This walk features the town of Willingale. It's the second walk from this area, though only a small section (750 metres or so) is shared with the other walk. The walking is generally easy, with some views for quite a distance near the end.
O/S Ref: TL597073
Length: 10½ Miles approx.
Approximate time: 3½-4 hours.
Parking: Road-side parking in Willingale, near churches.
Refreshments: Black Bull pub, just outside Fyfield.
Start by walking northwards on "The Street". Just after passing a property named “The Dairy” on the left is a footpath sign. Follow it to start off on a gravel path, keeping to the left of a house which used to be a school (called “The Old School”!). Follow the path along an enclosed section, soon ending up on the left edge of a field. Follow this field-edge as it goes right at the far corner, to come to a road. Turn left onto the road and follow it for about 100 metres, coming to a somewhat buried footpath signpost on the right. Follow it to take a few paces up onto the right edge of a field.
Follow the field-edge as it bends right, to come to its far right corner. Turn left here (1), just opposite a way-marker on the right, the other side of a ditch. Keep along the right edge of the field, turning left at the far corner rather than walking into the following field. Pass a pond to the right, soon arriving at a way-marker - turn right to follow the direction pointed to by it. You're making for another way-marker which is visible across the field. On arriving at it turn right then follow another way-marker at the corner of this field, turning left at it to make towards another marker which is visible from here.
Walk to this way-marker, which is by a bridge. Cross it then cross the next field, coming to another way-marker by another bridge. Cross the bridge then turn left for a few paces to turn right at another bridge, with a way-marker just after it. Aim for a tree to the right of a hedge. Cross into the next field to walk along its right edge. Turn left at the corner of this field (2) to walk in the direction of yet another bridge. Turn left after crossing it for a short stretch, crossing into the next field then turning right to walk along its right edge. Where the boundary goes off to the right, keep ahead to walk across the rest of the field towards another bridge with its attendant way-marker. Just after crossing the bridge, follow another way-marker towards the right of a parking area, eventually coming to a road.
Cross the road then follow a signpost the other side to walk along the left edge of a meadow, crossing a stile at the far corner. Turn right to go through a gap at the far end of a meadow, turning left to make for a bridge (which you can see by its handrails). Turn half-left after the bridge to make for a gap to the right of a row of trees (at the moment there is a fallen tree by it). After going through the gap, turn right to follow the right edge of a meadow – the church of St. Botolph's, Beauchamp Roding can be seen ahead.
Cross the next boundary, then follow the right edge of a field initially, crossing an open span later when the boundary dives right. The next destination is a bridge on the left end of a wooded area. Cross it then turn left (3) to cross another bridge to walk on the left edge of a field. At the far left corner of this field, turn left to cross a bridge, then right to follow the right edge of the adjacent field. Follow a way-marker at the corner to turn left. Shortly afterwards, turn right to continue to a road.
Turn right along the road, then left at a footpath signpost to follow the right edge of a field. On coming to a way-marker by a footbridge, turn right to cross it, then follow another way-marker the other side to follow the right edge of a field, coming to a track. If you want to visit the remote church of St. Botolph turn left for a short detour. This church is some way from civilisation, and is known locally as “The Church in The Fields”. The walk however turns right here along the track. Follow it to a signpost on the right, turning right at said signpost, crossing a plank bridge in the process. Cross a field to an easily visible signpost the far side.
Cross a road then follow a path on a field the other side in a NNE direction. After a while, you can see a signpost at the far side of the field, “hanging out” to the left of some chevron signs directing traffic around bends on the road ahead. On coming to this signpost, turn left to follow a way-marker to walk along the north side of the field, in a westerly direction. On coming to a field-corner, cross a plank bridge, then turn right to obey the direction pointed to by a way-marker.
When the right edge of the field dives right, carry on across the field, in the same (WNW) direction you have been going. The point you're aiming for is not an obvious white post ahead, but about 100 metres to the left of it. There is a sort of “inverted corner” to make towards (makes a bit more sense viewing the O/S map). On arriving at a way-marker at this corner , carry on for a short distance (5 metres or so), before turning left (4), heading south on a well-defined path, soon coming to a boundary. We're now on the Three Forests Way, which we'll be following for about 3 miles. Cross the boundary into the next field to follow a way-marker. Your destination is not immediately obvious, but after a while, you'll be able to see a fence ahead in-front of a paddock, to the right of some buildings.
