We are on the Stansted Express and I am not a happy dog. Normally, up and down the land, on trains, I am treated like royalty. Train guards respect me as the esteemed traveller that I am and other passengers break off bits of their sandwiches to give me – sometimes without me even having to beg. But today – today – I am not allowed to sit on the empty seat next to Jane, (on her coat mind, so none of my fur touches the horrible grey chair which might as well be the throne of the Queen of England herself, the way the guard squeals when she sees me on it.) And the guard gives me evils even when I am lying neatly in the aisle. It is a most unpleasant journey, especially as Jane tells me that the Stansted Express is DAYLIGHT ROBBERY in terms of the prices it charges for tickets.
And that is appropriate, dear reader, because we are going to the home of the great highwayman himself, Dick Turpin. (Or supposedly the home of Dick Turpin, although when we arrive a local man tells us it might not have been his home after all. Dick Turpin might have lived there – or he might not have lived there.)
Whatevs – we are going to Thaxted in Essex, in the most expensive way possible, on the Stansted Express. I don’t know why we have chosen this over-priced route and neither does Jane.
At last we are off the Stansted Express and on a little local bus from the airport to Thaxted. It is only eight miles along windy, country roads and when we arrive in Thaxted it’s amazing to think we’re so close to the airport because the little town or big village, I’m not sure which Thaxted is, is so old-fashioned.
There is a big building that is six centuries old and it is called the Guildhall. It is huge and white timber-framed and looks too hefty for the seven wooden pillars that support it at the front. I will not be standing under that for a wee.
And there is a traditional bakers, selling Thaxted SAUSAGES. I hope to have a taste of them before we depart.
Thaxted’s main street runs up a hill to the parish church at top – the church is big, more like the cathedral in Durham than a village church – and opposite that is our kip for the night, in The Swan Inn, part of the Old English Inns chain. Dogs are welcome in all Old English Inns, at no extra charge. High Paw!
And, when we sit down for dinner, next to a coal fire, the menu is all pies, which are some of my favourite things. Unfortunately pies are Jane’s favourite things too, meaning I often miss out on a doggie bag when pies are involved.
Not too worry – there are SAUSAGES at breakfast.
Attlee’s Guided Walk of Thaxted
After breakfast, Jane and I go on a big walk. Here is the walk, written down by me. It takes two hours and is called Turpin’s Trail. I’ll get on his trail all right, the dastardly highwayman.
Step out of The Swan Hotel and walk across the road and into the main entrance of the church. Pass between the two yellow and pink alms houses – your owner will not want you to lift your leg against them because they are very pretty. In fact, your owner will want to take lots of photographs of them. Booooooo-ring!
Follow the sign to the windmill through a metal gate; then pass through a kissing gate.
The windmill thing is on your right behind locked gates. Good – wouldn’t want to waste valuable walking time having to look inside that. But Jane says I have to write about the windmill because it is important. Okay, it is called John Webb’s Windmill and it was built in 1804. There we go!
A concrete path turns into a track through the field – and I’m off the lead!
Scarper along the left of the field for about three minutes with the hedge on your left, then a track crosses the field at a right angle – follow this, keeping the hedge that also crosses the field to your right.
At the bottom of the field turn left and cross a small concrete bridge across the River – it’s more of a stream at this point – Chelmer. Turn right and the river will be on your right.
This bit’s jolly good fun – a wide open field with lots of sniffing and snouting to be done. But after about five minutes I’m back on the lead because we’re crossing a road. It’s not busy but the cars that drive along it come at quite a crack.
Into another field and walking by the river again, with a small redbrick pumping station on my left and the Stream Chelmer on my right. And I’m off the lead again. Grrr-huzzah!
We walk by the river, through two fields, cross a plank bridge and we’re in a huge field – the biggest open space I’ve ever seen. So much FUN.
Still on the right of the river, we follow the path along, and Jane grows a bit edgy as I get close to the water, sniffing the smells in the reeds and burrowing deep into them. But I’m not an idiot – I’m not going to fall in the stream.
After about quarter of an hour, we come to a small field, which we cross diagonally along the path, and then we swing right, into a field with lots of pylons and telephone poles on our left and the river still on our right, across which are some paddocks with those hoof-pawed horse things in.
Turn left at the end of this bit and then there’s a bridge to the right – I jump it in one swoop, still after the scent of Dick dastardly Turpin!
We turn left and follow a path with two narrow lanes of concrete for two minutes and the path turns from concrete to track. A postmarker has a badge on it saying Turpin’s Trail. We’re on to him!
Go right at this post and we’re in another wide grassy field; follow the path of the river. But Jane spots a road ahead so it’s lead on, across the road and down a lane pointing to Goddards Farm. LEAD OFF!
Veer off the lane to walk by the Chelmer, on our left now. About half way through the field is a way marker – turn right on the track through the field towards a farm track, which goes up a slightly sloping bank.
There’s a house to the left with a sign saying private property so turn right and walk along the edge of the field. At the top of the field there’s a paddock where humans are sitting on top of those hoove-pawed horse things being carried around. I wouldn’t carry a human around on my back. Stooopid!
Turn right up a path through some pretty woodland. There are two noisy terriers barking at me through a fence so I bark back and they shut up, cheeky devils. Putting Egon Bone-ay off his work!
At the top of this woodland lane is a red house called Golden Farmhouse.
Turn away from it and you’ll see Thaxted Church spire in the distance – you’re on the home strait.
Follow the path diagonally through a field, then, when you reach the hedge bordering a road, turn right, with the hedge on the left of you. At the end of the field, I’m back on the lead and we’re crossing a road and walking past some houses called Bellrope Meadow.
Then turn left into a public footpath, leading to some playing fields. Walk through the playing fields and at the far end turn left into a residential street called Guelph Street. Walk down this for about five minutes and you’ll come to a road to the right called Margaret Street. Margaret Gardens are on your left, the church hall on your right. Take a left and then you’re in Bell Lane, back at The Swan.
After the walk, we find that rarest of things, on Thaxted main street. It is called Parrishes restaurant and it is a café by day and a restaurant by evening and it allows dogs at all times. This deserves a major AMAZE-BONES KLAXON because so many cafes don’t take dogs and I have never heard of an evening restaurant where dogs are allowed to go. Parrishes is romantic at night, because it is like a little bistro in France, where I have never been but might go one day, if I achieve a thing called a pet passport. It has candles and linen tablecloths at night. But it is no good to Jane that it is romantic at night because she is in Thaxted with plain old me, her canine sidekick, so we go in the day and Jane has carrot and coriander soup that comes with a warm fresh from oven baguette. But Jane doesn’t eat bread so I get the baguette. Once again Attlee triumphs over the Atkins!
- Phileas Fact Box, Thaxted
- Jane and Attlee stayed at The Swan Hotel, Bullring, Thaxted, Essex, CM6 2PL. Tel: 01371 830321.
A single room cost £44 on a Friday night, including full English breakfast.
- Parrishes Restaurant is at 36 Town Street, Thaxted, Essex, CM6 2LA. Tel: 01371 830482. Awarded Attlee’s High Paw for Excellence!
- John Webb’s Windmill is open to visitors between 2pm and 6pm on Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays between Easter and September.
- Thaxted Guildhall is open to visitors throughout Easter Weekend and then on Sundays and Bank Holidays until the end of September.