Our five maps illustrate circular routes meandering through some of the county's most beautiful rural areas and passing through many of its charming villages and towns. Each route has details on the area, the visitor attractions as well as listings of quality assured accommodation, should you wish to stay longer, and places to eat.
The five routes are:
Bounded by the North Sea and the rivers Crouch and Blackwater, the Dengie is a beguiling mix of the country's richest arable farming, thatched and weatherboarded villages like the sublime Tillingham, and moody end-of-the-earth saltmarshes. In Burnham-on-Crouch, the major town of the Dengie, you get the lot - great places to stay and eat, riverside walks and pubs, art galleries, gorgeous Georgian homes and even an eccentric octagonal bell tower. For the active, there's walking, cycling, horseriding and aquatic sports at the Bradwell Outdoors. For foodies there's some of the country's finest seafood and a food trail linking local farm producers.
The maritime town of Harwich stands at the tip of a peninsula in north east Essex commanding the entrance to a magnificent harbour, where the Orwell flows down from Ipswich to meet the waters of the Stour that flow from Constable Country. There are fine views over the busy harbour, especially from The Ha'penny Pier, with vessels of all shapes and sizes constantly moving. Harwich makes an excellent place to visit, with its narrow medieval streets and many interesting visitor attractions, from the Electric Palace Cinema, the Harwich Redoubt Fort and the High and low Lighthouse, to name but a few, you can be sure to have a great day out or short break away.
Mersea Island is the most easterly inhabited island in the UK, located 9 miles to the southeast of Colchester. It is situated in the estuary area of the rivers Blackwater and Colne and the only way onto the island is via the Strood, the only Anglo-Saxon causeway in England. There are various nature reserves dotted around the island and at low tide you can collect cockles, mussels, winkles and sea shells. Mersea Island is ideal for indulging in watersports such as sailing and wind surfing. There are excellent bird watching opportunities as the islands teems with wading birds. What is most memorable to many is the fresh seafood. You can sit in a restaurant beside the sea, watch the daily catch come in and savour it a few minutes later together with some Mersea wine and beer from the island's own vineyard and micro-brewery.
Saffron Walden is located in the north west of Essex, around 50 miles north of London. This very attractive town, set in a largely unspoilt rural countryside, has some of the finest preserved examples of a medieval market town and is quintessentially English. Within its outstanding Conservation Area you can find examples of every style of architecture from the 12th to the 21st century. The town trail lists all the main attractions that can be visited but one can spend hours walking through the town admiring the over 400 buildings of special architectural or historic interest. So why not stay longer and enjoy this enchanting gem in the north east of our county?
The trail is using Southend-on-Sea as a base where you and your family can enjoy a variety of activities and visit the many attractions on offer. The town remains a magnet for people wishing to get away for some fun, relaxation and culture. For passionate walkers the countryside around the district of Rochford offers some spectacular vistas. The Roach Valley Way, a 23 mile circular waymarked walk passes through a variety of landscapes, from the ancient woodlands of Hockley in the west to the coastal margins of the Roach and Crouch estuaries in the south and north. Christopher Somerville, author of ‘Coast', the accompanying book of the BBC series describes the coastal area of the winding creeks and windswept marshes as 'moody and of subtle shapes and colours, where the sea creeps up on the land and the land melts down into the sea, a place of shifting margins and hauntingly beautiful cloudscapes'. Download your map now and discover this part of Essex for yourself.
Neither Land nor Sea, a Discovering Britain walk from Benfleet to Leigh-on-Sea
Thirty miles from central London, the River Thames widens into a great estuary on its way to the North Sea. Mud, marsh and water blend into one.
This seems like a barren and bleak landscape. It can appear grey and lifeless, even on a sunny day. But it is actually a dramatic and constantly changing environment. On this five and a half mile walk from Benfleet to Leigh-on-Sea in Essex, you can explore the tidal creeks, salt marshes, mudflats on the edge of the estuary. Discover how dynamic they are and meet a range of wildlife that are specially-adapted to existing here. Find out how humans have learned to live in this marginal environment between the land and sea – battling the tides, earning a living and defending their shores.
This walk Neither Land nor Sea was created by the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) as part of their Discovering Britain series.