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24 September 2014
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Hatfield Forest
Image:  field of cows
Hatfield Forest Country Park
A flat easy walk across fields to join the Flitch Way. Then through Hatfield Forest Country Park, one of the finest and least altered survivors of the medieval forest of Essex.
SEE ALSO

Walks index
BBC - Hatfield Forest

WEB LINKS
The National Trust
Walking Routes

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FACTS

Hatfield Forest is an example of a small Royal Forest that survives relatively unscathed.

In the 18th Century, two lakes were added, as was the Shell House.

The area was given to the National Trust in 1924.
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Start: Hatfield Forest car park on the lane signposted to Bush End and Hatfield Forest from A120 at Takeley
Distance: 5½ miles (8.9km)
Approximate time: 2½ hours
Refreshments: cafe by lake in Hatfield Forest, or pubs in Takeley and Hatfield Broad Oak
Map: OS Landranger 167 (Chelmsford, Harlow & Bishop's Stortford)
Explorers 183 (Chelmsford and The Rodings) and 95 (Braintree & Saffron Walden)

image: church

Begin by leaving the car park and turning right along the lane, passing a tiny church. Turn left along the lane signposted to Bush End and, where it bears right, turn left over a stile and take the path ahead across a field. Climb a stile on the far side, walk along the left-hand edge of a field to a T-junction and turn left onto a track, which bends right to continue along the right-hand edge of a field.

image: The Flitch Way

Where the track turns left, keep ahead along a path to continue by field edges. As you cross to the final field swap from walking by the right-hand edge to the left-hand edge to reach a hedge gap on to a straight, tree-lined path. This is the Flitch Way, a footpath and cycle way created from the former Braintree to Bishop Stortford Railway.

image: Hatfield Forest sign

After crossing a bridge over a lane, the path continues along the right-hand edge of Hatfield Forest. Ignore gates turning off into the forest and continue until you reach a Forest Way post. Turn left over a stile, and join the Forest Way entering Hatfield Forest Country Park.

image: The Shell House

Keep ahead to eventually emerge into a large open area and bear left across it to meet a stony track. Turn left along this curving track to a T-junction and turn right along a tarmac drive to a car park and National Trust information board by a junction of tracks and paths. Turn left through a gate and take the path that passes in front of the cafe and Shell House. The latter, an 18th-century picnic room, is so called because it is decorated with shells and flints.

Image: lake

Bear left to continue across the end of the lake and, immediately on entering woodland, turn right through trees to a stile. Climb it, keep ahead past some impressive ancient trees and bear left to a T-junction. Turn right, climb a stile to emerge from the woodland and keep ahead to climb another stile on to a lane. Turn left to return to the starting point.

Photographs courtesy of Alan Webster

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