The primary aim of the Hundred Parishes Society is to ‘educate’ – to increase knowledge and appreciation of our area. We do not pretend to know it all or to be the only organisation spreading the word. We are very happy to publicise what others are doing, usually through the What’s On page of our website, If your event doesn’t already appear, please tell us about it.




Sent 11 February 2016 – Subject: THE HUNDRED PARISHES SOCIETY


Spring is on its way!


Lengthening days indicates the approach of spring with increasing numbers of birds singing, twigs bursting into leaf and flowers opening.


With the recent unseasonably warm weather many flowers are already blooming: some are stragglers from last autumn, others are spring flowers opening early. Members of the Botanical Society of the British Isles recorded 612 different species in flower at the start of 2016 compared to 368 at the same time in 2015.


Many spring flowers have yellow petals which are highly visible to passing insects but also help to lift our spirits on dull grey days!   They include colt’s foot, cowslips, daffodils, dandelions, lesser celandines, primroses and winter aconites.




Some parishes have local history societies, women’s institutes, U3As or similar bodies, and they usually welcome visitors who may come for a specific talk. There are other, perhaps less formal, groups who meet to enjoy the mix of an interesting speaker and a chance to enjoy refreshment and a chat. We were pleased to learn of the success of one such group that started up during this past winter in Standon village hall. Speakers on varied local subjects attracted as many as 60 listeners, although no doubt they were also tempted by the social aspects of the gathering, not least the cakes! 

We are conscious that many places do not have such enterprising organisers, so the Society aims to fill part of the gap with its own programme of talks. They will be open to all and will appear on our What’s On. We will also be offering members a few guided walks, following the popularity of our first such venture last year. But please don’t wait to be organized - now that Spring has arrived, our lovely countryside and fascinating towns and villages are looking forward to your visit! Do try one that you have not explored recently, ideally with a copy of the parish introduction and perhaps a walk route, both of which are available free from our website.

Ken McDonald,


Another with yellow petals is the rare oxlip which is only found in a few localities within west Essex, south Cambridgeshire and Suffolk. This is a perennial plant with a rosette of leaves from which arise short stalks, each topped with a cluster of 10 to 30 pale yellow primrose-like flowers, all facing in the same direction. Sadly, this rather rare woodland plant is a threatened species as deer find its flowers very tasty.

However, colonies of this beautiful plant can be seen in two of the nature reserves managed by Essex Wildlife Trust - Shadwell Wood near Saffron Walden and West Wood near Thaxted. Coppice management provides ideal conditions for oxlips as well as many other springtime species, so these woods are well worth a visit in the coming weeks.

Further details of these and other reserves can be found on the Essex Wildlife Trust website:   The What’s On page at lists occasional opportunities to help in conservation work there and at other local nature reserves.

Tricia Moxey, Trustee 

Sent 11 January 2016 – Subject: THE HUNDRED PARISHES SOCIETY

I recently gave a 15 minute interview for the Bishop’s Stortford & District Talking Newspaper that covers much of the Hundred Parishes area. The interview – about the Hundred Parishes, of course - was added to readings of the week's news, taken from the Herts & Essex Observer, and was distributed on memory sticks to about 100 visually-impaired folk throughout our area. Preparing for this interview made me even more conscious of how fortunate I am to be able to see clearly the beauty and variety that is all around us, and also how fortunate I am to be mobile enough to explore it. I resolved not to take such blessings for granted and to strive to be more inclusive when pursuing the Society’s objectives to educate and to encourage exploration. 

Use of our footpaths has been more challenging than usual in recent weeks following the persistent rain, and a decent pair of walking boots is essential. However, a few hours in the fresh air are usually rewarding in any conditions, especially if accompanied by rest and refreshment at one of our tea rooms or pubs. If you need inspiration to get out, please consider one of the walks on our website or simply stroll around a new village or town with a copy of our parish introduction. We show plenty of organised walks on our What’s On page and our own self-guided walk descriptions can be downloaded from the Walks section. Our website address is

Ken McDonald


Sent 11 December 2015 – Subject: THE HUNDRED PARISHES SOCIETY


The Society’s articles and charitable status do not allow us to promote tourism. We are happy to leave that to other people. Saffron Walden, our most populous parish, has an excellent Tourist Information Centre in the town square. They recently produced a short video extolling the virtues of the town. We thought you might enjoy this whistle-stop tour that focuses on the parish’s many heritage gems. It is available online on YouTube at: By way of contrast, a 1981 film by Alec Clifton-Taylor is also available on YouTube at: These links have recently been added to our own website introduction to Saffron Walden. Some other parish intros also have links to archive films.

