Walk 1125 - printer friendly version
Widford & Cold Christmas Circular Walk
Author - Donald Morton
Length - 9.5 miles / 15.4 km
Ascent - 600 feet / 182 metres
Grade - easy/mod
The walk starts from Widford church, a little separate from the Hertfordshire village of that name which is about 4 miles NE of Ware and about 5 miles NW of Harlow in Essex. There is parking in a couple of lay-bys just W of the church either side of the B1004 (Grid Ref TL412157).
Walk up to the 12th/15th Century church, which has a few medieval wall paintings remaining in the chancel, and turn in through the lych-gate to start the leg of the walk which follows the Hertfordshire Way. Pass the west end of the church to a gate at the top of a flight of steps. (From here there are good views up and down the valley of the Ash.) At the bottom of the steps turn right and follow the perimeter of the field to a metal gate in the bottom corner, and then an enclosed path to a cross path. Turn left through a metal kissing gate and along the edge of a field to a bridge over the Ash. Turn left, keep left of a waymark post to arrive at a stile with direction signs for a public restricted byway (over a stile). It does not look like a byway but is a pleasant path along the valley just above the flood plain. It crosses a bridge over the river and two gates before coming out on the B1004. Turn right and walk down the sidewalk.
Where the B 1004 swings sharp right cross the road and go straight on up Public Bridleway 19. First of all this is an enclosed path then a field edge, then the old railway track until a wooden bridge and a bridle gate is reached via a hedge gap on the left. After the gate the path continues up the hill by the field edge and then down to the River Ash. At the river bank turn right, over a stile, over a track and along the footpath opposite, along the field edge until a hedge gap left gives access to a bridge over the river. The path then turns right and winds its way to the left hand end of that part of Wareside which can be seen ahead.
On reaching the B1004 again turn left, pass the Chequers Inn and turn right up the lane signed to Babbs Green. (There is a second pub a little further along the B1004). At a T-junction turn right and almost immediately left up steps to start on a public footpath which goes diagonally across the field. (If you should arrive immediately after ploughing before the path is trodden aim for about three-quarters to the right of the gap between the cable pole and the left hand end of a line of trees.) The path reaches a field corner and goes straight on along a field edge, hedge left, and then along a green lane. Skirt New Hall Farm on the left (summer heavy nettle growth) to come out on a road. Cross and continue on Public Restricted Byway 1. Keep on this dirt road until, just after passing an attractive black clapboard cottage, a T-junction is reached.
Turn right along a gravel track under a shady arch of trees with wide views glimpsed to the right. This track leads into Buckney Wood and eventually turns left over a bridge to follow the edge to the exit. After this the path did not seem to me to properly match the OS map but there is no problem: just follow the path straight on as it twists round the field edge, hedge right. When a fork is reached go right passing a large cream washed house to the right and emerging onto a lane at the hamlet of Cold Christmas. (Probably the best explanation for this romantic name is that it is no more than what you could expect if you farmed on the land round here in previous times.)
Turn right up the lane and opposite some cottages at the top of a rise turn left down a public bridleway, first of all an enclosed green lane and then a field break down to the River Rib. The path swings left to keep close to the river bank. (Along here you cross the Greenwich Meridian - for those who collect sightings of such things there is a marker along the lane in Cold Christmas itself.) When you come to a cross path with the right hand track going over a bridge over the river you have reached the Harcamlow Way, a 140 mile figure of eight LDR linking Harlow and Cambridge; it only just gets into Hertfordshire and here at least is not marked by any distinctive logo.
Leave the Hertfordshire Way and turn left on the Harcamlow Way which goes over a field to come out on the lane. Turn left and then at Public Bridleway 16 turn right, initially up a gravel track and then along a field edge, hedge left, through a hedge gap and along a field break to a junction of tracks (no waymark). Go straight on down what is now a gravel track. This (after crossing the Greenwich Meridian again) leads eventually to a road. Cross over and continue on the Public Bridleway which goes (slightly leftwards) across the field. It goes through a gap where a way mark indicates a route diagonally right to a gap by the corner of a copse. However, on the ground the way continued the same line for about 50 yards into the field and at a T-junction turned right along another track to the copse corner: when crops are not growing this might not be so obvious; just keep in mind the gap by the copse corner as the target. Once through the gap continue along the field to the next copse. Follow straight on at the first corner, woods left, to the far corner where there are cross paths. Here turn left and follow the only one which is not a registered right of way, but it is well used and after following the edge of the wood for a short way develops into what is obviously an old established green lane; indeed after another track joins it from the left it becomes a Public Restricted Byway. At a T-junction by a barn conversion turn left and follow the gravel drive down to the B1004.
Cross the B1004 and go down the lane opposite. Once past Waterplace Farm turn left along the privet hedge. Continue along a field edge, hedge right. At the hedge gap with waymarks turn sharp right and quickly left to cross the bridge over the Ash. Cross the field straight towards the redbrick house on the far side. Having gone through the heavy metal gate go up the gravel track to the right of the house. Ignore the first bridle way going down left and take the second at the end of a patch of woodland to go along a field edge, woods and then hedge right, into a second field, past a further patch of woodland (hiding the remains of a medieval moat) and a further open stretch. Just before a wayside bench, turn left onto a footpath which, once through the hedge, goes diagonally across the field to the opposite corner and, leaving the Harcamlow Way, continues down a green lane. At a junction with a cinder track turn left, and at the next t-junction turn left again. Follow this gravel track, which eventually becomes more like the original green lane, back to Widford church.