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 building fits in well, but not a great welcome to the town to those getting off the train and seeing the herberts clustered outside the court waiting for their case to be heard!
Head out over the roundabout to go up Mersea Road. On your left is 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!
Turn right at the first traffic 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 might just 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). The new houses have made it less easy to see!
After the right turn at this mini-roundabout, take a quick left at the next t-junction.
At the next roundabout turn left, with what the Drury Arms to your right (now a mini Sainsburys), and head up Layer Road. The old Layer Road football ground has gone – as you pass Ralph & Rita Martin florists, pay a silent tribute to the giant-killing of the past (are you reading this Leeds United fans?).
Straight ahead at the two mini roundabouts you come to once you pass Kent Blaxill’s to your right. 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 goes 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. If it’s already lunchtime and you’re hungry and thirsty, it’s not a bad place to stop.
Once you’ve breasted the hill you’re heading into the village of Layer, and watch out for the right turn (the Layer Fox pub is on the corner, and that’s another good pub). You’re on the back road to Birch now, and you’ll see to your right a white farmhouse which looks something like this :
Follow this road around to the left, which will take you down (and up), and down (and up) again as you go through a couple of farmhouses to your left and stables and farm buildings to your right.
Straining the sinews a little bit more (who says that Essex is flat?) you will come to another t-junction with yet another good pub to your right – the Hare and Hound.
Turn left and watch out for the small church to your left and 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.
At the top of the climb you bear left onto Winter’s Road. Keeping to the road you will come to a small crossroads. If you haven’t seen Layer Marney Tower, take the left and cycle down to look through the gates, then cycle back. It’s well worth the short detour!
Carrying straight on (or turning left if you went down to look at the tower), you come to another t-junction at which you turn left. This is a busier road than you’ve been on 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 will pass the Wilkin and Son jam factory on the right, and have the option of refreshing yourself at their excellent tea rooms, and spending ten minutes in their cute little jam factory museum.
You whizz downhill at this point, 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 to Tolleshunt D’Arcy.
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 cum flagpole at which you turn left, which is pretty much at the halfway point of the ride.
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.
Carry on, and at about 15 and a half miles, you’ve got the option of turning left onto the B1026 to Colcheser, which you follow round to take you back to through Layer and into town again via Kent Blaxill’s (retrace your route to the station). 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 turn right onto 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 to admire.
A couple of times on this route the summer blue sky has been enhanced by, of all things, someone flying a Spitfire. On 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 past a pond that often has a family of peacocks strutting about. There’s another climb to take you to Abberton, and a right turn before you cross Mersea Road at the now closed 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 as it turns right and left (cricket ground to the right) to the t-junction and turn left.
Follow the road to The Whalebone pub (a bit of a gastro pub I believe). You could have a drink there, and/or a look at their church. Before turning left down the hill at the pub, go ahead a little while and look out for Ferry Road – and drop down to the river to see just how close you are to 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 for some sightseeing, 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 (don’t go up Rectory Road on the way back, but take the road to your right).
As you get into the outskirts of Colchester, 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 will 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 at the top of the hill and give us a wave on your right.
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. You will come to some lights and see the courthouse and railway station ahead (go all the way round the roundabout).
And that, after 26 and a bit miles if you’ve followed the full route, gets you back to Colchester Town station..
Hope you have found this interesting. It took me almost as long to write as it did to do the route!