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The best autumn walks in Essex

By Katie Byrne – 11th April 2020
best autumn walks in Essex

Autumn is officially – officially! – my favourite time of the year.

There’s something about the cooling of the temperature and the crunching of the leaves that I love, with everything from the smoky aroma of distant bonfires to watching flocks of birds migrating for the winter all part of the charm.

And the fashion! The knitwear, the layering, the return to coats and scarves… Getting to wear TIGHTS! I might even try to track down a leaf-patterned face mask. (Too far? Yeah, too far.)

I think fundamentally, it boils down to this: I love autumn because it’s a break away from the heat of summer (bar the occasional freak 26C October day, thrown into the mix to keep us all on our toes) and has got all the magic of Christmas, with the excitement of the festive period still stretched out in front of it.

Anyway. As you might have worked out by now: I kind of have a thing for autumn.

One of the joys of autumn for me is heading outdoor and soaking up all that nature has to offer. Bronzed leaves and satisfyingly crunchy footsteps aside, the season is all about dusky pastel sunsets, fallen treasures (yep, conkers, I’m looking at you – how else will I defend my home from spiders?) and breathing out, hard, to watch the smoke form.

Autumnal walks are the perfect way to bump up your exercise (especially if you’ve been going out less due to a certain pandemic-that-will-not-be-named), as well as offering a valuable opportunity to clear your mind and relax if you’ve been WFH.

It’s also something the whole family can enjoy: kids can bring their bikes (or search for the aforementioned conkers – trust me, it works) and dogs will love the opportunity for an extra-long stroll. In fact, I’ve even heard that partners and husbands can be persuaded to take part in an autumn walk. Don’t quote me on that, of course.

So where oh where to head for an autumn walk in Essex?

Here are some of my recommendations…

Hilly Fields, Colchester

Home to rolling fields yet also a ten-minute meander from the nearby town centre, Hilly Field is as much home to history as it is to dog walkers and picnickers. Head to the field in time to watch a pastel-perfect dusky sunset slowly descend on Colchester.

Dedham Vale, Dedham

Wander the romantic Dedham countryside that inspired the renowned painter John Constable and soak up rolling fields and countryside. Nestled near Maison Talbooth (which I was lucky enough to check into last summer), Dedham Vale is the perfect place to enjoy a bracing stroll before checking into one of the various pubs or cafes dotted through Dedham village for a lunch you’ll have truly earned.

The Wivenhoe Trail, Wivenhoe

Sitting at around five miles, the Wivenhoe Trail is an easygoing stroll that takes you from the hustle and bustle of a busy town to the relaxing tranquillity of Wivenhoe. Once you get to Wivenhoe, enjoy a cosy mooch around the picturesque streets (it always remind me of St Ives in Cornwall – minus the surfboards) before heading to The Black Buoy for a bite to eat or Maison Mollie for a flat white.

Audley End House & Gardens, Saffron Walden

Combining Victorian country house with gorgeous gardens (designed by none other than Capability Brown) and acres of woodland, Audley End House is a great pick for a family day out. In the autumn, the expertly manicured gardens bloom into an inviting palette of red, gold and bronze, with the house celebrating Apple Weekend once a year in honour of the fruit grown there.

FYI, their Halloween events kick off from October 24th too, making it a great pick for families with little ones who love all things spooktacular.

The Oak Trail, Epping Forest

If the thought of a seven-mile walk doesn’t deter you, head to Theydon Bois. Epping Forest sits on the Essex/London border and is one of a handful of Special Areas For Conservation in the capital. We’re talking trees as talk as the sky, a deer sanctuary along the way and over 6,000 jaw-dropping acres. Wrap up warm, take a flask of something hot and caffeinated and you’re good to go. And go!

The Essex coast

There’s something about the beach in the autumn that’s shiver-inducingly wonderful – so swap the swimwear for knitwear and head to the likes of Frinton, Walton and Holland-on-Sea for a power walk along the beautifully kept beaches. Chips at the end aren’t so much an option as a necessity – head to Naze Fish & Chips in Walton if you can.

Hillhouse Wood, West Bergholt

A Woodland Trust property that’s home to grounds that were made for exploring, Hillhouse Wood erupts with bluebells in the springtime and idyllic seasonal charm come the autumn. Boasting over seven acres, it’s teeming with wildlife and a short drive away from The White Hart pub (home to a different roast every Sunday).

Where are your favourite places to go for cosy autumnal walks in Essex? I’d love to hear your recommendations!

Katie x

Katie Byrne Essex
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