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Gorgeous Palace, Solemn Temple

A walk through Much Hadham, one of Hertfordshire's best villages.

Distance 4.5 miles (7.2km)

Minimum time 2hrs 30min

Ascent/gradient 115ft (35m)

Level of difficulty Hard

Paths Field paths and tracks, 4 stiles

Landscape Gentle hills and steep river bank

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 194 Hertford & Bishop's Stortford

Start/finish TL 428197

Dog friendliness Off lead except in pastures and around Moor Place

Parking North end of High Street, just south of B1004 left turn

Public toilets None on route

1 Walk along the High Street into the village, going right just before the war memorial, over a stile beside ball-finialled gate piers. Follow the drive, then go left to a stile at the corner of some tennis courts. Now in the parkland to Moor Place, head diagonally to skirt to the left of some farm buildings. Then go to the right-hand corner of a wood and join a farm access track. Cross the drive on to a metalled track, then bear left along a granite slabway to a kissing gate beside Dell Cottage.

2 Cross over the road to a footpath signed 'Windmill Way' and cross an arable field, heading to the left of a rendered cottage. Follow a track behind gardens to the road which bears right past a telephone box, becoming a metalled lane and later a hedgeless track amid cultivated land. Where this swings left, carry straight on to the valley floor, bearing right at some cottages, still along the field edge. Head towards Camwell Hall, an attractive 15th-century hall house.

3 At the farm bear left on to its access drive, which becomes a lane, passing Wynches, an early 19th-century stucco villa on the left. Turn right on to the B1004 to descend to Hadham Mill. Turn left at the lane after crossing the bridge over the River Ash.

4 Follow the lane and go left through a gate with a bridleway and Hertfordshire Way signs. Turn right along the track and then bear left, not uphill to the right. Follow this delightful, well-waymarked path, with steeply sloping woods to your right and the river to your left. Eventually you will come to a lane.

5 Go left here and follow it to turn left at a T-junction by Sidehill House. At a kissing gate go right, signed 'Hertfordshire Way', to walk along the floor of a pastoral valley with the River Ash meandering to your left. On reaching a lane go straight on, then go right at the 'Public Footpath 21' sign over the River Ash. Climb steeply through a copse. Turn left on to a metalled lane, the wooded river cliff now to your left.

6 Just before the road junction go left at a public footpath sign. Bear left (not straight on) to descend steeply on a holloway track through the woods down to the river. Cross the footbridge and follow the path to the churchyard.

7 Visit St Andrew's Church. From the churchyard you can get an excellent view of the Bishop's Palace. Continue westwards, back to the High Street.

Much Hadham, nestling in the valley of the River Ash, was on a minor route from Bishop's Stortford to Ware, but owes its architectural quality to the Bishop of London. His stronghold, Waytemore Castle, was at Bishop's Stortford 5 miles (8km) away and Much Hadham had been given to the Bishopric in the will of Queen Ethefleda in ad 991. Before 1066 one Bishop of London had built a residence here, but the Bishop's Palace, seen from within the churchyard, was rebuilt in the early 16th century on a letter-H plan. It was refaced in brick at the end of the 17th century and has been altered since. By 1817 it had become a private lunatic asylum, and it was converted into a private house in 1888.

The mostly 13th- to 15th-century church is quite large due to the patronage of the bishops. The tower is known to have been built by Bishop Robert de Braybrooke (Bishop of London, 1381-1401). It is crowned by a tall 'Hertfordshire spike' lead-clad spire. The king and queen's head label stops to the tower west door are 20th century, by Henry Moore. The Palace and parish church stand to the east of the High Street. This is one of the best village streets in the county and fully the equal of those over the border in Essex. The architecture is a mixture of 16th- and 17th-century timber-framed houses. Many of these are 'jettied' (their upper storeys are projecting) and plastered, and present Georgian brick, indicating either refronted timber-framed houses or newly built ones. There is also a sprinkling of Victorian activity, such as the yellow brickwork on the 'new' Manor House of 1839.

North of the Palace, The Lordship is a grand, Georgian house from about 1745 with a Tudor rear wing and a large Georgian stable block, all screened by iron railings and gates. Back past Church Lane the variety of buildings is wonderful and there are stretches of picturesque pebbled pavement. Look especially for the former Ye Olde Red Lion Hotel. Jettied and timber-framed, it was built in the 16th century as an inn. The Hall, set back from the road, was constructed in 1735 and the Bull Inn has been a tavern since 1727 (or possibly earlier). Castle House is 17th-century but has a pretty, 'Gothicky' refronting and the Forge Museum was a blacksmith's shop in 1811. You leave the village at the war memorial by Harry Wilson, a leading Art and Crafts architect and sculptor. West of the village is Moor Place, a country house set in parkland and built between 1777 and 1779. It was constructed for James Garden by Robert Mitchell. Much Hadham also played a small role in the history of the monarchy. Edmund Tudor, the father of the future Henry VII, was born in the Bishop's Palace in about 1430.

Where to eat and drink

Directly on the route is the Bull, serving good food. Down the High Street past the war memorial but before the Kettle Green Road junction is the Crown.

What to look for

On the west side of the High Street is the Forge Museum, a blacksmith's shop and cottage donated to the Hertfordshire Building Preservation Trust in 1988 by Jean Page, daughter of the last blacksmith. He had died in 1983, the great grandson of Frederick Page who started the business in 1811. Open from 11am to 5pm on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holiday Mondays, it again has a working smithy.

While you're there

Henry Moore lived at Dane Tree House in Perry Green, a mile (1.6km) south east of Much Hadham. He moved here in 1941, after his London studio had been bombed, and remained until his death in 1986. The house is owned by the Henry Moore Foundation. Conducted tours are possible on some summer afternoons, by written appointment.

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