So many things to do in Braintree are linked to the past. The Knights Templars made Braintree their HQ in the 13th century before narrowly missing out on global domination. It was the landscape and its resources that attracted them: five fresh water rivers.
Picnic, swim and plunge into the pools and shallows of Braintree’s rivers.
Not a fitting name for a plunge pool of such beauty in a sandy valley of the River Pant.
The Henny Swan
Combine good pub grub with a dip in one of the deeper parts of the Stour. Also a place to launch kayaks and canoes.
Park on Henny Road or arrive by boat from Sudbury, care of the wonderful volunteers of The River Stour Trust. 52.013477, 0.73758200
Swim the upper reaches of the Stour with views across the north Essex dales.
Park in the Stoke by Clare Church, in Suffolk, and walk for 15 minutes back across the border into Essex and to this wider section of the River Stour.
Foraging for nuts and garlic while tramping Braintree’s green lanes and river valleys.
Belcher’s and Broadfield Woods
Rare species more typical of Essex woodland 2,000 years ago: birch, lime and oak. Wild Service-trees in Broadfield Wood.
Collect hazel nuts in October.
A wooded interlude on the footpath.
Forage for wild garlic around Belchamps Brook at its crossing to Gold Farm.
Links with St Edmund Way via an old salt route (now a Green Lane) that once connected the upper reaches of the River Stour.
Cycle or walk towards the Stour Valley Path.
An island of small wooded groves north to south, along footpaths and green lanes.
The best walking route into Alphemstone, on the footpaths from the south.
A strip of wooded calm that breaks up the hike east to west, or vice versa.
Hike from the River Stour to Preston’s Lake. 51.968699, 0.75137442
There’s something a bit special about hiking and tramping from water to water.
The lake links up nicely with the River Colne.
A Knight’s tale in Braintree, a tribute to a wild explorer and a cycle on the rails.
A fun day out for the family as part of a bike ride along this four-mile length of disused railway track.
Free parking and a snack bar at the old station site.
Avoid the Knights Templar terrace (more like a children’s themed, party park) for anything but refreshments. Cycling around the River Brain valley is wilder.
A brass plaque on the north wall of St Mary the Virgin Church, reads: “In memory of a very gallant gentleman.” Captain Lawrence Edward Grace Oates. A powerful symbol of wilderness and what it can mean.
Braintree’s caged dinosaur, dragonfly parties and randy woodpeckers.
The Great Oak
Essex’s oldest oak is so famous it features in the Norman’s Domesday Book. And then they encased it in iron when it died, 800 years ago. The relic and its frame remain.
Best place to see rare dragonflies including the ruddy darter, the four-spotted chaser, and the red-eyed damselfly. Swim amongst yellow water-lily and tall fens, in a scented pool of herb, scrub and woodland.
St Mary Church
Vandalism in nature can be cool. Randy woodpeckers destroyed this cedar spire trying to attract females. Visit in April to hear male woodies still tapping, but now on the rock hard oak (woodpecker-proof) replacement.
Stone circles, a giant grassy maze and a Shakespearean mystery in Braintree.
St Barnabas Alphamstone
Essex’s stone henge. Seven sardines form a rough circle in the church grounds, with other stones thought to remain undiscovered underground. Go feel the force.
Saffron Walden Labyrinth
Wessex has Stone Henge, Essex has got The Maze. The origin of the largest, pubic turf maze in England is unknown.
Home of the man they say was the real Shakespeare: Edward de Vere, 17th earl of Oxford. This Essex gaff is still owned by old Ed’s descendants.
Scones, beef and B&B around Braintree.
The Glass House Tea Room
Cream tea, scones and Victoria sponge. The English tea and butties are not bad either.
118 High Street, Braintree CM7 1JZ, 07519 319647.
The Willows Inn
Glutton free is a bonus. Most of the food is locally sourced, including the vegetables and beef. Dog friendly.
The Street, Cressing, Braintree CM77 8DQ, 01376 741436.
Bucks House Bed & Breakfast
A good value, quality B&B in the heart of the Braintree countryside.
Vine Street, Great Bardfield, Braintree CM7 4SR.
Horse and Groom
Blackmore End, Braintree, Essex.
King William IV
114 London Road, Braintree, Essex.
Horse and Groom
Cornish Hall End, Braintree, Essex.
Talks, workshops and Essex tours
Workshops for schools, scouts, guides, community groups or businesses. Learn how to wild camp and forage, or where to hike, canoe and cycle in Essex. Also, talks on the unique history of land ownership in Essex, and how to enjoy the outdoors by understanding all the laws of access.
Phone – 07947 160007
Email – firstname.lastname@example.org