You may sometimes feel that Essex place names were designed to disorientate and confuse. Either that, or a Saxon cartographer got it all wrong when three tiny villages which form a triangle to the east of Harlow were named Matching Tye, Matching Green and Matching. Matching itself is the oldest of the trio, and has changed little since Saxon times when the Maecca or Match people settled in what was then open forest. After the 5th century, this community expanded into Matching Tye and Matching Green.
The church at Matching
This walk passes the flint-and-rubble Church of St Mary the Virgin, built in 1200 over the site of an original Saxon church at Matching. Next to it is the restored Marriage Feast House. William Chimney built the Feast House in 1480 and allowed local brides and grooms to celebrate their happy day there, a tradition that continued right up until 1936. The large oak tree beside the church was planted to celebrate Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee in 1887. These days the Feast House is used as an annexe for church activities. Near by there is a lake dotted with waterfowl, a lovely 15th-century timber-framed manor house surrounded by a water-filled moat, and a large aisled barn dating back to the 1600s.
Matching Green and Matching Tye
Matching Green, to the southeast of Matching, is another village barely touched by time save for a picturesque collection of 18th-century weather-boarded cottages overlooking the green. There used to be shops and half a dozen pubs, but nowadays it is a quiet spot where local people down a pint at the village's only surviving pub, The Chequers. The celebrated portrait artist Augustus John (1878–1961), whose subjects included Thomas Hardy and George Bernard Shaw, lived in Elm House, next door.
The third village in this trio is Matching Tye, renowned for its historic dwellings clustered round the tiny green. You'll see a range of building materials which include weather-boarding, yellow stock and red-brick, red plain clay tiles, slate and thatch. The oldest buildings are the 16th-century Ployters Farm and Little Brewers.
From Matching Tye village hall turn right. Directly opposite the Fox Inn take the lane, signposted for Sheering and Hatfield Heath. After 200yds (183m) turn right at the fingerpost for the Forest Way and follow the grassy field-edge path, turning right at the end along the bridleway to Matching Church.
Pass the Marriage Feast House on your left and continue along the road to the right of the church. Take the footpath on your right, opposite the church, through the kissing gate, and skirt the moat on your right. After 100yds (91m), cross the stile and walk half left on the cross-field path towards the edge of the line of trees. At the yellow waymark turn left along the cross-field path.
At the mid-field fingerpost, turn right and walk to the line of trees marking the boundary of Brick House. Turn left at the fingerpost, keeping the house and paddock on your right. After the paddock turn right across the field towards houses, maintaining direction along the field-edge path. Follow the field-edge left, and after a few paces turn right along a narrow path between houses into Harlow Road at Matching Green.
Turn left and immediately right, then right again, following the signposts for Ongar and Moreton. After 200yds (183m), turn right at the break in the hedge and go over two stiles. Cross the next meadow and maintain direction once over the footbridge. Take the cross-field path towards the line of trees. Keep the trees on your right, passing the yellow waymark to cross another field and a footbridge by a copse of trees.
Keep ahead, bearing right on the field-edge path, and keeping the ditch and trees on your right hand side. Continue until you reach Harlow Road, opposite a house called Roundhouse. Turn left and walk with care along the busy Harlow Road for around 0.5 miles (800m) to return to the village hall at Matching Tye. Here you can finish off with a well-earned break at the Fox Inn.
Bridleways, grass and field-edge paths
Ponds, patches of woodland and grassy meadow
Notices everywhere warn of grazing stock
OS Explorer 183 Chelmsford & The Rodings, Maldon & Witham
Matching Village Hall – as this is not a public car park, walkers must phone the premises manager on 01279 731312 to obtain permission to park. A small donation is appreciated.
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.