We regularly change the image at the top right of each page of our website,, to show somewhere within the Hundred Parishes. A few weeks ago the image was of more recent heritage – Prisoner of War camp buildings that have survived since WWII. We include a better picture and a short reference to the camp within our introduction to the parish of Hatfield Heath.

The Society’s objectives include the promotion of conservation, protection and improvement of the physical and natural environment of our area. Whilst we aim not to be a campaigning organisation, we feel it is appropriate to contribute where we can to policies that affect how the special characteristics of the Hundred Parishes are understood and protected. More than half of our hundred parishes lie in the district of Uttlesford, whose council is preparing a new Local Plan. The Society submitted a short response to a number of questions in the recent consultation.

Ken McDonald



Sent 11 November 2015 – Subject: THE HUNDRED PARISHES SOCIETY



On a calm, moonlit evening the restored 15th century Finchingfield Guildhall was the venue for members of the Hundred Parishes Society who had gathered for a social evening in this lovely timber-framed building. They appreciated an illustrated talk by Ken McDonald whose photographs of the agricultural landscapes, picturesque villages, fine churches and other listed buildings helped to explain the essential features that makes this area so special.

The presentation was followed by the Society’s Annual General Meeting, conducted by chairman Douglas Kent. He reported an expanding membership, completion of the comprehensive introductions to each parish on our website and a regularly-updated What’s On page of information about local events. The Trustees’ report and accounts were approved and all six trustees were re-elected.

After the formal part of the meeting and refreshments, members enjoyed a guided tour of Finchingfield Guildhall whose recent restoration programme had been funded by significant grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund and English Heritage as well as generous support from a number of other organisations.

Our guide, Des Fahy, explained that the restoration had revealed fascinating details of the building’s construction, as well as the range of skills of the original carpenters, tilers, plasterers and others who had toiled to create such a long-standing building from what is believed to have been a limited budget. Their modern counterparts have sympathetically rejuvenated it so that today it is fully accessible and all can use and appreciate this Grade I-listed building.

Finchingfield’s library is on the ground floor as is a small museum where modern technology enhances the presentation of Finchingfield’s history. The lofty and spacious upper floor provides a venue for a popular programme of varied events. For details of future events see

Tricia Moxey


Sent 11 October 2015 – Subject: THE HUNDRED PARISHES SOCIETY


Our area is one of the driest in England, with relatively low rainfall and no major lakes or rivers. There are, of course, lots of small rivers whose valleys contribute to the beauty of our countryside. Three have their source on the relatively high ground in the Henham and Debden area near the centre of the Hundred Parishes: the Chelmer eventually flows into the Blackwater and reaches the sea at Maldon; the Roding flows into the Thames; and the Cam flows north to join the Ouse and discharge at the Wash.

The absence of water has been a key factor in allowing this area to remain relatively unspoilt, with insufficient natural water supply to service major industrial or residential developments. However, man’s ingenuity has enabled a growing population to survive, with a variety of manmade devices to supplement natural water sources. Water is pumped from rivers or from deep artesian wells; farms have invested in reservoirs; and our waste water is recycled. 

One of the most remarkable man-made devices for increasing water supply is the New River, which passes through the far southwest corner of the Hundred Parishes at Great Amwell. Water is pumped from the River Lea near Ware into this aqueduct and it flows south for nearly 30 miles, through London’s northern suburbs to Hackney. What is perhaps most surprising about the New River is that it was constructed over 400 years ago. At that time, it took desperately-needed clean water into the heart of London. It still serves that purpose. Our selection of walks from railway stations includes number 19 whose easy 4 miles from St Margarets Station to Ware station includes an interesting stretch of the New River. The route can be downloaded from our website,

Ken McDonald



Sent 11 September 2015 – Subject: THE HUNDRED PARISHES SOCIETY

In September, twenty members of the Hundred Parishes Society were led by chairman Douglas Kent and secretary Ken McDonald on a guided walk from Newport to Wendens Ambo. Douglas and Ken shared some fascinating details about the history of the older listed buildings, pointing out the skills of past builders and carpenters and the challenges placed upon successive owners who have occupied and cherished these buildings over many centuries. The walkers enjoyed the views from the footpath between Newport and Wendens Ambo, across the Cam valley towards Shortgrove and the distant spire of Saffron Walden’s parish church. The group was ready for lunch at the Fighting Cocks.

