08 Apr 2023: Stansted Airport orbital, 13 miles

Event led by Martin T.
Attendance: 10 men.
Distance: 13.1 miles (21.1 km).
Time: start 11:12, end 16:52, lunch 36 minutes.
Speed: moving arithmetic average 2.59 mph (4.16 kph).
Terrain: pavement, road, track, field edge, grassland on footpath, bridleway, highway.
Elevation: low 83m, high 123m (as measured by GPS), start 103m.
Weather: sunny with occasional cloud, 13°C to 15°C, 7mph easterly wind, humidity 47%
Number of sewage works: 2.
Number of churches: 1.
Number of golf courses: 0.


This was a circular walk of ~13 miles from the Ash Pub, Burton End, NE to Mole Hill Green, S/SW to Takeley, W to Birchmore Green, then N to Burton End.

This walk was designed to walk around Stansted Airport, because the airport was there.

The route included a both urban and rural landscapes, with a variety of uses for each, all with the ever-present roars and rumbles of the airport. In parts, the temporary quiet reminded you that you were in the middle of tranquil nowhere, until the sudden scream of an aircraft shattered the illusion of peace.

From the rural location of Burton End, the route took the airport perimeter fence alongside Belmer Road. This part of Belmer Road is wide enough to host an ad hoc car park for the plane spotters. The airport perimeter is equally wide, giving the plane spotters a good location to see aircraft in the sky immediately after take-off (as was the case today), whilst preserving the privacy of the airport buildings and the passengers therein. Some of these plane spotters are serious pros, armed with with tripods, cameras, sound recording equipment.

From the airport perimeter, the route took in the hamlet of Tye Green, which looked every bit like the chocolate box of countryside living that a hamlet could offer. This was complete with a sign that said “do not park on the grass”, the consequential civic disobedience (yes, one car was indeed parked on the grass), a duck pond, lots of garden birds and a variety of unique cottages and larger houses. A feature here and throughout the walk was the regular and frequent use of pargetting (wiki) on residential buildings, to a greater extent than typically founds in Herts.

The northern and eastern parts of the route were in open, rural countryside, with a minor urban area of Mole Hill Green. This part of the countryside is relatively flat, with few distinguishing features. The ground contains more clay than typically found in Herts, occasionally wet under foot.

Lunch was in this part of the route. We found a tractor tyre to sit on, which was quite farcical (see pic) and slightly unfair: there was space on the tyre for only nine of us, so one walker had to sit on the floor.

After lunch, we took the Harcamlow Way to the edges of Takeley, took a zig-zag route to the old A120 (now the B1256), then on to the Flitch Way, a disused railway that once ran from Braintree to Bishops Stortford. The partially re-constructed former halt at Stane Street was the location of our group shot.

The next episode of the route was a meander through Hatfield Forest (wiki), whose history wades through the episodes of the Roman road Stane Street (wiki), via royal hunting grounds, to Capability Brown to war-time deployment. The forest had just started to go into leaf. Hazy sunshine fell to the ground through a slightly green speckled filter. Glorious.

The route continued along the B1256, then into a series of tunnels and cycle paths that worm their way through the mega-junction 8 of the M11. This slight nightmare of a junction takes the basic roundabout motorway junction and extends it with a number of flyovers to divert traffic away from any roundabout. Our route continued northbound alongside the M11, a weirdly entertaining experience behind only one fence and one ditch away from any vehicles falling off the road. Today, the traffic was relatively thin and fast-moving. There was a fair amount of roadworkers’ debris slung down the sides of the ditch.

The final stretch of the walk was road and pavement back to the start point through the village of Burton End, another chocolate-box type of village, but with significantly less noise interruption than as at Tye Green (given the operational direction of the airport runway today; could be different on reverse-operation days!).

The optional pub stop was at the The Ash pub at Burton End, at which 9 members visited. The group enjoyed the sun outside, until a cloud covered the sun causing us to freeze in the early April air. So much for global warming. Two members opted to stay behind for dinner, by which time the pub was packed with airport people – Americans, Australians, one European, one Scot – plus one peloton of elderly English cyclists and three locals. Nearly all of these groups seemed to know each other as being at least semi-regular in this pub (if not the airport), with only the two of us thinking that we were complete strangers. Such is life next to an airport.

The nearest we got to the Herts border was 0.36 miles (0.58 km), which was on hardstanding near to the M11 (Google Maps).



Sewage works

Words by Martin Thornhill. Pictures by Peter O’Connor.

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