Sunny weather made for a great visit to Saffron Walden, about 90kms north of central London. The town is some 1000 years old with evidence of older settlement dating from the Roman period (43-600AD).
The age of the town is reflected in its delightfully jumbled street layout and numerous late medieval through to Georgian (1500 – 1930) buildings. The wealth of the town was originally in wool and later in the cultivation of Saffron from Crocus sativus. Today it’s increasingly a service industry based economy with both London & Cambridge offering employment and some local light industry.
Dominating the town is the church of ‘St Mary the Virgin’ dating from 1258 with several re-builds until a spire was added in 1832, a few years before Queen Victoria ascended to the British throne. Though the town was a ‘puritan’ one with a Quaker school, the church seems very Anglican.
Near the church is Saffron Walden Museum, founded in 1835 its jam packed with exhibits. The displays are somewhat old fashioned and perhaps all the better for that. With the launch of the ‘Georgian Papers’ I was interested in see what might be footwear of Princess Charlotte.
Inside the maze of streets I found Hart’s Books, on King Street, which was founded in 1836 as a printing press which opened a book seller and now is a modern atmospheric bookshop, though I am biased as I found it does stock the Bradt Guide to Oman.
One of the pleasures of the town are its parks, most especially the ornamental Bridge End Gardens from the early 19thc .
Saffron Walden is relatively easy to get to – on the rail line between London and Cambridge and close to the M11. There are good bus services to the town though, strangly, many stop in the later afternoon.