Getting out and about provides us with the opportunity to appreciate the variety of autumnal colours in gardens, parks and the wider countryside as the deciduous trees prepare to shed their leaves. Do try one or more of the recommended walks described on our website:

At this time of the year gardens too offer seasonal charms. Our website’s What’s On page shows the final day for visiting the Gardens of Easton Lodge is October 18 from 11:30am to 5pm, whilst a walk around your own local area can reveal surprisingly colourful plantings too! As winter approaches, there are fewer outdoor activities, but our What’s On lists a good variety of events around the area including walks, talks and evening concerts in great venues and for good causes.

Should the weather be unsuitable for outdoor excursions then there are a couple of exhibitions worth viewing in Saffron Walden. The Fry Art Gallery features "The Art of Acquisition - the Great Bardfield artists' houses" until 25th October, whilst Saffron Walden Museum has: "Uttlesford: a Community of Collectors". Our What’s On page has links to their websites.

Tricia Moxey



Sent 11 August 2015 – Subject: THE HUNDRED PARISHES SOCIETY


If you enjoyed the old postcard of Barkway, mentioned in our article last month, you may like to try the three mile walk around Stansted Mountfitchet that can be downloaded from the Walks section of our website The description of walk number 3 is illustrated with postcard images of a hundred years ago. Each location can be readily identified today. 

The Stansted walk, like each of the 20 on our website, starts and finishes at a railway station on the line from Cambridge to London Liverpool Street or on the spur to Hertford East. 

Fifty years ago, there would have been far greater scope for walks between stations. More than twenty parishes had a train station then, compared with just seven today. A spate of line closures in the 1960s followed the recommendations of British Rail’s chairman, Dr Richard Beeching. A third of Britain’s rail track was deemed uneconomic because passengers and freight were migrating from rail to road. It may be hard for younger people today to imagine that before the 1960s only one household in ten had a car. 

Our area was particularly affected by rail closures: in the north the line from Cambridge via Linton to Haverhill and the branch line from Audley End through Saffron Walden to Bartlow; in the west, the Buntingford line; and in the east the route between Bishop’s Stortford, Dunmow and Braintree. The closure of so many stations probably constrained expansion and thereby helped the Hundred Parishes retain its rural characteristics. 

Whilst the rails have been removed, the routes are still largely visible on maps and on the ground, with the Dunmow track finding new life as the Flitch Way for people on foot, cycle or horseback.

Ken McDonald


Sent 11 July 2015 – Subject: THE HUNDRED PARISHES SOCIETY

The very last parish introduction to go onto our website happened to be for Barkway. This parish lies in the far northwest of the Hundred Parishes area, one of just three (with Barley and Nuthampstead) in the district of North Hertfordshire. 

Our introductions always include a few photos, usually recent images, but Barkway’s also has a copy of a wonderful photo that had been published as a postcard in 1904. I’m hoping your magazine editor will be able to print it with this article, but if it doesn’t appear here please go to our website Select the Parishes section from the menu and then, from the alphabetical listing, click on Barkway. When I first saw the picture, I knew I had to go and find where it was taken and perhaps take an equivalent photo of today’s scene. I hope it may inspire you to do the same. 

I was not disappointed. The view down the main street had hardly changed – except that there were now pavements and the once-empty main road now had parked cars – including mine. Nearly all buildings are still recognisable, although their uses may have changed. Today there is just one pub, where once there were many to service the horse-drawn coaches on this once-popular route between London and Cambridge.

The local lasses didn’t all come out to marvel at my pocket camera, nor did they wear long posh frocks and bonnets. I also didn’t see any lads in flat caps, but it wasn’t difficult to find the spot where the photographer had stood. Besides, the stroll through the village was a most pleasant experience, with little passing traffic and lots of lovely old buildings. I hope this old photo may inspire you to explore Barkway.

