowed to re-grow - and is a haven for wildlife. One of these, Monks Wood, was given to the nearby Coggeshall Abbey as early as 1142 by Queen Maud. During the Second World War the Estate was requisitioned and American airmen were stationed at an airfield that was constructed on part of the 130-acre deer park. Marks Hall was bequested to the nation by Thomas Phillips Price and this took place in 1966. It has been open to the public since 1993.
Facing St James church turn right and after 50yds (46m) turn right at a public footpath sign. Continue along the field edge path which curves left. At a footpath sign by a hedge turn right and at the next waymarked post turn right across an arable field and head towards a hedge gap. Continue to the right of the hedge along the field edge path and at a lane, turn left.
At the next road junction turn right in the direction of Burtons Green and at the triangular green turn left. Cross Bourne Brook and continue uphill past Villa Farm.
Where the lane bends sharp right, keep ahead to join a byway that runs alongside Nunty’s Wood. It can be muddy after rain but there is a path that runs parallel for a short stretch. Maintain direction and look out for a metal gate on the left.
Just after the gate turn right and follow this byway through Grange Wood. At Little Nuntys Farmhouse the track becomes a lane and after 70yds (64m) turn right between houses at a public footpath sign. Cross a plank footbridge and a stile and keep ahead across arable land, and in the field corner cross another plank footbridge onto a lane.
Turn right and join the public footpath opposite then head diagonally right across a field following the line of telegraph poles. Go through a hedge gap and keep to the left of a hedge to emerge onto a road.
Turn right past The Compasses pub and at the T-junction cross the road and join the public footpath to the right of a house. At a fork take the right-hand grassy path through Great Monks Wood. At the next fork bear left at the waymarked fingerpost and keep ahead along a stretch on the edge of the wood that may be overgrown for 100yds (91m). Cross the field and head for the fingerpost. Turn right here and then left at the field edge and head towards Nunty’s Wood keeping this on your right. Cross a lane and join public footpath opposite across farmland. Pass a metal gate and at the next waymarker bear right.
Cross a byway and turn diagonally right following the waymarkers along the field edge path which soon becomes enclosed for a short stretch. Ahead is the spire of Greenstead Green church. Look out for a set of steps at the field corner and emerge onto a road. Turn right past a house called Larches and keep ahead into Greenstead Green. After Bourne Brook the road passes Greenstead Farm café and post office and eventually reaches the church.
Country lanes, field edge and woodland paths
Arable land, woodland
One awkward stile, otherwise a good romp
OS Explorer 195 Braintree & Saffron Walden
In front of St James Church, Greenstead Green
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.