One of the good things about lockdown, has been enjoying more of where I live. I have been a resident of Essex for most of my life, and thought I knew it pretty well. I have two sons that are close in age, and as little ones, they were lively! Getting out in the Essex countryside with them as much as possible burnt some of that energy off and made us all happier. We knew a lot of walks in Essex and were always finding more. So as lockdown began to ease, Nik and I reignited our love of the walks in Essex near water. We are both water babies, so river side walks, or coastal, make us happy. I wanted to share some of these walks with you.
Walks In Essex
Essex is a pretty flat county. We do not have the rolling hills of the Peak District, or the beautiful coastal areas like Cornwall. But Essex has it’s own charm. We have pretty villages up in the North of Essex. We have a lot of rivers and water ways, including the Thames. In fact, almost the entire Western edge of Essex is coastline. Then we have a lot of green spaces with many gorgeous country parks throughout the county. Add all this to the fact that we can be into East London from where I live in 20 minutes! I think we have the best of both worlds. It is why it makes it hard to leave! Nik and I have been saying we will move out of Essex for about 7 years now…. Anyway, here is a little glimpse of pretty Essex.
River Walks in Essex
Address – Maldon CM9 4RX
Heybridge Basin is a beautiful place to visit, even in the winter. It was the first place Nik and I headed for when lockdown restrictions allowed. We were desperate to get back near the water. Heybridge Basin is located at the Eastern end of the 13 mile canal of the Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation. It was constructed in 1793, to allow cargo barges to offload. This cargo would then be taken inland to Chelmsford. Although cargo stopped being brought into the loch in the 1970’s, the loch now sees an abundance of beautiful pleasure boats and barges.
The Heybridge Basin canal path walk has a few options. You can go one way towards Maldon, or the opposite direction will take you towards Goldhanger and Beeleigh Falls (about a 9 mile circular walk). Both are lovely walks that give you constant views out towards the Blackwater Estuary. The walk towards Beeleigh is more along the headland, so can be a little windy if a blowy day. Gorgeous for blowing the cobwebs away.
If you prefer to can just meander for a little while along the sea wall. Our boys used to love walking along the headland and looking out at all the boats. There is a a few benches dotted along the path, and Nik and I have spent many an hour just sitting and enjoying the peace. Then, you can wander into The Ship pub for a a cold drink and a bag of chips and pick out one of the sailing boats moored up, you know, should that lottery win come in….. Or, if you are feeling a little more fancy, (and the weather allows), sit in the garden of the tea rooms and indulge in a cream tea.
Whatever you decide, Heybridge Basin is one of the best walks in Essex. It is also the place that Nik and I have seen the best sunsets in Essex. I do not know if it is to with it’s location and open-ness, but the sunsets there will leave you breathless. Go late afternoon and have a drink, then stroll along the headland to witness nature doing what she does best. Dogs are welcome too!
Top Tip – If you park in the free carpark at Heybridge Basin, you will take the small path to the loch. Keep your eye on the couple of houses lining the path. You may be surprised what you see through the “window” cut into the bushes…….
Address – Maldon, CM9 4DE
For some reason, we only discovered this area of Essex about 4 years ago. It has been called one of the best kept secrets in Essex, so maybe it is no surprise! Beeleigh Falls is one of the most beautiful walks in Essex in my opinion. There are lots of little “falls” where the tide meets the fresh water. It is actually the meeting place of 4 waterways! The falls are not the Essex version of Niagara, let’s manage your expectations here, but it is a tranquil and calming. Little iron bridges crossing the river, the steady sound of the water. All make for a soul reviving and peaceful walk.
I think, the walk at Beeleigh Falls lets you have the best of both worlds here. You have the “falls” and the wonderful river side walk for water lovers. You might even see paddle boarders gently making their way along the river. But, your walk also takes you through the beautiful Essex countryside. Canopies of trees and green, open spaces accompany you on your walk. A huge plus for us nature lovers! You can do a short circular walk around Beeleigh, or the longer walks that take you back towards Maldon along the canal path.
