Autumn is a great time of the year to be out and about in the Essex countryside. The leaves on the trees and in the hedgerows are changing colour to beautiful reds and golds and the light is golden and seems to blow in the wind.
Here is a lovely route to follow through some of the lesser known villages around Colchester.
Leave Colchester for the village of Layer de la Haye. The road takes you through a tunnel of trees by the Donkey and Buskins pub, where you can take a detour for Malting Green with its glorious open common. Back in Layer you can follow the road to Abberton Reservoir which is a great place for bird watching – especially at this time of the year as the birds gather to leave for warmer climes.
Back in Layer take the road to Birch. This is a really pretty route with wonderful views across open farmland which glows in the autumn sunlight.
On reaching the heathland in Birch turn right to go through the village. When you get to the village take the opportunity to stop and look around the graveyard of the village church. The church itself is closed and boarded up and has a very mysterious air to it – it may remind you of the film the Amazing Mr Blunden from the 1970’s. The churchyard is overgrown and natural and a good place to feel the wind and listen to the bridsong.
Drive out of the village and turn left on to the Maldon Road. After about a mile take the turning on the right to Copford. On the way to Copford you’ll pass throught the hamlet of Hardy’s Green and lots of working farms.
When you reach Copford take the time to visit the church. It is one of about 20 listed buildings in the village and is famous for its beautiful wall paintings. If you have the time there are some lovely walks towards Stanway from Copford.
After leaving Copford. turn right on to London Road . This was the old main road to London from Colchester before the A12 Colchester bye-pass was built in the 1970’s.
Follow the road to Lexden. Here you can look around the imposing St Leonards Church or take a stroll across Hilly Field where you will get magnificant views across Colchester. Lexden has a very active history society. To find out more have a look at their website www.lexdenhistory.org.uk
After looking around Lexden retrace your route back to the traffic lights with the supermarket on the left hand side. Take the turning past the fire brigade workshops. This is the old Halstead Road. At the top turn right on to Chitts Hill. You’ll now have quite a long drive through villages and open countryside.
Across the railway crossing you’ll come in to the village of West Bergholt. This is now a very popular commuter village for London and Colchester, The village is a very active community and to find out more about it you might like to look at the village website – www.westbergholt.net
After driving through West Bergholt you arrive at the B1508. Turn right and you head into Colchester. Turn left and you will eventually arrive in Sudbury, with some nice views of countryside. This time though go straight across the junction past the White Hart pub (stopping off if you need refreshments). This is a lovely pub to visit either at lunch time or in the evening – they have an excellent selection of fish dishes on their menu .
Now follow the “”twisty twiney” lanes across country – past Horkesley Manor, and you will finally reach the Nayland Road. Here turn right and start to make your way back towards Colchester.
On your way back to Colchester you could take the narrow lane on your left and take a detour to the village of Boxted. Boxted is very small but it does have a lovely church – St Peter’s which is very peaceful. Finally you will reach Boxted Sraight Road – so named for very obvious reasons! Along here there are small rural businesses and small holdings. These include McLauchlins fruit farm – a very popular pick your own farm in the summer time, several garden centres, and then for Christmas time, Fred Smith’s Christmas trees, where you can dig up or cut down your own tree!
And finally we end up back in Colchester, just in time to go in to town for a well deserved cup of tea and a cake at one of the many tea shops!