The rain of the weekend eventually cleared by the Bank Holiday Monday so we were able to enjoy a barbecue under gloriously sunny skies. Tuesday too, was glorious and also warm and this gave me a chance to get my walking boots on again. I’d have liked it more if Ginny had been by my side, but unfortunately she was working, at the same time she’s still recovering from her foot op so a long walk was really out of the question. Today’s walk took me from Ford End across to and past the derelict Ridley’s brewery site at Hartford End on towards Leez Priory before swinging round towards the Felsted road, before the mile or so trek alongside the River Chelmer back towards Ford End.
Starting at St.Johns church in Ford End I walked towards the Old farm along Church Lane. From what I could see it’s now more a collection of businesses rather than a traditional working farm as we used to see during the 20th century. Following the lane I soon spotted the first marker point a World War II pillbox and turned left. In the next field there was another pillbox and I wondered how in practice these pillbox were used during the war. Moving along through the wooded footpath the trail twisted and turned until I went over the River Chelmer and came to Hartford End Mill.
Moving along Mill Lane I eventually came to the Derelict Hartford End brewery site. The Brewery had until 2005 been owned by the famed Essex brewing family Ridley. The story of how Ridley’s brewery came to be established begins with William Ridley, who in 1811 married Maria Dixon, the daughter of a mill owner at Hartford End. Shortly after their marriage the ownership of the mill passed to both William and Maria.
Many of the old pubs were originally bakeries supplied by the Ridley’s Mill and in some of the pubs parts of the original ovens are still in place.In 1814, Maria gave birth to Thomas Dixon Ridley and it is after him that T D Ridley & Sons Limited is named.Thomas Dixon took on his father’s business, and in 1841 he married Lydia Wells, who came from a brewing family in Chelmsford. Within a year, Thomas Dixon had built his own brewery downstream from the mill on the bank of the River Chelmer, just one mile West of the Compasses Inn.
Ridley’s expanded rapidly and by 1882, the year of Thomas Dixon’s death, it had established a chain of inns from the Sun at Saffron Walden (their most Northern outlet) to the Wheatsheaf at Rettendon (their most Southern).Ridley’s were famous for supplying beer in wooden casks, which they maintained well into the 1980s. They brewed two cask beers, Ridley’s bitter and Ridley’s mild.In their later years Ridley’s began to brew a range of different real ales, for example Witchfinder Porter: a dark beer with a strong hoppy finish.
They also re-badged their bitter as Ridley’s IPA.Sadly, in 2005, the Ridley family sold the brewery and its 73 pubs to Greene King who ceased production at the historic brewery. Since then various projects have been suggested but as of now August 2013,it still stands empty and derelict as my photos show. Crossing the road my walk took me up and past Littley Park, then on across the countryside along the causeway towards Leez Priory.
When you reach the grounds of Leez Priory, the path skirts around the magnificent Lodge Lake, before heading up to the farm at the crossroads. Again it looked as if it was a collection of businesses at the farm as there were more cars than farm vehicles. Turning left at the crossroads I headed towards the bridge over the River Ter before turning left along the footpath heading back towards Felsted.
The sun shone so it was nice after the weekend rain to soak up some rays. Moving on passing near to Cobblers Green and Causeway End I crossed the B1417 and headed in the direction of North End. About a quarter of a mile from North End the path moves along side the Chelmer for the final Mile and a half walk back to the car.