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Changes Around Cheshunt

From the centre of Cheshunt, taking in construction, demolition and removal.

Distance 6 miles (9.7km)

Minimum time 2hrs 45min

Ascent/gradient 130ft (40m)

Level of difficulty Medium

Paths Lanes, footpaths, field and river paths, 7 stiles

Landscape Gentle hills descending to wide valley of River Lea

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 174 Epping Forest & Lee Valley

Start/finish TL 349023

Dog friendliness Lots of horses

Parking Churchgate, Cheshunt, east of church near Green Dragon

Public toilets None on Walk 28; Forty Hall on Walk 29

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1 From Churchgate cross the churchyard and leave by its far corner. Pass to the right of St Mary's School, on a path initially between fences, then playing fields. At the road go left, then left again into Dark Lane. Beyond Cromwell Avenue, pass between cemeteries into Bury Green Road.

2 Just past No 104 turn right, on to a footpath. Go along a cul-de-sac and turn left at a T-junction, almost immediately turning right, the footpath signed 'Barrow Lane'. At the bypass the path goes right, to the road bridge.

3 Over the bridge turn left by a footpath sign, 'Whitewebbs,' along Broadfield Farm's access road. Turn left at the farmyard gate, skirt some farm buildings and descend to cross Theobalds Brook. Now ascend the right side of a paddock. Once over a stile go right, along the edge of fields towards woods. Skirt these, left then right, to join a track by the Theobalds Estate Yard and turn left to a lane.

4 Turn left and, just before Theobalds Manor, go right, signposted 'Whitewebbs Road'. At some woods the path goes along their left side and crosses the M25. Descending to a stile and footbridge, follow a line of oaks to climb another stile into pasture. At its corner go right over a bridge, the path then skirting stables towards the King and Tinker pub.

5 Turn left along Whitewebbs Lane and turn left opposite White Webbs Centre on to Bulls Cross Ride, signposted 'Theobalds College'.
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6 Across the M25 follow the lane past the Western Cemetery, bearing left at the gates to Theobalds. At a T-junction go right, on to a bridleway, initially alongside the walls of Theobalds' kitchen gardens, then along a green lane curving left.

7 Past Temple Bar, continue to the Cheshunt bypass. Across it, go right over a stile into an wood. Continue into paddocks, then through a gate by the bridge over the New River.

8 Turn left along the tow path. Walk past housing estates and leave the New River at the road bridge. Turn left and then right into Churchgate, passing the borough offices to the church.

Amid the continuously built-up west side of the Lea Valley as it runs north from London to Hoddesdon, the village centre of Cheshunt, bypassed to east and west, is something of an oasis. Its parish church of St Mary was entirely rebuilt by Nicholas Dixon, the rector between 1418 and 1448. Although heavily restored since, it is a good example of a closely dated medieval building. North west of the church is a scrub- and tree-filled moated site north of (seen from the path north and from Dark Lane). Here stood the Great House, shamefully demolished in 1965. It was a mid 15th-century hall and cross wing house that had been enlarged and extended, although the original hall remained open to the roof throughout all subsequent changes. South of the church, along Churchgate, definitely the best street in the village, are the offices of Broxbourne Borough Council, modern at the south but architecturally fascinating to the north. They started life as Cheshunt College, founded by Selina, Countess of Huntingdon and moved here in 1792. The Countess of Huntingdon's Connection was an independent, nonconformist sect with its own chapels. The Georgian buildings date from this period, while the flamboyant Victorian Gothic work, complete with an incredibly ornate tower, was added in 1870. In 1905 it became a Church of England theological college before being purchased by the Council in 1970.

South east of Cheshunt village Lord Burghley built his great palace of Theobalds. It was started in 1564 and not finished until 1585. Lord Burghley spent the then colossal sum of £25,000 on the palace and grounds, with the latter including obelisks, pyramids, temples, fountains and a labyrinth. Exchanged for Hatfield House by James I in 1607, the great palace was utterly demolished in 1651 by Parliamentarian soldiers. Fragments of garden walls and of the park boundary wall - once 10 miles (16.1km) long - survive, as do bits of brickwork in a later house. This is east of the route and the Theobalds College which you do pass was Theobalds Park, a house dating from 1768, dramatically and unattractively altered and extended in Victorian and Edwardian times.

An unusual feature towards the end of the walk is Temple Bar, usually attributed to Sir Christopher Wren. It was once a gateway to the City of London, first erected in 1672 at the end of Fleet Street. When it became surplus to Victorian requirements it was re-erected here in 1889, as the north gateway to Theobalds Park.

What to look for

Temple Bar, shrouded in long term scaffolding, is reputedly by the great Sir Christopher Wren, architect of St Paul's Cathedral and, from 1669, Surveyor of the King's Works. Erected in 1672, it replaced a 14th-century one seriously damaged in the 1666 Fire of London.

Where to eat and drink

A favourite pub in this area is the King and Tinker on Whitewebbs Lane, full of atmosphere and small bars with good beer and food. Back in Cheshunt, you might enjoy the Green Dragon, a former coaching inn.

While you're there

Visit the fascinating Capel Manor College and Gardens, Greater London's specialist horticultural and gardening college. Here are several themed gardens, the National Gardening Centre and an animal area which includes working Clydesdale horses.

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