A walk between Matching Tye and Matching Green with a church to match.
Distance 3.5 miles (5.7km)
Minimum time 1hr 30min
Level of difficulty Easy
Paths Bridleways, grass and field-edge paths, 3 stiles
Landscape Ponds, patches of woodland and grassy meadow
Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 183 Chelmsford & The Rodings, Maldon & Witham
Start/finish TL 515112
Dog friendliness Notices everywhere warn of grazing stock
Parking Free parking at Matching Tye village hall
Public toilets None on route
© AA Media Limited 2015. © Crown Copyright Licence number 100021153
1 From Matching Tye village hall turn right. Directly opposite the Fox Inn take the lane, signposted for Sheering and Hatfield Heath. After 200yds (183m), turn right at the fingerpost for the Forest Way and follow the grassy field-edge path. Go through the wooden gate and maintain direction along the bridleway to Matching church.
2 Pass the Marriage Feast House on your left and continue to the metalled road to the right of the church. Take the footpath on your right, opposite the church, through the kissing gate and skirt the moat on your right. After 100yds (91m), cross the stile and walk half left on the cross-field path towards the edge of the line of trees. At the yellow waymark, turn left along the cross-field path.
3 At the mid-field fingerpost, turn right and walk to the line of trees, which is the boundary of Brick House. Turn left at the fingerpost, keeping the house and paddock on your right. After the paddock turn right across the field towards houses, maintain direction along the field-edge path. After the playing field on your left, walk between houses into Harlow Road at Matching Green.
4 Turn left and immediately right, following the signpost for Epping, and take the first right into Colvers. After 200yds (183m), turn right at the break in the hedge and go over two stiles in quick succession. Cross the meadow and maintain direction over the footbridge. Take the cross-field path half left towards the line of trees. Keep the trees on your right passing the yellow waymark to another copse of trees.
5 Maintain a south westerly direction and, soon after the footpath appears on your left, bear right on the field-edge path keeping the ditch and trees on your right-hand side. After about 100yds (91m), turn left then right through the trees and walk for 300yds (274m) with the trees on your right until you reach Harlow Road. Turn left and walk with care along the busy Harlow Road for around ½ mile (800m) to return to the village hall at Matching Tye. Here you can finish off with a well-earned rest at the nearby comfortable Fox Inn.
You sometimes feel that Essex place names were designed to disorientate and confuse. Either that, or a Saxon cartographer got it all wrong when three tiny villages which form a triangle to the east of Harlow were named Matching Tye, Matching Green and Matching. Matching itself is the oldest of the trio and has changed little since Saxon times when the Maecca or Match people settled in what was then open forest. After the 5th century, this community expanded into Matching Tye and Matching Green.
In this walk we shall discover the flint-and-rubble Church of St Mary the Virgin, built in 1200 over the site of an original Saxon church at Matching. The church stands in an atmosphere of pastoral peace, while next to it is the recently restored Marriage Feast House. A generous Mr William Chimney built the Feast House in 1480 and allowed local brides and grooms to celebrate their happy day there, a tradition that continued right up until 1936. The large oak tree beside the church was planted to celebrate Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee in 1887. These days the Feast House is used as an annexe for church activities. Near by there is a splendid lake filled with waterfowl, a lovely 15th-century timber-framed manor house surrounded by a water-filled moat and a large aisled barn dating back to the 1600s.
Matching Green, to the south east of Matching, is another village barely touched by time save for a picturesque collection of 18th-century weather-boarded cottages overlooking the green. There used to be some shops and half a dozen pubs, but nowadays it is a quiet spot where local people down a pint at the village's only surviving pub, the Chequers. The celebrated portrait artist, Augustus John (1878-1961), whose subjects included Thomas Hardy and George Bernard Shaw, lived in Elm House, next door.
The third village in this trio is Matching Tye renowned for its attractive Conservation Area of historic dwellings clustered round the tiny green. As you wander through the village you'll see a range of building materials used which include weather-boarding, yellow stock and red brick, red plain clay tiles, slate and thatch. The oldest buildings are the 16th-century Ployters Farm and Little Brewers, just before reaching your journey's end at the Fox Inn.
Down Hall stands on the site of a Tudor farmhouse, which was demolished in the 18th century. It was rebuilt in 1870 in classical style and is noted for its Italianate design. A once grand private residence, it became a military hospital during World War One, and then a girls' school and management training centre before becoming a hotel in 1986.
Two fine watering holes with plenty of character on this route include the Fox Inn at Matching Tye and the Chequers at Matching Green. Both have car parks and serve home-cooked hot and cold meals, and a good selection of beer, wine and soft drinks. Otherwise try the upmarket Down Hall Hotel.
During World War Two American airmen and their engineers were based at Matching Airfield. Most of the land has now been reclaimed and only the control tower and radar building remain, but you can look for the memorial, erected to those who never returned, to the east of Matching Green.