Stunning Stour Valley
Chris Barker follows a picturesque route straddling the Suffolk/Essex border
You start and finish the walk in the Stour Valley with good views of Clare town and church. You will be taking in the Essex village of Ashen. This undulating walk is typical of the picturesque landscape of the Suffolk/Essex border. There are some paths that can get difficult after heavy rain.
With your back to the college gate take the right hand road of the triangle to the village sign. Turn right, along a pavement with a road to your left. Turn right practically opposite The Lion public house, signposted Ashen. Keep straight ahead as the road swings right, aiming for two footpath signs. Take the one straight ahead, rather than the one pointing slightly to the right.
Go straight ahead off the road, picking up a green path with a tallish hedge to the left and a field on the right. When the hedge swings left carry straight on across the field - at the time of walking on a well-defined path. At the field boundary carry straight on up some steps then over a stile, which leads into a meadow. Cross this slightly diagonally left along a well-defined path, which leads to another stile in the left hand corner of the field. Cross this and you will come out onto a road. Turn right and then left at a T-junction. You are now walking in Ashen. Keep to this road until you come to a church.
Turn left through the church gate, walking on a hard path. Go through a gap in the hedge and follow a path that swings immediately right and left alongside a conifer hedge. Carry straight on, passing a footpath sign and old pump to your right. Ignore the footbridge to your left at a stream and carry straight on, crossing a plank bridge and going up a slight slope. Go through a kissing gate, cross a footbridge and go through a wooden gate into a meadow.
Continue in the same direction and cross a stile. Carry on, following a line of telegraph wires and poles. When you come to the second telegraph pole there will be a ‘V’ in the footpath. Take the left one, which will take you out onto a road. Turn left with Ashen Hall immediately to your left. At a left turning signposted Stoke turn right by a footpath sign, walking on a path with a ditch to your right.
Cross a plank bridge and carry on, keeping the same ditch to your right. Turn right at a footpath sign, crossing a plank bridge, going up a small bank and turn right by a path. This will take you to a footpath sign. Turn left, walking on a path with a hedge to your right.
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You will come to a track running parallel in front of you by a footpath sign. Turn left along a track, soon having a fence to your right.
Continue in the same direction across a stream, with a hedge to your right. The path will then swing right and left. When it swings right again look diagonally right across the field to your left and you will see a hedge. A few yards to the left of where the hedge ends you hopefully can pick up a footpath sign and aim for that. There is no footpath sign at this point.
Once across you will see a footbridge. Cross this and turn right. The path will swing to the left, with a hedge and ditch to your right. You then swing to the right, with the ditch and the hedge to your right. The path swings to the left at the field boundary and takes you out onto a drive, where you should turn left, with open fields both sides.
Look right for lovely views of the Stour Valley and Clare town and church. At Claret Hall carry straight on, keeping the hall and outbuildings to your right. Once you have passed the buildings you will be walking on a track that will swing to the right. The track will swing to the left by a footpath sign to your right; just keep with it.
This path will take you out onto a road. Turn left and after 100 yards come to a wide gap in the hedge to your right. Look right for a hidden footpath notice. Turn right here and then left and you will see a field in front of you. Walk to the right side of this field, where you will see a public footpath sign, walking on a path with a hedge to your right. At the field boundary continue in the same direction across an open field and carry on across the next one on a defined path.
Once across this field cross a footbridge and follow a well-defined path across a field to the River Stour. Turn left with the river to your right. Cross a bridge on your right, go through a gate and continue in the same direction. When you come to a footpath sign in the middle of the path turn left. At the field boundary on your left carry on in the same direction with a footpath sign in the middle of the path, now walking between trees. This path will take you out onto a road. Cross this and turn left on a pavement, which will take you back to your starting point.