This is one of my regular cycle routes – 26 miles through some lovely quiet countryside south of Colchester.
The route up on the excellent Google Pedometer site which makes it very easy to keep track of your cycle, running, or driving routes, and I’ll refer you to the map at various points below. Click here and the map will open in a new browser window. And there’s a mini picture below to give you a feel for the route.
I’ll start you off at Colchester Town railway station, which overlooks the unlovely St. Botolph’s Circus. It’s not the most salubrious introduction to the town, and there are plans to improve the area. The new courthouse is now being built, and the nearby pub has recently been renamed ‘The Judge and Jury’ (the irony will probably be lost on most of those with appointments in the courtrooms).
Head out over the roundabout to go up Mersea Road. First point of interest is the very old, very delapidated wall to your right, held in place with sheets of corrugated iron. Second point of interest is to your left, the Odd One Out pub. This used to be our local, and is an absolute must for real ale drinkers. It’s a traditional pub – what is often referred to ‘spit and sawdust’ although I’m sure long-standing landlord John would have you out on your ear very quickly should you try spitting!
Not far up Mersea Road, turn right at the lights onto Napier Road. You’ll travel on this road, aka Circular Road North, until you come to a T-junction and mini-roundabout. But as you approach this, take a peek to you right, and you will see the old army barracks where they filmed the opening credits to Blackadder Goes Forth (the army band sequence which ends with Baldrick on the triangle).
After this junction, a quick left at the next t-junction, which as you approach you can marvel at the total lack of use of their indicator lights by the majority of car users.
At the next roundabout turn left, with the Drury Arms to your right, and head up Layer Road. The times they are a-changing, as The Drury Arms, which used to be heaving on football days, is now boarded up. You will pass the delapidated football ground, although in truth it’s not much more delapidated than it was when in use for Colchester United (the infamous ‘Fortress Layer Road’). In due course this will be cleared for housing.
One word of warning : Layer Road is quite wide most of the way up, but the powers that be have cunningly narrowed it for pedestrian crossings, so you will find that you will go from being on a road with plenty of space of a cyclist and a lorry on each side of the road at the same time, to places where you have to be assertive and make sure that cars aren’t tempted to squeeze through these crossings alongside you. I had an exciting game of ‘chicken’ with a council refuse lorry past Ralph and Rita Martin’s flower shop a while back – the driver thought it was appropriate to try and overtake me within about 50 yards of the very narrow crossing and seemed somewhat surprised that I didn’t brake to a sudden sharp stop to let him past.
Straight ahead at the two mini roundabouts with Kent Blaxill’s to your right (one of the few places in Colchester to get window glass from). You’re on the B1026 now, and if you exercise the shorter route option offered later you will come back this way.
A lot of the traffic will have peeled off either right or left at the mini roundabouts, and you’re now headed out into the country. You’ll zoom downhill after while, with a bend to the right that can be a bit tricky if you’re going too fast. You will find out that what does down also goes up, as you’ll be checking down the gears to get up the hill past the wonderfully named Donkey and Buskins pub, which we popped into a while back.
Once you’ve breasted the hill you’re heading into the village of Layer, and watch out for the right turn. Here’s a video of what to look out for, but I can’t guarantee you will see the horses!
You’re on the back road to Birch now, and you’ll see to your right a white farmhouse which sometimes features on Essex Days Out as one of our header images.
Follow this road around to the left, which will take you down (and up), and down (and up) and you will go through a couple of farmhouses to your left and stables to your right.
Straining the sinews a little bit more (who says that Essex is flat?) you will come to another t-junction with a pub to your right. The Hare and Hound is under new management since our visit.
Turn left and admire the small church to your left
And immediately take the next right turn, signposted Layer Marney, onto Shatters Road. You’re going to drop down a steepish hill, and then bend right and climb right back up again, and bend left onto Winter’s Road. Keeping to the road you will pass a junction at which you can turn left to take a peek at Layer Marney Tower. It’s well worth the short detour!
