A weekend in Halstead
PUBLISHED: 14:54 10 January 2011 | UPDATED: 20:38 20 February 2013
Taking time to stroll out in the county can be rewarding <br/><br/>in more ways than one as Joanne Jarvis finds with a <br/><br/>visit to the historic and healthy town of Halstead
Halstead, a traditional market town situated seven miles north of Braintree, has a wealth of shops, restaurants, pubs and architecture to explore. This historic and quite charming Essex town offers a series of walks which reveal its hidden treasures and help visitors to improve their knowledge of the area.
For a weekend stroll, you can head to the River Colne, through a nature reserve or to the towns Green Flag Public Gardens. Or discover some of Halsteads less well-known hidden gems such as the Gants and alleyways, the magnificent views from the high points of the town, Box Mill and the charming Weavers Cottages from the Courtauld era that can be found in Weavers Row.
Kryshia Fuller, community wellbeing development officer at Braintree District Council, explains: Halstead is a beautiful market town to explore on foot. Its such a good place to go walking and because of the hills you can very quickly reach a point at the top of the town with rewarding views. The history of the town also ensures there is always something interesting to see at every point of your walk.
I attend for fitness, because the walks are local and social. Ive
met some very nice people and all our leaders are marvellous
Halsteads historic architecture is likely to be a feature of any walk in the town, with some buildings still standing more than 600 years after they were first erected. A collection of 14h century houses remain at the bottom of Chapel Hill while the flint and rubble St Andrews Church, at the top of the High Street, dates back to the 15th century. Other highlights include the Corn Exchange (now the library), which was built in 1864-65, and the Townsford Mill.
To encourage visitors to put their best foot forward more frequently, and not just at weekends, Braintree District Council has set up a walking scheme called Heart and Sole, which has been awarded the London 2012 Inspire Mark for its Walk Your Way to London 2012 initiative. It encourages people to walk more often by awarding them with an Essex Legacy badge for each walk they attend and there are five different badges in the colour of the Olympic rings to collect.
The walks, led by local volunteers, are free and provide regular opportunities for physical activity. Two walks are held in Halstead every week, on Mondays and Thursdays, each starting at 10am from the Elizabeth Courtauld Surgery. There are currently around 20 people attending each 30-minute walk, but the council hopes numbers will continue to grow.
Being part of the walks provides a friendly and social atmosphere to enjoy physical activity, Kryshia adds. So many of our walkers say they dont feel as if theyre doing exercise as the walks are so much fun! We couldnt provide the walks without the support of our volunteers who provide local knowledge and we are always welcoming new walkers and create new and interesting routes around the town.
After indulging at Christmas, this is the ideal time to put on your working boots and return to a fitter you as well as to discover some of the delights of Halstead you can find on your doorstep at the same time.
I like the social aspects, the walks have improved my quality of life
Find out more about taking part or leading a walk from Kryshia Fuller on 01376 552525 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Shop for something different
Unlike other towns, Halstead is not dominated by chain stores. Take a leisurely stroll around the town centre and you will find more than 100 unique shops including Humes, an award-winning bakery, and an antiques centre.
History and architecture
Halstead is a perfect retreat for the curious and the history that it offers tourists is one of its main attractions. Fine buildings including the former Corn Exchange (now the towns library) and the Grade II listed St Andrews Church.
A night at the theatre
The 300-seat Empire Theatre stages lives shows and performances throughout the year catering for audiences of all ages and tastes with everything from comedy and music to dance and drama
on the bill.
The medieval castle on the outskirts of Halstead will be holding Snowdrop Sundays on February 7, 14 and 21. An amazing range of snowdrops have been present in the grounds since the 1900s.
Have a bite to eat
The Bull Hotel is a maze of rambling nooks and crannies, old oak beams and open fires. As one of the oldest buildings in the town, its foundations date back to the 14th century so it is an ideal place to soak up Halsteads heritage and enjoy a drink.
Enjoy rural Essex
Surrounded by gentle rolling countryside, Halstead is the perfect place to go out and about to explore. Halsteads Public Gardens, which have received a Green Flag Award, are also only a short walk from the centre of the town.