Ken McDonald



Sent 11 June 2015 – Subject: THE HUNDRED PARISHES SOCIETY

By the time this article appears in parish magazines, we will have finished updating all the parish introductions that appear on our website Each introduction now has a short description of key elements of the parish’s history and heritage, as well as photos and links to further information, either online or in print. We have also updated population figures for each parish to show numbers derived from the 2011 Census. The overall population of the Hundred Parishes grew by 10% in ten years to 139,000. Half of that growth may be regarded as exceptional, arising from construction of four “airport-related” residential developments in the vicinity of Stansted Airport.

Our website’s What’s On page shows that July offers a number of opportunities to visit some of our treasured private houses and gardens, as well as churches and windmills that open to the public only occasionally. I will draw attention to two particular opportunities . . .

St Mary’s Church, Stansted Mountfitchet, is cared for by the Churches Conservation Trust. During July it will be open each day from 11am to 4pm to display the new “Stansted Heritage” embroidery, together with photos and postcards that trace the parish’s history.

From July 4th to September 12th, Braintree District Museum in Braintree will be staging "World War II - The People's Story", an exhibition of the impact on Braintree District of the Second World War. Although the town of Braintree itself is outside the Hundred Parishes, eight of our parishes are within Braintree district, including Wethersfield and Great Saling that each had wartime airfields. The exhibition includes photos, objects and memories from the rural areas. Braintree District Museum is open Tuesday to Saturday, 10am to 4pm.

Ken McDonald



Sent 11 May 2015 – Subject: THE HUNDRED PARISHES SOCIETY

Whilst our lovely, historic area is a joy to explore at any time of the year, the summer months offer extra opportunities to enjoy our heritage and culture. 

Several of our fine buildings and gardens will be open on specific days. Within the What’s On page of our website you will find dates when you could, for example, enjoy a guided tour of 16th-century Spains Hall in Finchingfield or 14th-century Old Sun Inn in Saffron Walden. Visiting is by prior appointment – details on the website. These buildings are listed as Grade I for their special architectural or historic importance. There are less than a hundred Grade I listings in the whole of the Hundred Parishes. The majority are churches. 

What’s On also gives details of when you can visit open gardens, for example in Arkesden, Clavering, Duxford, Helions Bumpstead, Little Easton, Stebbing, Thundridge or Wendens Ambo. Others will be added as we learn of them. 

June will see more local events celebrating the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215. Several local churches will participate in the national peal of bells on the afternoon of Magna Carta Day, June 14, whilst Stansted Mountfitchet will unveil a tapestry that has been worked by volunteers to commemorate the anniversary.  

Thaxted will be the centre of varied cultural activities through the summer. Visiting teams of Morris dancers will be performing there during the last weekend of May and the Thaxted Music Festival runs from mid-June to mid-July. Our website lists other music events, including concerts at Saffron Hall in Saffron Walden. 

Before you set off to one of these special events, please review our short introduction for that parish – it will give some historic context and we hope will increase your knowledge and enjoyment. 

Ken McDonald


Sent 09 April 2015 – Subject: THE HUNDRED PARISHES SOCIETY

Easter saw the reopening of many of the area’s smaller attractions. If you haven’t been for a while, do try one of our super small museums at Ashdon, Great Dunmow or Much Hadham or the Fry Art Gallery in Saffron Walden. You will learn much about our heritage at each of them. Please check the Attractions page on our website for opening times or links to their websites.


Until a hundred years ago, there was an active mill in almost every parish – primarily grinding wheat from local fields into flour for the village baker. A few mills are sufficiently well-preserved to open to the public. May 9th - 10th is National Mills Weekend and some of our local mills will be manned by volunteers and welcoming visitors: the watermill at Hinxton and windmills at Ashdon, Finchingfield, Stansted Mountfitchet and Thaxted. For details, please see our website’s What’s On page. May 9 - 10 will also see the start of local Magna Carta anniversary celebrations with a medieval weekend at Pleshey Castle.


Now should be a good time to visit our bluebell woods, for example those at Much Hadham or Quendon & Rickling which have public footpath access.


Before you set off to one of these “attractions”, please review our parish introduction – it may encourage you to look around a little more and will give you ideas for where to eat.


