Ugley village, straddling the busy Cambridge–London road and a few miles north of Stansted Mountfitchet, is the butt of many jokes. It’s almost impossible to start this walk without snide references to ugly people, ugly ducklings and ugly sisters – such descriptions, of course, being in the eye of the beholder. Far from being the Cinderella of Essex villages, it is rather a pretty hamlet consisting of delightful houses, a pub, village hall, church and even an Ugley Womens Institute.
The village is named after Ugga the Viking, who set up home in a clearing, or ley, in what was once a huge forest. Those forests have long since gone and today are replaced by arable farmland, with patches of woodland, plantations of pines, isolated farmsteads and the tiny hamlets of Ugley and Ugley Green.
A ghostly tale
Ghost stories are rife in Ugley, and where better a place to start a spooky trail than from The Chequers. This 16th-century coaching inn stands near the site of a Viking burial ground, and was almost in ruins when its present owner bought it some years ago. It’s said that some parts of the pub are haunted, and that if you linger long enough you can feel an inexplicably chilly draught. If you’re extra vigilant you may see the ghost-like figure of a wizened Victorian lady dressed from head to toe in black. Some tradesmen swear they will not work in the pub unless there are plenty of people around.
Along the Way
From the pub the route leads into the woods – now dark plantations of conifers – where Ugga and his friends may have set up camp. It continues onto the Harcamlow Way, part of a figure-of-eight, 140-mile (225km) cross-country route between Harlow and Cambridge. On the way you’ll pass the dilapidated farmstead of Wade’s Hall, with its outbuildings entwined in ivy. Bollington Hall, the next farmhouse, stands majestically on a hill overlooking gently undulating farmland, and it is indeed a pleasure to walk along this landowner’s wide field-edge paths with wonderful views of Ugley.
The route continues to Ugley Green where The Place – a magnificent thatched house – overlooks the green. A few miles across open fields brings you to Ugley Church, where the Victorian lady in black sometimes hovers amid the gravestones. Hurry on to The Chequers for some sustenance, but make sure you avoid sitting in that chilly draught…
Cross the B1383 with care and follow the public footpath sign directly opposite The Chequers through Broom Wood. Cross the stile and follow the yellow waymarks through the plantation of conifers, via the plank bridge and another stile out. Turn left and follow the field-edge path to the right. Maintain direction following the field-edge path right and left until you reach the cross-path at a fingerpost.
Turn left onto the wide cross-field path towards conifers. Go through the gap in the hedgerow and left on the wide bridle path, which is the Harcamlow Way. Ignore the path left and bear right to continue along the Harcamlow Way south, with fields to your right and the conifer wood to your left. Maintain your direction past the farm buildings of Wade's Hall, followed by the isolated farmstead of Bollington Hall. From now on the path is tarmac, with arable fields on either side and clear views of the houses at Ugley.
Turn left in front of Bollington Hall Cottages and take the straight road towards the B1383, with the skyline of Ugley looming ahead. Cross the road with care and follow the narrow, overgrown path ahead through Gaul's Croft. Keep to the left edge of the wood along the narrow path. At the next waymark keep ahead along the field-edge path, and after crossing an earth bridge turn right, and then left by a waymark to emerge at peaceful Ugley Green. Stop for a breather here to take in the architecture of elegant houses from various ages.
Turn left along the tarmac road, following the 'Fieldgate Lane no-through road' sign. Maintain direction past houses, passing the smart Fieldgate Farm on your right. The road becomes a wide public bridleway bisecting arable fields and eventually reaches the outbuildings of Ugley Hall Farm. Maintain direction here and go through a metal gate to join a road.
At the public footpath sign just before cottages on the right, turn left and go through a wooden gate to walk through the churchyard of St Peter's. Keep ahead and follow the tarmac road through grazing fields, passing The Lodge, where you turn left and return via Patmore End to the car park.
Woodland and grassy tracks, field-edge, some road walking
Gently undulating arable and grazing farmland, some woodland and isolated farmsteads
Decent-sized field-edge paths, but lead required through farms
OS Explorer 195 Braintree & Saffron Walden
Car park at The Chequers pub, Cambridge Road
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.