Out of the firing line in Friday Woods

Friday Woods walk

Friday Woods walk - Credit: Archant

Lotte Sherman follows a route with military connections – and lots of pretty scenery

Route of the Friday Woods walk

Route of the Friday Woods walk - Credit: Archant

As Colchester is a garrison town, it comes as no surprise to find yourself close to army training and firing ranges. As expected, some of them are out of bounds to the public, but a large, partly wooded area north of Abberton Reservoir, has a number of footpaths criss-crossing Friday Woods, as well as extending over the Roman river and south to Malting Green. These paths, lanes, water features and minor roads make for a pleasant and varied journey.

Exit the car park by the entrance, turn right and almost immediately enter the path leading off on the opposite side towards a wooded area, crossing two hedge lines to get to the path junction. Turn left and walk down into the Roman river valley, passing through a metal kissing gate on the way. You may hear the warning sounds of a gaggle of geese nearby.

Arriving near the mill, a bridge leads to the south side of the river; have a look at the waterwheel turning ad infinitum. Continuing uphill, locate the first footpath leading off from the right; you will negotiate a couple of kissing gates, pass a pond and a large fenced area enjoyed by five black wallowing pigs (at the time of walking (1).

Maintain direction with a fence on the left, to emerge on a minor road by the Kiln. Proceed to the left and shortly turn left again into the indicated footpath. You are almost walking back on yourself to exit into Malting Green; do a left turn, locate the footpath on the opposite side and make your way along here. Look over the shoulder to get a glimpse of the enlarged Abberton Reservoir (2).

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At the end, follow the yellow markers on posts pointing to a narrow throughway to a cross-field path ending at the edge of a wooded area. The path may not be re-instated if recently harvested and freshly ploughed or harrowed; aim to walk straight ahead past the large oak trees (3) directly to the corner of the adjoining field ahead. Pass through two wooden gates and continuing in the same direction you will emerge on a wide drive.

Proceed uphill to exit on Abberton Road (4) Caution is needed for the short stretch walking along to the right; at the bend in the road a footpath leads off via a gate and stile. This path runs past a sub-station and meanders through some trees and alongside a copse. Once through a hedge veer left, but do not cross the bridge; instead amble along the edge of grazing meadows with the river on the left. Ignore the second bridge, but cross the third one, which is guarded by a gate at either side to allow only people access to the meadows beyond.

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Locate the post displaying a few discs indicating a number of potential paths; take the one sloping up and at the next path junction follow the arrow pointing left to Cherry tree Lane (5); you are truly on army territory now. In less than one km you leave the lane walking left on a track leading back in a westerly direction. You need to surmount two stiles to cross a service road to Park Farm. As expected, there are many trails running through Friday Woods; stay on the main track to the top of the concrete section. Turn left here to negotiate a deeply rutted stretch and then slightly right through scrubs – look for the way markers in the bushes. When emerging on a well walked footpath used by many outdoor enthusiasts returning to the car park, you are within sight of your start

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