THE GREEN belt outside London doesn’t only prevent the capital from engulfing southern England; it also provides a network of twisty country roads just a cork’s popping distance from the champagne bars of the Square Mile.
This includes a fantastic 40-mile excursion through open countryside with long straights, sweeping corners and coils of tight turns. Add in the odd pothole and off-camber corner and it’s like a multigym for your car.
First head to Chelmsford in Essex. The route begins as you take the A1060 out of town, following the signs to Sawbridgeworth. As you leave the outskirts of Chelmsford, there’s a BP garage on your left for a final refuel just as you pass the white circle crossed with a diagonal black line, which is where the fun begins.
Laid out before you is a rapid scuffle through the hedgerows of Essex and Hertfordshire, darting around fields and copses. Go in the late afternoon and the setting sun turns the landscape a hazy orange; the odd spell of glare is a small price to pay for the added atmosphere.
From Sawbridgeworth, pick up the A1184 to Bishop’s Stortford. It’s time to put your suspension into sports mode and switch your auto box to manual. Take the second turn-off for Much Hadham (turn left off a roundabout) and concentrate hard. Open landscape gives you a good view of corners ahead until the hedgerows close in and the road turns sharply left, tightening as it does.
Negotiate this and you’ll dive downhill through a tunnel formed by tree branches as the road narrows and a bank of earth flashes by, inches from your door mirror. It’s as exhilarating as it sounds, but there’s no time to take it in as you try to stay on the tiny thread of tarmac that’s your side of the road before braking hard to make it across the narrow stone bridge at the bottom of the hill.
From there, it won’t be long until you’re rolling through the village of Much Hadham, pondering whether you could commute from one of its pretty pastel-coloured cottages. There are so many cars parked on either side of the road (not shown in our photo of a rather quieter lane in the village, right) and so few gaps that you sometimes have to pull in for an oncoming car while it’s still a speck in the distance. Get it wrong and the locals can become quite irate.
The road forks in the next village of Widford. Head straight on, towards Hunsdon and the Fox and Hounds pub for home-made pasta or seafood. Bear in mind that your stomach will need to withstand the next bit of the road, back on the B1004 to Ware, where it curves and dives like a bobsleigh run.
The final stage involves a slow crawl from Ware to Hertford before heading onto the B158 towards Essendon, where you’ll find more fast, sweeping corners. Just past Essendon village is an excellent stretch, running downhill, where it flicks and twists through a section of woodland before abruptly coming to an end at the village of Brookmans Park. Then turn around and do it all again — or you’ll have to join the dreary queues of traffic heading to London or the north on the A1(M).
From Chelmsford in Essex to Brookmans Park in Hertfordshire
Drive it in: This is Morgan country but whatever you’re driving, from a Porsche 911 to a Dacia Sandero, you’ll be smiling as you go.
Ideal sounds: Daft Punk’s electronic beats match the fast-paced rhythm of the twisting roads.
Ideal companion: Someone who’s not going to mind some hard cornering — like Kirsty Stewart, the first female Red Arrows pilot.
Stay at: The PitStop B&B in Little Hallingbury, above a Morgan garage, where you can hire a Morgan for the route (the-pitstop.net).
Stop for: Three courses at the Fox and Hounds in Hunsdon, including the hot chocolate pudding with espresso ice cream.