Distance: 18 miles (29km)
Start and finish: Halstead, Colne bridge at the bottom of the High Street (TL 812 305)
Walking time: 8 hours
Maps: OS Explorer 195, Landranger 168 or see below
Transport: buses from Braintree, Colchester and Sudbury
Refreshments: cafes at Greenstead Green and the Marks Hall estate; the Five Bells at Colne Engaine
Here’s a route for those who would like something longer, 18 miles starting from Halstead in the Colne valley. Halstead has probably the steepest High Street in Essex, so it’s well worth a visit in its own right. Plus, for those of you who are not keen on the whole 18 miles in one go, there are a couple of ways to shorten it.
I walked this route in early 2014 with Essex & Herts LDWA, and it struck me as worthy of inclusion on this site for a number of reasons.
Greenstead Green is a super little Essex village with a very well regarded farm shop and cafe. This is followed by the wooded Marks Hall estate, a visitor attraction in its own right. It too has a tea room, though a little off route. Not far away now is Chalkney Wood, one of the finest woodlands in Essex, with the old mill at Chalkney Farm just below it. From here there is a pleasant stretch beside the Colne, followed by a bit of the trackbed of the old Colne valley railway. Colne Engaine, another good village, has a wonderful pub, the Five Bells. Guaranteed not to be too soon on the walk to deserve a visit! There is a bit of farmland-crossing after Preston’s Lake, but arriving back in Halstead, there is an attractive little path through the town’s flood meadows.
I walked this after some weeks of heavy rain, and the Colne had in places burst its banks, leading to a couple of diversions not shown on the map. Indeed we had to miss out the Colne-side stretch referred to above and cut up to the A1124.
We also started from the Griffin Inn, rather than the location in the box; the pub is run by the same people as the Five Bells, and according to our walk leader just as good! So if you’re looking for somewhere to slake your thirst after finishing, give it a try.
There are two possible shorter variants. There is a good bus service along the A1124, which you meet at about the half-way point – half-hourly, though only every two hours on Sundays. So you could do the walk in two halves. Alternative, break at Colne Engaine (11 miles / 7 miles), though this will need a two-car shuffle or similar, as the village only has sporadic buses.
Notice there are no turn-by-turn instructions for this walk. The idea is that if you are able to walk 18 miles you are able to follow a map. Happy walking!