Autumn is the perfect time for a wander in the countryside; witness the leaves changing colour and search for acorns and conkers in the county’s woodlands and country parks.

Visit Essex, the tourism body for Essex, is encouraging people to explore autumnal walks, spot migrating birds and enjoy fresh seasonal produce in a range of country pubs and hotels.


The former trainline that linked Bishop’s Stortford to Braintree is now a 15-mile path suitable for walkers, cyclists and horse riders. The route is a haven for wildlife: mammals, birds, flowers and insects, with the path passing the ancient royal hunting grounds of Hatfield Forest. The Flitch Way has several Victorian train stations along its course, and you can stop for a break at the former Rayne station, which is now a café with a railway carriage museum.


Great British Life: Mistley Towers Credit: Visit EssexMistley Towers Credit: Visit Essex

The Walls at Manningtree is a stunning short walk along the newest Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, The Stour Estuary. The Walls has a gruesome history as the location for the start of the 17th century witch trials, led by the Witch Finder General and Manningtree resident, Matthew Hopkins. The walk also passes Mistley Towers, now looked after by English Heritage, ‘Old Knobbly’ one of England’s oldest and largest oak trees, as well as quaint tearooms, pubs and even a shop selling wine and vinyl!


Great British Life: Turpin’s Trail Credit: Getty ImagesTurpin’s Trail Credit: Getty Images

The famous highwayman, Dick Turpin, was born in Hempstead and worked as a butcher in nearby Thaxted. There are three linked trails which take in places with a Turpin connection, via a six-mile circular walk of Great Sampford to Hempstead. This passes the Bluebell Inn, the birthplace of Turpin. The walk meanders around rivers, fields, ancient churches and is a wonderful stroll through the Essex countryside.


Great British Life: Harwich Cranes Credit: Getty ImagesHarwich Cranes Credit: Getty Images

The Essex Way is the county’s epic 81-mile route across Essex, starting in Epping and ending on the coast at Harwich. The walk showcases the true diversity of the county as it passes through ancient woodland, fields and meadows, river valleys, historic buildings and beautiful villages and towns. The Essex Way has many natural breaks which are not far from bus stops or train stations, making the 81-mile route easy to break down into manageable sections. Highlights include a ramble through meandering Constable country as well as the magnificent views of the towering cranes sitting majestically on Harwich’s skyline.


Great British Life: Grayson Perry’s ‘A House for Essex’ Credit: Visit Essex Grayson Perry’s ‘A House for Essex’ Credit: Visit Essex

Between Manningtree and Harwich is the hamlet of Wrabness. Starting at Wrabness train station the two-mile walk will lead you beside Grayson Perry’s masterpiece, ‘A House for Essex’, a dwelling dedicated to ‘Julie’, Grayson’s woman of Essex. The path then leads down to the banks of the Stour Estuary and on into Wrabness Woods, an Essex Wildlife Trust nature reserve, passing through fields and meadows. There are plenty of additional paths if you wanted to extend the route and – don’t forget your binoculars – there are plenty of bird hides and migrating birds to discover.


Great British Life: Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation Credit: Visit Essex Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation Credit: Visit Essex

The 18 miles of the Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation links the county town of Chelmsford to the River Blackwater at Heybridge Basin. The walk starts in the urban environment of the city but soon enters the unspoilt Essex landscape, following the course of the Chelmer River and Blackwater Navigation through 13 locks. Visitors can treat themselves to a special pint at the end of the walk in Heybridge at one of the pretty lockside pubs or enjoy an afternoon tea at the Tiptree Tearoom.


Great British Life: Thorndon Country Park Credit: Visit EssexThorndon Country Park Credit: Visit Essex

For an autumnal family walk where you can kick up the leaves, hunt for conkers and acorns, and search for the Gruffalo, head to Thorndon Country Park close to Brentwood town centre. Discover the magic of the deep dark woods with a self -guided trail around the park to meet the characters from The Gruffalo on your travels. Build dens made of sticks and hide under the bridge. Nature lovers will love walking around the 500 acres of forest wilderness.


