9 of the best places in Essex for a picnic and a walk

Belhus Woods Country Park (c) Darren Varney, Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Belhus Woods Country Park (c) Darren Varney, Flickr (CC BY 2.0) - Credit: Archant

Us Brits jump at the chance to grab a blanket and a basket of food and head for somewhere peaceful for an afternoon spent eating, drinking and strolling. We’ve picked 9 of the best spots in Essex for a walk and a picnic

1. Danbury Country Park
Blooming with wildflowers in the summer, Danbury Country Park is a tranquil spot to enjoy a picnic. Set your blanket under an ancient oak tree and enjoy the dappled sunlight filtering through the leaves as you while away the afternoon with good food and company. With lakes and meadowland in abundance, , it’s an ideal place from where the kids can enjoy nature. The walk: Any of the walks in this guide by The Danbury Society and Essex County Council take in beautiful parts of the Danbury area, but we recommend number five, which takes in parts of the country park, Danbury Palace and Sandon Brook.

2. Hadleigh Country Park
One of the largest parks in Essex, Hadleigh Country Park is popular with walkers, cyclists and anyone looking for a bit of adventure. It is also just a 15 minute walk away from the iconic Hadleigh Castle. Due to conservation efforts made since the 2012 Olympic Games - which saw Hadleigh Park host the mountain biking events – the park is wonderfully maintained, allowing people of all ages to enjoy this large park – with so much going on, make sure you don’t forget to pack a picnic! The walk: Choose from the 1.3km all-ability trail or the 9km multi-user trail. Both run by Hadleigh Castle and we reckon that elevated position will be ideal for your picnic.

3. Thorndon Country Park
The woodland of Thorndon Country Park is the perfect backdrop for a fairytale picnic. Pack your favourite lunch and a good book and lose yourself in the flora and fauna of this ancient forest as you admire the majestic Giant Oak tree and migrating birds. After your picnic, you can visit the 15th century deer park - an Area of Special Scientific Interest - one of the lakes that are dotted around the place, or admire the landscape architecture of ‘Capability’ BrownThe walk: If you get lucky with the weather on this walk through the park, Childeritch and open farmland you’ll get incredible views across South Essex and even into London.

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4. Weald Country Park
The largest of Essex County Council’s Country Parks, Weald Country Park was landscaped in the 18th century and remains a popular destination for picnickers and wildlife lovers alike. You can see beautiful fallow deer along your walking trail before stopping off at the North of the park for a picturesque view while you tuck into your picnic. The walk: Taking in the park and the surrounding countryside, you’ll be able to enjoy woodland, lakes and remnants of deer pasture during this nine-mile trail.

South Weald Country Park, Brentwood, Essex

5. Belhus Woods Country Park
For a picnic by the lake, head to Belhus Woods. Have your model boats at the ready as you surround yourself in greenery and pick a seat with a view across the water for the Sunday boat show. You can enjoy the entertainment and atmosphere with a flask of coffee and home made sandwiches. The walk: Starting at the car park by Warwick Wood, head through Running Water Wood and Whitehall Wood to reach the fishing ponds beyond. Picnic spots are dotted throughout the area but settling in by the water would be particularly relaxing.

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6. Frinton-on-Sea
The peaceful, clean beach at Frinton-on-sea is an ideal spot on the 350-mile Essex coastline to enjoy a picnic. Take a stroll or gentle bike ride along the promenade while enjoying the views across the North Sea then stop off in front of the hundreds of old fashioned beach huts to enjoy your picnic. The walk: Not only will you be able to enjoy Frinton and its classic beach huts, this walk will take you down the coast to Walton-on-the-Naze with stunning views of the North Sea all the way.

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7. Cudmore Grove, Mersea Island
Essex has 19 islands of varying size and population, but one of the best for a picnic spot has to be Mersea Island. Cudmore Grove is towards the east side of the island and boasts a lovely sandy beach so just pick a spot, lay your blanket down and break out the picnic treats. When you’re done, explore the wildlife-rich environment and spot butterflies floating around the meadows or birds flying along the coastline. The walk: This 3.5-mile stroll will take you at least two hours and will give you the opportunity to visit an oyster fishery, a 16th century fort and Langenhoe Marsh.

Cudmore Grove

8. Dedham Vale & the Stour Valley
You will feel like you’ve stepped in to one of John Constable’s paintings when you visit the Dedham Vale - aptly nicknamed “Constable Country” - and when you visit you will see why he was inspired to paint this beautiful countryside. As an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, you can enjoy panoramic views of the countryside and the River Stour with your tea and cake. The walk: Occasionally straying into Suffolk, this four-to-seven-mile walk takes in some of the beautiful villages dotted throughout the area including Dedham and East Bergholt while it also passes Flatford Mill and Willie Lott’s Cottage, two of the Vale’s most iconic locations.

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9. Hedingham Castle
Bring a picnic and find a private spot somewhere on the 160 acres that comprise the grounds of the ancient Norman Hedingham Castle. Make a day out of your picnic by first going inside the keep of the castle and immersing yourself in the history of this fascinating building. Enter the banqueting room that Queen Elizabeth I and King Henry VIII both dined in and then make your way through the splendid gardens before having a tranquil picnic on the grounds. The walk: As well as going through the medieval village of Castle Hedingham, this four-mile circular walk goes north into the surrounding farmland before returning past the castle.


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