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West Bergholt Hall and the Colne Valley

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West Bergholt Hall and the Colne Valley
Author: Steve Hallam, Published: 18 Mar 2017 Walk Rating:star1 West Bergholt Hall and the Colne Valley Walking Guide star1 West Bergholt Hall and the Colne Valley Walking Guide star1 West Bergholt Hall and the Colne Valley Walking Guide star1 West Bergholt Hall and the Colne Valley Walking Guide star0 West Bergholt Hall and the Colne Valley Walking Guide
Essex, Colchester
Walk Type: Footpaths and byways
West Bergholt Hall and the Colne Valley
Length: 3 miles,  Difficulty: boot West Bergholt Hall and the Colne Valley Walking Guide boot West Bergholt Hall and the Colne Valley Walking Guide
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This is an easy 3 mile circular walk through some of the more attractive scenery in Essex. It starts at West Bergholt Hall and old church, leading through two nature reserves and riverside meadows. Hillhouse Wood is particularly worth visiting in April and May, as it has superb displays of Bluebells and other woodland flowers, as well as singing Nightingales. There are also lovely views down the Colne Valley.

The walk contains one noticeable, but steady, climb. There are a few short stretches that can get muddy, so it is best to wear boots in winter and after rain. There are no stiles on the route, as the council has replaced all of these with gates. One small footbridge has bars at both ends that you will need to step over. The route crosses a couple of grazing meadows which may be holding livestock at times. Allow 1.5 hours.

West Bergholt is located about 3 miles north west of Colchester in Essex, near the border with Suffolk. The walk starts and finishes at St Mary's Old Church, located north-west of the village, where there is parking for several cars. Approximate post code CO6 3DU. There are two buses that pass close to the start of the walk. Chambers Buses routes 753 and 754 stop 600 metres away, on the B1508, at the end of Old Church Lane. The First Essex bus 66 stops on Lexden Road in West Bergholt , near the end of Hall Road, which is 700 metres away.

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Walk Sections

Start to Hillhouse Wood Entrance
Start to Hillhouse Wood Entrance

Start point: 51.9171 lat, 0.8391 long
End point: 51.9184 lat, 0.8295 long

Take the track that heads west, down the side of the old church. You will pass the graveyard and then the walled garden of the Hall both on your left.

Note the old Yew trees in the graveyard, and some magnificent Oak trees along the track. This is also good for Buzzard spotting.

As the track goes down the gentle slope towards the wood, there is a good view across the valley towards Fordham. Look out for Roe deer in the fields, and Buzzards in the air.

Follow the track all the way to the entrance to Hillhouse Wood. This is marked by a large information sign, shown in the photo for the next section.

Hillhouse Wood Entrance to Concrete Footbridge
Hillhouse Wood Entrance to Concrete Footbridge

Start point: 51.9184 lat, 0.8295 long
End point: 51.9184 lat, 0.825 long

Take the path that leads off the track into the wood, by the large sign shown in the photo. Follow this path past a large pond on your right. Just after the pond, and by a small wooden noticeboard that says 'Hillhouse Wood', take the path that forks right.

Follow this path along the right side of a small triangular clearing and then down a slope.

In spring this is a good place to hear the song of the Nightingale. Hillhouse Wood is a nature reserve, owned by the Woodland Trust. From mid-March through to May it has superb displays of Wood anemones, Lesser celandines, Primroses and Bluebells. There are breeding Nightingales, Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs and Garden Warbler, while Nuthatch and Treecreepers are resident. In June the rare White-letter hairstreak butterfly can be seen on some Wych elms.

At the bottom of the slope, ignore the path that goes off on the left and instead keep straight on, keeping a holly tree to your left. Go through a wooden anti-horse fence and cross the concrete footbridge over a small stream, shown in the photo for the next section.

Concrete Footbridge to Chancers Farm
Concrete Footbridge to Chancers Farm

Start point: 51.9184 lat, 0.825 long
End point: 51.9158 lat, 0.8155 long

Having crossed the stream, walk up the slope keeping the field boundary hedge on your left.

In autumn, look out for a small Spindle tree half way up the hedge, with its beautiful pink and orange berries.

