Enjoy this gentle countryside walk – perfect for you and your dog – around Saffron Walden and Audley End Park.
The highlight of this walk is the marvellous view of Audley End House to be seen from the path in the park. Formerly a monastery, it was first converted to domestic use in the 16th century and has since undergone many changes, including the attentions of Christopher Wren, whilst Capability Brown added his unmistakable touch to the gardens. It has been a residence of Henry VIII’s Chancellor and various members of the Suffolk family; it was even a holiday home of Charles II for a time.
Barney, a two-year-old Lakeland terrier cross is one of those dogs who is less interested in historical features though and instead looks forward to the glorious opportunities for a romp and a spot of socialising that the park has to offer. The route then passes through the hamlet of Audley End before providing an appetizer for a potential visit to the historic town of Saffron Walden.
The walk divides evenly between parkland and surfaced paths. There is one steepish climb and some of the paths can be muddy in winter.
Where to park
Use the large Swan Meadow car park to the north of Saffron Walden. This is a pay and display car park that is free on Sundays (GR TL534385). OS map: Explorer 195 Braintree & Saffron Walden.
How to get there
Leave the M11 at junction 9 for the A11; take the turning at junction 9A signposted to Saffron Walden along the B184. The car park, Swan Meadow, is on the outskirts of the town, signposted to the right.
There are no refreshments on the route unless you decide to visit Audley End House itself, which has a self-service cafe. However, Saffron Walden is packed with cafes, pubs, and restaurants, the vast majority of which welcome dogs.
Distance: 3½ miles.
Road walking: 1 mile on roads with good verges. The short diversion through the town at the end of the walk is on pavements.
Livestock: Ducks and geese along the Slade at point 2 and on the pond at point 7.
Nearest vets: Mercer & Hughes, Saffron Walden.
1. Leave the car park area and walk right along its service road, past a roundabout, to go between bollards and continue to a blue fingerpost signed to the Salvation Army. Go right through an arch and between almshouses. Reach a lane by the United Reformed church and turn right. Continue through the gates of Audley End Park.
2. Take the middle of three paths on the right to go diagonally across an open meadow. Cross a bridge, which takes you on to a section of fenced path. Keep the stream, the Slade, to your right along the edge of another meadow. (Now you should gain occasional glimpses of Audley End House over to the left.)
3. With a concrete bridge to your right, keep forward along a narrow path with a wall on the left and the stream on the right. (Here a dog like Barney cannot resist the temptation to leap into the water.) Join a drive and go left, still following the estate wall. This will take you up to the main road, the B1383.
4. Go left. Next to the wall is a path with a generous verge, which takes you past a gatehouse leading to stables and on to one of the iconic views of Essex: Audley End House with its haha and lake. Over to the left are the stables, which alone would be worth the trip to see. Continue to the road junction.
5. Turn left and walk past the children’s railway on the right and the main entrance to the house. Where buildings on the right finish, go right at a white fingerpost. You are now descending the only street of the hamlet of Audley End; its pretty terraces were originally Jacobean almshouses. Once over the bridge at the bottom, fork left and follow the drive as it passes in front of and past farm buildings to reach a road.
6. Cross and turn left. When you reach the junction at the top of the hill, cross the road and turn left, continuing along the wall, to go through a gate on the right. Go forward, crossing a wide track, and continue in a straight line to go through the gate by which you originally entered the park.
7. Go about 80 yards along the road then turn right on a raised path alongside an old wall. Near the top of the rise go left by a waymarker post. At the road go left to the bottom, continuing to the left of the United Reformed church. Emerge from the almshouses; go straight across the lane, and through an arch. Fork right and walk up through a small car park and keep forward through Myddylton Place, passing the youth hostel (which is one of the finest medieval buildings in the town), to turn left along Bridge Street. Take the next turning left, along Freshwell Street, continuing past bollards at the end to go to the right of a pond. Fork right after the bridge and return to the car park.
This walk is just one of twenty featured in Essex: A Dog Walker’s Guide by Len Banister. Published by Countryside Books. Order online at www.countrysidebooks.co.uk
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