INTRODUCTION: What is the Hundred Parishes?
It is a large, attractive, gently-undulating area, around 450 square miles of northwest Essex, northeast Hertfordshire and southern Cambridgeshire that is largely unspoilt and is richly endowed with many fine examples of agricultural and built heritage. For example, it has over 6,000 listed buildings. As a proportion of total housing stock, there are five times as many listed buildings as in England as a whole. In particular, there is a very high concentration of pre-1700 architecture, Grade I-listed churches, village greens and conservation areas. In addition, there is an exceptional depth of visible agricultural heritage with ancient field patterns, ancient woodland, winding roads, sunken lanes and ancient hedgerows. The area also enjoys a wide variety of wildlife and long-established cultural activities.
The area has shared a common history which shaped and preserved its distinctive landscape of small and medium-sized farms linked by winding lanes and ancient rights of way to hamlets, villages and then to small market towns. This historic rural pattern has been little disturbed by industrialisation and urbanisation, although the Hundred Parishes is surrounded by examples of such developments that have taken place over the last century.
The area is largely unknown. Many folk who live here may take it for granted, forgetting how special it is or how far it extends. Beyond, few people know of this corner of eastern England, probably because it had no name until now. The title we eventually decided upon reflects the fact that the area encompasses just over 100 administrative parishes. Whilst the Hundred Parishes as a whole has distinct characteristics, each parish has its own character. A full analysis of the parishes can be accessed from the Parishes section of this website.
It is an area that is suitable for exploration, with an attractive landscape and a wealth of interesting places in close proximity to one another. It is well served by a network of quiet lanes, good footpaths offering fine views, welcoming pubs and tea rooms, and much more. We hope this initiative will encourage both locals and visitors to explore the area and fall in love with its charm.
Within the Parishes section of this website we provide an introduction to each parish, and under Walks we offer more than 100 interesting routes that are free to download and print. Other sections offer specific ideas and guidance to some of the features and attractions of the area.
Please click the Location overview button to see the area in geographic context or select one of the menu options on the left to explore the site in more detail.