Walking and wildlife-watching in Essex
Reach beautiful Essex country and coastal destinations by train this Spring.
Words by Suzanne Rose
Visit Essex have highlighted some of their favourite countryside and coastal destinations for walking, wildlife watching and wandering! Whether it be looking for somewhere different to explore on a sunny day, or a rural overnight retreat of peace and tranquillity, put a spring in your step and get back to nature with these suggestions, all accessible by train.
Leave the train at Harwich Town and enjoy a walk through Historic Harwich, past the lighthouse and Captain Christopher Jones’s house (which has recently opened to coincide with the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower crossing) before reaching Ha’penny Pier. From here embark on a 90-120 minute seal watching trip. Over 250 seals rest on the mudbanks of the Hamford Water Nature Reserve so a sighting is guaranteed! On your way back, be sure to visit the Redoubt Fort, now a military museum.
For overnight stays, book The Pier at Harwich. Overlooking the water this 4-star hotel boasts 2 lovely restaurants and fine views.
For more information about visiting Harwich, guided tours, Mayflower trails and more, view the visit essex website
Mistley & Manningtree
Depart the train at Mistley and pass through the high street to visit Mistley Towers. These two porticoed classical towers, which once stood at each end of a highly unconventional Georgian church designed by Robert Adam in 1776, are now looked after by English Heritage and free to enter. This village was once the haunt of Matthew Hopkins - 'The Witchfinder General'. From 1645-46, he was employed to hunt out the area's witches…
Continue walking along The Walls at the water’s edge and admire the beautiful scenery and swans before entering Manningtree. England’s smallest town is full of quirky eateries and shops. If you visit at sunset, be sure to bring your camera for some great shots! Embark the train at Manningtree station. Please note this route can be made in reverse.
For food we recommend the Italian flavours of Lucca Enoteca in Manningtree or award-winning dining and accommodation at The Mistley Thorn.
Wivenhoe & Alresford
Get off at Wivenhoe station and walk towards Alresford Creek along the river path (approx. 30 mins walk). You are bound to see lots of activity on the river from barges and sailing to rowing boats, not to mention the birds. Choose to picnic on one of the banks and soak up the beautiful scenery or loop back and head to one of the quaint cafes or riverside pubs in Wivenhoe. Kids will love crabbing here. Train travel is the best way to enjoy Wivenhoe as parking is limited. You could extend your visit and take the ferry from Wivenhoe over to Rowhedge opposite.
Alternatively walk from Wivenhoe through the woodlands, towards Colchester. Look out for the Muntjac deer! You can picnic here or continue along the river until you reach the restaurants at Colchester Hythe. Depart from Colchester Hythe train station.
Get off the train at Burnham-On-Crouch railway station and head towards the river. The peaceful quayside is lined with historic buildings, boat building yards and sailing clubs. Birdwatchers, nature lovers, walkers and cyclists will love Wallasea Island opposite, accessible by a 10-minute ferry crossing, where the RSPB is developing the Wallasea Wetland Project, the largest nature reserve of its type in Europe.
On your way back, rest your feet at the Rio cinema, a tiny pictures from a bygone era and don’t miss sampling some local Maldon oysters at the fish bar or The Oyster Smack Inn.
For short breaks, we recommend The Thatched Cottages, only a 10-minute walk from the station. These sleep 2-4 people. For larger groups, choose The Clockwork Hotel, a unique experience combining puzzles and accommodation in one. The whole hotel will be yours for the night, along with your very own bartender, spa and more! All you must do to unlock your exclusive stay is find the keys first!
We have so much to see and do in Essex, check out www.visitessex.com for more inspiration. Explore, experience, enjoy!