With our stunning 2014-15 season now underway and many people coming to Saffron Hall (and Saffron Walden) for the very first time, we got in touch with the team at the award-winning Saffron Walden Tourist Information Centre to reveal some of their recommended things to do in our beautiful town…
Saffron Walden is a delightful, medieval market town located in north-west Essex. The name Saffron comes from the valuable Crocus sativus crop, which was cultivated here between the 15th and 18th centuries and was used as a dye, flavouring and medicine. The town has long-established links with the Quakers, and it was one of the town’s wealthiest Quaker families, the Gibsons, who proved to be great benefactors, being instrumental in the founding of the first recommended place to visit: Saffron Walden Museum. The Museum has displays on local history, archaeology, geology, natural history, costume and needlework, dolls and toys, ceramics and glass and ‘Worlds of Man’.
Right opposite the Museum is St Mary’s Church, the largest and one of the most beautiful parish churches in Essex. The earliest parts of the church date from 1250, with the majority being rebuilt between 1470 and 1525. The spire was added in 1832. After St Mary’s take a stroll down Castle Street and admire the wonderfully coloured 15th and 16th century cottages. At the bottom of Castle Street, you will find the entrance to Bridge End Garden and the Fry Art Gallery. Bridge End Garden is a beautiful, recently restored Victorian garden of great charm, including a wonderful yew hedge maze and sunken Dutch garden and was winner of the Best Small Attraction in the 2011 Essex Tourism Awards. The Fry Art Gallery opened in 1987 and houses an impressive number of works by artists of the 20th century and the present day, in particular those who settled in Great Bardfield from the 1930s onwards, such as Edward Bawden and Eric Ravilious. The Fry is open on certain days only from Easter Sunday to the last Sunday in October.
After Bridge End Garden and the Fry Art Gallery, walk the few minutes back into the town centre for a coffee or lunch or afternoon tea in one of our many independent eating places. Saffron Walden has a wealth of different eateries, from Gastro pubs and restaurants to lovely independent coffee shops. Many small business premises and shops are located in the Rows, which were the town’s shopping centre from medieval times onwards, and offer a wide range of browsing and shopping. A market has been held here since 1141, and market days are now on Tuesdays and Saturdays.
After a bite to eat you could explore one of Europe’s largest surviving ancient turf mazes (or labyrinth to give it its proper name). Located on the Common, this turf maze is of great importance and antiquity, and is thought to be in the region of 800 years old. It has a total diameter of 132 feet and is enclosed by a bank and ditch. The pathway follows grooves cut into the turf and approaches a mile in length.
Full details of things to do and places to visit, as well as events and places to stay can be seen on the Tourist Information Centre website. The site also has a downloadable Town Trail which provides a self-guided walk around the 10 sites of historic interest. A free copy can also be picked up from the Tourist Information Centre at 1 Market Place. We hope that enjoy your visit to Saffron Hall and we look forward to welcoming you to our beautiful town very soon.