From Earls Colne and through Chalkney Wood
Late spring or summer
Meadows beside the Colne alive with insects; the woodland variety of Chalkney; birds in hedge, scrub and meadow.
A risky section of winding road approaching Chalkney Wood – and uphill too.
Bus from Colchester or Halstead to The Lion, Earls Colne High Street, or park in public car park in Queens Road. Alternatively, park at Chalkney Wood and start at point C.
Fairly flat, with a number of stiles and gates. Mainly well-defined unsurfaced paths through grassland and wood, plus several short sections on quiet roads.
Click on a marker on the map for route details
Stage AB: Earls Colne to Brickfield & Long Meadow
Turn right outside the car park in Earls Colne and walk down to High Street. Go straight across into York Road and follow it all the way down to Park Lane, turning right and looking for a public footpath on the left 100m down. This runs for 100m between garden fences until you come to a stile into Long Meadow on your left. Follow the path across the meadow past large willows and oaks, coming to a stile. Turn left for 50m past a boggy section, then right to join a footpath through a small wood and out into a bumpy rough meadow. Head for the far lefthand corner, where a footpath leaves and runs between a fence and a hedge down to the Coggeshall Road.
Stage BC: Coggeshall Road to Chalkney Wood
Turn right and follow the road for 200m down to the next bend, where a footpath leaves on the left, following a track (marked 'Private Road') past Limekiln Farm then, with a hedge on the right, through a small wood and along a grassy track at the edge of an arable field. After another small wood you enter a meadow with a hedge on your left and walk down the slope towards a pylon where you come out on to Tey Road. This is a narrow lane with steep banks and so, although little used, you need to be careful about traffic. Turn right and follow it up a long hill between ancient hedgerows, with Chalkney Wood coming into view across the fields on your left. Turn into the wood at the first entrance, just after the cottage on your left (or if you parked in front of Chalkney Wood, keep going for 200m more).
Stage CD: Chalkney Wood
Follow the path into the wood. Where another path crosses, take the left fork to follow the fringe of the wood. Turn left to join a bridleway right through the wood, then over a stile and across a track providing access to the Forestry Commission car park and straight on along the fringe of the wood. Go past an exit on the left via a stile, with views across to Earls Colne, and keep on until you see buildings and meet a ride coming in from the right. Turn left and out to Chalkney Mill.
Stage DE: Chalkney Mill to Colneford Hill
Go through the kennels and past the mill race, then follow the road across meadows and over the River Colne to a pylon, under which a footpath leaves on the left via a gate. Cross a damp meadow dotted with willows, following a line of willows on the left past the fishing lakes of a former gravel pit, then through a gate into another meadow with a hedge on the right, then across more rough grassland to follow the right bank of the River Colne, first passing back gardens on your right, then another meadow, before crossing a stile and through back gardens to Colneford Hill.
Stage EF: The Old Railway
Cross Colneford Hill to a footpath about 10m down to the left, following the access road to Yew Tree Farm, with pastures on both sides. At the sewage works gates, leave the road and follow an (overgrown!) footpath that follows the sewage works boundary fence straight on then to the right, until you emerge on to the former Colne Valley railway, now a footpath bounded by tall trees and scrub, and with the River Colne across meadows to the left. The path crosses a bridge over the River Feb, flowing in from the right to join the Colne. Ignore the footpath on the left just after the bridge and continue to the next on the left, where a footpath joins from the right. The path heads diagonally across the riverside meadows, then branches left down to a footbridge across the Colne.
Stage FA: Back to Earls Colne via the golf course
From the footbridge the path is waymarked and marked with blue lines across the golf course, passing a long lake and crossing a couple of fairways. You exit via a gate on to Burrow Road, which you follow to an alley on the left which takes you across to Queens Road, where a right turn takes you back to the car park and/or the High Street. Alternatively, go straight on down to the High Street and turn left for a choice of pubs.