Lotte Sherman strolls through a picturesque landscape
On this journey you can view the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty along the stretch of the River Stour before it becomes tidal. For a short distance you will walk in the steps of St Edmund and by Lawford Church join the Essex Way (EW).
Start your journey from the back of the large car park, walking to the right along a small stream towards Dedham Hall. The footpath exits at the hall drive on the Manningtree road.
Turn left and shortly follow the footpath leading off in a westerly direction for well over one km, either along field edges or crossing cultivated fields. All along on the left of this path is the riverbed of the Old Dedham River. Your path exits onto a concrete drive by Lower Barn Farm, a small industrial complex. Keep left along here to the next footpath, again to the left, crossing a meadow and through a hedge.
Follow the fingerpost pointing to Manningtree, passing the wide weir and the old river on the left and leading onto the grassy flood defence wall. Looking over your left shoulder, you will shortly see another weir, by Judas Gap, controlling the flow of the main river.
A little further along, you see the fingerpost pointing away from the wall to the path leading to Manningtree station. Follow this all the way to the south side of the rail embankment and very near the station. Locate the path to your right, leading uphill, which takes walkers to Lawford church.
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Go to the right of the church, through the churchyard, out via the main gate and look for the fingerpost on the opposite side of the road. Identify the ‘EW’ disc on the post and follow the direction indicated by these discs all the way back into Dedham. You need to walk a couple of short stretches along minor roads, pass through a number of gates, climb a few stiles and cross small footbridges, as well as going over the railway lines with great caution!
It is a rewarding stretch of the EW, with a great view from Broome Knoll.
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As you are nearing Dedham village, walking through the last paddock, take a look at the wonderful, gnarled old oak in the middle. From this paddock you pass through a metal gate onto the premises of the cricket club; wind your way around the edges, behind the clubhouse, and onto the footway.
Turn left, aiming for the church, pass the Duchy Barn and shortly you will arrive on Royal Square. You may like to stop for refreshments in one of the places offering food, look inside the church or just browse.
If you arrived by bus, look for the nearest stop; if you came by car, follow the sign for the free car park.