Autumn is the perfect time for a ramble in the countryside, burnished leaves painting a glorious golden colour to the countryside. Step off the beaten track in Essex and enjoy a ramble through rolling Constable country, winding canal paths, stunning estuarine views and historic market towns.
Visit Essex, the tourism body for Essex, is encouraging people to discover the many miles of diverse rural walks the county has to offer.
Cllr Mark Durham, Chairman, Visit Essex said: “A joy of Essex is walking our network of footpaths that links towns, villages, history, nature, rivers and coast. Visitors can choose to walk routes that suit their abilities, short walks, circular walks and long-distance rambles. Essex also has a variety of great places to stay and eat whilst exploring our beautiful county.”
The Saffron Trail
The 70-mile Saffron Trail can be broken down into many easy short walks of around 7 to 11 miles in length. The trail starts in the historic market town of Saffron Walden in North Essex and winds its way south through Great Dunmow, Battlesbridge and Danbury before finishing at the seaside city of Southend. The route passes through delightful fishing villages, woodlands, rivers and countryside, with the walking is classed as easy/ moderately easy for all sections.
The Flitch Way
The former trainline that linked Bishop’s Stortford to Braintree is now a 15-mile path suitable for walkers, cyclists and horse riders. The route is a haven for wildlife: mammals, birds, flowers and insects, with the path passing the ancient royal hunting grounds of Hatfield Forest. The Flitch Way has several Victorian train stations along its course, and you can stop for a break at the former Rayne station, which is now a café with a railway carriage museum.
The famous highwayman, Dick Turpin, was born in Hempstead and worked as a butcher in nearby Thaxted. There are three linked trails which take in places with a Turpin connection, via a six-mile circular walk of Great Sampford to Hempstead, which passes the Bluebell Inn, the birthplace of Turpin. The walk also passes rivers, fields, ancient churches and is a wonderful stroll through the Essex countryside.
Wrabness Circular Walk
Between Manningtree and Harwich is the hamlet of Wrabness. Starting at Wrabness train station the two-mile walk will lead you besides Grayson Perry’s masterpiece, ‘A House for Essex’, a dwelling dedicated to ‘Julie’, Grayson’s woman of Essex. The path then leads down to the banks of the Stour Estuary and on into Wrabness Woods, an Essex Wildlife Trust nature reserve, passing through fields and meadows. There are plenty of additional paths if you wanted to extend the route and don’t forget your binoculars, there’s plenty of bird hides and migrating birds to discover.
Walk in the footsteps of the historic artist Constable in an area much-loved for the painters romanticised view of the Essex countryside. Starting at Manningtree train station the walk meanders along the River Stour for two miles until you reach Flatford Mill, immortalised by Constable by his painting of The Haywain, which is currently celebrating its 200th birthday. A further one and half miles will take to you the delightful village of Dedham. Here you can relax, hire a rowing boat, stop at one of the village’s fine eateries, or wander around its independent stores.
The Essex Way
The Essex Way is the county’s epic 81-mile route across Essex, starting in Epping and ending on the coast at Harwich. The walk showcases the true diversity of the county as it passes through ancient woodland, fields and meadows, river valleys, historic buildings and beautiful villages and towns. The Essex Way has many natural breaks which are not far from bus stops or train stations, making the 81-miles easy to break down into manageable sections. Highlights include a ramble through meandering Constable country as well as the magnificent views of the towering cranes sitting majestically on Harwich’s skyline.
Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation
The 18-miles of the Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation links the county town of Chelmsford to the River Blackwater at Heybridge Basin. The walk starts in the urban environment of the city but soon enters the unspoilt Essex landscape, following the course of the Chelmer River and Blackwater Navigation through 13 locks. Visitors can treat themselves to a special pint at the end of the walk in Heybridge at one of the pretty lock side pubs, or enjoy an afternoon tea at the Tiptree Tearoom.
Crag Walk, Walton Walking Trail
For those looking for fresh sea, the short Crag Path is ideal. Starting at the 18th Century Naze Tower perched on the Naze’s eroding cliffs, the path heads to the beach which is home to migrating birds, a nature reserve and fossils. Heading south, the path heads toward the charming seaside town of Walton, passing sandy beaches, beach huts, cafes and ends at Walton Pier, where a warm welcome and refreshments await.
The Wivenhoe Trail
Starting at Wivenhoe train station, the 2.5 mile walk to the historic city of Colchester is a delightful stroll along the Colne Estuary. Wivenhoe itself is a quaint, bohemian estuary town that is well worth looking round for its independent shops before heading off along the Colne. The estuary is part of a nature reserve and is a great place to spot wildfowl on its salty marshes. The walk also takes in woodland and goes past the University of Essex. You can end your walk at Colchester Hythe station or follow the route a little further into Colchester’s Castle Park.
Burnham on Crouch Circular Walk
A walk that has almost everything in its 5.5 miles – a town, a marina, an estuary, fields and history, all of it starting and ending at the train station! Burnham on Crouch has a rich heritage for fishing and sailing, and the walk also passes a WW1 airfield. For nature lovers the estuary also attracts a wide variety of migrating birds.
To discover more, www.visitessex.com/things-to-do/activities/walking.