Bishop's Stortford's local gems

PUBLISHED: 01:15 01 April 2010 | UPDATED: 17:00 20 February 2013

Bishop’s Stortford’s local gems

Bishop’s Stortford’s local gems

As tourists fly into Stansted Airport, eager to travel on to the sights of London, they are leaving behind a beautiful corner of rural England, steeped in history. Sue Armstrong discovers some hidden treasures

As tourists fly into Stansted Airport, eager to travel on to the sights of London, they are leaving behind a beautiful corner of rural England, steeped in history. Sue Armstrong discovers some hidden treasures

Perry Green
Just west of Bishops Stortford, Perry Green sits in gently undulating countryside. At first glance there appears to be only a scattering of houses but there is far more tucked away and much to boast about.
The village was home to the sculptor Henry Moore from 1940 until 1986. The gardens, barns and fields of Moores 70 acre estate, known as The Henry Moore Foundation, contain numerous sculptures, drawings, working models and carvings made by the artist.

From March 30 to August 30 an ever-changing exhibition will be on display to the public in these beautiful surroundings, with enormous bronze sculptures lying resplendent on the former lawns, sometimes with sheep grazing around them.

Richard Calvocoressi, Director of The Henry Moore Foundation, says, More and more people are discovering The Foundation and we are delighted they find it an inspiring place. As well as our new exhibition, Henry Moore Deluxe, we have introduced a quiz trail and craft activity for Easter Monday, and are running our popular holiday workshops in May and July.

Perry Green is also home to St Elizabeths Centre, providing specialist care for adults and children with epilepsy and other complex medical conditions. The Centre was established over 100 years ago by the Congregation of the Daughters of the Cross of Liege. It offers residential care, a school and a college, all set in a safe and peaceful environment, in 68 acres of parkland.

St Elizabeths benefits from the support of the local community as well as neighbouring towns and villages. It employs over 600 staff and the Congregation still has a presence with a small convent. Volunteers from around the world come to live and work at the Centre, making a diverse and vibrant contribution.

Between Bishops Stortford and Manuden, Farnham is spread over three main areas, covering a total of eight miles.

The central area is around Rectory Lane where the peace and quiet are only broken by the laughter of children in the school playground and the bleating of lambs in the springtime. Hazel End forms a picturesque corner with a duck pond, a pub, tiny thatched cottages and a cricket ground. And Farnham Green completes the scene with a handful of cottages.

The Victorian church was partially funded by the Gosling family who moved to nearby Hassobury House in 1773. This imposing mansion originally had 30 ground floor rooms, 14 first floor rooms and 12 attic rooms. In all, it provided enough accommodation for the Goslings 16 children and large entourage of staff, including butlers, scullery maids, footmen, grooms and gardeners.

Glimpses of the mansion, with its tall chimneys and stone balconies, standing in stunning grounds, can be seen through the trees from the lanes around and about. Over the years the house has changed hands being used as a convalescent home, a language college, as an independent school and currently as elegant private apartments.
Despite its small population, this is a very sociable community with the school, church and village hall bringing everyone together.

Betty Wisbey, who is in charge of village hall bookings, explains, All sorts of activities take place in the hall, from keep fit classes to parties and wedding receptions. My husband, Reg, is Chairman of the Social Club which is also based in the hall, and people can go along for a drink or join in the regular family evenings, whist drives and country and western nights. Everyone has a great time!

Three miles north of Bishops Stortford, narrow lanes and rolling countryside lead to the idyllic village of Manuden, with thatched cottages, leaning timbered houses and a village school. And at this time of year, rows of daffodils will nod their greeting as you arrive.

The main street winds peacefully from one end of the village to the other with character buildings all along the way giving clues to the past. Amongst them you will find The Old Maltings, Cobblers Cottage, the Old Chapel and the beautiful church of St Mary the Virgin.

The Yew Tree Inn, dating back to 1457, stands directly opposite the church offering a warm welcome in its beamed interior. Brendan Acraman has been manager there for the last three years and says, People can pop in for a drink, enjoy a meal in the restaurant or even stay the night as we have hotel accommodation. Theres a really good community spirit in the village, everyone knows everyone.

Riverside trail to Spellbrook
Spellbrook is a couple of miles south of Bishops Stortford. En route to the neighbouring town of Sawbridgeworth, it is easily missed if you are travelling by car and best explored on foot or by bike.

A footpath runs alongside the River Stort from Bishops Stortford, passing several locks along the way, a nature reserve and colourful riverboats. At this time of year the river valley is springing into life with trees coming into first leaf, scatterings of wild flowers and, if you are lucky, even the blue flash of a kingfisher over the water.

Before reaching the lock at Spellbrook, the site of an Iron Age fort, Wallbury Camp, is to the left of the footpath. Built around 400 BC, it was one of 30 or more hill forts constructed between Dorset and Essex to defend tribal territories, covering an area of 31 acres.

At Spellbrook lock its time to leave the riverside and head up to the road. Turning right you will come to level crossing gates and just beyond youll spy a popular pub, The Three Horseshoes, making a welcome stop for some well earned refreshment. The building is part of a thatched farmhouse, dating back 300 years. It has a traditional feel with lots of nooks and crannies, open fires and a beer garden with a brook running alongside.

Continuing on and crossing the main road with caution, the road dips into Spellbrook Lane. A sprinkling of cottages lead the way, passing some low buildings on the left the home of Hayter lawn mowers. This company, established 60 years ago, has become a household name and its founder, Douglas Hayter, was the pioneer of the rotary lawnmower.

At this point you can choose to take the footpath, which will soon appear on the right, and head back to Bishops Stortford, via Thorley. Or you can explore further along Spellbrook Lane as it continues towards the hamlets of Trims Green and Allens Green with fields gradually widening on either side.

Yew Tree Inn
The Street, Manuden
01279 812888

The Henry Moore Foundation
Perry Green
01279 843333

St Elizabeths Centre
Perry Green
01279 843451

The Three Horseshoes
Spellbrook Lane East
01279 722849

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