We rely on funding from membership subscriptions to keep our website live and to be able to expand the services we provide. Membership costs only £10 a year for a household, a council or any other organisation. If you are not already a member, please consider joining – the easiest way is to go to our website and select the Membership option. 


Ken McDonald



Sent 06 March 2015 – Subject: THE HUNDRED PARISHES SOCIETY


When the steering group was working towards what became the Hundred Parishes Society, we took inspiration from the Chiltern Society. This charitable organisation has aims very similar to our own in respect of the Chilterns, on the far side of Hertfordshire. 2015 marks that society’s 50th anniversary. Their excellent quarterly magazine illustrates how far they have come in the last half century. With 7,000 members and 400 volunteers, the Chiltern Society is the focal point for many activities in the Chilterns – leading regular walks and cycle rides, maintaining nature reserves, installing footpath gates and information boards, contributing to planning policy and much more. Whilst the Chiltern Society continues to show us the way, we will not run out of ideas for pursuing our own charitable aims here in the Hundred Parishes.


We encourage everyone to check our website’s What’s On page from time to time. It is regularly updated and currently includes more than a hundred specific activities up to the end of 2015. We show only events that are consistent with our aims to increase knowledge, enjoyment and conservation of our area’s heritage and countryside. You can select What’s On from the menu at


If you would like an interesting day out, there is no need to wait until an organised event comes along. Our website includes route descriptions for twenty walks that start and finish at railway stations, whilst our parish introductions give ample food for thought that we hope may tempt you to explore somewhere nearby that perhaps you don’t yet know very well. The Hundred Parishes area is full of interest.


Ken McDonald



Sent 09 February 2015 – Subject: THE HUNDRED PARISHES SOCIETY


15th June 2015 will mark the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215. That document, sealed by King John, is widely recognised as a key step in the development of democracy in this country and across the English-speaking world. The 800th anniversary will be celebrated widely through a series of special events. The Magna Carta resulted from a revolt by many of King John’s barons. Under clause 61 of the document a committee of 25 barons was appointed to ensure that the king complied with the terms of the agreement.


Three of those barons had their principal manors in what is now the Hundred Parishes. They were Robert Fitzwalter of Little Dunmow, Geoffrey de Mandeville of Pleshey and Robert de Montfichet of Stansted Mountfitchet. Each of these parishes will be marking the anniversary with a range of activities, mostly in May and June. As details are confirmed they will be included in the What’s On page of our website


From January to March, snowdrops can be seen in many of our churchyards. Great Amwell churchyard always has a spectacular display, as does Birchanger Wood. Both are on walk routes that can be downloaded from our website. Great Amwell is on route number 19 that covers 4 miles from St Margarets Station to Ware station, whilst Birchanger Wood is on walk number 9 – a 6 mile route from Bishop’s Stortford station to Stansted Mountfitchet station. Another popular snowdrop venue is the Gardens of Easton Lodge (in Little Easton, just north of Dunmow) which has an open day on Sunday, March 1st.


Ken McDonald




Sent 09 January 2015 – Subject: THE HUNDRED PARISHES SOCIETY


The What’s On page is an important element of our website. Although it looks relatively sparse for the next few months, there is still a good selection of walks, talks, cultural events and conservation exercises that may be of interest.


Some excellent educational attractions remain open through the winter. The following will offer a warm welcome:

-       Saffron Walden Museum (Tuesday to Sunday)

-       Imperial War Museum at Duxford (every day)

-       Great Dunmow Maltings and Museum (weekends)

-       Linton Zoo (weekends).

Further information about opening times, etc can be found by using the links to their websites that appear on our Attractions pages. Other local visitor attractions close for the winter, so What’s On shows when these are due to come out of hibernation.


We hope that anyone who may be tempted by one of these specific places or events will consider making a full day of their visit - perhaps printing our introduction to the parish and seeking to track down some more of its heritage. Of course, our lovely countryside, villages and market towns are free to explore at any time, especially with the help of our parish introductions or one of our downloadable walk routes.


75% of our parish introductions are now complete and we aim to finish the rest by the Spring. Every parish has a story to tell and they are quite varied. One introduction that we have recently updated and added to the website is for Helions Bumpstead in the far northwest of the Hundred Parishes. Their story includes a brief summary of their role in the Agricultural Strike which engulfed part of Essex, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire in 1914. Do please take a look – go to, select Parishes from the Menu and then click either on a map or the list of parishes.


