Ridge and River

A circular walk that circumnavigates the village of Little Baddow. Beginning in Lingwood Common, the route follows bridleways, footpaths, the river towpath and quiet country lanes. A good walk for any time of year, but not after spells of prolonged rain when the towpath, especially, can become something of a quagmire. Walking it in spring is highly recommended as Blake's Wood is nationally known for its display of bluebells.

Technical sheet
No. 2655050
A Little Baddow walk posted on 12/10/19 by Ralph's walker. Update : 04/11/19
Calculated time Calculated time: 3h55[?]
Distance Distance : 7.54mi
Vertical gain Vertical gain : 597ft
Vertical drop Vertical drop : 597ft
Highest point Highest point : 449ft
Lowest point Lowest point : 33ft
Average Difficulty : Average
Back to starting point Back to starting point : Yes
Walking Walking
Location Location : Little Baddow
Starting point Starting point : N 51.721962° / E 0.580762°
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Description

(D/A) From the parking area, take the bridleway beside the information signs, heading into the woodland of Lingwood Common. As the path begins to descend more steeply, ignore a waymarked path on the left, continuing ahead. Disregard any paths left and right to stay on this undulating wide bridleway. Where a bridleway joins from the left at a white-topped marker post and seat, continue ahead, going downhill. At a cleared area of woodland on the left, the path swings right; it can be rather muddy after rain as the path crosses a ditch line at the bottom of the descent. Shortly after this cross a stony culvert, after which the path begins to climb before dropping down again to another stony culvert; here it climbs slightly more steeply. Almost immediately after this second culvert, there is a waymarked public footpath to the right (if you reach another seat at the top of a rise you have missed the path).

(1) Take this clearly defined path on your right through trees for approximately ¼ mile, ignoring any other paths left and right climbing gently uphill until it emerges at a wider track beside the scout camp gate. Turn right to follow this wider track with a ditch on the right and fencing on the left, soon meeting and running alongside a tarmac track and eventually emerging at a road – The Ridge. Cross the road and continue almost directly opposite to walk down Fir Tree Lane. At the end of the lane, continue ahead to enter woodland past traffic barriers. Ignore a courtesy path through a swing gate on the left and a path on the right beside two barred gates, going ahead between another pair of traffic barriers. At an information board for Danbury Ridge Nature Reserve, turn left, soon passing the entrance to Pheasant House Wood on the right, keeping to the gently descending wide path. Almost at the bottom of the path, ignore the right hand footpath through a swing gate to carry on ahead, curving to the left and still gently downhill. Cross the footbridge and begin to climb slightly.160 yards after the footbridge, ignore a wide waymarked path on the left. A few yards after this, where the path swings right, ignore a waymarked path through a swing gate on the right. Continue going gradually downhill to meet a gravel track leading to properties. Follow this track uphill to meet Spring Elms Lane.

(2) Cross the road to the marked footpath almost directly opposite, with white-topped marker posts showing the route.At the fourth marker post (at time of writing, this was laying on the ground) do not take the left hand path between holly bushes and a fence, but continue straight ahead with fences left and right. Follow this meandering path between garden fences, eventually meeting a gravel track at a T junction. Turn left to follow another bridleway between wire fences to arrive at a junction of paths with a Heather Hills sign on the left. Turn right downhill with some excellent views of the Essex countryside ahead. When the path eventually meets a fence, turn right to walk alongside the fence. The actual route heads towards the signed gap in the hedge slightly to the right ahead, but it is easier to follow the farm track and field edge path. On meeting a brick wall, follow the bridleway with the wall on the left until it joins an imprinted concrete track.
Turn right.A few yards further on, where the (now gravel) track turns to the right, ignore all the marked footpaths, instead of keeping to the track bearing right until it eventually meets Tofts Chase.

(3) Cross the lane and stile to take the signed footpath heading downhill with a ditch on the left. At the bottom of the field, turn right to follow a grassy track. Where the hedge ends, join the towpath, turning left to follow it alongside the river for ½ mile to Paper Mill Bridge. Go through the gate and cross the road with care - it can be surprisingly busy for a quiet lane. Go through the gate opposite, passing Paper Mill Lock Tea Rooms, the lock and scores of moored pleasure craft. After 3/4 mile, ignore a footpath at a white-topped marker post. Just before a blue footbridge at Little Baddow bridge, turn left to take the multi-waymarked path (Little Baddow Millennium Walk & Admiral McHardy Way) heading straight across the field towards the church. At the other side of the field, continue straight ahead on the grass then bear very slightly left to steps leading South to Church Road.

(4) Turn left on the road. Opposite the church entrance, follow the fingerpost and Millennium Walk marker along with a track passing Little Baddow Hall, a C14th-C15th Grade II listed building, following signs to the church car park. At the final sign to the car park, with a left pointing arrow, ignore the path going ahead between paddocks but instead, turn right to follow the gravel track. Ignore a footpath waymarked on the right (Millennium Walk) and follow the track as it swings to the left. Where it turns sharp left, go straight ahead on a grassy track with a hedge on the left and paddocks on the right. At a corner of a paddock, just before some scrub land, look for a large gap in the hedge on the left. Go through this and go ahead on the grassy track. Cross the stile and enter a tree-lined path that meets Chapel Lane over a footbridge.

