Two Days On The Essex Way

As Luke’s aunt and uncle live in Dedham we decided to incorporate a visit with a leg of the Essex Way, a long distance walking trail that stretches from the English Channel to the eastern edge of London.

Dedham sits close to the middle of the Way. We decided to walk from Great Horkesley to Dedham on the first day, stay the night then walk from Dedham to Manningtree the next as it would be easy to catch the train back to Cambridge. Also the part around Dedham is considered one of the prettiest on the Way as it’s an official Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

We left Cambridge mid morning and caught the bus from Bar Hill into town then a train from Cambridge to Ipswich then another train from Ipswich to Colchester. The train to Colchester was supposed to go on to London but due to a fatality on the track it was delayed in Colchester indefinitely.

From Colchester we caught a bus to Great Horkesley where we shared a steak and ale pie at the amusingly-named Half Butt Inn.

I had about a quarter and Luke had the rest, primarily because I’d weighed myself at Andrew’s and been mightily displeased with the results.

Anyhow, a little bit of pie was just as delicious as a lot and it’s good not to set out with a bursting stomach.

We set off up the road looking for the Way markers and were soon on the right track.

The Essex Way turned out to be much, much better marked than the Cumbria Way. Almost every time there was a turn it was clearly signposted. We only missed one marker and took two wrong turns, each of which only cost us a few extra minutes. I wouldn’t recommend doing it without a map but we coped quite well with a combination of a printout from from the website and google maps. On the Cumbria Way I would recommend the full OS maps but they weren’t necessary here.

A lot of the Essex Way seemed to be through fields.

A lot of them weren’t particularly scenic.

Maybe it wasn’t the best time of year to do it? We saw a lot of onions and beets, anyhow.

Essex is also very, very flat. We only walked up and down perhaps three small slopes in the two days of walking. This would make it an excellent walk for people with little experience doing long walks, plus you’re always within sight or sound of a road so it would feel a lot less daunting than being out on the moors or up a mountain. The trade off, off course, is that it’s nowhere near as beautiful. If the Lake District was a ten then most of what we saw on this trail (which admittedly wasn’t much) rates about a two. There are some pretty vistas across gently undulating fields with church spires in the distance but half the trail is between hedges and you can’t actually see anything.

Also not great if you’re a bit nervous of cars. Good for snacking on blackberries though, of which there was an abundance!

The little villages are very picturesque and if you like that he’s cottages you’ll be in heaven.

I particularly like all the churches and their fancy lych gates. Lych gates originated in the medieval period as a place for mourners to bring the corpse (litch) to be accepted by the priest. The lych gate was a covered place for them to wait.

This part of England is known for horse breeding and racing so we saw a few horses along the way too.

As we neared Dedham our feet were aching so we stopped for a drink at Milsom’s, the fancy restaurant that we’d visited on our previous visit to Mark and Sue. They didn’t bat an eyelid at our sweaty clothes and red faces, which was awfully good of them.

After a half pint and a rest we felt slightly refreshed and didn’t find the last kilometre too taxing. We walked nearly 19 kilometres on our first day, a good effort after a number of weeks of slacking off. We also managed to get in just before the clouds opened. Lucky!

The following day we had a delicious cafe breakfast that was as good as anything you’d get in Melbourne and had another look at the renovations of Mark and Sue’s place. It’s really come along since we were last there! It’s all going to look amazing when it’s done and there’s lots of neat little aspects, like windows that close automatically when it starts raining.

I took a few photos of Luke with his cousins Alice and Isabel. Luke is the oldest of his generation of cousins as his mother is the eldest of nine Dempsey children. Luke’s uncle Mark is the youngest of the nine (and only four years older than me!) so his children are the youngest of that generation of cousins. Does that make sense?

It was lovely to see them all again!

Our second day of walking was from Dedham to Manningtree. It wasn’t anywhere near as far as the first day but that was probably just as well as we were a bit stiff. The views on day two were a bit better and we only went off track once right at the end. It did mean climbing a fence and crouching through some trees but we emerged on the footpath only a couple of hundred metres from Manningtree station.