Great British Life: Flatford Mill Credit: Getty ImagesFlatford Mill Credit: Getty Images

Walk in the footsteps of the historic artist Constable in an area much loved for the painter’s romanticised view of the Essex countryside. Starting at Manningtree train station, the walk meanders along the River Stour for two miles until you reach Flatford Mill, immortalised by Constable in his painting of The Haywain, which is currently celebrating its 200th birthday. A further one and a half miles will take to you the delightful village of Dedham. Here you can relax, hire a rowing boat, stop at one of the village’s fine eateries or wander around its independent stores.


Great British Life: Saffron Walden Credit: Visit EssexSaffron Walden Credit: Visit Essex

Explore the length and breadth of Essex as the county’s countryside prepares for its winter slumber. The 70-mile Saffron Trail is a magnificent walk, which can be broken down into easy stretches of around 7 to 11 miles in length. The trail starts in the historic market town of Saffron Walden in North Essex and winds its way south through Great Dunmow, Battlesbridge and Danbury before finishing at the seaside city of Southend. The route passes through delightful fishing villages, woodlands, rivers and countryside, with the walking classed as easy/moderately easy for all sections.


Great British Life: Hanningfield Discovery Park Credit: Visit EssexHanningfield Discovery Park Credit: Visit Essex

A must for families: The Nature Discovery Centre offers superb views over the 870-acre Hanningfield Reservoir. Set in mature woodland, the nature reserve offers lovely woodland walks which take in bird hides and views across the water. Hanningfield is also home to some well-loved characters from the Wind in the Willows stories. Purchase a trail map from the centre to explore the woods and see who you might find along the way! Pathways are buggy friendly.


Great British Life: Wallasea Island Credit: Getty ImagesWallasea Island Credit: Getty Images

A walk that has almost everything in its 5.5 miles – a town, a marina, an estuary, fields and history, all of it starting and ending at the train station! You can also spot migrating birds as you look over the estuary to Wallasea Island. Burnham on Crouch has a rich heritage for fishing and sailing, and the walk also passes a WW1 airfield.


Great British Life: Cudmore Grove Country Park Credit: Visit Essex Cudmore Grove Country Park Credit: Visit Essex

Pop on your Ugg boots and wrap up in a long cardigan to blow away the cobwebs with a coastal walk at Cudmore Grove. Covering 38 acres you will find a sandy beach, impressive views, grassland, meadows for relaxation and walks that will take you past interesting historical sites and an abundance of wildlife. You may even find the odd shark’s tooth or prehistoric fossil that’s been washed up by the crashing waves.

To discover more,


Walking with Witches

The Mistley Thorn, High Street, Mistley. Award winning dining and accommodation.

The Flitch Way

Great Lodge Barn, Great Bardfield, Braintree. Barn conversion surrounded by vineyards and walled gardens.

Turpin’s Trail

Puttock’s Farm B&B, Philpot End, Great Dunmow. Barn conversion and shepherds hut on working farm surrounded by Essex countryside.

Great British Life: The Red Cow, Saffron Trail Credit: Visit Essex The Red Cow, Saffron Trail Credit: Visit Essex

Saffron Trail

Relax at The Red Cow a pub with rooms, Chrishall. Stylish wood-panelled rooms are available in a thatched barn; wake up to tasty freshly cooked English breakfasts.


Walking with Witches

Lucca Enoteca, High Street, Manningtree. Wood-fired pizzas and classic pasta dishes.

Turpin’s Trail

Tiptree Tea Room, Saffron Walden. Home-style food in the market town of Saffron Walden.

The Essex Way

The Kings Arms, Coggeshall. A family run pub serving traditional home cooked food.

Chelmer & Blackwater Navigation

The Barge Tea Rooms, The Hythe, Maldon. Breakfast, light lunches and afternoon tea on a barge with riverside views.

Great British Life: The Sun Inn, Dedham Credit: Visit EssexThe Sun Inn, Dedham Credit: Visit Essex

Constable Country

The Sun Inn, High Street, Dedham, the pub offers a menu influenced by seasonal, local produce