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As the eastern section of the medieval Kingdom of the East Saxons, this county has a rather grand history. Walks in Essex are varied and easily accessible, from the old royal hunting grounds at Hatfield Forest to exploring the seaside war defences on Mersea Island. With a large North Sea and estuary coastline, you’ll have seabirds flying overhead and wading birds tiptoeing along the shoreline too.
Day hikes in Essex will take you anywhere you want to go. This county has a rich farming background and footpaths cover the region, taking you along hedgerows, across fields and through forests. You can even lay your hand against the bark of a 450-year oak at Hatfield or stop off at the 12th century Botolph’s Priory.
Out in rural Essex, your boots will tread quiet paths, happen upon picturesque villages and hang over the harbour wall as you eat fish and chips.
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If it’s a waterside aspect you’re after with your stroll, some of the best hiking trails in Essex can be found along its many estuaries. Due to its vast river mouths and North Sea boundary, Essex actually has the second longest coastline in England so you’ve got plenty to explore.
The Hamford Water National Nature Reserve is a wetland area with trails offering views, tidal walks and a glimpse into a crucial habitat for coastal birds. In contrast, the Crouch and Blackwater estuaries form a fantastic place to explore on foot with its incredible salt marshes. Known as the Saltmarsh Coast, trails here wind across wetlands, islands, woods and meadows, all rich in bird life and protected plants.
If you want a base for your walks in Essex, Maldon is ideal. One of Essex’s oldest recorded towns, you can set off right from the centre and walk for as long as you like.
The painter John Constable took much of his inspiration from Dedham Vale on the Essex/Suffolk border and when you head up here for hiking adventures, you’ll soon see why. On the Essex side of the River Stour, in the Dedham Vale Area Of Outstanding Natural Beauty, you can enjoy wonderfully peaceful walks through Stour Wood complete with bluebell carpets in spring and remarkable views of the river.
Hatfield Forest, immediately south of Stansted Airport, is a place of astounding, ancient beauty. Filled with old oaks and atmospheric coppices, this medieval royal hunting ground takes you right back to when Norman kings rode on horseback.
One of the best known areas for hikes in Essex is Epping Forest. Like Hatfield, this is an ancient forest and contains a labyrinth of trails through its stunning woods. Epping Forest has routes that will take you ten minutes and paths that could take you ten hours and you’ll see heaths, rivers, bogs, woods and centuries-old trees.
From its miles of estuary trails and coastal nature reserves to its evocative ancient forests, Essex is a county filled to the brim with walking opportunities.
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