What You Can Get Away With » Weekly Walk #2: West Bergholt, Great Horkesley and High Woods

For this weeks walk, I decided to find a route that linked two open spaces that are quite close to me in a non-obvious way. You could walk between these two spots in about ten minutes or so, but I thought it would be more interesting to find a big loop.

Officially, this isn’t a circular walk, as it starts and finishes in two different places, but it wouldn’t be too hard to make it into a circuit to and from North Station. As it is, however, it starts from Cymbeline Meadows, just off the Avenue of Remembrance, loops round through West Bergholt and Great Horkesley, then finishes off with a stroll through High Woods.

As ever, the basics. This walk should take you about 3-4 hours. It’s not too taxing, though there are a few up and down inclines (but nothing serious) and parts of it are on grass, so watch out because it can get quite muddy if there’s been a lot of rain about. Conversely, take care at dry times as fields can get rock hard and be a bit tricky to walk over. There are a couple of bits where you’ll be near or crossing busy roads, so watch out and take care.

The starting point for this walk is the entrance to Cymbeline Meadows, on the junction of the Avenue of Remembrance and Sheepen Road, and the end is at the bottom end of High Woods Country Park.

From the junction, head north on the path away from the road and into the Cymbeline Meadows area. You’ll need to stay on the main path all the way through this area, though if you have the time and inclination there are some nice walks off to the side, though we will be returning here for some more walking later in this series. When you cross the bridge, you need to carry on straight, taking the path in the middle, then follow the path around by the modern farmhouse, until you get to a junction of a few paths where you’ll see a sign pointing towards Bakers Lane. If you turn around at this point, you’ll see this view of Colchester behind you.

One nice part of this walk is that if you do it at the right time of year, you’ll find lots of blackberries hanging off the bushes. While it’s not quite long enough a walk to need you to take real sustenance with you, it’s nice to know you can stop and pick up a quick snack at a few points if you get peckish.

Anyway, once you’re stuffed with fruit, follow the sign for Bakers Lane around the big house, then take the little slatted bridge over the stream bed (often dry). At this point the path becomes a little narrow, hemmed in by bushes on one side and a golf course on the other, but follow it around and you’ll eventually reach Bakers Lane. There, you need to cross the bridge and follow the path on the other side (on the left as you approach it) but watch out for cars speeding down the road, as they might not be watching out for your sudden appearance.

Once you’re over Baker’s Lane, the path’s quite obvious as it heads up to, then under the A12. One of the problems of creating walks in this area is dealing with the A12 – not just because of having to find a place where a route can safely cross it, but also because of the noise, the low drone of traffic always seeming to hang over you.

Once you’re past the underpass, the path begins rising again and you come out onto what seems to be a pleasant meadow, though your idyllic dreams may be shattered when you discover it’s just part of a golf course. But, the paths across here are public rights of way, so they can’t stop you walking across, but do try and be polite and don’t say ‘a good walk spoiled’ too loudly. You can normally pick out the pathway against the perfectly manicured golf terrain, but if not you’re headed towards the red bell you should see opposite you. Once you reach that, head down the hill to the right of the bell and the marker post – again, the path should be obvious.

At the bottom of the hill, the path heads into a small patch of woods, and you might have to duck to get through the little archway of bushes and trees – you will if you’re as tall as me, anyway. Go through (or round, as it’s not enclosed) a gate at the end of that little path, then cross the stream, take a quick left and head up the grass path towards the cottages. This turns into a driveway and then a road, and you’re now in West Bergholt. You might get greeted by a couple of dogs barking at you, or even running out into the road to see you, but they’re harmless (though big) so carry calmly on up the hill and wondering how much it might cost to live in one of these nice cottages.

Turn right into Chapel Lane when you reach it, and you’re into the main part of West Bergholt. Lots of routes converge here, so it’s somewhere we’re likely to visit a few times over the course of these walks. Carry on down Chapel Lane until it ends, then turn right onto Chapel Road and follow that along. If you need to get food, drinks, cash or anything else there’s a Co-Op on Chapel Road and even if you don’t, note the location as this is the point where you join the Essex Way (see the picture at the start of this post for the Essex Way logo). At the end of Chapel Road, turn right onto Colchester Road, then cross over as soon as you can and take a left onto Armoury Road, which you follow right the way down until you reach Armoury Farm.

There are a good number of signs to lead you around the farm, though you might want to stop and say hello to some of the horses they have there. From the farm, which is the last bit of West Bergholt, the path leads out into some fields. Follow it along by the trees until you get to a marker post which indicates a path across the field, heading towards Horkesley. The path should be pretty obvious as it goes up and down, then crosses a stream, heading towards another farmhouse and a small orchard. At this point, the map indicates that there’s a path through the new trees, but it’s not obvious and it’s just as easy to walk around the edge. You then come to another marker post, where you can turn right and follow the road into Horkesley.

You can follow this road all the way down to the main road, or keep an eye out for a little path (there’s a dog bin there to help it stand out) on the right. You can take that, then follow the road it leads out onto to a small wood. Head through the woods until they reach a gravel drive, then turn right onto that and head for the main road. Cross that (if you stayed on the original road you’ll have come out a bit further up, so you’ll need to walk down it a little) and then follow the footpath sign up what the maps call Terrace Hall Chase, but a sign on it says it’s called America Hill.

No, I don’t know why it’s called America Hill, but that’s what the sign says. Keep to the right when it forks, say hello the the horses in the field and then keep on past the house to the metal stile into a field. The path might not be quite clear across this field – and do watch out if it’s wet, as it can get quite muddy – but if you can’t pick it out, head towards the mobile phone tower. The path then runs parallel to the A12 for a bit, before turning away from it to meet up with Boxted Road. Turn right here, and cross over the A12, where you’ll see the Community Stadium to your right.

We’re now headed for High Woods, and I’m sure there has to be a nicer way to it, but for now this will have to do. Turn left on United Way, and head down past the stadium and over the roundabout until you see a footpath signed leading off to your right. Follow this path down, across a field and then past a row of old oak trees. Carry on straight over when you come to a junction of paths, then left when you can’t go any further, and follow the path round the back of the houses until you reach Mill Road.

At Mill Road, turn right and try and cross over as quickly as you can, then enter High Woods at Brinkley Grove field, which you’ll see quite clearly signed in front of you.

From the entrance, you’ll see signs like this one for the northern circular walk around High Woods. They’re very easy to follow, and take you on a nice walk through the woods without too much worry about getting lost. We’ll be returning to High Woods for a proper wander later on, but feel free to walk wherever you want in the park (or just take a look at some of the pictures on Flickr), just beware that there are a lot of paths there, and it’s quite easy to get a bit disoriented.

After about a mile, the path leads into a large clearing where several paths cross – you’ll be able to tell from the marker posts with lots of arrows on them around you. Leave the path you were following at this point and carry straight on instead, going slightly downhill.

Just before the path reaches some open fields, turn right. This path, which is still within the trees for the start, will lead you on out of the path, and you’ll soon see large trail markers like this one to confirm you’re on the right route – or to direct you to the visitor centre, should you wish to stop in there – though their timings seem to be for very slow walkers.

Soon, you’ll be out of the woods and walking by some fields with a nice view of the town ahead of you, and you’re at the end of the walk. Once you’re out of High Woods, you’ll be on a cycle path with signs directing you either towards the train station or the town centre.

Congratulations, another weekly walk done, and I’ll be back next Sunday with another.

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