You can reach Beeleigh Falls via the canal path walk from Heybridge Basin. Alternatively, you can drive and park in the small car park near by. The car park is not far from the beautiful old bridge that crosses the River Chelmer. A well known landmark in this area. A series of small lochs are also dotted along the river, and it is so picturesque. It is another great dog walk in Essex if you have a four legged friend.
There is a lot of history tied up in this area too. You have the ruins of the Beeleigh Mill near by, said to have been mentioned in the Doomsday book. The site is now Grade II listed so restoration is slow and meticulous.
You can read here about other historical places to visit in Essex.
You also have the rich history of Beeleigh Abbey. The original remains of the Abbey and lands was granted by King Henry VIII, to The Gates family, of High Easter in Essex. That acquisition however, did not end too well. Sir John Gates ended up beheaded at the Tower Of London for supporting the cause of Lady Jane Grey. Oops! Now a private residence owned by the Foyle family, (of Foyles bookstores), it is sadly closed to the public. However, the beautiful gardens are opened up to visit a few times a year.
Top tip – Parking can be a little limited at weekends. You may have to park in the road approaching the Beeleigh falls if busy. Or, park in the car park opposite Langford Village hall and take the short walk.
Paper Mill Loch
Address – Chelmsford, CM3 4BS
Nik and I have a long held dream of having a canal boat moored here. It is one of our favourite places to visit in our home County. It is a popular river walk in Essex as it is so pretty! The tea shop, (with the best ploughmans salad in Essex according to Nik) is a wonderful place to while away an hour or so at the end of your walk. They may or may not do scones the size of your head here too…….
Paper Mill Lock is a beautiful place to spend some time. You have a choice of walk depending on how much time you have, and how far you fancy walking. It is another one of the great dog walks in Essex, as your fluffy friend is welcome here. One of the more popular walks, it about 3 miles. It does a loop taking you along the tow path, through some meadows and that back to the river. Taking this route, you would also get a glimpse of mine and Nik’s dream house. As you enjoy this river walk in Essex, just picture me living in the house on the opposite of the river, sipping tea, waving as you walk past!
You can also take a slow and meandering river cruise if you would like to. The Chelmer cruises have the option of picking up a trip from here, or Heybridge Basin. There are evening and afternoon cruises, starting at £6 per adult. Paperlock Mill is almost in the centre of the 14 miles of the Navigation, so your trip could go in either direction. Either way, the scenery is beautiful and it is incredibly peaceful. There are 3 boats, and Albert is my favourite.
Tollesbury Wick and Marina
Address – Woodrolfe Rd, Tollesbury, Maldon CM9 8SB (nature reserve)
Woodrolfe Rd, Tollesbury, Maldon CM9 8SE (marina)
This walk is actually a two in one. Tollesbury Wick is a Nature Reserve. Looked after by Essex Wildlife Trust. It has been carefully nurtured over the years, and worked with as little modern intervention as possible. It is now a fantastic place for wildlife to live and thrive. You can walk around the entire reserve, and dogs are welcome. Do be aware that there are grazing cattle though. Might be safer to keep your dog on a lead! The nature reserve has an abundance of wildlife here, so keep a look out for Kingfishers and Otters.
To get to the reserve, the nicest route is the coastal walk. If you park at the Tollesbury Marina, you can take the coastal path through to the nature reserve. This route takes you from the River Blackwater, along Tollesbury Creek and into the nature reserve. The views are beautiful on this walk, and it always feels fairly sheltered. If you are hungry, stop at the Harbour View Restaurant at the marina for a meal. The views are uninterrupted and far reaching.
So there we have it! My four best walks in Essex, that are near the water. River walks in Essex are plentiful, but these are ones I know well and love. Please feel free to recommend any others if you know any. These walks are all family friendly, and are great if you are looking for dog walks in Essex. All are dog friendly.
Have you discovered or re-discovered, places in your local area in lockdown? Have you found a new appreciation for where you live? I think when we are keen travellers, we can tend to forget what we have on our doorstep don’t you? Let me know what you have discovered in your area.