Danbury and the river Chelmer

This walk starts and ends in Danbury Country Park. A lengthy part of it is beside the river Chelmer. Large parts around Danbury are conservation areas and nature reserves. Near the end of the walk, there are extensive views over the area to the east of Chelmsford. There are several car parks, but if you make for the one at TL771047, the start directions will make more sense!

O/S Ref: TL771047
Length: 10½ miles approx.
Approximate time: 3¾ – 4¼ hours.
Parking: Car park near Woodhill Road/Well Lane junction (£2.20).
Refreshments: Restaurants in Danbury. Tea-room at Paper Mill Lock.


There can be an interminable wait to cross the A414 after the opening leg of the walk (TL765054). Because of this, that part of the walk is possibly unsuitable if you have young children with you. To a lesser extent, the same is true crossing the A414 in Danbury near the end of the walk (TL778053), but the traffic is travelling slower there.

No other black-spots to report for now.

The walk

Leave the car park on its western edge, near an information board with Woodlands of Danbury at the top. Don't head towards a building here, but keep straight on, going left briefly then right, soon passing a way-marker with a Wildside Walk sign on it - this confirms you've taken the first few steps correctly, on what can be a somewhat ambiguous start to the route!

The path goes north-west, passing another way-marker soon, then crosses a track. After crossing a ditch, walk slightly uphill for a way to follow another way-marker in the same direction. Cross a grassy area, go through a gate, then head in the direction pointed to by a public footpath signpost. The path goes along the left edge of a park area initially.

Follow a series of somewhat rotund round white-tipped posts coming to a track. Bear left onto the track until you approach a thinner round white-tipped post. Here, you enter enter a wooded area to the right of the thinner post, still going north-west. There are some square white-tipped posts intermingled with their fatter round counterparts for a short way.

Go through a brand new kissing gate (at the time of writing), then turn right for a few paces. Turn left onto a path which isn't clearly marked, soon coming to an older square way-marker. The path opens up in a glade for a short distance. Follow a way-marker at the end of this glade to go right, then shortly after, follow another way-marker, which has a wire fence to the left of it. Keep along the path to come to the busy A414 road (1). There can be a wait here to find a break in the traffic before you dash across!

The other side of the road walk a few paces left, before turning right at a somewhat buried footpath signpost, thereafter going through a kissing gate. Walk diagonally across a grassy area, looking left for another kissing gate to the left. Turn right onto a small service road which caters for a gravel pit.

At a notice board, which has a map of the site on it, turn left at a public footpath signpost to head along an enclosed path. After about 300 metres, go right at a way-marker, then left at another shortly after, to cross a field. The direction you need to take, is towards a bridge on the far side. When the field is heavily cropped though, it may be easier to skirt the left edge of the field, turning right at the corner.

After crossing the bridge, turn slightly left, to make towards the left end of a hedgerow. On reaching it, turn slightly left to walk in a WNW direction. There's a slight left-right kink in the path further on. It's probably worth pointing out that the path doesn't take exactly the same route as the OS map at this point.

When the path comes to a road  – in front of some farm buildings – turn right onto the road (2). Follow the road for about 500 metres, before turning left at the first of two signposts. Walk under a power line, just to the right of a pylon. Cross a bridge at the far side of this field, then turn a few degrees left, to walk across a narrow field. The other side of the field, cross an iron bridge then turn right, to follow the river Chelmer. At this point, we are quite near the busy A12 road (as if I needed to point that out!). We are on the eastern outskirts of Chelmsford, and the footpath we are following is part of the Centenary Circle. The Centenary Circle is a 21 mile long-distance path circling Chelmsford.

The next part of our walk doesn't require any attention navigation-wise, as it simply follows the river. After about 1200 metres, the Century Circle path disappears to the left. Follow the river at this point, as it goes right. After a similar distance, there is another right bend in the river. Not long after  passing Little Baddow Lock, we have to cross the river at a road bridge (3). Turn left the other side, then almost immediately cross a substantial concrete bridge. There is the church at Little Baddow to the right. Parts of the church date back to Norman times. There is a wall painting, dating from 1370!

After another 1500 metres or so, go through a gate at Paper Mill Lock. There is a tearoom there if you are in need of refreshment. Go through a gate shortly, cross a road then go through another gate to continue along the river. It's soon time however to leave the river. The sign we're getting near the turn, is the meadow on the right, which comes to a point as the boundaries converge. Don't take the first footpath, but the second one will be the continuation of our route (4).

