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Tour de France in Saffron Walden

Stage Three of the 2014 Tour de France, on Monday 7th July 2014, is from Cambridge to London. Saffron Walden, Essex, is on the route a few miles into the race. 

A guide to Saffron Walden

Cross Keys Hotel, Saffron Walden

Saffron Walden is a town in the county of Essex and the district of Uttlesford, with a population of 15,210 (2011 census). 

History of Saffron Walden

The area was settled in the Bronze and Iron Ages. There was probably a small Romano-British settlement at Saffron Walden, including a Roman fort, garrisioned from Cestreforda (now Great Chesterford). 

When the Roman Empire collapsed, Anglo-Saxon invaders arrived. During this period, Saffron Walden became a thriving town. The name Walden may come from the Old English weala denu, or valley of Britons (which suggests the continuing existence of Britons at the time of the Anglo-Saxons, according to Recording Uttlesford's History).

After the Norman invasion of 1066, Walden had Norman lords of the manor. In the early 1100s, one of them, Geoffrey de Mandeville, built the castle, a stone church, and the Priory of St James, which became the Abbey of Walden. (The abbey was to the west of the town. In the 1500s, at the time of the dissolution of the monasteries, it became the property of Sir Thomas Audley, who converted the abbey buildings into a house. His successor, Thomas Howard, built a new, grander mansion. It is now an English Heritage property known as Audley End).

The market at nearby Newport was transferred to Walden (1141). At this time, the town was known as Chipping Walden. In the Medieval period, wool was the main trade. However, in the 1500 and 1600s, the saffron crocus was widely grown here, and the saffron extracted from the stigmas was used for medecines, as a condiment, perfume, aphrodisiac, and yellow dye. Chipping Walden became Saffron Walden. (Saffron growing would subsequently be replaced by malt and barley for brewing).

During the English Civil War, Saffron Walden was a Headquarters of the New Model Army, and Oliver Cromwell visited.

Saffron Walden has a strong tradition of non-conformist religion. This includes Baptists, Methodists, and especially Quakers. In the 1800s, a Quaker school was founded.

Saffron Walden retains many of its historic buildings.

Notable buildings in Saffron Walden

St Mary's church, Saffron Walden

Saffron Walden's impressive church, dedicated to St Mary the Virgin, dates from the late 1400s, built on the site of the Norman church (1130). It is in the Perpendicular style. The spire was added in 1832, and at 193ft/59m, it is the tallest in Essex.

Saffron Walden castle

The ruins of Walden castle, built in the 1100s by Geoffrey de Mandeville, are by the Saffron Walden museum. 

Nearby, on the common, there's a turf maze, which has been there since 1699. It has been restored several times, most recently in 1979. There's also a hedge maze in Bridge End Gardens.

Audley End, a mansion from the 1600s (see 'history' above) has a miniature railway, and holds summer concerts.

Saffron Walden today

Saffron Walden market square

Saffron Walden is an unspoilt town, in easy reach of Cambridge and London for commuters, as well as Stansted airport. On Tuesday and Saturday, a market is held in Market Square. 

Amongst the notable residents of the town is Ian Lavender ('don't tell him Pike').

There are two town plans showing the centre of Saffron Walden on the church's website - a colour jpeg image, and a black & white pdf file.

Tour de France in Saffron Walden

Stage 3 of the 2014 Tour passes through Saffron Walden on Monday 7th July 2014. This is during Saffron Walden Carnival (Friday 4th to Saturday 12th July 2014 - the 8 day weekend). There'll be a big screen showing the race in a marquee on the common.

The Carnival includes live music, a Carnival Queen, and a procession. In 2014, another highlight will be the Carnival Tour Sportive. Organised by Walden Velo, with entry through British Cycling, it takes place on Saturday 5th July, and will head south from Saffron Walden on the Tour de France route towards Finchingfield, eventually returning to Saffron Walden. Part of it will be on closed roads. The distance is 50 miles/80km.

Another sportive in the area, in the run-up to the Tour de France, is the Tour de Buffy, beginning in Great Chesterford, and passing through Saffron Walden and Finchingfield. 

The Tour de France is due to arrive in Saffron Walden between 1250 and 1252 (riders), with the publicity caravan getting there at 1052. 

Uttlesford District Council have an interactive map of the Tour route through their area, and three detailed maps with road closure times. The roads of the route will be closed from 7.30am to 4pm in Uttlesford. Roads directly connected to the route will be 'access only', meaning that they will be open to traffic, but it will not be possible to join the Tour route via them. Essex Council's Tour website says there will be parking at Audley End House Park & Ride. 

Visit Essex has some ideas of where to stay in and around Saffron Walden

A Tour de France legacy plan is to improve conditions for cyclists and pedestrians on Wenden Road, the most direct access from Saffron Walden to Audley End station. The campaign group is called Access Walden. The proposal for a cycle and pedestrian path was approved Saffron Walden Town Council on 13th March 2014, and looks as though it will go ahead.

Tour de France in Saffron Walden: news

Saffron Walden 1km challenge

30th May 2014

Saffron Walden is holding a 1km cycle challenge in the market square tomorrow, Saturday 31st May. Anyone can have a go at 1km on an exercise bike. Times will be posted on a board, and there are passes to a leisure centre to be won, as prizes. Read about the Saffron Walden 1km challenge.