Greensted, Toot Hill, Moreton and Chipping Ongar

This walk starts and finishes on the long-distance national trail, the Essex Way. The main interest along the walk is the ancient church at Greensted. Dating from Saxon times, it's reputed to be the oldest wooden church in the world and possibly the oldest wooden building in Europe.

O/S Ref: TL538029
Length: 11¾ Miles approx.
Approximate time: 4-4½ hours.
Parking: Car parking area, near Greensted church
Refreshments: Pubs in Toot Hill, Moreton and Chipping Ongar.


1 - The short section across a field (TL511026 - TL510026) can be undefined if it's just been ploughed up. If so, keep in a westerly direction, looking for a gap. Normally good here though.

2 - The walk follows about 1 km of the Stort Valley Way. Parts of this may be somewhat overgrown. It's never been impassable though when I've walked it.

3 - The part of the walk just before Moreton can be overgrown, especially a wooded area between TL525067 and TL527068. The main problem here can be a high growth of nettles, which could cause bad stinging if you have bare legs!

4 - A section of of the walk just before Shelley can cause minor problems. A meadow from the road (TL546054) to a kissing gate (TL548050) can be treacherous if it hasn't been mown for a while. The section directly after, across a field, can be awkward if it's just been ploughed (TL548050 to TL550045). I've put a way-point in here, so if you have a navigation gizmo you can make directly for the point where a border starts. Normally good here though.

The walk

Start from the parking area, by walking through a gate, bearing the wording: “Private road. No access without permission”. Carry on in a NNW direction, to the left of Church Barn. The official route goes just in front of some properties at a way-marker, but I normally walk to the left of the dividing fence. Carry on, along a path which is concreted where the tyre tracks are, to come to a way-marker bearing an Essex Way sign on it.

Turn left to follow the Essex Way path, across a bridge, then up a couple of steps, to walk with a fence to your left.  Follow the path, along the edge of a couple of paddocks. Where the fence finishes, carry on in the same direction, following a way-marker, to be on the right edge of a field. At the end of this field, cross a wooden bridge and keep ahead to walk to the left of Greensted Wood. The path is defined by a wire fence each side, then having just one on the left later.

On coming to a road, cross it to follow a signpost the other side, with a wooded area to the left. Follow the edge of the wood, turning left after a short while. At a gap with a way-marker on the left, go though a kissing gate, turning right after. Keep a wire fence to your left, to come to a push-aside gate. Follow the right edge of some paddock type fields (defined by scaffolding!), going though some more of these push-aside gates. At the end of the fourth paddock, go through a kissing gate, then turn right to keep along the Essex Way.

Walk to the right of a scrubby area, keeping ahead at a gate on the left. There is a lack of headroom  in a couple of places and some ducking is required.  After a while, the path comes out into the open and follows the right edge of a field. Keep ahead at a way-marker – Greensted Green can be seen to the right after a while, with the majority of its houses seemingly white! The Essex Way bends slightly left then crosses a footbridge then a stile, turning half-right after. Keep along the right edge of the next field, crossing a stile then a bridge at the far corner. Head up a slight incline on an enclosed path, with a fence to the left. Cross another footbridge at the end of the next field, then turn half-left to follow the left edge of a field. On coming to a way-marker, turn left, walking through a car parking area. Turn left onto a road, to walk in a SSW direction.

After a short while, follow a way-marker at the junction with Mill Lane – keep ahead into Toot Hill, past the Green Man public house on the right, then walk past some cottages. Look out for a public footpath signpost directing you right (1), to keep along the Essex Way. Cross a stile, walk through an enclosed area, then you'll come to a rope barrier with a handle to unhitch it. After letting yourself through the barrier, turn half-right to come to the corner of a meadow (a way-marker here is soon visible). Follow the way-marker, turning left over a stile to walk briefly through another enclosed section. On arriving at a field, follow the right edge of it in a north-westerly direction.

Keep ahead at a way-marker to stay in a north-westerly direction, avoiding the temptation of deviating from your current bearing. At the end of the field, go half-left, to follow what is normally a decent path across a short section of field. This a bit harder to follow after being ploughed up though. Go through a gap in the hedge at the far side then turn half-left to walk along the left edge of a field. At a corner, keep in the same direction – the path can be quite sandy in places. There is a short descent after a while, followed by an ascent of about the same duration.

