This walk is about 12 miles and combines three of the popular walks created by the River Colne Countryside Project. It’s a wonderful circular walk and you’ll deserve a pint by the time you return to Chappel!
The start of the walk differs depending on which mode of transport you use.
If you use public transport to get to Chappel
At the Bus stop head towards the viaduct, turn right at footpath sign just before viaduct, soon crossing a bridge then turn left at footpath sign under viaduct arch. Now continue with the main description of the walk.
If you drive to Chappel
On leaving your car do not return to the road, continue across the green to the play area near the viaduct, passing under the viaduct arch, arriving at the entrance to the Chappel Millennium Green.
Turning right immediately, walking with viaduct on your right, cross stile (w/m) as it enters a wooded area and continue ahead, soon bear left over bridge(wm) to enter field. From here you need to make for the house with dormer windows on the opposite side of the field, follow the footpath as it cuts diagonally across the field on a well defined path to footpath sign. Emerging on a small road turn left and keep, straight ahead to the footpath sign at the corner of the white bungalow, turn right and follow path with the bungalow and soon a pond on your right. At end of field cross ditch and turn left for 20 yards, then turn right on well defined path across the field towards field corner, then continue along edge of field on a grassy path, at corner of field go over stile(w/m) and continue
in a forward direction with hedge on left making for an old pillbox. Cross stile beside pillbox and bear left onto the bank of the River Colne, (this is where you link up with the Essex Way).
Do not cross the river but continue along river bank soon to cross stile and bridge, continue on track along river bank until you see a large white house, bear right here with path as it turns away from river and then left, the path continues ahead always running parallel with river and never more than a few yards away from it.
At the corner of the field maintain your direction straight ahead with plantation on your right, hedge on your left. soon reaching a pillbox. Bear left with pillbox on right and river on left, continuing beside garden centre and continue along river path, at wooden fence follow path round to right, then left over bridge,follow path out to A1124. Turn left over river bridge, and follow the A1124 for a short distance turning right along the road signposted for Fordham where the A1124 turns sharp left.
After a few yards at national speed limit sign take the footpath signposted on your left, following the perimeter of a paddock with a hedge on your right. On reaching the end of the path turn left crossing the stile onto a track. As the track enters a meadow continue ahead, heading uphill passing some stables on your right. On reaching the field edge do not got through gate but bear left following the field edge with hedge on your right until you reach a stile in the corner of the field, follow the waymark over the two stiles and keep straight ahead slightly uphill to the stile at the top of the field.
Climb over the stile (w/m) and follow the path as it bears left and heads downhill to a footbridge ahead. Cross the footbridge (w/m) and turn left with the stream soon bearing right as you follow the perimeter of the field slightly uphill to the top edge of the field. At the waymark, join the road turning right and then soon turning left at the waymark, continue ahead passing the industrial buildings on your right, through a row of trees (w/m) to a field beyond. Keep ahead following the left hand edge of this field soon emerging on to a country road. Cross the road to the stile opposite (w/m) head across the field, ignoring the stile on your left and heading for the stile at the furthest point of the field. On crossing the stile, bear right along the edge of the field keeping straight ahead passing the row of conifers on your right and continuing straight on to the trees ahead, passing as small copse on your left follow the path as it winds through the trees down to a footbridge. This is the point
where you meet up with The Fairmaid Walk turn right (w/m) and follow the path along the edge of the orchard with a ditch on your right.
Turn right at a waymarker over a concrete bridge cross the stile and keep ahead uphill to a waymark ahead, follow the broad track keeping the wooden fencing on your left as it heads first uphill and then bearing left downhill through a gap between two fenced areas all the time keeping the wooden fence on your left and heading downhill to a gate (w/m).
Keep ahead with sparse hedge on your left staying in the lower field soon coming to a gate at the far end of the field (w/m), go through the gate maintaining your direction across the field to a bridge (w/m). Turn left and cross a footbridge (w/m) and turn right along the edge of the field. Upon reaching a country road cross over to the footpath opposite and follow the right hand edge of the field.
