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Under the Bishop's Eye

A walk from Bishop's Stortford's historic town centre.

Distance 5 miles (8km)

Minimum time 2hrs 15min

Ascent/gradient 165ft (50m)

Level of difficulty Easy

Paths Pavement, tracks, green lanes and field paths, 5 stiles

Landscape Historic townscape and woodland on low ridge

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

Start/finish TL 488215

Dog friendliness On leads on pavements and around Wickham Hall

Parking Causeway car park, off Old River Lane

Public toilets At foot of Waytemore Castle motte and Jackson Square shopping centre, south of Bridge Street

1 From the car park turn right up Bridge Street. Its timber-framed buildings make Bridge Street one of the best surviving streets in the town. Go straight on, past the 1828 Corn Exchange, into High Street, to visit St Michael's Church. This remarkably complete, early 15th-century church has retained its north and south porch doors, chancel screen and choir stalls with interesting misericord carvings. The tower was heightened in brick and the lead spire was added in 1812.

2 Out of the church turn left into Windhill. At the roundabout go right into Bells Hill and shortly go left on to the Hertfordshire Way. This descends to the grounds of Bishop's Stortford College, joining a tarmac path for a while. At the crest turn right, still on the Hertfordshire Way, alongside a hedge. Once through a gate go left along Maze Green Road. Go left to another gate, the footpath signed 'Cradle End', to turn right, with playing fields on the left. The path continues through scrubby woodland, turning right along garden fences and round the corner. With houses soon on both sides, cross an estate road up Squire's Close. The path continues across another estate road and, beyond the houses, crosses the A1184.

3 Once over the stile walk alongside a hedge, still on the Hertfordshire Way. Descend alongside woods to go through a hedge and turn right on to a green lane. Passing under the A120, the Roman Stane Street, the Hertfordshire Way turns left but you go straight on, along an access road signed 'Hadham Lodge'. Once past a pond and to the left of Hadham Lodge, walk alongside a paddock fence. When it ends go straight on. The lane beyond the woods becomes a grassy track with Bloodhounds Wood to the left. Cross a junction and continue on to the crest. Here the path bears right on to a hedgeless track, briefly within Essex. Continue past the beech trees in the grounds of Wickham Hall to your right. You get a reasonable view of Wickham Hall, with its large chimneystacks. It consists of two separate Tudor houses, joined together in the late 17th century to form a single, L-plan house.

4 At the corner turn left past a bungalow and then right by a mast. The track winds along the county boundary. Where the fence ends, turn sharp right descending to walk along the edge of some trees. At the footpath sign go left over a stile into pasture and head alongside the hedge to the bypass bridge. Just through the bridge ignore a gate ahead and go through the one on the right, with a footpath sign. The path follows the edge of some woods, briefly entering them and later continuing alongside.

5 Cross the road to a stile. Descend diagonally to the field's lowest point in the far corner. Cross a stream and head for a big oak by the hedge, with a stile beyond it. Cross a green lane through the hedge-and-tree belt. Now skirt a cricket pitch to the diagonally opposite corner and leave the field on a path with allotments to your right. Cross to Elm Road and at the petrol station turn right into Northgate End.

6 At the roundabout turn left past Northgate End car park, bearing left on to a path and passing through Link Road car park to the gate near the bridge.

7 At the motte of Waytemore Castle cross Link Road back to the Causeway car park.

Bishop's Stortford grew up at a strategic ford on the River Stort. Here Roman Stane Street crossed the water on its route east from its Ermine Street junction, near Puckeridge, to Colchester. The original ford was abandoned and the medieval town migrated about 600yds (549m) south to another ford, this time guarded by the Bishop of London's great castle. .

Waytemore Castle was built on the east bank of the river opposite the town, soon after the Norman Conquest of 1066. Traffic diverted south through the market had tolls collected before crossing the ford or, later, a medieval bridge. The crossing was in the lee of the castle, whose 40ft (12.2m) motte is crowned by the remains of a stone shell keep.

Where to eat and drink

Bishop's Stortford has pubs all over the town. Scruffy Mac's on the corner of Devoils Lane, is a distasteful renaming of the mostly 16th-century, timber-framed Black Lion. The George Hotel is at the corner of High Street and North Street. There are also restaurants and cafés in Jackson Square shopping centre.

What to look for

St Michael's Church, Bishop's Stortford, is a grand town church rebuilt in the early 15th century. The choir stalls are reputedly from the old St Paul's in London. Their misericords, or tip-up seats, have carvings underneath, including angel and human heads, an owl, dragon, swan and other animals.

While you're there

Bishop's Stortford has two very different museums. The Rhodes Memorial and Commonwealth Centre in South Road is the house where Cecil Rhodes, the African coloniser and founder of Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), was born in 1853. The Local History Museum is in the former cemetery foreman's house on Jervis Road.

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