On approaching a wood (Ongar Park Wood) turn right along a bridleway (2), leaving the Essex Way. Walk in a northerly direction, staying just inside the eastern edge of the wood.  After walking past two posts, go slightly left to walk along the left edge of a field. After walking through a gap at the far side of this field, go half-right to walk diagonally across a meadow in a northerly direction. On coming to a lane, walk through a gap on its other side to follow a public bridleway signpost, to go half-left, to be on the the left edge of a field. It's easy to go hard left here, but you should be going in a NW direction rather than SW! On coming to the end of this field, the path diverts left slightly.

We have now come to a railway (3) – this is part of the Epping Ongar Railway. The railway here was  the old extension of London Underground's Central Line. It is now a heritage railway line, run by volunteers.

Go through a gate, which is part of a picket type fence to cross the railway. Follow a concrete path for a short while, before going right onto what is currently a gravel path, with a fence to the left and hedge to the right. There is a brand new stile after the enclosed section to cross – this didn't exist when I originally took the notes for this walk.

On coming to a road, follow it in the same NNW direction. Go past a Gulf garage at the end of the road, cross a zebra crossing, then continue in a northerly direction along Church Lane. Shortly after passing George Avey Croft (a no through road), look out for a footpath signpost directing you right. This follows a path just the other side of the hedge from the road. Keep to the left of four fields, the last one virtually tapering to a point at its end. At some times of the year however, it may be easier to follow the road if the fields are heavy with crops.

At a junction, with a church to the right, follow a “Bassett Millennium Walk” signpost on the opposite side of the road, along a bridleway. Walk through an enclosed area to start with, which opens up with the path now along the right edge of a meadow. We're going to be walking across some of North Weald Golf Club's land for a while -  follow a way-marker near the 18th tee. Follow another way-marker to go straight ahead in a northerly direction along a gravel track. Keep going until another gravel track joins from the right. Turn right here to cross a small bridge, then left soon-after to go under a traffic bridge.

The other side of the bridge, bear left, keeping ahead at a bridleway way-marker. Walk to the left of a lake, coming to a grassy area. Take heed of a notice soon, saying “Caution. Golfers driving from the left.”! Pass to the right of a two foot-bridges, a short distance apart. Bear left at a bridleway way-marker, then cross a bridge ahead.

Turn right here (4), thus joining the Stort Valley Way, to walk in an ENE direction. The path tends to meander alongside Cripsey Brook here, rather than follow its documented route on the OS map! This brook features several more times, as we follow it – on and off – for the rest of the walk. Cross a foot-bridge by a Stort Valley Way way-marker by it. After about 500 metres, look out on the right to cross another foot-bridge. At a way-marker, where a path joins from the left, cross another bridge then keep ahead.  A short while after, the path follows the field edge left, to come to a gap in the boundary on the right. Go through the gap, then bear right to walk along a byway (5).

Keep ahead where the path becomes tarmacked to become more of a lane (Kents Lane in fact!). Walk to the right of some paddocks, then a green area with an attractive well. Pass to the left of some buildings, including Kents Farm Kennels and Catteries. Follow Kents Lane to a T-junction, then turn right onto Weald Bridge Road. Walk a short distance before coming to some public footpath signposts on the left. Follow the left of these to walk in an easterly direction, on a well defined path. Cross a foot-bridge at the far side of the field. Turn a few degrees left to follow an equally well kept footpath.

At the other side of the field you are now on, follow a way-marker to keep a hedge to your left, soon coming to a road. Turn left on to the road for a few paces, then right at a footpath signpost. Follow an enclosed path (which was a bit claustrophobic when I first took notes for this walk, but was subsequently cleared!). Bear right at a way-marker, then after a few paces turn left over a bridge. Walk on the right edge of a fairly scrubby area, before turning half-right into a wooded area.

After emerging from our short walk through the said wood cross a foot-bridge, then turn left at a way-marker, to proceed along the left edge of a field. Go through a gap, then keep along the left edge of the following field, crossing a bridge at its far side, to walk through another rather scrubby area (if it hasn't been cleared for a while), to be on the left of the next field.