At the edge of the field (w/m) turn right over the bridge and continue along the left hand corner of the field. On reaching the top corner of the field (w/m) keep ahead into the woodland, at the waymark turn left along this delightful woodland path which, in the spring months is lined with Spring Violets and Primroses. At the fork in the paths (w/m) turn left heading towards the railway and CROSS WITH CARE. Cross the footbridge beyond the railway and head straight across the field beyond. On reaching the country road cross over to the footpath opposite and follow this pleasant path along the right hand edge of the field soon crossing into the next field (w/m) and continuing along the path to emerge on a country road.
You now have a choice, if you follow the rest of the Fairmaid walk you will have a 5 to 10 minute walk along the A1124 which is fairly busy and has no footpath. My personal preference (which is traffic free) is to turn left and continue down this road towards the A1124. On reaching the A1124 turn right along the footpath for about 50 yards and then turn left onto the footpath opposite and follow the track downhill into the valley. (now proceed to the section marked below in bold Turn left and follow this pleasant road surrounded by open farmland for a short distance until you arrive at a footpath on your right. Take the footpath heading out across the field, upon reaching the waymark follow the edge of the woodland keeping slightly downhill keeping the wood on your right and the field on your left.
On reaching the bottom of the hill, follow the perimeter of the field to the stile (W/m) cross the stile, and head across the field to the stile opposite. Climb over the stile and follow the track soon emerging on the A1124.
Turn left, following the A1124 for a short distance to Wakes Hall at the top of the hill. Cross over the A1124 to the footpath opposite and follow the track downhill into the valley.
On reaching the farmhouse continue straight ahead through the gate and crossing a bridge, at a waymark enter the field and keep ahead soon coming to a footbridge. Cross over the bridge and head diagonally bearing right, this is where you join the Margery Allingham Walk, head across the field towards the gap in between the trees and the hedgerow opposite.
On reaching the gap between the trees and the hedgerow, turn right keeping the trees on your right and head for the right-hand gate ahead, with Swanscombe farm beyond. On passing through the gate (w/m) maintain your direction across the field heading a stile at the point where the fence ends and the hedgerow begins.
Cross the stile (w/m) to emerge on the drive approaching Swanscombe farm, turn right and on reaching the farmhouse turn left and take the treelined path alongside the farmhouse grounds.
Go through the gate at the end of the path and keep ahead with the fence on your left, soon passing through another gate and joining a pleasant riverside path. Follow this beautiful path for a short distance, soon reaching Chalkney Mill.
On approaching the Mill turn left between the farm buildings (w/m) passing the kennels on your right and heading uphill into Chalkney Wood. Keep on this forest track up into the woods until you reach a fork, bear left and join a pleasant forest ride ahead and ignore the turn off to your left. Keep ahead soon coming to a right hand turn, ignore it and maintain your direction soon heading downhill passing a farm on your left, if you look carefully you can usually see the peacocks in the grounds of this farm.
On emerging on a country road at the end of the foot-path, turn right and then immediately left following a tree lined path downhill to a footbridge. Cross the footbridge (w/m) and maintaining your direction head uphill to the stile at the top of the field, cross the stile and keep ahead passing the lake on your right and at the waymark bearing right across the fruit plantation towards the wood ahead. On entering the wood (w/m) turn right immediately following an uphill path just inside the perimeter of the wood, when you reach the end of the path turn left (w/m) and then immediately right following the track alongside the gardens of priory house On passing the house maintain your direction as you join a country road, follow this road until you reach a fork and turn left and then turn right at the footpath sign and climb the steps up to the field.
On entering the field go straight ahead, crossing the field and heading for two thatched cottages which can be seen on top of the hill beyond, when you reach the footbridge at the perimeter of the field (w/m) cross over and head along the left hand edge of the field.
Cross the stile in the corner of the field to emerge on a road, turn right and then immediately turn left along Bacons Lane. Follow Bacons lane for half a mile ignoring all turn-offs until you arrive at Bacons farm, on entering the farm follow the waymarks through the farmyard, keep the farmhouse on your left and the buildings on your right,follow the yard round, turning right and at the waymark, turn left out of the farmyard and into the field.
This a wonderful viewpoint of the Colne Valley, off to your left you will see the viaduct and looking ahead you can see the valley stretching out towards Ford Street and Fordham, head downhill along the left hand edge of the field to the pill box at the bottom of the hill, then turn left cross the stile to retrace your steps back to Chappel.