Coggeshall to Fordstreet Bridge, 6½ miles, 11km.
There’s a bit of Essex tableland walking to start with, along the flat headlands and fields north of Stane Street – best enjoyed in autumn colours, perhaps – but from Great Tey it is not far to the pretty Colne Valley.
Fordstreet Bridge to Great Horkesley, 5 miles, 8km.
The walk continues to follow the tranquil Colne, much of it within the Woodland Trust’s Fordham Hall Estate. After the sprawling village of West Bergholt, a few little ups and downs bring the stage to a close.
One change to note since Walking in Essex was published: the Shoulder of Mutton at Fordstreet has reopened. This is a significant landmark on the Way, as the path goes through its front garden.
Great Horkesley to Dedham, 9 miles, 15km.
The influence of the Stour is strong throughout this stage. Boxted sits on a little ridge and affords the first glimpses; beyond Rivers Hall, the river is in clear view through a long descent before the sharp rise up to one of Constable’s most-painted buildings, Langham church. The Stour’s banks are not far from here, and soon you are in one of England’s loveliest lowland landscapes, Dedham Vale.
Dedham to Wrabness, 10 miles, 16km.
At first the Way heads uphill through paddocks and meadows, before dropping down to the estuarial Stour at historic Manningtree and Mistley. From here there are some interesting woods before Wrabness Nature Reserve, an important site for wildlife especially in winter.
Wrabness to Harwich, 9 miles, 14km.
For its last stretch, the Essex Way switches over from estuary to coast – and rightly so, for the sea has shaped the county in so many ways. And Harwich, with its maritime past and present, is as fine and natural a finish point as any a long-distance walk can boast.