Woodland wonderland

Lightship moored on the River Colne, The Hythe, Colchester

Lightship moored on the River Colne, The Hythe, Colchester - Credit: Archant

Lotte Sherman follows a bluebell trail on a route between Colchester and Wivenhoe

Lotte Sherman follows a blue bell train on a route between Colchester and Wivenhoe

Lotte Sherman follows a blue bell train on a route between Colchester and Wivenhoe - Credit: Archant

This linear ramble is part of a coastal walk, and part of the enjoyment of our woods in spring. It has the advantage of making use of good public transport, thus making it a cheap day out. (Take the bus pass or senior rail ticket, if you have one.)

Route of the Woodland Wonderland walk

Route of the Woodland Wonderland walk - Credit: Archant

You may well ask: how can a seemingly inland walk be termed “part coastal path”?

One definition of coast path is: it should provide a view of seawater. The River Colne is tidal up to Colchester; therefore the waters are a mixture of salty and fresh. When exploring coastal routes and wanting to stay as close to the coast as possible, the first reasonable crossing of the River Colne is by a little ferry from Wivenhoe Quay running during the summer months. However, Wivenhoe Wood and the village itself are worth a stop-off; there is a number of marked walks to explore, ranging from short and middle to long. The Wivenhoe Trail can easily be combined with a short loop through the wood during bluebell time. The botanical name of bluebells is Hyacinthoides none-scriptus, roughly meaning a weaker-described branch of that family.

(Check out the extensive web site www.wivenhoe.gov.uk – the Wivenhoe Wood & picture gallery pages. You will find lots of information of interest under all different headings, including details of the ferry).

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An important feature of the town was its shipbuilding industry well into the 1990s. James W. Cook launched The Lord Nelson, a sail training ship for the disabled. Sadly, she had to be towed to Southampton for completion, after the company went into receivership.

Now for the journey itself. A good starting place is from Colchester Castle Park, aiming for the well-marked Wivenhoe Trail. The trail is shared with runners, cyclists and dog walkers, so please be tolerant. Sufficient markers guide users along the way – it is not easy to get lost!

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The first stretch is on the right of the Colne, past new housing developments and the Siege House, until you get to the A134, where you will need to cross over to the left of the river via a wide road bridge to continue on the trail.

There are ample opportunities to take in all the new features, such as the university housing estates, the redundant lightship now used by the Sea Cadets as a meeting and training venue, as well as the old industrial complexes on the opposite side of the Colne.

Once you get nearer the university campus on the slopes to the left, a footpath leads up to it – ignore this, but continue to the second turn-off into the woods; hopefully you will be rewarded with a stunning blue carpet of flowers.

This two-mile circular Maurice Britton Walk (MBW) is named after a former mayor of the town, who was instrumental in the formation of the shared river-path.

Should you decide to proceed directly into Wivenhoe, ignore the MBW and go onto the seawall veering off to the right before reaching the town itself. This footpath skirts the new developments overlooking the river and finishes by the Nottage Maritime Institute, a friendly pub and the ferry landing stage.

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