Walking in Essex
25 day walks and a cross-country route
By Peter Aylmer
Walking in Essex describes 25 day walks across the whole of the historic county of Essex. The Essex Way is also covered in 11 stages from Manor Park, to the port of Harwich. Essex may not be the first place you think of for walking, it's varied landscape includes ancient forests and miles of coastline all within easy reach of London.
Seasonsall four seasons can be enjoyed by the walker in Essex; with its mostly clay soils, it's a good idea to wear boots after prolonged rain
CentresChelmsford, Colchester, Harlow, Saffron Walden, Southend; easy access also from neighbouring counties (including Kent by the Dartford crossing) and east and north London
Difficultywalks are suitable for all abilities; ascents are mostly short and rarely steep; some longer walks of up to 18 miles are included for those seeking more challenge.
Must Seethe coast - unspoilt and barely known away from the famous resorts; an internationally-important refuge for bird life; green lanes - Essex has more than any county save Dorset; wood and forest - Epping, Hatfield, Hainault and many others.
With ancient forests, an abundance of green lanes, acres of rolling downland and 350 miles of coastline, much of it home to important bird reserves, Essex has more to offer than many walkers realise.
Essex may not be high on many walkers hit lists. In fact it probably doesn't feature at all. But to overlook this corner of England is to overlook some fantastic and varied walking.
From the saltmarsh to the chalk uplands and east London’s Epping Forest to Constable’s Dedham Vale, this guidebook shows just how much variety there is to be had in this most misunderstood of counties.
Waymarking in Essex is generally good. You'll get especially used to the distinctive concrete posts that show where many paths leave road; unique to the county of Essex, these are now over 50 years old and are weathering in a surprisingly beautiful way.
This guidebook describes 25 coastal and inland day walks covering the whole of the historic country of Essex, stretching from the Lea Valley in the west and the Thames in the south over to the North Sea and up to the River Stour in the north. Also included is a description of the Essex Way which crosses the county in 11 stages from Manor Park, on the fringes of London, to the port of Harwich - a distance of 96 miles.
- 22 circular and 3 linear day walks, from 4 to 18 miles
- the 11-stage Essex Way route across the county from Manor Park on the outskirts of London to Harwich on the coast
- notes on 9 other long-distance routes in Essex
- illustrated with OS mapping and colour photographs
The geology of Essex
Town and village
When to go
Getting there and getting around
Where to stay
Access and waymarking
What to take
Using this guide
Coast and Estuary
Walk 1 The Naze peninsula
Walk 2 Mersea Island
Walk 3 The marshes around Tollesbury
Walk 4 St Peter’s Chapel and Bradwell marshes
Walk 5 River Crouch
Walk 6 Leigh-on-Sea and Hadleigh Castle
Walk 7 Orsett Fen
Walk 8 Havering-atte-Bower
Walk 9 Hainault Forest and Lambourne
Walk 10 Mill Green and Writtle Forest
Walk 11 Danbury
Walk 12 Moreton and the Matchings
Walk 13 The River Stort at Harlow
Walk 14 Hatfield Forest
Walk 15 Debden and Widdington
Walk 16 Arkesden, Chrishall and Elmdon
Walk 17 Great Chesterford and Saffron Walden
Walk 18 Ashdon
Walk 19 Radwinter and Bendysh Woods
Walk 20 Thaxted and Great Easton
Walk 21 Finchingfield and Great Bardfield
Walk 22 Castle Hedingham and Hull’s Mill
Walk 23 Chalkney Wood and Earl’s Colne
Walk 24 Bures to Sudbury
Walk 25 Dedham
Across Essex: Manor Park to Harwich
Stage 1 Manor Park to Epping
Stage 2 Epping to Ongar
Stage 3 Ongar to Salt’s Green
Stage 4 Salt’s Green to Great Waltham
Stage 5 Great Waltham to White Notley
Stage 6 White Notley to Coggeshall
Stage 7 Coggeshall to Fordstreet Bridge
Stage 8 Fordstreet Bridge to Great Horkesley
Stage 9 Great Horkesley to Dedham
Stage 10 Dedham to Wrabness
Stage 11 Wrabness to Harwich
Appendix A Route summary table
Appendix B Useful contacts
Appendix C Nine more long-distance paths in Essex
Appendix D Further reading
The extracts in this book from Ordnance Survey Landranger maps, at 1:50,000 scale, when coupled with the route descriptions, will keep you on track. The county as a whole is covered by sheets 154, 155, 166 to 169, 177 and 178.
There is even more detail on the Explorer series at 1:25,000. For the walker, these are invaluable in showing field boundaries and so help resolve the old question of ‘which side of that hedge should I be?’ The county is covered by 162, 163, 174 to 176, 183, 184, 195, 196, 209 and 210.
Mapping software allows you to scale Landranger or Explorer maps as you wish and print off specific areas relevant to your walk. Anquet, Quo and Memory Map are three of the best known. All enable maps to be saved to GPS devices, and some to smartphones; for the latter, ViewRanger is a dedicated app.
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Peter Aylmer has climbed many hills and walked many long-distance paths all over Britain, and is equally at home in a tent or bothy in the Scottish Highlands as he is in a nature reserve hidden in some unconsidered London suburb.
Peter still relishes the surprise on people’s faces when he tells them that some of his favourite walking is in London and Essex. The secret is knowing where to look. This started early for Peter, visiting his uncle's farm in Essex; later, taking the tube out to Epping Forest after work so that he could walk back home through it. Now, as a walk leader for the Long Distance Walkers Association, he is still developing new routes through both town and country in southern England.
Peter spent his career in education, from teacher and politician to writer and editor at national level. He is now chair of trustees for the UK wing of an international aid charity.
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