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Along the Colne Valley from Chappel to Colchester

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Along the Colne Valley from Chappel to Colchester
Author: Steve Hallam, Published: 18 Apr 2017 Walk Rating:star0 Along the Colne Valley from Chappel to Colchester Walking Guide star0 Along the Colne Valley from Chappel to Colchester Walking Guide star0 Along the Colne Valley from Chappel to Colchester Walking Guide star0 Along the Colne Valley from Chappel to Colchester Walking Guide star0 Along the Colne Valley from Chappel to Colchester Walking Guide
Essex, Colchester
Walk Type: Footpaths and byways
Along the Colne Valley from Chappel to Colchester
Length: 8 miles,  Difficulty: boot Along the Colne Valley from Chappel to Colchester Walking Guide
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This 8 mile linear walk runs from the tiny rural railway station at Chappel to the main line one at Colchester in Essex, following the River Colne nearly all the way. (The return leg can be completed by train, a journey that takes 15-30 minutes with one change at Marks Tey). Most of the walk passes through unspoilt, quiet and attractive scenery, including the 500 acre Woodland Trust nature reserve of Fordham Hall. Five pubs are on, or near, the route, providing ample scope for diversions. The Colchester end of the walk, while avoiding road walking, does offer some 'different' experiences - not one, but two, pedestrian tunnels amongst them.

Two sections of the walk get wet and boggy after rain - this is a walk for boots. There are two gentle climbs on the walk. Sheep will be encountered in the early part of the walk, and cattle may be in the central part. There are no stiles on the walk, only gates. The walk involves walking along very quiet tarmac lanes for a total of 1.3 miles, but these are very pleasant. There are three places where rural roads need to be crossed (where care needs to be taken), and one place where unfenced proximity to the A12 dual carriageway means that dogs must be temporarily leashed - the commentary provides plenty of explanation. You will need to cross a couple of golf course fairways so follow the safety notices here. Allow 4 hours.

Chappel rail station is served by trains running between Marks Tey and Sudbury. At Marks Tey these connect with trains on the main line between London Liverpool Street and Colchester, Ipswich, Norwich, Harwich and Clacton. There is free parking at the station, CO6 2DS, as well as a small but well equipped railway museum (which also hosts two superb beer festivals a year). Chappel is also served by buses. First bus routes 88 and 88A run from Colchester to Halstead. These buses stop at the village shop, on the A1124, where the route crosses this road.

Walk Sections

Start to Ford Street Bridge
Start to Ford Street Bridge

Start point: 51.926 lat, 0.7586 long
End point: 51.9093 lat, 0.7902 long

Leave the station platform (there is only one) by the signposted route and walk down the access road, past the little tank engine on a short length of rail and out to the public road. (The impressive brick building you pass on you left is the old station building, which now forms part of a railway museum. Those of a certain persuasion might pop in for a look.)

Turn left to follow the public road down the hill. Cross the main A1124 by the village shop and continue straight on to cross over the River Colne. Pass the pub and village school on your left, and immediately after the school, turn left into a grassy area and car park. From the car park, walk towards and then under the railway viaduct. This carries the line from Marks Tey to Sudbury over the river. Immediately after passing under the viaduct, take the path that runs right, before the Millennium Green. Follow this path alongside the railway, and then as it turns left to run across an arable field.

At the end of field turn left down the tarmac lane. After having passed the house at the end, follow the path as it turns right to run alongside a wooden fence and then crosses another arable field. At the end of this field, pass through the metal gate into the first of three grass fields, normally containing sheep. Follow the path through these fields, passing through two more metal gates. After the second metal gate continue straight on alongside the river. At the far side of this grass field, a metal gate leads to a footbridge, after which you enter an arable field. Keep on alongside the river. The main path jinks sharp right and then back left again, to leave the river bank. It continues parallel to the river, but there is now an area of willow bio-mass trees and cricket bat willows in-between the river and the path.

The path continues on. On your right some industrial buildings come into view, beyond an area being used to grow Christmas trees. The path continues with the Christmas trees on your right, until it comes to a an old World War II concrete pillbox (this river valley was considered to be an attractive potential invasion route.) Our route passes through a narrow gap to the left of the pillbox, indicated by a yellow public footpath arrow on a post. The path continues to hug the river bank, hemmed in by the back of a garden centre on the right. It is narrow and fenced, then passes large and attractive gardens on both sides before ending at the A1124. Turn left here, to cross the bridge over the river.

Ford Street bridge to Cooks Hall Farm
Ford Street bridge to Cooks Hall Farm

Start point: 51.9093 lat, 0.7902 long
End point: 51.9117 lat, 0.8325 long

Cross the river and cross the road. Go through the wooden gate into the car park of the pub. Walk across the car park and the grassy area behind, to the right of the pub, and you will see an exit gap into the field beyond. This is the start of the Woodland Trust's Fordham Hall estate - 500 acres of ex-arable land that is being turned back into woodland and meadow. There are two information signs to tell you more.

Ignore the metal kissing gate in front of you, instead turn right to follow the river bank. After a few yards the path bends left, to leave the river and pass between grass fields on either side. At the end of the first field the river re-joins the path, and the two continue side-by-side until a road is reached. Unfortunately the point at which the path crosses the road is on a blind bend for traffic coming down the road, from your left. What works for me is to stand a few yards back from the road edge, so that I can see round the bend and up the hill. When I can see that no traffic is coming I then walk forward to the edge of the road - only now can you see what is coming the other way. If it is clear - leg it across. (If it is not clear from the right, I go back to where you can see up the hill and start again.)

