Essex’s best walks: Six-mile circular from Harlow Town station

PUBLISHED: 12:07 04 February 2020 | UPDATED: 12:11 04 February 2020

Parndon Mill

Parndon Mill


This walk is one of two suggested by Ken McDonald of the Hundred Parishes Society that covers some of the county’s best winter spots. This one takes you around Harlow and the surrounding countryside

Click here for the other Hundred Parishes walk from Audley End

Leave the station by the only exit. Turn right, keeping on the pavement. Pass Goodman House on the right and, just before reaching a busy roundabout, turn right alongside Goodman House and then right again, continuing along the pavement.

After about 200 metres, turn right into Burnt Mill Lane, signposted to the River Stort. Keep to the pavement on the right, passing the Harlow Centre for Outdoor Learning on the left. With care, cross the road and turn left onto a road signposted to The Moorhen, keeping to the pavement on the right.

This road very soon passes over Burnt Mill Lock. Cross the road and take the path down to the towpath, signposted to Roydon. The towpath soon offers a better view of activities at the Outdoor Learning Centre.

Follow the towpath for about half a mile (900 metres), passing Parndon Lock Meadows and a bird observation point on the right. The canal rounds a bend just before Parndon Mill.

Opposite the mill, the towpath crosses a weir on an ornate metal and glass bridge created by two of the mill's artists. This is one of several works of art along the River Stort Sculpture Trail. Another work of art follows almost immediately, beside Parndon Mill Lock. Turn right here, away from the canal, along a tree-lined path.

The mapThe map

In 300 metres, the path crosses the River Stort, as opposed to Stort Navigation. At this point, the route leaves Harlow and Essex and enters the Hertfordshire parish of Eastwick and Gilston, part of the Hundred Parishes. Soon after the river, the path becomes a lane.

Keep to the right as it reaches the busy A414 dual carriageway, which must be crossed with great care. On the far side, continue ahead on a lane which soon comes into the village of Eastwick.

The first building on the left was once the school and has now been converted into houses. A little further along, pass Culverts, a large brick house dating from around 1700. Next on the left is the Lion public house. Opposite stands the almshouses.

This quiet lane was once the main road, with heavy traffic negotiating the tight corner beside the Lion. Eastwick church is usually locked, but for a view of the outside go straight ahead at the crossroads.

From the crossroads, head uphill on Eastwick Hall Lane, immediately passing the war memorial on the left and the almshouses on the right. After 500 metres, turn right onto a public bridleway. The bridleway climbs steadily. Towards the top, the land to the left is thought to be the site of early settlements in Eastwick.


Continue ahead with woodland on the right, before reaching a junction with another track. Turn right into the wood for about 100 metres to meet a lane. Keep left, now with woodland on the left. To the right, the tower and spire of Gilston church come into view.

Continue to the largely 13th century St Mary's Church. Continue downhill from the church. Just as a lane joins on the left, bear right onto Public Footpath 28, signposted Eastwick 1¼. This becomes the entrance drive to Gilston Park. Keep on the main approach, passing several new houses before bearing to the right. Pass the main building on the left.

Keep straight ahead to join a grass track. The town of Harlow can now be seen over to the left. Keep ahead at a junction of paths, passing by a metal gate. The track climbs, with views back to the mansion.

Near the top of the hill, the footpath is signposted off to the left across a field, but the path is not always maintained and it is easier to keep to the grass track until it reaches a line of trees. Immediately before the trees, turn left. Follow the narrow field-edge downhill with trees and shrubs on the right.

At the bottom of the descent, turn left with hedgerow on the right. Soon, bear right and then turn right, crossing Fiddlers Brook, to reach a lane. Turn right onto the lane. The lane reaches a main road, and at the junction are a war memorial on the right and a popular pub/restaurant on the left, the Plume of Feathers.

Gilston ChurchGilston Church

Turn right onto the main road, passing the war memorial. The pavement soon ends, so cross the road with care to the Eastwick and Gilston village hall, which bears an ornate panel declaring that it was erected in 1908 in memory of Edward Salvin Bowlby.

Continue on the left side for a short distance, and follow the pavement round to the left, leaving the main road. Pass several cottages on the left and then continue onto a public footpath and almost immediately pass through a gateway on the left onto a path signposted to the River Stort.

The path follows a line of telegraph poles and passes through two more gates before crossing a footbridge over the River Stort Navigation [Note: this bridge is closed each January 31].

Here, the Stort Navigation marks the boundary and our route leaves Eastwick and Gilston to return to the Essex town of Harlow. Over the bridge, immediately turn right, signposted Harlow Town Station 1 mile.

This path runs parallel with the canal on the right and the edge of Harlow town on the left. Harlow New Town has a population of around 80,000 and was mostly built after World War II to alleviate London's housing pressure.

Burnt Mill Lock, HarlowBurnt Mill Lock, Harlow

The area here was once Burnt Mill village, but it disappeared beneath the new development. Pass the Moorhen pub on the other side of the canal and, soon afterwards, pass a beautifully decorated metal gate and an upright River Stort sign which is also ornately decorated.

Just after the gate, leave the canal path and go straight ahead. When the pathway reaches a short stretch of roadway keep straight on up a grassy track (an unofficial footpath). This climbs through woodland. After 50 metres bear left onto another path until it reaches a road.

Turn left on the pavement/cycle path, now retracing the very beginning of this walk. Keep to the left and bear left and left again round Goodman House into the station approach road. Keep on the left until you reach the station.

Compass points

Walk 10: Circular walk from Harlow Town station

Harlow is just outside the Hundred Parishes, but its main station, on the edge of town, is a convenient starting point for exploration of the Stort Navigation canal and the rural parish of Eastwick and Gilston. Note: do not attempt this walk on January 31 − the one day each year when one of the canal footbridges is closed.

Distance: 6 miles (9 kilometres)

Start and finish: Harlow Town station (Grid Reference: TL447112)

Parking: At Harlow Town station

Map: Ordnance Survey Explorer Map 194

5.7 miles of varied terrain, including flat towpaths and gently undulating country footpaths and lanes. There are no stiles. In summer, some stretches of this route are likely to be through nettles and cow parsley, so shorts are not recommended.

Click here for more on the Hundred Parishes Society

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