Visting Saffron Waldon and Putting Elmdon on the Map
Visiting these adorable villages is a must if you are searching for the unusual. Steeped in rich history, Saffron Walden and Elmdon are surrounded by the Essex Countryside in England. Although having lived in England all their lives, we found that many people hadn’t heard of Elmdon. How did we stumble across these quaint ancient villages, quite simply we didn’t, we were deliberately discovering the roots of my maternal grandfathers ancestors. We wanted to retrace the steps of these famous doctors, inventors and veterinarians, whose lives spanned the continents of France and Italy bridging a lifelong friendship to an Italian Prince. So there was Mum and I on a drizzly October afternoon savouring a hot cup of tea in a cosy Saffron Waldon cafe, puzzling over directions to Elmdon, and anticipating the little town where fading grave stones marked the existence of our heritage.
Reaching Saffron Walden
Saffron Walden is located in the east of England off the M11 and only 22kl from Stansted Airport. The distance from central London is 90kl and a short 32kl from Cambridge. More Details for directions and modes of transport.
We were travelling by car, and reached the heart of this intriguing and colourful medieval village easily. Saffron Waldon named because of the surrounding fields of Saffron in the middle ages, still holds onto the remains of an ancient castle, and was home to Elizabethan poet Gabriel Harvey.
You’ll feel like you have just stepped into Shakespeare territory, on site of the Cross Keys Hotel standing proudly on The High Street crossroads! If in thirst drop into this ancient Pub in the centre of town and chat with the locals or stay the night. Unfortunately we didn’t stay but we know someone who adored staying in the haven of this authentic haunt. If only walls could whisper a thousand lost secrets.
Cute shops with names like The Corner Cupboard and Antique wares have your eyes searching for a sentimental treasure. Intricate lace like plaster work (called pargetting) decorates some of the white buildings dating back to 1676, with leadlight windows and slate rooves, they serve as businesses. Browse the department store and be lead up the main street of town. Slip into The Eight Bells for a delicious lunch. Blooms of colourful flowers hang from restaurant fronts and pot plants adorn the footpaths. Admire the stone biblical monument outside Beales Department Store in the village market square, where you will find parking.
Markets are held on Tuesdays and Saturdays and have been running since 1141. Plan to be there during one of their Cultural, Literary or Maze festivals and get inspired by the spirit of the town.
Greet people as they step straight onto the footpath from the tiny doorways of their homes which are linked along the pavement. Get a feeling of how small people once were by the doorways of some of these houses. These doll house doorways didn’t stretch the height of me and I’m short. You’ll see pretty picture windows, and sweet names like Honey Pot Cottage. Rickety houses of pink, yellow, blue and cream are a backdrop of wonder. Some of the buildings are so crooked I fathom how they can be still be standing after centuries of extreme weather and tireless wear and tear. Plants line footpaths and floral hanging baskets stretch along home fronts adding to the brightness of their houses. Be drawn to a bright red door way like I was.
Step through the back streets, and discover grassy green parks, and find an artist’s sculpture of a family playing. Take a stroll through Bridge End Gardens, the children will love running through the hedge maze. Admire Saffron Waldons magnificent Saint Mary’s church, with tower and fancy steeples soaring in height of 193 feet, linking us to Saxon times.
Visit the Museum to learn and see some amazing and interesting history surrounding this unique part of the world. Discover the castle keep ruins in the outer yard. The Norman castle was built by the Earl of Essex during 1125 – 1141. The Museum was closed when I visited, so didn’t have the oportunity of seeing inside.
Head into Elmdon (meaning hill of elms) Parish centre, only 6 ½ miles from Saffron Waldon Market. From the 13th century Elmdon was the centre of wool trade. Behind the 14th century St Nicolas church, you can observe the Manor House, and stroll through Eldonbury Park. This Gothic like ancient stone church is a beautiful remnant of yesteryear. The sacred gardens are home to old and faded grave stones. Some were struggling to uphold their stance in remembrance of those who once lived and breathed this pretty country village. Shade trees capturing autumn graced the cemetery lawn with vibrant red, yellow and green leaves. We were excited to find the gravestone of one of our ancestors amongst the other crosses and head stones. Some were so eroded by time that you could no longer read their stained and mossy faces.
Walk the tree lined grassy meadows, and be intrigued by the stately homes such as ‘ Farthing Green, ‘ and thatched roof cottages with lovely names like ‘Willow Cottage’ and ‘Violet Cottage’. A branch of red blossoms arched its way across the Old Post Office gate as though guarding the white wooden entrance.
See the Vicarage and School Row. Lavish pink rose bushes brushed against wall fronts, green hedges marked boundaries, and greenery sprayed across front lawns. Spot the Ex Public House with the remaining sign ‘The Carrier’.
Step on crispy leaf strewn streets and be swept up in the charm of this peaceful village. Pastel pink gabled brick cottages with church windows were ablaze with an orange hew, as dusk settled at the end of the sleepy cul-de-sac.
Elmdon is popular with walkers and hikers because of the unspoilt countryside and serene atmosphere. When the highest point about 350 miles above sea level is reached, admire beautiful southern and northern views.
Take the time to relax with a thirst quenching beer at The Elmdon Dial Free House if it is open, and brush shoulders with a local, you never know what interesting tales you might hear.
You’’ll be glad you were lured to Saffron Waldon and Elmdon
You will be glad that you were lured to these mesmerizing story book villages. Become engrossed in the charm and succumb to the sense of being in a time warp.
© Kerrie Ireland – All Rights Reserved