Look out for what can be a somewhat buried way-marker that directs you into another small wooded area, whose path can be a bit indistinct at times. If you have exposed legs here, there is a chance you'll get badly stung by nettles at some times of the year. Also, the path can be overgrown, so be careful not to lose your footing! On emerging from this area, go through a push-aside gate and keep along the left edge of a grassy area. After a short while, go through a gate to the left, to cross a plank bridge with a handrail. Walk up a couple of steps the other side to come to another area of scrub/meadow, walking on the left of it.

Go through a gap after a while, then descend to a stile – cross it into an area of light scrub. This area narrows before widening. Make for a yellow-tipped way-marker by a bridge, which fortunately, is hard to miss! Turn left to cross the bridge, keeping ahead the other side to follow the path round to the right at a way-marker. Soon, we come to a pebbled drive, thereafter coming to a road leading into the delightful village of Moreton.

After passing the White Hart public house, turn right into Bridge Road and follow it, crossing a bridge over our old friend, Cripsey Brook. Just after the bridge, turn sharp left (6) to go down a bank to the brook. Go through a push-aside gate into a meadow, following a south-easterly direction. Walk more-or-less across the middle of the meadow to come go through another push-aside gate. Turn right to follow the right edge of another meadow, going through another gate at its end. Don't go left here to cross a bridge (may seem the obvious way). Instead, keep in pretty much the same direction you have been going, to walk along the left edge of a field (in a south-easterly direction, with some power poles to the right).

Go through a wide gap in the corner of the field, turn slightly right to converge with the power line. Pass some paddocks to the right, bearing left just as they end to come to a stile with a way-marker by it. Cross the stile, walk through a paddock and cross another stile at the far side. Walk to the left of another paddock. Cross a track at the far end, doing a quick left-right to walk along the right edge of the following meadow. Cross a bridge at the far side, then walk into another meadow, making for a way-marker ahead. Continue past it to come to the corner of the meadow to cross a foot-bridge, then a stile just after. Follow the right edge of the meadow you are now in for a short while, before crossing a stile on the right to a road.

Walk along the road in the same (SE) direction for about 100 metres, before turning left at an easily missable way-marker, crossing a stile into a meadow (7). The path which follows can be somewhat indistinct, but if you walk towards the brook (in a SE direction) then turn right to follow its course, you can't go far wrong! The going may be a bit heavy here, especially if the meadow hasn't been mown for a while. A couple of bridges, specifically their attendant yellow-tipped way-markers will soon be visible. Cross either of these bridges – the first is a footpath, the second a bridleway – the net result is the same! Walk to the far right corner of a meadow - here-again, the going may be a bit treacherous.

Go through a kissing gate, following a way-marker afterwards to walk in a SSE direction along a well-kept path (at the time of writing). Further on, bear slightly right to walk to the right of a boundary (8) to the corner. Go through a gap into a wooded area, later with some allotments to the right.

On coming to a road, turn left to walk along it in a south-easterly direction on the outskirts of Shelley. At the end of the road turn right, soon coming to a roundabout. Use the pedestrian crossings to cross the busy A414. Keep ahead the other side of the roundabout to walk into Chipping Ongar in a due south direction. Shortly, we'll be passing the Ongar end of the Essex Ongar Railway. Turn right just opposite the Cock Tavern public house, to rejoin the Essex Way. Walk westwards, past Sainsbury's, coming to a footpath soon-after. Cross the now very familiar Cripsey Brook, heading out of the town.

Walk westwards for about 800 metres. Cross a board-walk into a wooded area for a short while, crossing a track after to walk along an enclosed section. Further on, the path diverts slightly left, but keep a fence directly to your left. Go through a gap to follow a yellow-tipped footpath way-marker, to walk along the right edge of a meadow. The path leaves the right edge of the meadow after a short while – it's quite obvious however, as to the direction to go.

Go through a gate to walk straight ahead on a tarmacked road to the left of Greensted church, and back to the parking area where your car is.

Click here to get an OS map with the route highlighted.
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