Afternoon drive : Thaxted and Finchingfield

It was a lovely crisp autumnal day on Friday, and we headed out for an afternoon drive around the countryside just south of Saffron Walden.

We’ve put the route down on the Gmap Pedometer site, which we normally use for cycle routes, but it works well enough for drives as well. Click on the image below for the full map.

We headed north out of Great Dunmow on the B184, passing Little Easton and Great Easton the the west. If you’re driving out on the one Sunday in the summer when they are open, the Gardens of Easton Lodge are a definite ‘must’. And if you’ve been travelling for a while, The Swan at Great Easton has our recommendation. Also worth seeking out, for real ale enthusiasts, is the idiosyncratic Three Horseshoes at Duton Hill.

We stopped slightly further up the road for lunch at The Farmhouse Inn on Monk Street, and had an excellent light lunch, which we’ve reviewed separately. Recharged, we continued a little way up the road to Thaxted, one of the older Essex villages. It’s not open very often, but the Lindsell Art Gallery is nearby.

There are car parks at the bottom of Thaxted and at the top of the village. If you stop at the the first one, it’s a left turn then a sharp right behind a building, and you’re well set for a walk through the village. Head up the hill towards the Guild Hall, one of the most historic and picturesque buildings in this part of Essex. It’s been there since about 1400! Take the narrow Fishmarket Lane to the left of the Moot Hall – there’s a teashop on the left if you’re in need of refreshments. Take the lane that bears to the right that heads up to the churchyard and take the lane to the left to get closer to the sail-less windmill (see pictures below). Then walk back to the church, which is dedicated to Saint John the Baptist, Our Lady and Saint Laurence, the patron saint of the Cutlers – the village became prosperous due to the cutlery and wool trades. It’s an impressive church both outside and in.

There’s a pub at the top of the hill, and if you cross the road with the pub to your right, take the next right down Margaret Street and take a look at the quiet garden down that road, before cutting back onto the main road. There are a couple of gift shops, and a couple of butchers!, for something to take back home as a memento.

We drove up through the village, and took the B1051 through to Great Sampford, taking the right onto the B1053 to head south down to Finchingfield. This lovely village is another that features in the tourist guides to Essex, with its duck pond, windmill, and old buildings. There are a couple of pubs for refreshment, and a couple of tea shops (it can get very busy in peak summer!). Do take the time to wander around. You can get close to the windmill, and also walk up the hill to the church, which you get through to via the old moot hall.

If you walk through the churchyard to the rear, you can turn right and walk back into the village through the charmingly named The Pightle.

The B1057 takes you back to Great Dunmow, ready to pick up the A120 and to head home!