Carrying on, you come to another t-junction at which you turn left. It’s a busier road than of late, but generally quiet. You’re going to follow this for a while, and when you get to a long downhill followed by a short but steep climb you’re entering Tiptree. As you come into the village look out for the elegant United Reform Church on the right.
At the junction in Tiptree you could turn right to seek out some refreshments in the many shops on offer. But the route is to the left, and you pass the Wilkin & Son jam factory, and have the option of refreshing yourself at their excellent tea rooms on the right, subject of one of the very first blogs on Essex Days Out.
You whizz downhill at this point, and there a couple of options. If you are feeling ready for more than 26miles, you have the option of turning right halfway down the hill to incorporate Tolleshunt Major into the route. At the bottom of the hill is a mini roundabout, and if you’re feeling the strain you can turn left to skip Tolleshunt D’Arcy and go via Tolleshunt Knights, which knocks a mile off the route. But this route takes you up the hill to the right.
As you climb up the hill you are rewarded after a few minutes more with some excellent views. Make sure you don’t miss them, as they’re at the top of a long downhill stretch. Here’s a panoramic pic to show what you will see before you start down …
and once you’re at the bottom of the hill you will see some excellent ‘Big Sky’ views to your left…
You will now head into Tolleshunt D’arcy, which has a pub and a corner shop for refreshments. There’s a quaint central roundabout cum street sign cum seat at which you turn left, which is pretty much at the halfway point.
There’s a long stretch of road, starting off downhill (wheeee) and then uphill past the Five Lakes centre to your left, where people play gofe and similarly relaxing things. Some cute waterfowl are to be seen in you’re lucky.
Carry on, and at about 15 and a half miles, you’ve got the option of turning left onto the B1026, which you follow round to take you back to through Layer and into town again via Kent Blaxill’s. If you decide to press on, then regret it a mile later, you can turn left again at Great Wigborough to go through School Lane (admiring their church on the way) to pick up the B1026 and head into town.
But sticking to this route, carry on until the left turn to take you up a short but sharp hill into Peldon. They’ve got a nice church there
A couple of times on this route the summer blue sky has been enhanced by, of all things, someone flying a Spitfire. One one occasion I tried to catch him (or her) doing the barrel loop, but the camera wasn’t up to it. And in my eagerness to capture the sight on film, I made the mistake of trying to dismount too quickly. Luckily I had my ribs and knee to break the fall.
There’s a big drop downhill after Peldon, taking you whizzing past a reclamation yard to the left, and a pond that often has a family of peacocks roosting there. There’s another climb to take you to Abberton, and a right turn before you cross Mersea Road at the Langenhoe Lion. If you’re desperate to head back to Colchester you can turn left onto Mersea Road and head straight into town, but it is a busy road! Crossing over, follow the road to the t-junction and turn left, and you’ve got a nice ride into Fingringhoe. You’ll come to The Whalebone pub, and have the option of a drink there, a look at their church, or heading down Ferry Road to look over the river at Wivenhoe.
Turning left at the Whalebone you will drop down quickly, possibly missing their nice mill to the right.
You follow this road all the way back to Colchester Town station. En route you can turn right and drop down Rectory Road into Rowhedge, which is worth doing if you’re not likely to be here for a while, and you can pick up the road into Colchester easily.
As you get into the outskirts of the town, look out for the old tin tabernacle church on your right. After a couple of mini roundabouts and past the Co-op, you drop down and whill whizz past the old Cannock Mill to your left, and then strain up Old Heath Road – keep your eyes open for the almshouses on the left.
You will pass the Recreation Ground to your right, go straight ahead through the traffic lights and look at the white army church to your right, now taken over and being used by the Greek Orthodox church. As you drop down towards the station, take a look at the almshouses to the left and right, which are charming.
And that, after 26 and a bit miles if you’ve followed the full route, gets you back to Colchester Town station. If you’re thirsty, try the Odd One Out.
Hope you have found this interesting. It took me almost as long to write as it did to do the route!