A relaxing and enjoyable well established waymarked route, the Essex Way meanders in a generally north eastern direction across the agricultural landscape of Essex to the coast at Harwich. It passes to the north of Chelmsford and Colchester, passing through many attractive villages.
At Greensted Green the route passes Log Church, claimed to be the oldest wooden church in the world, (how do they know that?) At Chipping Ongar the route links with The Three Foresters Way and St Peter’s Way before heading north east to Willingale, Good Easter and Pleshey where there is the earthwork remains of a castle. The route now heads east past Chatham Hall to Sandy Wood and White Notley, finally following the meandering banks of the River Blackwater into Coggeshall. Here, on the old Roman Stane Street you can visit Paycocks House (NT), a fine example of a half timbered Tudor house. The Woolpack inn here is also very attractive. Coggeshall is a former lace making village and the surrounding scenery is delightfully picturesque.
From Coggeshall the route passes through Great Tey and then follows the River Colne through Fordstreet to West Bergholt. It then heads north to Great Horkesley and follows lovely countryside along quiet lanes and field paths to Dedham. Just before Dedham the route passes by Langham Hall, which was once home to Sir Walter Tyrell who is suspected of killing King William II, whilst hunting in the New Forest in 1100. The highlight of the route is probably the area around Dedham Vale, designated an AONB; there is a countryside centre in the village. Flatford mill (NT) near here is forever associated with the great landscape painter John Constable, particularly 'The Hay Wain'. The scene here is memorable and well worth the visit.
After Manningtree, where there are a number of Georgian and Victorian buildings of character, the route follows the south bank of the River Stour estuary. On the estuary there are the Alton Water visitor centre and a number of nature reserves. The route passes Wrabness and through Stour Wood and by the sea walls, which protect the south-east coast from constant attack from the waves. The final stop along the Essex Way is the High and Low Lighthouses of Harwich. Built in 1818, the Low Lighthouse is now home to the Maritime Museum, whilst the High Lighthouse marks the end of the Essex Way.
Full route finding instructions and OS Explorer mapping can be downloaded from the website http://www.essexway.org.uk
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