Explore the changes west of Colchester
- Credit: Archant
Lotte Sherman takes in the ever-changing landscape around Britain’s oldest recorded town
This short journey provides a glimpse of the rapid urban development encroaching into the green belts around our towns. Every time I did a recce in the south-west corner of Colchester, the area either side of the Roman River flowing between Stanway and Copford, the footpaths have changed. In the main the diversions are due to the workings in the large quarry and sandpits; current signs direct walkers along the rim of the pits allowing a wide view over the urban sprawl until you re-join another footpath at Tye Green.
Later on in this week’s ramble your path comes to an abrupt stop when reaching the Roman River – the bridge is closed off for emergency repairs since 2013. During the warm season you may want to wade across, alternatively you need to double back to Hall Rd. and have to return to your start along the B1408, rather than the quieter route past a small copse and by the side of hedges and fields.
To start, exit the business compound, turn left along the B1408 and cross over by the safe island to get to Church Lane a couple of hundred metres ahead. Turn into the lane and walk to the end, ignoring the path going off on the right. When reaching Oldhouse Farm compound, the lane is blocked off, but a large sign directs walkers onto the diverted footpath, where you seem to be doubling back on yourself. Pause a moment and take in the 180 degree view over the current developments.
Proceed along the narrow path, keeping to the right, until it appears to end. A gap in the hedge and the remains of a wire fence allow you to pass through to join the path coming from the right. Maintain your direction, skirting around a small wood to the next path junction. Walk left towards Bellhouse Farm passing the Electricity Generating Site. At the farm yard bear right and follow the way markers guiding you to St Michaels and All the Angels Church (1), the Cricket Pitch and Copford Hall (2). Ignore the footpath signs, but choose to walk on Aldercar Road to Copford Green, where you turn right and shortly arrive by ‘The Alma’. On the opposite side is lovely small pond and a repaired open-sided thatched barn, where farm implements were stored. (3).
Just past The Alma locate the wooden gate and fingerpost indicating the footpath leading north. At the time of writing the field-path ahead was not re-instated (4), but the yellow marker at the far side is visible to guide you to another path junction. Once there, cross the footbridge on the right and the next field, which terminates at the border of Gravelpit Wood. Wind your way through this wood, which is managed by volunteers, to exit at the top right-hand corner onto Hall Road and entrance to a sewage works. Stay on this quiet road, having to ignore the paths to left and right; the latter is the one leading over the river without a bridge, as described above. Shortly you get to the main road, turn right, passing two pubs, the border sign between Copford and Stanway and to the start of your journey. The garden centre offers a variety of tasty refreshments.