Having safely crossed the road, continue straight on through a corridor formed by two rows of trees. Just past a couple of metal farm gates, the path rises slightly, on your right you can look down onto a marshy, rushy area. This land, which was growing corn twenty years ago, is now a valuable site for sedges and marsh loving flowers such as Purple loosestrife. In the winter it holds Teal, Snipe and, occasionally, Water Rail. There is an extensive Badger set right next to the path, in the bushes on your right.

The path carries on, alongside the river. Just past an attractive arched footbridge over the river (which we ignore), cross over a concrete footbridge over a ditch to go into an area of cricket bat willows. This area is normally damp, and can become impassible during floods. If it does, the field to your left (which is the last bit of Fordham Hall) provide a useful 'Plan B'.

At the end of this damp, wooded section, pass through a metal gate to enter an old 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, Cooks Hall Farm. At the top of the slope, pause to look back at the lovely view down the Colne Valley.

Cooks Hall Farm to Busy Road Crossing
Cooks Hall Farm to Busy Road Crossing

Start point: 51.9117 lat, 0.8325 long
End point: 51.908 lat, 0.8453 long

At the start of Cooks 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. Bear right to walk in front of these cottages and walk down the (very quiet) tarmac lane. The lane passes through woods on both sides - these are good for Bluebells and Nightingales in Spring. When the lane comes to a little lane crossroads, pass between the two 'No Entry' signs to go straight on.

At the end of the lane you come to another road crossing that requires care. You do not have a good view of what is coming up the hill, from your right. So I wait until I can hear that there is nothing coming in either direction before crossing the road.

Busy Road Crossing to Road Bridge over Railway
Busy Road Crossing to Road Bridge over Railway

Start point: 51.908 lat, 0.8453 long
End point: 51.9019 lat, 0.8675 long

Cross the road and go down the lane that runs off opposite, slightly to your right. Follow this quiet lane to a junction, surrounded by houses, that has a triangular grassy area in the middle. Turn right, down the slope, and keep bearing right to enter Bourne Road. Follow Bourne Road down the hill to reach a farm on your right. Keep straight on, passing underneath an impressive Weeping Willow tree to pass by the farmhouse on your right. The road becomes a track and then an overgrown path between two hedges. At the end of the path, follow a yellow footpath arrow that points to the right, over a concrete farm bridge. A second arrow immediately points left, so that you are continuing in the same direction, but have dog-legged to the right.

Go through a metal kissing gate, to find that the path opens out on to a golf course. Follow the path up the hedge on the right-hand side of the golf course. At the end of the hedge your route goes straight on, across two fairways - heed the sign for walkers to ring the bell (you do this by rotating it). Walk at about 1 o'clock. As you approach the far side of the mown area, take a narrow gap in the scrub in front of you, marked by a yellow footpath arrow on a post. You will be becoming increasingly aware of the noisy presence of both the main London - Colchester railway line, plus the A12 dual carriageway.

Your path crosses a scrubby area to reach a hedge and fence, which it then follows. It angles to the right, becomes fenced in, and descends down a slope. If you have dogs, you MUST LEASH them at this point. The path dives into a concrete tunnel to go under the A12 dual carriageway. At the end of the tunnel the path turns sharp left to go up a slope. At the top of this slope you are momentarily about two metres from the tarmac of the A12, with just a crash barrier between you and the traffic. It's perfectly safe for humans, but dogs don't know what crash barriers indicate - and there is nothing to stop one running under it.

The path follows a hedge to the end of the field - where you encounter your third rural road that repays care. This is a narrow lane that crosses the railway on a bridge at this point, which is what the route also requires you to do.

Road Bridge over Railway to End
Road Bridge over Railway to End

Start point: 51.9019 lat, 0.8675 long
End point: 51.9007 lat, 0.8928 long

Turn right to walk over the narrow bridge, waiting until no traffic is visible in either direction before you do this. Immediately on the other side of the bridge is a green public footpath fingerpost pointing to a path on the other side of the road. Take this narrow, fenced path to walk between the railway on your left and more of the golf course on your right. The path, always fenced in, turns right to run down the side of the golf course, and then left to run past a stables.

The path ends at a junction of tracks, with a choice to fork either right or left. Choose left. Follow this track across an arable field to then run alongside a wooded area on your left. Go through a wooden kissing gate into this woody area. Follow the path until it comes to a T junction with another path. Turn left here, in the direction of red arrows on a post. This path brings you to another wooden kissing gate, alongside information boards, that leads into a pedestrian tunnel under the railway.

Ascend the steps at the other side of the tunnel and turn right at the top. The tarmac path runs between railings, with modern housing on your left, and the railway on your right. It turns left, so that you now have allotments on your right. At a point where a road appears on your left, a combined tarmac pedestrian and cycle path leads through a gap in the hedge on your right. Follow this path along a grassy area, with allotments on both sides. You will come to a children's playground with a tarmac path going off to the right, in front of the playground. Follow this path through a pair of metal gates into the station car park. Follow the painted pedestrian walkway across the car park, and then left to walk underneath the upper deck of the car park. This brings you out by the station booking hall, and the end of the walk.

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Text and images for this walk are Copyright © 2017 by iFootpath and 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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