Lakes, locks and lots to see

THE recreational appeal of Needham Lake, a riverside stretch through part of the Gipping Valley and a visit to the hamlet of Darmsden and beyond, are all popular features included on this highly entertaining walk, as Cyril Francis discovered.

A word of caution before you start: pay particular care when crossing busy roads and also the main railway line.

Start the walk with the lake on the left and cross the arched-bridge in front. Afterwards bear right past a children’s play area, then the restored lock at Bosmere Mill and make for the B1078 ahead. Cross the road with care, turn right and in a few paces go left through a kissing gate to pass the Alderson Lake memorial.

Continue beside the river, with fishing lakes opposite. Stay by the riverside for the next half mile or so. Along the way you’ll find the river itself is very shallow in places: a far different scene from that during April this year, when excessive rainfall led to water overflowing across low-lying countryside.

A couple of properties with attractive gardens, set back from the waterside, along with a river lock at Pipps Ford, currently being restored by members of the Inland Waterways Association, are worth a pause and closer look. The lock is a reminder of the time when the Gipping was canalised in the late 18th Century, a development that led to it becoming a mini industrial waterway.

After drawing level with Pipps Ford lock, leave the path and turn right into a field where mineral aggregates are being excavated. Walk beside a temporary fence running across the field, cross a stile either side of the railway line and continue ahead to meet the B1113.

Turn right, continue along the footway and cross over the road almost opposite a small tin hut. From here, take the ascending cross-field path to enter a plantation of conifer trees. Pass through the trees and turn left at the access road ahead. Follow the surfaced road through the hamlet of Darmsden, where it later bends right at the top of an incline, heading towards the church.

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(If you wish to take a short-cut back, pass the church; go down the valley path and up the other side. Turn right at the top and follow the winding path eventually back to the start point as per the instructions below.)

Pass the small church of St Andrew on the right and continue along a surfaced lane, passing the odd isolated cottage along the way. Just past the base of an electricity pylon turn right to join a partially-surfaced lane and head towards Priestly Cottage. Turn right when meeting a footpath T-junction before reaching the cottage.

Continue along the edge of the cottage garden boundary and shortly pass through a tall gate. Keep forward on a narrow path that passes through a delightful green corridor, with mature hedges and cultivated fields either side. Carry on straight ahead when meeting a farm access track, passing Bottys Plantation on the right.

Stay on the track, carry on straight ahead on a field-edge path, soon accompanied by a hedge on the left. Skirt a deep chalk quarry, continue down an old earth lane and turn right when meeting the road at Grinstead Hill. Cross the B1113 near the Lion pub and shortly turn sharp left, through a staggered barrier, to briefly pass through a housing estate. Veer right and exit into Coddenham Road. Cross the road, go under the bridge and return to your departure point.

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