Cross a stile to walk along the right edge of the paddock. Cross another stile at the far right corner, walking between properties to a road, to emerge just beside Woodend Cottage. Turn left at the road and walk 100 or so metres to come to a pretty new (at the time of writing) footpath signpost directing you right. Follow it, then turn left towards some farm buildings briefly, before turning right at another signpost, to walk in almost a due southerly direction – the way here can be a bit indistinct at first.
At a gap, cross a bridge. This bridge has a way-marker each side (visible from both sides). I guess this is to stop you getting lost on the bridge in fog! Aim for a way-marker directly in front. Turn left at it for 40 metres or so, then right to follow another way-marker to walk with Butthatch Wood to your right. Turn right-left in quick succession, now with a narrower wooded area to the right. At a way-marker, turn left for a short distance, turning right at another way-marker. The path follows the left edge of the right field. Cross a boundary to keep on the left edge of the next field. On arriving at the far left corner of this field, turn left to walk towards another way-marker, turning right at it. The right of way is to the left of a hedge. Take it in a SSW direction, then turn right at a gap at the end of the hedge, to walk a short distance to a road.
Turn left at the road for a few paces before bearing right onto a byway (5). When I took the notes for this walk, there was an Essex Way marker on a post to the left at the start of this byway. To the very best of my knowledge this is a bum steer. The Essex Way and Three Forests Way (which we're on now) meet some 1¾ miles south of here. Anyway, start off on this byway in a southerly direction. If you look left after a while, you can see Willingale's two churches in the distance – more notably, St. Christopher's.
Bear right after a short while to keep a wooden fence to the left. Further on, a tarmacked part of the byway goes left into a property. Don't follow it (looks like the way to go), but keep on the byway in a SW direction. The path soon swings left to be, once again, in a southerly direction. The way becomes more enclosed soon, before taking a long sweeping left turn to be in an ESE direction – don't be tempted left here by a way-marker.
Walk to the left of some properties. The byway cedes to a more tarmacked form, before a road joins from the left. Follow the road into the outskirts of Fyfield, then at a t-junction, cross a more major road to walk to the right of the Black Bull public house, into its car park (6). Turn right to walk in front of a decked area to cross a stile, following a signpost into a pasture. Walk in a SSE direction, crossing another stile, to make for a concrete bridge. Follow a way-marker directly after the bridge to walk in an ESE direction along the left side of an area of scrub.
Cross a track to walk in the same direction along an enclosed path. Walk into a field and carry on just to the right of some out-houses (garages), which are to the right of a house. Soon, there is a visible way-marker to guide you on your trek across this area. Walk onto a concrete path to arrive at a road. Turn left onto the road and follow it as it bends left then right.
Turn left at a signpost (7) to walk in a NNE direction across a meadow to make for a gap ahead. Walk towards some fencing, then at its corner, follow it in a north-east direction to keep it to your right for a short distance. Where the fence ends, walk to the left of a barrier to a road. Turn right onto the road, bearing right soon at a junction with a stark black and white post bearing directions. Follow the finger in the direction of Willingale for about 100 metres, before turning left at a footpath signpost (8).
Follow a track which goes right after about 100 metres, turning left soon-after to join the Essex Way. We'll be following this long-distance path (it runs 82 miles, from Epping to Harwich), for just 900 or so metres, to the end of the walk. Walk in an easterly direction, going gently uphill. At the far left corner of the field, turn left, cross a plank bridge, then turn right after it. Here, there is one of my favourite views in this part of Essex. To the north-west, you can see St. Botolph's, which we visited earlier. To the north is an infant part of the Roding Valley, with Dunmow, the Eastons and Stansted in the distance. On a clear day, the view here goes on and on!
When you've taken in and enjoyed the views, continue eastwards through a gate into the churchyard at Willingale. Continue between its two churches to come to The Street, from where the walk started.
Click here to get an OS map with the route highlighted.
Click here for a GPX file containing sat-nav details for the walk.