At the large gap in the hedge turn left, past the yellow public footpath waymark sign on a post, and follow the track. This track can get very muddy. At the end of the hedge on your left, at a junction of four fields, turn right and continue to follow the track between two hedges.

At the end of the track, turn left onto the access road to Kings Vineyard (there is a helpful sign to tell you this!) and follow this to a metalled public lane. Turn left on to this road and follow it for a few yards, round the sharp right bend to Chancers Farm. The farm is shown in the image for the next section.

Chancers Farm to Cookes Hall Farm
Chancers Farm to Cookes Hall Farm

Start point: 51.9158 lat, 0.8155 long
End point: 51.9117 lat, 0.8326 long

Turn left off the metalled road, by a concrete footpath sign, and walk past the farm, keeping the farm buildings (which have been converted into light industrial units) on your right. At the end of the farm, by a sign that says 'RT Roofing', keep straight on down the field boundary. Follow this path all the way down to the river, keeping the hedge to your left.

The land to your right is part of the Fordham Hall estate, managed by the Woodland Trust. This is around 500 acres of open access land that was converted from intensive arable production into a nature reserve. Most of it has been planted with trees, while some is grazing meadow. It is a lovely area to explore, if you have the time.

At the bottom of the hedge, walk past a bench. Go through a small gap in the hedge facing you and turn immediately left. Go through the metal kissing gate that you will see, into a riverside grazing meadow. Walk through this meadow, keeping the hedge on your left. When you come to a gateway on your left, go through this and then turn immediately right. Yellow public footpath signs show the way. Do not forget to admire the magnificent veteran Oak tree that confronts you as you pass through the gateway.

Continue to follow the path through the second grazing meadow, passing over a large concrete bridge over a stream. Follow the obvious path passing to the left of a dilapidated brick farm building and through a metal gate into the start of a track between two hedges.

Follow this track all the way up the hill to a farm, Cookes Hall Farm. At the top of slope, pause to look back at the lovely view down the Colne Valley.

Cookes Hall Farm to End
Cookes Hall Farm to End

Start point: 51.9117 lat, 0.8326 long
End point: 51.917 lat, 0.8393 long

At the start of Cookes Hall Farm (no longer used, at the time of writing, other than to store some machinery) the track turns to concrete. Go straight on, passing farm buildings on both sides of the track. Once through the farm, follow the farm access road that goes slightly left, up a slope and between two hedges. At the start of this road there is a small, rather manky looking pond on your left.

At the end of this short access road you will see two semi-detached farm cottages. Go past the red dog waste bin to take the track that passes to the left of these cottages, running straight up the slope back towards the old church (you can see the top of its spire, ahead of you, poking up behind some trees). Ignore the path that runs off to the left. The track runs through open arable fields, with no hedges on either side.

At the end of the first field, go straight through the large hedge gap on the right (NOT the track on the left, which is private) and follow the path that runs straight on, along the right side of the hedge. Pass an old ivy-covered chicken shed on your right. Once past the old chicken shed, keep straight on, as indicated by the yellow public footpath sign. Keep the brambly hedge on your left. After a few yards you will see on your left a gateway (the wooden gate rotted and disappeared some time ago!) that leads to a little wooden footbridge over the ditch. Cross this bridge and turn immediately right. You will see the old church and (hopefully, this is Essex!) your car in front of you.

Take time to admire West Bergholt Hall. Its frontage is impressive - which was the plan. You may have noticed the narrowness of the hall. It was built by a wool merchant whose ego was larger than his wallet. So, to maximise the hall's impact he built it only one room wide! You may also wish to visit the old church, which is open most days. It is more than 1,000 years old, but was abandoned as the centre of the village moved away.

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network West Bergholt Hall and the Colne Valley Walking Guide Original GPX source file

Text and images for this walk are Copyright © 2017 by the author SteveHallam and may not be reproduced without permission.


The information in this guide has been provided in good faith and is intended only as a guide, not a statement of fact. You are advised to check the accuracy of the information provided and should not use this guide for navigational directions nor should you rely on the accuracy of the weather forecast. You are advised to take appropriate clothing, footwear, equipment and navigational materials with you according to the current and possible weather and nature of the terrain. Always follow the country code and follow any additional warnings or instructions that may be available. Some walks may be very strenuous and you are advised to seek medical advice if you have any doubts as to your capability to complete the walk.

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