Walking in Harlow – thoughts from the Footpath Officer

One of the things I noticed when I moved from being a non active member of the Ramblers to take on the role of Ramblers footpath officer for Harlow was that, apart from walks along the Stort Valley, there was a lack of advertised Ramblers walks in and around Harlow itself. This was surprising as, for many years I had been an active member, sometimes the walk leader, of a Harlow walking group. I was therefore aware of the walking possibilities within the town.

In Sir Fredrick Gibberd’s master plan for the town, Harlow was designed to complement the landscape in which it was built. Woods and tree belts which existed before the new town were used to create green spaces to separate built up areas. Old lanes and roads with hedgerows and grass verges were preserved to become footpaths and cycle ways. The three distinct neighbourhoods within the town and the town centre were separated by these green spaces. In later years new developments within the town such as Church Langley, New Hall and Gilden Way more or less follow the criteria laid down in the original master plan. If central government does not intervene it is a plan which hopefully will continue to provide a framework for planners and developers in Harlow.

Harlow is officially designated a sculpture town and this provides additional attractions for those walkers with an interest in sculpture. There are more than 80 public sculptures strategically placed around the town, these include works by Henry Moore, Elizabeth Frink, Barbara Hepworth and Auguste Rodin. The Harlow Arts Trust published a map of sculpture walks including routes of differing length. (for further information see for example the websites of the Gibberd Gallery and Art UK)

There are other attractions for walkers in Harlow. Crossing roads can be often avoided by the many cycle/pedestrian underpasses.  Parndon Wood, an SSSI, has a green flag award which is a top international award for a green space available to the public. In addition to the Harlow Town Park there are other parks within the town. Weekly working parties of local volunteers help to keep the woods and green spaces in Harlow attractive, accessible and in good condition. Footpaths and boardwalks through water meadows and marshlands have been created. In the area of the Town Park nearest to the canal, a grant from Tesco has enabled a 5 acre wild life meadow to be created.

I planned and led a walk for the West Essex group which I titled “Green Spaces and Sculptures in Harlow” in December 2018. It was a walk of approximately 12 miles which included visiting 28 of the sculptures. I will be leading this walk for the Brentwood Group in 2019. The full extent of Harlow footpaths and cycle ways can be viewed on the Essex CC Highways PROW Interactive Definitive Map by clicking on the assets section “Highways and footpath network”.  As the footpath officer for Harlow I am willing to lead walks around Harlow for Ramblers groups. Walks can be planned to suit individual group requirements either half day or up to 12 miles.

Dave Naylor, Footpath Officer Harlow Area.