Saffron Walden is a largely rural constituency in North-West Essex covering 360 square miles. It is by far the biggest constituency in Essex, but it is not just about farming. There are a host of small businesses – many of them high-tech – and there is also Stansted Airport.
The size of the constituency can often lead to confusion. Many of the postal addresses relate to towns outside the constituency and in some cases to other counties. As parts of Chelmsford Borough Council are also contained in the Saffron Walden constituency, people as far apart as Chrishall and Highwood find it difficult to believe that they share the same M.P.
There are two medium sized towns within the constituency: Saffron Walden and Dunmow. Both have historic links, and are still regarded as some of the finest, most quintessential market towns in England – wonderful for shopping in independent stores, and home to an array of traditional crafts
The constituency has important transport links. The M11 motorway runs from north to south at its western end, almost parallel with the West Anglia Main Line railway (King's Lynn / Cambridge to London Liverpool Street). The A120 runs from west to east from the M11 and Stansted Airport to the Braintree boundary. And there is the Airport itself, Stansted being London's third airport and favoured for short-haul leisure flights. Saffron Walden is, quite literally, an hour away from both London and Europe. The A12 runs close to the South-East boundary and the Norwich to London Liverpool Street line is an important commuter link.
Election '97's Robert Waller wrote of Saffron Walden -
"In area the largest seat in Essex, and with some of the most pleasant scenery, this is an intensely rural constituency. As such, it is predictably Tory, but tends to prefer a gentler strain of Conservativism… …for long it was the seat of welfare state Conservative R A Butler. Saffron Walden's latest - and very secure - incumbent, Sir Alan Haselhurst, follows the same civilised tradition."