We stopped off at the surprisingly nice Station Hotel in Ipswich for lunch (surprising because hotels that are next to train stations are often rubbish) and then continued on the Cambridge.

All in all, a good walk for our level of fitness and experience but not terribly scenic. Perhaps it would be better in Spring? It did seem like a walk that wouldn’t get too muddy (unlike the CW) and is much more accessible. That being said we only saw one other walker in the whole two days and he was also doing the Essex Way. We stopped for a moment to chat and he expressed surprise as well that we were the first people he’d seen and he’d been walking all day. I’m glad we saw at least one other walker so Luke could have a small taste of what I’d experience on an hourly basis in Cumbria. Often chatting to other walkers took up several hours of my day! How strange that, this close to London, we only saw one person.

A few more photos to finish with – and could someone tell me what plant this is?


Here Comes The Planet 68 – England 01 (2018)

The first video in our 2018 trip! After spending two months in the UK by herself, I join Amanda in England for a few days prior to the two of us heading off to start our travels over in Europe. This video recounts just a few of the things we’ve done over the past few days.

Over the next few months we will be going to Croatia, Italy, Switzerland and France, as well as spending more time in the UK. We’ll also be stopping over in Thailand as we head towards home. More videos of our adventures to come!

Special shout out to the Team Toto crew! 😉

Click here to read Amanda’s entry about this part of our trip!

Here Comes The Planet 31 – England 05

Luke spends some time with his relatives in Dedham, visiting Flatford Mill and “Constable country”, where the painter John Constable created most of his famous works. He also attends the “Strawberry Fair” festival in Cambridge with Andrew.

Also, is there any food that comes on a stick which ISN’T awesome? We have yet to find any.

Dedham and Flatford (Luke)

Since we were in the area after having spent Sunday afternoon with Andrew’s parents, I called in at my uncle and aunt’s place, who live in Dedham with their two girls. I must say, it is an absolutely beautiful part of the country and a great place to raise a family. I stayed with them for a couple of days while everybody else headed back to Cambridge.

The evening I arrived we had a BBQ dinner (though I couldn’t eat very much after the amazing lunch we had been served at Andrew’s parents place), toasted marshmallows on the remains of the coals, then Mark and I headed down to the local pub for a pint and a catch up. We walked back to his house via the Essex Way, which is a public footpath / trail through both public and private property. One minute you’ll be walking through a farming area, the next around the side of a privately owned home. Although chilly walking through the fields, it was really lovely, and I must have seen a hundred rabbits bounding around. It was at this point I knew I had to bring Amanda back here so we could do this walk, but even better was still to come the next day.

Flatford Field

View from Flatford looking back towards Dedham. You can see Dedham church in the distance.

There are several famous paintings by John Constable which are of the Dedham and Flatford area. My grandmother owns a print of one of these called The Haywain, and when I learned that Mark now lives in the area where it was painted, I decided I’d like to go and see the spot which inspired the art – to walk around in a painting, basically.

The Haywain

Around to the left is where Constable would have stood to paint The Haywain.

The area in which Constable painted, called the Dedham Vale, is now officially recognised as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and as such is protected from ‘unsympathetic development’ to preserve the natural landscape.

River Stour looking towards Dedham

Looking back towards Dedham over the River Stour.

We were fortunate enough to have brilliant weather – the best I’ve experienced in England so far. We walked through wide green fields along the River Stour, trying not to scare the cows while we watched people navigating their hired boats down the river. We crossed the river and headed for Flatford, but not before stopping for a quick game of Pooh Sticks (came in second-last). Being as it was a bank holiday and fantastic weather, the area was full of families and couples out enjoying the sunshine and scenery.

Flatford Mill

The bridge to Flatford Mill, behind which lies the Haywain.

After visiting Flatford Mill, the area where Constable painted several of his most famous works, we walked back along the Suffolk side of the river. This path led past some very fluffy sheep and up on to a hill overlooking the valley. The hill was full of yellow flowers and dandelions. I’ve got some nice footage of the day which I will put up eventually.


Exceedingly green fields full of flowers and dandelions – one of England’s best features!

I just hope when we go back to do some more walks we get the same weather! 🙂