Three circuits of varying lengths around Danbury
Spring or summer; plus early autumn for Graces Lane
Wild flowers in summer in the commons, nature reserves and Green Lanes, and in spring in the woods; songbirds in all these places and along the canal.
A few paths cross arable fields which may be ploughed; some paths get very muddy in wet weather, especially in Danbury Common.
Bus to Eve's Corner (and walk down to G) or park at Blakes Wood (E) or Danbury Common/Backwarden (A)
Wildside Walk (ABCDEFGA) 3½–4 hours; Admiral McHardy (CHIJKLFC) 4–4½ hours; Lt Baddow Circle (CDJKLFC) 2½–3 hours.
Apart from along the canal, undulating terrain mainly on well-defined paths and tracks; a few stiles north and west of Little Baddow; some short sections along roads, mostly quiet.
Click on a marker on the map for route details
Stage AB: The Backwarden to Danbury CP
Walk straight on from The Backwarden car park and turn right on to the bridleway at the nature reserve sign. Bear left at the intersection with Horne Row into Ludgores Lane, through scrubby woods with houses on your left and a splash where a brook runs through. The track swings right to join Penny Royal Road briefly and, where the road turns left, follow a track that goes straight on up FitzWalter Lane. It branches before a group of houses on the left: take the left branch and just past the houses continue straight on along a footpath with a hedge and arable field on your left and a strip of woodland between you and Woodhill Road, with which it converges. Continue on the grass verge for 50m until you see the exit road from Danbury CP car park on the right. Cross the road and walk into the car park.
Stage BC: Danbury CP to Graces Lane
Leave the car park via the gate at the lefthand end (looking from the road), then walk past the loos and a massive oak and turn right when you meet a loose-surfaced track. After crossing a stream you come into an open area of short mown grass with patches of trees. Walk straight ahead and through a gate in the hedge opposite, into Danbury Youth Camp. From here the path is waymarked with frequent posts. It heads diagonally across the open grassland with scattered oaks and ornamental trees. You join a track coming in from the right then come into an open glade where another footpath crosses: turn sharp right and follow the waymarkers in a winding path through woodland and rough grassland, then finally out on to the A414 via a stile. Cross the A414 and go straight on down Riffhams Lane, following it for 400m to a stile on the left just before the junction with Elm Green Lane. From here follow the footpath across a pasture with views of a lake and of Riffhams Hall on the right, then over a stile into a shady wood and down and across the stream and out on the lefthand edge of meadows. Follow the path beside the farm track, then left around the edge of the meadow, with a low hedge separating it from Graces Lane. Go over a stile and down steps on to Graces Lane and cross to another footpath leaving about 20m down on the right.
Stage CD: Graces Lane to Chapel Lane
Take the righthand footpath, running between fences across an old orchard, then into a wood, descending to cross a stream then steeply up the other side. Go over a stile, cross a strip of mown grass between houses, then continue between hedges, then across 2 stiles and a track into a large pasture. Walk straight across it towards a waymarker on the far side, next to a stile that takes you into Chapel Lane. 150m up this narrow lane take a footpath leading off on the right via a stile, with a hedge on the left and a fence and pasture on the right. After 100m or so you reach a footbridge and stile on the left.
Stage CH: Graces Walk
Take the lefthand of the two footpaths, between two gates marked 'Private'. This runs across an old orchard that has recently been restored. The footpath brings you out on to the road at the start of Graces Lane. You enter this ancient Green Lane via the gates to Great Graces Farm across the road. It begins as a stony track between an avenue of lime trees, then runs between hedges with broad grassy margins. After Sandon Brook the lane narrows, running between a gappy avenue of poplars then, after crossing a road, across arable fields to cross footbridges first across the remains of the original River Chelmer, then across the canal that has superceded it.
Stage DE: Blakes Wood
Continue straight on along the footpath between hedges, with good countryside views all around. The final stretch is beside garden hedges and fences, after which you arrive next to the gate to Belle Vue Farm. Turn right across it to follow the access path into Blakes Wood. Your route through Blakes Wood is waymarked Wildside Walk: straight down and across a plank bridge, then in a rough semi-circle following a stream valley down then another up again, then right across another footbridge and up to the exit.
Stage DJ: Chapel Lane to Holybred Wood
Cross the footbridge and stile on the left and follow the path diagonally across the field, then cross the road to where it continues along the verge of the next field, then over a stile out into Holybread Lane. Turn right and follow the road for c.200m to an entrance to Holybred Wood on the left. Follow the path up through the wood until you meet another crossing footpath, turning right to follow it.
Stage EF: Lingwood Common
Outside Blakes Wood turn right on to Riffhams Chase and follow it for 300m, with houses on your left and an open meadow on your right. Just before the road junction turn left on to a bridleway leading on to Lingwood Common. At first the woodland is dense and shady, but as you follow the bridleway straight through you come upon open glades with patches of the heather which years ago would have covered much of the common. The path leads up to the top of a hill – Beacon Hill, one of the highest in Essex – with a bench and paths leading off to the left and half-right. If the surrounding trees had not grown so tall you would have views over Danbury and the Chelmer Valley (and if the National Trust cuts them down, you will again).
