As I write this the wind is howling and the rain is hammering down on the roof of my office. It has rained, a lot, most days now for the past few weeks and quite frankly I am now getting a bit fed up with it. I can cope with all weathers really, even the extremely hot days we have had this summer, but I really loath the rain, it just puts a dampener on any situation that requires being outdoors before you have even left the house. Roll on the cold calm days of winter I say…..
Anyway, due to the wet and miserable weather i thought I would tell you about a lovely sunny and warm ramble I wet for a few months ago when the temperatures were hitting the high 20’s regularly and sun never seemed to stop shining. I have, kind off, known about this route since I was in my late teens but did not know the exact route that the pathways took. Well I decided to check the maps one day and found out that it was actually a fairly simple route passing through some fantastic Essex countryside along the way. Fortunately I was able to plot my route as a large loop, of just under 8.5 miles, which I like as I did not want to walk through the same areas twice, although on this occasion I would of happily done so as best part of the ramble was through woodlands and fields with only a couple of short sections along roads which were not that busy anyway.
Parking near the Shepherd and Dog pub in Crays Hill the route takes you along a footpath through Ramsden Bellhouse to just outside Stock, then returns you back through Ramsden Heath then Ramsden Bellhouse and back to Crays Hill. In total I walked 8.27 miles but I do wander off the beaten path to explore a little every now and again. At the point where I got to Stock there is another footpath that I could of taken which would of given me the option to walk around Hanningfield Reservoir which would of added another 4 to 5 miles, I guess, onto the trip. I was toying with walking this route but the temperature was steadily rising and by the time I reached the necessary footpath it was already in the mid twenties and it was only around 9am, so I have pinned that one for another time.
Right, so after chucking the back pack on my shoulders I set of along the main road for a hundred yards or so until I came to Church Road, I think, I can’t quite remember if that is the correct name for it, which takes you straight alongside some large farmers fields with just a few houses dotted here and there along the way. Now i would be quite happy to live in one of those houses as it was so quiet along that there. After a short time the road comes to an end outside St Marys church, which is now residential and can be rented as an Air BnB I found out as I did a little research into this church. If you are inclined, look up the church in Google and check out the photos of the conversion inside of the church, it is stunning. Anyway the road ends at the church but there is a small footpath to the righthand side which takes you alongside the church yard before cutting through more glorious fields. The track is only narrow with a barb wire fence on the field side and lovely hedgerows and bushes on the other which were full of wild roses, brambles, hawthorn and blackthorn bushes so were teeming with twitty birds and flutterbies. The walk was steadily on the incline but easy enough to do but in certain areas you had to watch your footing as there were a few ruts. Generally easy going though.
Soon the pathway entered a small woodland, which was a lovely respite from the strong sun , and I could hear Pigeons flapping around in the tree tops as well as seeing, and hearing, a Jay fly off along the track in front of me. When I am on my walks I get to see all sorts of wildlife but can never get a decent picture of anything, not that I am complaining as I am just happy for the experience but sometimes I would like to share what I have just seen. The track soon turned into a bridleway, according to the sign I found buried beneath some undergrowth at a kind of junction in the path. Checking my map app if I were to turn left I would of headed off towards Billericay but I carried going straight and headed towards Stock. By now I was kind of opposite Ramsden Bellhouse and through the trees could see some of the houses that are on the outskirts of the little village. Onwards and the bridleway took me over a bridge across the Victoria railway line, I think thats what it is called, the one that runs from Southend to London, after which a huge filed opens up on your left whilst there is a beautiful large woodland on your right called Meepshole Wood, funny name that I wonder how it got called that.
It was along this stretch that I ducked in the woodlands, found a comfy fallen tree and squat my arse down for half an hour to drink a coffee and eat my breakfast. The woodlands were dense and I only needed to walk twenty yards or so of the bridlepath before I disappeared into the undergrowth. After half hour or so of soaking up the atmosphere off this beautiful woodland I stumbled back onto the bridlepath carried on along my way. It was not too long before I came to a road which I had to cross before carrying along another track which would take me through to Stock. This stretch was absolutely stunning and I will definitely be returning for a further explore soon. The hedgerows either side of the track joined above man head making an archway which I happily walked beneath, I love this kind of pathway. This stretch was interspersed with small paddock type fields here and there as well as some mature woodlands and there was birdlife everywhere you looked. I also watched a Muntjac slowly walking across my path some 100 yards away before it realised I was watching and leapt of the path and into the undergrowth, amazing.
After a mile or so I popped out onto Goatsmoor Lane and had a short wander along this tree lined lane until I ducked back into the trees along a short stretch of footpath which again took me to another tree lined road which I had to walk along for half mile or so before coming off the road and along a large bridleway towards Ramsden Heath. It was at this point that my route started to head back towards where I had started, again there was a couple of other pathways that I could of taken which would of extended my hike but I opted to stay on my planned route.
The bridleway took me through some more farmland before I arrived on the outskirts of Ramsden heath. A short walk along the road, which I had crossed further along, followed by a right turn along another residential road and soon I was back walking along a quiet lane looking over some paddocks with horses happily going about their business. In fact I could see the opposite side of Meepshole Wood which I had walked alongside earlier. I was soon heading down a steep hill and under a railway bridge before another short walk took me along a private road before I found another footpath to stumble along.
The pathway i had just started walking along took me past a farm before opening out onto a couple of really big fields with some cracking views. It was here that I watched an unusually bird of prey swooping and diving in the distance, not a species I was familiar with, not that I am any kind of expert. i watched its arial acrobatics as I walked along the, now non existent, pathway before seeing a figure standing on the opposite side of the filed with his arm held outstretched just as the unfamiliar raptor swooped down and landed on his hand. It was great to see and I would of loved to have walked round the field and had a chat with the chap but it was a long way round and I was now on a mission to get back to the van.
This last stretch was a bit of a crueller as there was no tree cover and the sun was now beating down and the temperature had risen to upper twenties, I also started together a rather sore right foot for some reason which was causing me some discomfort. Never the less I powered through the pain, like the hero I am, and continued along my way. Although this section was still beautiful it failed in beauty compared to where I had previously walked that morning. The views were very open and scenic but there was just no wow factor. I soon crossed a narrow section of the River Crouch and as I stared at the cool, clear water flowing below me I was so tempted to discard my boots and socks and have a wee paddle but unfortunately I couldn’t,t find a way down tot he waters edge that did not involve getting tackled up in some brambles or blackthorn bushes so just waved the river farewell and carried on my merry way. Ten minutes or so later and I was sitting in the back of van with bare feet hanging out the side whilst poured some water over them tomcod them down. That last stretch was certainly difficult walking in the direct sun, not my favourite thing to do at the best of times, and the temperature gauge was reading 29 degrees on the journey home.
So to surmise, I walked 8.27 miles through some of the most attractive, in my opinion, countryside that Essex has to offer. I saw countless twitty birds, Pigeons, Crows, Jays, Squirrels, rabbits, butterflies and even a Muntjac deer whilst passing through country lanes, woodlands, paddocks and agricultural land and barely saw a human along the way, my kind of hike. I would definitely recommend this hike to anyone who loves the countryside and you can view the exact route I took by clicking HERE.
Well back to reality and the rainy weather now, tight boot laces everyone………