Visit Essex, the tourism body for Essex, is encouraging people to discover the miles of diverse rural walks the county has to offer by producing a top ten autumnal walks in Essex. Some are fun, short, circular walks whilst others are longer treks for the experienced walker. All show a wilder of the county and make for memorable adventures.
Cllr Mark Durham, Vice Chair, Visit Essex said: “Autumn is the perfect time for a trip to the countryside, kick up the leaves and walk in the rich golden sun. Essex is only a stone’s throw from the capital but offers unique charms from rolling country hills, to winding canal paths, estuarine views and places where Highwaymen used to call home!
He added: “Essex also has a variety of accommodation for visitors to stay and explore our beautiful county whilst enjoying the range of restaurants, pubs and cafes we have.”
Epic Epping Forest
Epping Forest has 8,000 acres of woodland with over 284kms of paths. The Forest has 10 waymarked circular trails, most of which start and end near car parks or train stations. With 55,000 ancient trees, including Oaks, Beech and Hornbeam, there is no better place to take in the riot of autumnal colour. The forest is also home to heaths, ponds and lakes, and has something for everyone.
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.
Rochford Circular Walk
An easy eight-mile walk that starts and ends at Rochford Train Station. The walk takes in the banks of the river Roach, beautiful, rolling countryside, and the pretty historic market town of Rochford. The walk also passes The Royal Oak, a country pub conveniently located close to the half-way point and is an excellent stop off point for refreshment.
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 passes rivers, fields, ancient churches and is a wonderful stroll through the Essex countryside.
The Gruffalo Trail
Thorndon Country Park in Brentwood is home to a host of hand carved Gruffalo characters, which lead the way through the delightful Gruffalo Trail. The 45-minute self-guided discovery walk is a joy for both children and adults. Walkers weave their way along the path finding much loved Gruffalo characters. The trail is an easy walk, suitable for all abilities and passes through native Essex woodland and is a wonderful way for all ages to make special memories together.
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.
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.
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.
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.