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Hormeads Rich with Corn

A walk around Great and Little Hormead, east of the young River Quin.

Distance 4 miles (6.4km)

Minimum time 2hrs

Ascent/gradient 85ft (26m)

Level of difficulty Easy

Paths Field paths, tracks, quiet country lanes, village road, 5 stiles

Landscape Rolling arable countryside with extensive views

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

Start/finish TL 402298

Dog friendliness On leads on roads and in paddocks; some tricky stiles

Parking Horseshoe Hill, Great Hormead

Public toilets None on route

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1 Start on Horseshoe Hill, a turning just west of the Three Tuns pub. Uphill, you bear right at the war memorial, and follow the lane to St Nicholas', the parish church of Great Hormead. From the churchyard continue along the lane, turning left at a junction that is signposted to Little Hormead and Furneux Pelham. Eventually passing Little Hormead Bury Farm, its barns now converted to houses, you reach the Norman parish church of Little Hormead.

2 Continue along the lane. Opposite Bulls Farm go left at the footpath sign into cultivated land, initially following hedges north through two fields, then turn left and right alongside a hedge to a junction. Carry straight on along a track. At first a bridleway, this becomes a footpath, leading to the main street of Great Hormead.

3 Turn right on to the road. Go beyond a left turn, Hall Lane. When opposite a thatched barn go to the left of the chevron-style bend sign to the inconspicuous start of a footpath. This follows the course of the Black Ditch stream, sometimes on the left side, sometimes on the right, the stream and hedge eventually bearing left. Cross the stream on a bridge into pasture and head for a footpath post at a lane.

4 Turn left to walk along the lane, initially with a hedge on the left only, then on both sides. The lane continues winding gently downhill - you will see an electricity pylon on the left. Pass beneath its cables to go left at a footpath sign on to a track, with a hedge to your right. Over the brow descend towards Hormead Hall. Go to the right of a cattle grid to a stile, then head diagonally left across pasture to another stile.

5 Once over this go left along the edge of an arable field. Look to the left here, through the hedge, to see the remains of Hormead Hall's medieval moat. Turn left out of the field on to a lane and then turn right along another, Hall Lane, to a road junction. Turn right into Hormead Road, the main street of Great Hormead. A left turn past the Three Tuns pub returns you to Horseshoe Hill.

The Hormeads are a most attractive pair of villages in north east Hertfordshire's rich boulder-clay corn country, though Little Hormead is now merely a few houses. Indeed, much of this walk is through arable land, cut into by numerous streams heading southward towards the River Rib, with pasture around the villages.

Until 1886 the Hormeads were two separate parishes, Little to the south and Great to the north. The history of the parishes is one of steady drift northwards to Hormead Road, the east-west road which runs from Buntingford to Newport and Saffron Walden in Essex. The churches are well to the south, close to their manor houses, while 16th- and 17th-century houses are congregated along the through route, now the B1038. Along this picturesque main street, with a stream flowing along its south side, you'll see good, timber-framed houses. Some of these, such as Carter's Field and Raffles, are thatched. Turning left, past the Three Tuns pub and up Horseshoe Hill, there are more fine cottages.

To the north east of the village, up Hall Lane, is Hormead Hall. It stands in the remains of its moat, best seen as you leave the village alongside the Black Ditch stream. This timber-framed and rendered house, with its octagonal brick chimneys, was built in about 1600. Great Hormead Bury is the larger village's manor house. Its location was, however, south of the village centre, along Horseshoe Lane. St Nicholas' Church, no doubt built here for the convenience of the lord of the manor, dates initially from some time in the 13th century but is mostly 14th and 15th century in appearance. It was heavily restored in 1874, when the chancel was entirely rebuilt. A number of grotesque corbels survive, particularly in the south aisle, and, as always, give an insight into the sense of humour of medieval stone-carvers - they are mostly pulling faces at onlookers.

St Mary's, in Little Hormead, is the original church for the old parish which divided when the grander St Nicholas' Church was built. It's a more humble affair, with a Norman nave and a chancel rebuilt around 1220. The most well-known part of the church is the former north door on display inside. This has elaborate interlacing strapwork in two panels and a scrolly frieze border. The ironwork is 12th century, contemporary with fitting out the new church, and a rare survivor. The royal arms over the chancel arch is dated 1660, the year of the Restoration of Charles II, demonstrating either Royalist fervour or diplomatic nous.

What to look for

Although there are few good memorials in St Nicholas' Church in Great Hormead, one relatively modern one, near the lectern by the chancel arch, is beautifully done. It is a tender and delicate marble medallion with a bas-relief portrait of Betty who died in 1916. She was the wife of Sir Robert Romer, Lord Justice of Appeal, who lived at The Bury near by.

Where to eat and drink

The Three Tuns at the corner of Hormead Road and Horseshoe Hill serves food as well as drink. If you take the Walk 4 extension, the Chequers in Anstey is also welcoming.

While you're there

About 3 miles (4.8km) east of Anstey is the picturesque, remote and small Church of St Mary's, Meesden, reached along a track. The church has a Norman nave but its best feature is a remarkable porch from about 1530 with the archway, east window, corbel table and battlements, all in moulded Tudor brick.

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