Stage FC: Lingwood Common to Graces Lane
From Beacon Hill bear right to follow the bridleway that runs the length of the common. On emerging into Riffhams Chase turn left downhill for about 20m and bear right into Graces Lane, passing Riffhams on your left and meadows on your right with a number of big oak trees. When you reach the farm track on the left, go over the stile just beyond it and follow the footpath that runs along the edge of the meadow parallel to the road. At its end go over the stile and down the steps to the road and cross it to the entrance to another footpath, just down on the left.
Stage FG: Lingwood Common to Danbury Common
From Beacon Hill take the path down the slope through oak and birch woods (the righthand path if coming from E, half-left if coming from L), then bear left at the fencing where it becomes a concrete track. Gardens and houses signal your approach to Danbury, and the final stretch is a road – Moores Bridge Lane – running steeply up to the A414 100m or so west of Eve's Corner. Turn right along the A414 for 50m, then cross to follow a track going off left signposted to Danbury Parish Church. Take the footpath that goes off left just before the churchyard, running between holly hedges. At the end of the churchyard you come out on to a grassy hillside with a view south across Danbury Common in front of you. Follow the path straight across the middle and out on to Penny Royal Road. Cross the road to the track opposite then turn left across the front of the houses to follow the path through a patch of open woodland and out on to The Common. Cross the road to a footpath entering the woodland opposite.
Stage GA: Danbury Common
Follow the bridleway steadily down through a mixture of oak and birch that is typical of former common land that has 'tumbled down' to woodland. Soon another bridleway crosses, then another, by a seasonal pond. Go straight ahead past a barrier: you are now on a footpath, still going steadily down following a stream. At the next intersection, turn 90｡ right by post 9 (on the NT nature trail). Coming out into an open area, bear left with trees on your left and an open gorsey area on your right and soon you come to post 8. Passing a seat, bear right at the next intersection near an oak with twin trunks. Keep straight on, crossing another path then a bridleway – you now have the open area on your left and trees on your right. Ignore side paths for 200m, when you come to a path intersection in a group of oaks. Looking to your right you should be able to see the barrier across the entrance track to The Backwarden. Follow the path towards it, cross the road and follow the track straight on to the car park.
Stage HI: Chelmer Canal
Turn right after the footbridge and follow the footpath along the western and northern bank of the canal. At first the canal runs northwards roughly parallel to the A12, then the canal turns east away from the A12 and runs past arable fields and willow plantations. On this stretch you pass two locks, bypassed by weirs, then come to the bridge that carries Church Road across the canal.
Stage IJ: Chelmer to Holybred Wood
Here the towpath crosses to the southern bank, so walk across the bridge to join it. Ignore the footpath leaving on the right heading for Little Baddow church and continue along the towpath for 400m then take a footpath on the right that threads its way past some willows then turns left on to a grassy path beside an arable field. Soon it turns sharp right across the field, for part of the way beside a hedge. Ignore the first waymarker where another footpath crosses and continue to the second, where the path turns sharp left and heads for Holybred Wood, crossing a ditch via a plank bridge then continuing across the edge of a meadow and into the wood.
Stage JK: Holybred Wood to Heather Hills
Go straight on through the wood, crossing a meadow then walking down Spring Close to emerge on North Hill. Turn right and walk up the hill past Holybread Lane until you come to The Rodney PH on the right. Take the footpath immediately opposite, up steps then over a succession of stiles across pastures and through a section of woodland. Turn right on emerging from the wood and walk up the hill beside it with a meadow on your left. At the top of the slope a bridleway crosses: go straight across it into Essex Wildlife Trust's Heather Hills reserve.
Stage KL: Heather Hills and Postmans Lane
Follow the bridleway straight on, gently downwards, past The Old Rodney and its garden, until you come out on Spring Elms Lane. Turn left and, 100m down, turn right into Postmans Lane, with the meadows of Pheasanthouse Farm followed by Pheasanthouse Wood on the left and, once you have passed the houses, private woodland on the right. Ignore all side turnings until you come to a board on the left with a map of Essex Wildlife Trust's Danbury Ridge Reserves.
Stage LF: Fir Tree Lane to Beacon Hill
Take a detour into Danbury Ridge by one of the many footpaths if you wish, but our route turns right here to follow another bridleway, Fir Tree Lane, out on to The Ridge, mainly through private woodland. Turn left on The Ridge and after 150m cross the road to a footpath signposted Lingwood Common that leaves on the right. Follow this straight down next to fencing through woodland until you come out into a clearing with a bench: you are on Beacon Hill at the start (or end) of the bridleway that runs the length of Lingwood Common.