An easy stroll in the countryside near Wickham Bishops, departing close to the redundant St Peter's church, passing beneath the last wooden railway viaduct in the country and then along the meandering banks of the River Blackwater. The return passes through woodland and has some excellent views across the Essex countryside. This is an all-seasons walk but is particularly good in spring and autumn.
Calculated time is computed with the distance, the height difference, and an average speed of 2.2 mph. For an intermediate walker, this time includes small breaks.
There is roadside parking for two cars next to the departure point so please park considerately and do not block the gate.
(D/A) Walk down the track from the road. Cross the old railway bridge, ignoring the bridleway on the left, continuing ahead towards St. Peter's church. Follow the track as it turns right and where the gravel track swings left keep straight ahead on a wide grassy path with a power line running alongside. After 400 yards, go through the gap on the left hand side of a gate. Keeping left go down to a field gate and marked footpath. The path goes between a fence on the left and hedge on the right, parallel to the road. On reaching the river and bridge, the path turns right up to some steps to the road. Carefully cross the road, cross the bridge and immediately turn right at a public footpath sign going through a gate to Mill Cottage. Follow the tarmac track and on reaching the cottage's gate take a marked footpath on the left between two hedges.
(1) The path now continues alongside the river, going underneath the trestle bridge. After passing a couple of derelict gates you enter Benton Hall golf course where the footpath keeps close to the river, following red and black marker posts, riverbank willows and the occasional waymark. When you reach a gravel track and a bridge on the left, continue straight ahead. After a few yards, the main path veers off to the right but keep straight ahead on a narrower gravel track which stays close to the river. At the 11th tee, at a junction of waymarked paths and another metal bridge, keep straight ahead to cross over a small footbridge of wooden planks over a ditch.
(2) Turn right at a marker post to walk past the 6th tee, on a gravel track, climbing gently uphill with a low fence on the left and trees on the right. At the top of the hill, where the track turns left, continue straight ahead through a gap in the hedge to follow a footpath with tall hedges on both sides. After 250 yards, leave this enclosed path through the swing gate, immediately turning left, following the waymarking, After crossing the footbridge the fenced path climbs gently and shortly after it turns right you will reach a field gate. Go through the adjacent swing gate and follow the marked path which eventually joins Mope Lane. Turn right to walk along this quiet lane, passing some properties.
(3) A few yards after passing the imposing gates of 'The Springs' on the left, turn right at a fingerpost to walk down Sparkey Lane. At the end of the lane, keep straight ahead at a marker post to enter Sparkey Wood. This is private woodland so please keep to the obvious track, following it gently downhill, ignoring a track off to the right at a marker post. The path leaves the wood over a footbridge and swing gate where a grassy path goes ahead between a deep ditch and hedge on the right and fenced paddocks on the left.
(4) The path reaches a metal swing gate at the paddocks' entrance. Go through this gate, cross the track, go through a wooden swing gate opposite and up a short incline between hedges. Follow the path gently uphill between a hedge and fenced paddocks. The path emerges onto Station Road via a flight of steps with handrails. Turn left to walk gently uphill. Where the road swings sharp left and Wickham Hall Lane joins from the right, continue on Station Road. Ignore Mope Lane straight ahead and turn right into Church Road, soon passing St. Bartholomew's Church. Continue along Church Lane; shortly after passing Church Cottages turn right into Church Green.
(5) Opposite 21 Church Green's driveway, take footpath 12 on the left, passing between fences and hedges. The path goes left of the gate to Wynmor Farm and becomes narrower. It S bends left and right before emerging at a narrow lane, Grange Road. Turn right along with the road passing houses and bungalows. Soon after 2 Grange Road, take the first of two footpaths on the left, through a galvanised metal gate, which takes you into a field with a hedge on the right. Follow this path for some distance. Where it meets a large field and the hedge leaves to the right the path goes straight ahead (it is usually reinstated) to a marker post and gap in the opposite hedge. The path dog-legs a little and then follows the perimeter of the wood on your right. It eventually goes through a dilapidated gate into a large field where you turn right, then bears left soon after at a marker post to head gently downhill on a wide grassy track towards two large barns and a road.
(6) Just before reaching Langford Road, opposite Reigate Barn, turn left to follow the field boundary to a fingerpost and telegraph pole that can be seen about hundred yards ahead. At the post cross the road to a bridleway next to Reigate Bungalow. Follow the bridle path gently downhill along the field boundary. Go straight ahead at the bottom of the field where a grassy track joins from the right, up a slight incline and immediately turn right along the raised bank which is part of the Blackwater Rail Trail.
(7) After 500 yards, go under a high bridge and cross over a track to Wickham Hall. (The section of the path just after the bridge and track can become very muddy and often forms a small pond in very wet weather. If this is the case, retrace your steps to the track, turn right and right again to follow an alternative path along the field edge with a low wire fence. This rejoins the main path a little further along.) After half a mile, the path swings to the left rising slightly to emerge onto a field. At the fingerpost, with St. Peter's Church on your left, climb up the low bank to the track, turn right and walk back to the departure point. (D/A)
D/A : mi 0 - alt. mi 0 - Parking
1 : mi 0.6 - alt. mi 0.6 - Trestle Bridge
2 : mi 1.61 - alt. mi 1.61 - Paths Junction
3 : mi 2.22 - alt. mi 2.22 - Sparkey Lane
4 : mi 2.82 - alt. mi 2.82 - Paddock Entrance
5 : mi 3.58 - alt. mi 3.58 - Footpath 12
6 : mi 4.78 - alt. mi 4.78 - Reigate Barn
7 : mi 5.4 - alt. mi 5.4 - Track and Bridge to Wickham Hall
D/A : mi 6.04 - alt. mi 6.04 - Parking
The parking facilities available on this walk are not suitable for large walking groups or those arriving
in more than one car. Parking cannot be guaranteed (although I have very rarely had a problem).
Visorando and this author cannot be held responsible in the case of accidents or problems occuring on this walk.
St Peter's church originated in the 11th century and it is considered that the church was built as a private chapel for the Bishops of London. It became redundant. in 1970 and was taken into the care of the charity the Friends of Friendless Churches in 1975. Since 1994 the church has been used as a studio by the stained glass artist Benjamin Finn.
There are two easily identified information boards along the route, one just before Mill Cottage and the other just after the trestle bridge.
The only remaining wooden viaduct in the country, the trestle bridge, a 'Scheduled Monument', was designed by Joseph Locke in 1845 to carry the Witham to Maldon single-track branch line across the River Blackwater. It consists of 21 spans of timber trestles, built in two sections, 45 and 60 yards long respectively, with an intermediate embankment.
Sparkey Wood has a fine display of bluebells in the spring.
An enjoyable stroll near the ancient rural village of Woodham Walter with a nature reserve, arable fields, woodland and The Wilderness. The route is along bridleways and footpaths for the most part, with a couple of short sections on quiet country lanes. There are only two cross-field sections so it's a good winter walk although, like any hike in Essex, sections can be muddy after rain.
3 village circular walk through Howegreen, Great Baddow, and Sandon
Along pavements, footpaths and bridleways and across fields.
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A walk across salt marshes with numerous birds and returning inland via the ruined Hadleigh Castle. Highly accessible from London as the Fenchurch Street line takes under an hour to get you to the start.
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The GPS track and description are the property of the author.