Sep 032011

The River Stour in its serpentine windings, its floods and drought trickles, has smoothed out a beautiful shallow valley where Essex and Suffolk meet to stare at each other across their common boundary, the river itself.
First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
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This is cornfield country, broad and gently undulating, well wooded and prosperous, where a pheasant’s life is uninsurable and the medieval timber-framed houses are lovingly and expensively restored.

The Henny Swan stands by the Stour, an old country pub now smartened up, the object of sunny afternoon boat trips from nearby Sudbury. We set out past handsomely thatched Henny Cottage and on up the lane to Middleton among the clustered, dusky yellow buttons of tansy. Young goldfinches with scarlet cheeks and crossed tail feathers bounced in the holly trees. Fields of wheat lay creamy gold under the sun, the crop coursing in matt and sheen before the wind. A landscape with a dip and swing to it, where rolls of straw from already harvested fields lay like giant cotton reels among the stubbles in fields whose headlands were blue with borage flowers.

On a tump near Middleton we halted and sat to take in the view down a valley of cut grass dotted with oaks, on over distant barley fields to the stumpy broach spire of Great Henny church on its ridge, the focal point round which this walk revolves. Pink blooms of centaury shook in the wind, and a young deer sprinted across the grass. A quintessentially English view, the sort you fight and die for.

A rutted old byway carried us southwest between hedges of field maple, hazel and elder, its sandy banks burrowed by rabbits into miniature landslips of orange ochre. At The Ryes a little scarlet George V postbox leaned in the hedge, framed in brambles but freshly painted. This is carefully warded and kept countryside, the hedges newly planted with quince and whitebeam, the field headlands left unploughed as seedbeds for wild flowers.

‘Come and help yourselves!’ invited a woman picking greengages and plums from her hedge in Great Henny. We walked on with mouths full, down by Fenn Farm with its vociferous (but friendly) dogs, by Twinstead with its Victorian fantasy church. On across the barley, round by Great and Little Hickbush, and down again to the dreamily winding River Stour and the beer garden of the Henny Swan.

Start: Henny Swan PH, Henny Street, Sudbury CO10 7LS (OS ref: TL879385)

Getting there: A12 to Colchester, B1508 to Bures, left (‘Lamarsh’, then ‘Sudbury’) to Henny Street.

WALK (6½ miles, easy, OS Explorer 196):
Leaving Henny Swan PH, left along road (Sudbury direction); in 100 m, left (‘Middleton only’). In ¼ mile, on right bend, left (875386; ‘bridleway’). In 300 m, by footbridge, right (875383, yellow arrow/YA) along field edge. In 300 m follow it to left; in 70m, right (872384) to meet St Edmund’s Way (868385). Right (YA). In 150 m, keep forward (‘Stour Valley Path’, YA) for 700 m to top of rise. Left on public byway (868393, red arrow) for ¾ mile to road by cottages (859385). Right to T-junction (858384); left for 500 m; by ‘Great Henny’ sign, left (858380) up Old Rectory drive (fingerpost). In 150 m, at gate, right (859380, ‘bridleway’) to road (861378). Left; in 400 m, pass side road (‘Church’); on next bend, right (fingerpost) down Fenn Farm drive. Keep right of house (864374; raucous dogs, but not unfriendly!), on downhill between hedges, past YA at bottom (ignore). Ahead for 250 m to T-junction of paths (863372). Left (blue arrow), on under 2 sets of power lines. Just before road at Twinstead church, left (862367, YA) on grassy track. At hedge end, on across field. In ¼ mile pass pylons; down slope, through bushes; left along hedge, through gap (870368). Right with hedge on right, round field edge to road (873369). Left; cross stream; in 100 m, right (873371), following field bank and power lines to Great Hickbush Farm. By farm hedge, left to drive (878371); left to road (874374). Right; round right bend; in 200 m, left (876377; fingerpost) across field to road (875382); right to Greathouse Farm and valley road (880382). Left to Henny Swan.

LUNCH: Henny Swan PH (01787-269238;

INFO: Colchester TIC (01206-282920;

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 Posted by at 04:44

  3 Responses to “Henny Street and Great Henny, Essex”

  1. Hi Chris, Just returned from todays Times Weekend walk, Henny Street
    and Great Henny.
    It tookme just as long to find it as to walk it. I also chose the
    wrong day as I now look like a lobster. There are a few stunning
    views to be mentioned 1.Top of the rise (868393) with a great view od
    SudburyTwinstead church (863372) and the best of all at Hickbush Farm
    top of the hill. However I did go the wrong way twice. I am glad I
    printed the directions from your we site otherwise I would of never
    completted it. I had no acces to a OS map ,but I would recomend
    anyone taking on this walk should aquire one from library etc.
    Thank you very much Chris as I have waited a long time for a walk in
    my area. The pub .Great Good range of beer but food abit pricey.

  2. Hi Chris,
    Did the Henny, Essex walk yesterday a week after it was in The Times.
    First time we had done one of your walks and it was well worth doing –
    thank you. One section which might puzzle people is coming out of
    Twinstead passing alongside the hedge, you currently come to a
    recently ploughed field. Yesterday there was no path apparent across
    the field, but aim for the pylons you can see (althgouh you won’t
    reach it, aim for a ‘super’ pylon) and you will reach the top of a
    mound with a pylon there. The section through the bushes is unmarked
    and looks quite an unlikely place to go, but persevere and you will
    get there!

  3. Dear Quentin,
    Thank you so much for going to all this trouble! I’ll put your comments on my website. It will save a lot of people a lot of bother!
    With good wishes,


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