The path virtually doubles back as we take it along the right edge of a field. When you come to a ditch ahead, turn left. Where the ditch ends, the path staggers right-left, with another ditch appearing on the right soon-after. Keep on to a road.

At the road, cross it to follow a bridleway the other side. The bridleway goes left just before a gate bearing the house-name “Tofts”, then swings right shortly after. The path goes left again just before another gate with the name “The Coach House” on its left pillar. The path again swings right, then right again, before going left to come out onto the right edge of a field. Turn right shortly to be on the right edge of an adjacent field, heading westwards.

Turn left at a way-marker in the far corner, steadily climbing southwards along the right edge of the field. The path becomes enclosed for a short while, but rejoins the field shortly. It might be worth turning round further up for a decent view behind. Bear slightly right at a four way signpost at the top to continue along an enclosed path, soon turning slightly left.

Walk through a wooded area, which gives way to a stony area in front of a house. On coming to the far boundary of the property, turn left onto a grassy area (5) to continue just inside the boundary, the path becoming enclosed. Turn right at a way-marker, then bear right at a second one, through woodland. Follow a white tipped way-marker, to walk to the right side of a wire fence. At another white tipped way-marker, the path descends to a road.

Cross the road and walk along a bridleway on the opposite side (Postman's Lane). Where the track goes right, keep ahead passing some bollards, to follow a short white-tipped way-marker. Head uphill, following the bridleway round to the left after a while, after which the path descends slightly.
Ignore any paths to the the left or right for a while, but carry on, passing a notice board to the left (Danbury Ridge Nature Reserve). On approaching another notice board, at a white-tipped way-marker, turn right to walk in a WSW direction.

Walk about 300 metres, coming to a gate. Turn left to walk in a SSE direction, ascending slightly. Go through the gap to the left of a gate to enter Danbury Ridge Reserve; Springwood Nature Reserve, passing the sign on the gate, that informs you of that! Walk through a scrubby area, which opens out to a thinly populated woodland. Go through another gap to the right of a fence, now walking along an enclosed path, with fences either side. The path becomes concreted later on, signalling the fact it's nearly time to turn right, which you do on coming to a road (just opposite Oak Lodge).

Walk along Litchborough Park, keeping to the right of some gates – a very desirable area to live, I'll wager! Turn right at Runsell Road (you'll know that's its name when you get to the end). Cross Little Baddow Road to follow a footpath the other side into Lingwood Common National Trust Park. Start off downhill, then at a way-marker turn left off the main path (6), still descending. Follow the path round to the right, cross two wooden bridges in fairly quick succession. Pass a National Trust sign, informing you that you're leaving Lingwood Common. 

The path becomes enclosed and descends a bit more steeply, crossing a lane to come to another wooden bridge. It can be fairly muddy here after even a moderate rainfall. The path starts ascending quite steeply - who said Essex was flat?! Cross another bridge (or walk to the side of it), soon passing a power pole then bearing right. The path narrows to become enclosed by fences either side as it ascends into Danbury.

Cross the road then turn left the other side to walk along an elevated pavement. Turn right just after a bus stop to head towards Danbury church. Turn left in front of the church, then right (to the right of a gate) to walk along an enclosed path.

Our route turns right soon, just before a mast. The path here bisects the churchyard, but you may just want to take a few paces further south, to enjoy the south-looking views from this relatively high spot. I've heard that some people reckon this is the highest place in Essex – it certainly feels so from the views. The highest place in Essex is, however, near the little village of Langley - marked Oldfield Grove on the O/S map.

The path through the churchyard has a neatly trimmed hedge to the right, after which there are some allotments to the right and left. The path then becomes narrower as it becomes enclosed, then starts descending. Keep ahead where the path passes the end of a cul de sac. Turn right down an alley, with a tree on its corner (7), to walk between some houses. Cross a road, then follow the footpath through another alley on the other side.

Turn left onto The Heights at the end of the alley and follow it to a road. Cross the road then look out for a footpath almost opposite, with a “Welcome to Danbury Country Park” sign by it. Follow the path downhill into the park, taking a path to the left soon, leading you back to your vehicle.

Click here to get an OS map with the route highlighted.
Click here to get a GPX file to load into your GPS gadget. (Right click, then Save As).