(5) Turn right, heading towards a white-painted house (Rowan Cottage) ahead. Where the lane curves right, with Spring Cottage on the right, look out for a fingerpost on the left at the back of a lay-by. Cross the stile to take the rather narrow footpath. Ignore a waymarked footpath on the left over a footbridge. Go through a swing gate, where the buildings of Belle Vue Farm can now be seen ahead. The path narrows somewhat as it nears its end, joining a wooden slatted fence on the right. The path emerges at the entrance to the farmhouse.

(6) Immediately turn sharp right, passing in front of the farm gates and, ignoring a footpath off to the left, walk towards woodland with a sign for Blakes Wood and a very prominent "no riding" sign. Enter the wood through the swing gate, going slightly downhill on a clear path that eventually drops down to a stream and footbridge. Turn left after crossing the bridge, the path going uphill and curving left then right beside fallen trees to reach a T-junction with a seat and National Trust Blakes Wood Trail 8 marker post. Follow the white National Trust marker right on this path. Where the path splits left and right follow the National Trust waymark going half right, ignoring the sharp right track. The path descends gently and bears left then going more steeply downhill. At a T junction, with National Trust post 9, turn left following the National Trust marker direction, then almost immediately right at another National Trust waymarked post dropping down a little and curving left. The path soon starts to climb and the ancient woodlands on either side provide a fantastic display of bluebells in the spring, preceded by white wood anemones. The path continues uphill, passing a bench and finishing at Blakes Wood car park.

(7) Go through this on to Riffhams Chase. Turn right, following it gently downhill. A few yards after The White House gates on the left, as the road curves right, follow a fingerpost on the left into Lingwood Common. Disregarding all other paths, waymarked or not, follow this wide undulating bridleway ¾ mile back to the departure point.

Waypoints :
D/A : mi 0 - alt. mi 0 - Car park
1 : mi 0.46 - alt. mi 0.46 - Path to scout camp
2 : mi 1.84 - alt. mi 1.84 - Spring Elm Lane
3 : mi 2.81 - alt. mi 2.81 - Tofts Chase
4 : mi 5 - alt. mi 5 - Church Road & Little Baddow Hall
5 : mi 5.43 - alt. mi 5.43 - Chapel Lane
6 : mi 6.03 - alt. mi 6.03 - Blakes Wood entrance
7 : mi 6.63 - alt. mi 6.63 - Blakes Wood car park & Riffhams Chase
D/A : mi 7.54 - alt. mi 7.54 - Car park

Useful Information

The small parking space at the start is large enough for four or five cars.

The Paper Mill Lock Tea Rooms (handily placed at just about the halfway mark) is open seven days a week from 10am but, of course, this is weather permitting, as the river has been known to flood. Their menu changes seasonally but tea and cakes are always available. Phone 01245 225520 to check what’s on or visit their Facebook page.

Visorando and this author cannot be held responsible in the case of accidents or problems occuring on this walk.

During the walk or to do/see around

Danbury Ridge
is a gravel ridge running between Maldon and Chelmsford. The Nature Reserve is a 97 hectare site managed by Essex Wildlife Trust and includes Pheasanthouse Wood.

The River Chelmer
was originally a small river flowing from Chelmsford to the coast. In 1793 the decision was taken to make it into a navigable waterway to link Chelmsford with the port at Maldon, which was completed in 1797. However, the navigation eventually joined the sea at Heybridge rather than Maldon, owing to objections from landowners and other port interests in the town. It was last used commercially in 1972. Paper Mill lock was a convenient stopping point, being roughly halfway along its length. Boats would moor there overnight and stables for barge horses were provided (the present day tea rooms).

Admiral McHardy Way
is a nine-mile walk around Little Baddow that was created in 1990 to commemorate 150 years of the Essex Police Force. Admiral John Bunch Bonnemaison McHardy founded the force in 1840 and was its first Chief Constable.

Church of St Mary the Virgin
The original nave was built in the late C11th and the present north wall with its plain door and Roman brickwork date from then. In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, the south wall and the chancel were rebuilt and the tower added.

(6) Blakes Wood
was given to the National Trust in the 1950s and is now managed jointly by the National Trust and Essex Wildlife Trust. Covering 41.7 hectares, it is mainly sweet chestnut coppice.

Lingwood Common
was given to the National Trust in 1953 by the Lord of the Manor, Mr F.B. Plumtree. It, together with Blake's Wood, is a 93.2 hectare biological Site of Special Scientific Interest. The soils here are glacial sands and gravels over London clay, resulting in a mixture of woodland, heath and bog habitats.

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The GPS track and description are the property of the author.