Walking and writing on The Essex Way

Essex Life magazine published the feature I wrote on The Essex Way – the 81-mile trail across the county linking Epping in the west to Harwich on the North Sea coast to the east.

It was a great walk, and an interesting piece to write. And I took the photos used in the magazine and online too.

If you missed it in the hard copy magazine, you can read it online in full at www.essexlifemag.co.uk

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The Essex Way — an 81-mile long distance path running roughly south west to north east from Epping to Harwich — may sound a lot like a sequel to a familiar reality TV show, but (in contrast to the aforementioned show) it actually represents the perfect means to get to know the county.

For those of you not familiar with the terminology, a long distance path or LDP is usually taken to be more than 30-miles long and often joins together existing rights of way. Essex has several of these LDPs, but the Essex Way is the most significant walk, growing in stature and reputation since its inception in the early 1970s….

Essex Way feature

Connecting the fringe of London to the North Sea coast well away from the bustle of the A12 and mainline railway corridor that so many of us spend so much time traversing, if the very thought of it sounds arduous, it needn’t be, for there are no rules here. You can walk it east to west or vice versa, in small sections or large chunks, over several weekends or even years, or tackle the whole length flat out in two or three days if you fancy a real challenge on your doorstep.

John Juchau of the West Essex Ramblers took part in the group’s walk of the Essex Way in ten legs from April to October three years ago. ‘You can dip in and out and do bits of it, or in circular walks to get back to your car or transport,’ explains John. ‘People may think that Essex is all flat and boring, or built up, but that’s not the case. It has some delightful countryside to walk through.’

Essex Life magazine Essex Way feature

Aside from the varied landscape it reveals along its route, the real beauty of the Essex Way is its comparative accessibility – never far from useful transport links, but always only a short stroll into rural tranquillity. One end is alongside Epping’s Central Line tube stop, the other a stone’s throw from Harwich Town train station. You can hop off the train at several spots back towards Chelmsford for quick access to the nearby path, or for simple bus connections north to south. With a car, or two in a group, it’s a doddle and a pleasure to pick out entry and exit points to the Essex Way’s pastoral delights.

‘Essex is such a diverse county with many different things to offer and when you are walking you can get a real sense of place,’ says Lisa Bone, strategic tourism manager at Visit Essex. ‘72% of Essex is rural and the Essex Way showcases the variety of landscapes, towns and villages — each with their own unique character. Much of it challenges the perceptions that people have of Essex.’

Essex Life magazine Essex Way cover

Wide tracks and grassy paths flow into woodland walks and waste-height cuts through ripening crops, with occasional forays onto the Tarmac of country lanes. On a wet winter’s day, with Essex clay clogging your walking shoes after tackling tricky muddy field-edges, those back roads can provide some welcome respite. Stride out on a summer’s roam along any decent-length stretch and your focus will be far more upon the variety of things that come your way.

Intersecting daily life along its route, you’re more likely to greet a local dog-walker than a fellow long-distance traveller. But this is still somewhere you will get the chance to swap stories with other Essex Way expeditionaries — as well as stroke and feed wayside horses, be startled by a pheasant darting into a hedge, see a hare cavort across a field and spot endless birds in flight and song, which, perhaps like me, you woefully can’t identify….

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