If you’re looking for an afternoon drive around quiet country lanes in the north of Essex, we can recommend the route we took yesterday.
Driving north from Colchester towards Sudbury on the A134 takes you out of Essex through Great Horkesley, past the fine dining offered by the Rose and Crown, and you get into beautiful country very quickly. Once past Nayland (worth stopping off for something to eat at The Anchor) you go through Leavenheath (watch out for the big windmill in one of the gardens to the right) and then through Assington.
Turn right on the A1071 heading towards Ipswich. There’s a lovely stretch of high hedges at one point, autumnal gold yesterday, and keep an eye for the turning for Boxford. It’s easy to spot as it’s to the left immediately after a big white wind turbine in someone’s garden (as featured on Channel 4’s ‘Grand Designs’).
When you drive down into Boxford, park up near the church and spend half an hour or so in the church and the adjoining streets. Swan Street is particularly lovely with a wide range of old buildings – some ornate, and some very, very low cottages.
The route takes you up Swan Street, and whilst there is a more direct route to Edwardstone, we would recommend taking Sherbourne Street to the left. It’s a narrow lane, but not busy, and you get to see a number of old buildings which you would not otherwise see. There is a right turn to Edwardstone (currently closed for roadworks) but ignore that and keep to the road you’re on. You’ll shortly pass Edwardstone Hall to the left (which has a church accessible through the gateway). There’a a village hall to the right, and then take a right at the next junction.
Carry on, and at the next junction turn left, unless you want to take the right for a diversion to The White Horse pub. (If you do that, then head back up to this point and rejoin the route).
At the next junction turn right and follow this road for several miles to Kersey. It’s a lovely quiet drive, and you can stop off at the St James Chapel, an ancient relic.
At the t-junction when you arrive at Kersey, turn right, and park up straight away on the road. This will give you the full benefit of walking down the steep lane, admiring the small village as it drops down to its famous ford, and then rises up to the church at the top of the hill on the other side.
There isn’t a huge amount to see, but you can stop off at the pub, The Bell, which is a white plaster and timbered building on the outside, with lots of small rooms, beams, and a roaring log fire inside. They have a good reputation for food, with nothing too fancy on the menu (steak, pies, cajun chicken, lasagne etc), and today’s beers were Hobgoblin, GK IPA, and Southwold Bitter – not the most adventurous, but better than GK IPA/Abbot/Speckled Hen!
If it is open, have a look around Kersey Pottery, which is worth investigating – not the cheapest pottery, but it’s good stuff!
As you climb up the hill to the church look out the signs for the village hall to the right and have a wander down that lane to admire some more old buildings.
At the top of the hill turn back to admire the wonderful view looking down into the village and across to the countryside in the distance. If you took the parked cars off the road, it would be a view unchanged for centuries!
St. Mary’s Church is a lovely one – the painted panels that escaped Henry VIIIs attention are beautiful. And take the opportunity to buy some of the postcards and other material inside – there’s even a mini bookshop!
Back to the car and drive down through the ford, and up the hill (engage low gear!). At the top of the road you could follow the signs to Hadleigh and turn left to quickly get back on the A1071 and head back home, but if you turn right you can follow the country lanes back to Boxford. It’s pretty much straight on, and when you get to a t-junction in Boxford turn right and drive around the church, and you’ll recognise (hopefully) where you and pick up the A1071 where you left it at the wind turbine house a couple of hours ago.