Sent 04 December 2014 – Subject: THE HUNDRED PARISHES SOCIETY


Leaflets explaining the scope and rationale behind the Hundred Parishes initiative are now on display in the majority of libraries, museums, churches, pubs and tea rooms throughout the hundred parishes. We were delighted with the positive reaction from those we asked to display them. Our principal aim is educational – in particular to spread the word about our area’s rich heritage. Our charitable objects do not allow us to promote tourism, but we recognise that if we are successful in raising the profile of the Hundred Parishes then it may indirectly bring extra visitors to some of the 260 places that now display the leaflets. 


When distributing leaflets we were pleasantly surprised to find that the number of tea rooms has been increasing, with over 20 around the area. On our website, within the introductions to individual parishes, we try to keep the list of pubs, tea rooms, etc updated so that visitors know what to expect, whether they are exploring by car, bike, horse or on foot. By visitors, we don’t just mean people from outside the area but also residents getting to know the area better. With pubs regularly closing and re-opening, if you know of a recent change of circumstances, or spot that any of our information needs updating, please let us know by using the website’s Feedback form.


We also ask for your help to keep our What’s On page up to date. We hope that event organisers will benefit from the extra publicity we can give for an event that encourages appreciation of the area – perhaps a history society talk, a cultural event, a walk or a conservation exercise. 


Of course, keeping What’s On, etc updated is a waste of time if nobody looks at it, so please check out our website


Sent 03 October 2014 – Subject: THE HUNDRED PARISHES SOCIETY


The current main thrusts of Society activity are to ensure our website is up to date and to get people to make use of the website. 


We particularly encourage regular use of our What’s On page. There is no shortage of interesting local opportunities. We include only activities that are consistent with our charitable aims of learning about, experiencing or conserving our local heritage, countryside and culture. We ask event organisers to tell us about such forthcoming events so we can give them additional, free publicity.


Our website also offers plenty of downloadable walk routes, all starting and finishing at a railway station. Alternatively, we encourage people to go to a new parish and simply wander around, perhaps with a camera and with a little bit of guidance from our parish introduction page. Every parish has something worth seeing and most have a welcoming tea room or pub.


Our volunteer researchers who have created the introductions to each parish are gradually filling the gaps. All parishes have an introduction, whilst the ‘gaps’ are those that do not yet include a commentary on their history, etc. Each introduction is reviewed by at least two of the Society’s trustees before it is added to the website and we welcome feedback to ensure they remain up to date.


In order to raise the profile of the Society, we have taken delivery of some eye-catching leaflets which are being put on display in tourist information centres, museums, libraries and visitor attractions, etc. We aim to get them displayed initially in locations or at events that have a good number of visitors.


Don’t forget to check out


Sent 29 July 2014 – Subject: THE HUNDRED PARISHES SOCIETY


We recently launched the Hundred Parishes Society, an initiative to raise awareness of a large area of northwest Essex, northeast Hertfordshire and southern Cambridgeshire that is particularly notable for its exceptional depth of heritage. Those who live here may take our ancient countryside and wealth of listed buildings somewhat for granted, but visitors are usually surprised when they discover the charm of our villages and small market towns and the attractive countryside in which they sit. 


Until now, the area’s anonymity has probably been due largely to the lack of a name, so we have created one that we hope will eventually become as well-known as the Chilterns or Constable Country. We have called the area the Hundred Parishes to recognise that it contains just over 100 administrative parishes, including xxxxxx. Whilst the whole area enjoys a recurring set of special characteristics, each parish has its own identity. We hope that our initiative will encourage both residents and visitors to learn more about the area and will inspire them to explore and cherish it.


We have launched a new website to explain the idea more fully. It includes an introduction to each parish, a series of walks from railway stations and a short introduction to a number of notable people associated with the area. The website shows regular events and local attractions and there is a ‘What’s On’ page that lists opportunities to learn more and to get to places that you may not know.


The Society is a registered charity and the website includes details of how to become a member for a nominal subscription of £10 a year per family or organisation. Whether or not you become a member, we hope you will make regular use of our website and that it will inspire you to increase your knowledge and enjoyment of the Hundred Parishes.