7 Essex walks with a story to tell: from Grayson Perry to Dick Turpin

The River Stour at Dedham

The River Stour at Dedham - Credit: Visit England/Diana Jarvis

Here are seven walks around Essex's delightful countryside to try this autumn and the fascinating histories behind them...

Autumn is a wonderful time for a countryside ramble to enjoy kicking up leaves taking in the beautiful colours of nature.

In Essex, we can boast undulating Constable country, canal paths, estuary views and places that some of history’s most famous names called home. 

Visit Essex is encouraging us to discover the miles of diverse walks our county can offer.

‘A joy of Essex is walking our network of footpaths that links towns, villages, history, nature, rivers and coast,’ says Cllr Mark Durham, Vice Chair, Visit Essex.

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‘Visitors can choose to walk routes that suit their abilities, short walks, circular walks and long-distance rambles. Essex also has a variety of accommodation for visitors to stay a few days and explore our beautiful county.’

So why not try the following walks? 

Wrabness Woods

Wrabness Woods - Credit: Visit Essex

Walking with Witches
The Walls at Manningtree is a stunning short walk along the Stour Estuary, which is the newest Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

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The Walls also has a horrible history as the location where the 17th century witch trials, led by the Witch Finder General and Manningtree resident Matthew Hopkins, took place.

The walk also passes English Heritage-run Mistley Towers, one of England’s oldest and biggest oak trees, ‘Old Knobbly’, as well as quaint tearooms, pubs and even a shop selling wine and vinyl!
Stay: The Mistley Thorn, High Street, Mistley; mistleythorn.co.uk
Eat: Lucca Enoteca, High Street, Manningtree;

The Flitch Way
Previously linking Bishop’s Stortford to Braintree, this former trainline is now a 15-mile path for walkers, cyclists and horse riders.

The route is perfect for wildlife. Mammals, birds, flowers and insects all love it here, 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.
Stay: Great Lodge Barn, Great Bardfield, Braintree; greatlodge.co.uk 
Eat: Step into the booking hall café at Rayne station and tuck into cakes, coffee and ice creams! thebookinghall.co.uk

Turpin’s Trail
Infamous highwayman Dick Turpin was born in Hempstead and worked as a butcher in nearby Thaxted.

There are three linked trails that take in places connected to Turpin, via a six-mile circular walk of Great Sampford to Hempstead, passing the Bluebell Inn, Turpin’s birthplace.

The walk passes rivers, fields, ancient churches and is a wonderful stroll through the Essex countryside.
Stay: Puttock’s Farm B&B, Philpot End, Great Dunmow;  puttocksfarm.moonfruit.com
Eat: Tiptree Tea Room, Saffron Walden. Home-style food in the market town of Saffron Walden; tiptree.com

The Essex Way
The Essex Way is an incredible 81-mile route across Essex, starting in Epping and finishing on the coast at Harwich.

The walk showcases the diversity of Essex 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 using public transport.

Highlights include a walk in beautiful Constable country as well as the magnificent views of the huge cranes sitting majestically on Harwich’s skyline.
Stay: Greyfriars Hotel, High Street, Colchester. Michelin-recommended luxury hotel; greyfriarscolchester.co.uk 
Eat: The Kings Arms, Coggeshall. A family run pub serving traditional home cooked food; thekingsarmsbroadgreen.co.uk

Wrabness Circular Walk
Between Manningtree and Harwich is the hamlet of Wrabness.

Starting at Wrabness train station the two-mile walk will lead you alongside Essex artist Grayson Perry’s masterpiece, A House for Essex, which is a dwelling dedicated to Julie, Grayson Perry’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.

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 before entering unspoilt Essex landscape, following the course of the Chelmer River and Blackwater Navigation through 13 locks.

Visitors can look forward to a special pint at the end of the walk in Heybridge at one of the pretty lock-side pubs, or indulge in an afternoon tea at the Tiptree Tearoom.
Stay: The Warren Estate, Woodham Walter, Maldon; thewarrenestate.co.uk 
Eat: The Barge Tea Rooms, The Hythe, Maldon. Breakfast, light lunches and afternoon tea on a barge with riverside views; thewarrenestate.co.uk

Constable Country
Walk in the footsteps of the world-renowned artist John Constable in an area much-loved for the painters romanticised views of the Essex countryside.

Starting at Manningtree train station, the walk follows the River Stour for two miles where it reaches Flatford Mill, immortalised by Constable in his painting of The Haywain, which is 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.
Stay: The Mistley Thorn, High Street, Mistley. Award winning dining and accommodation; mistleythorn.co.uk  
Eat: The Sun Inn, High Street, Dedham, the pub offers a menu influenced by seasonal, local produce; thesuninndedham.com

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