10 of the best National Trust walks in Essex
PUBLISHED: 12:17 19 February 2019 | UPDATED: 13:40 19 February 2019
As well as being historically important, Essex’s National Trust locations are some of the prettiest sites you can visit anywhere in the county. Here are 10 top walks that take in the best of these protected spots
This former fishing lodge sits just one mile south of Colchester and is one of our county’s most iconic locations. Built next to a millpond and small stream, the grounds surrounding the property are incredibly tranquil and a popular spot for photographers.
The three-mile walk takes you right alongside that stream and down towards the Distillery Pond near the River Colne. Make sure to stop on the opposite side of Bourne Pond from where the mill stands for the iconic shot of the building flanked by trees.
National Trust Countryside Manager Henry Bexley said: “If I had just 2 hours to visit Hatfield Forest, this is the one trail I would choose to take in most of its points of interest and marvel at its splendour.”
Such points of interest that Henry is referring to on this two-mile woodland walk include Portingbury Hills, Shell House, the Gravel Pit, Spittlemore Coppice and numerous other spots that make up this rare example of almost complete Royal Hunting Forest.
This family-friendly 2.5-mile route around Coggeshall aims to take you back to the 1500s and the period when this timber-framed Tudor was first built.
Thomas Paycocke - a very successful merchant - built the house for his new bride and their initials can still be seen as part of the intricately carved beams that are common throughout the building. The walk begins at the house before passing Gallows Street and the Church of St Peter-ad-Vincula while you could always nip in The Woolpack for a mid-walk refreshment.
If you head over the River Blackwater from Paycocke’s House you’ll find this large barn, thought to be one of Europe’s oldest timber-framed buildings. Within the barn’s interior - often described as ‘cathedral-like’ - you’ll find a variety of intriguing items linked to the area’s agricultural past.
Compared to the Paycocke’s House circular walk above, this three-mile trail takes you further out of Coggeshall to see the countryside running adjacent to the Blackwater and the ruins of an abbey that formerly had a close connection to the barn.
Some more walks to try:
If you follow the Blackwater all the way from Coggeshall and down to Heybridge Basin you’ll eventually reach this wild location that was famously used as a base by the Vikings during the Battle of Maldon well over 1000 years ago.
As the causeway connecting the island to the mainland will be flooded two hours either side of high tide, it’s very important to time your walk right or you’ll miss out on the stunning views back over to Maldon and Heybridge.
Covering both Danbury Common - Essex’s second largest common area of land and former military training area - and the ancient woodland within Blake’s Wood, this 2.5-mile walk is just one of many that thoroughly explore the area.
Don’t forget the binoculars as there are several different types of bird that can be spotted during your walk including warblers, nightingales and all three species of woodpecker. Lingwood Common is just down the road if you feel like extending your stroll.
Although we haven’t picked a specific walk that takes you through the marshes, the link above provides a number of different things you should look out for when you explore this biologically-diverse environment.
The marshes are located near Maldon, Abberton Reservoir, Mersea Island and Brightlingsea so it’s a great spot to base yourself if you fancy a longer walk featuring beautiful estuarine and coastal vistas.
As we mentioned in our round-up of our county’s best walks near stately homes, Eastbury Manor House is no longer part of Essex but we’re still happy to include it after spending most of its existence in our historic county.
This six-mile walk goes through a number of connected green areas in nearby Dagenham and passes close to Dagenham East station allowing you to quickly hope on the tube to Upney, the station nearest the manor.
Rainham is another town that we lost to London’s irresistible expansion into surrounding counties and home to Rainham Hall, a pretty brick home built in 1729 by merchant John Harle.
As well as the hall, the Rainham Heritage Walk covers a number of sites that have played a part in the area’s development from a Saxon settlement to an important industrial site with fascinating connections to smuggling.
Hundreds of years ago Rayleigh Mount was the site of an early wooden motte and bailey castle built by the Sheriff of Essex. Today it is a wonderful outdoor location ideal for both families out exploring and the variety of wildlife that can often be observed going about their daily business.
The 1.5-mile murder mystery trail - which can be purchased online through the above link - starts at Rayleigh train station and will take you past the mount, the mill, the sensory garden and many other local points of interest as you solve a series of intriguing clues.