21 stunning winter walks in Essex that are perfect for Christmas Day

We all know the feeling you get on Christmas day when you have just finished you big dinner.

Chances are, you have eaten a bit more than you needed to, but it’s Christmas so why not.

However, once that turkey hangover starts to hit, you can be left feeling very sluggish for the rest of the day.

There are usually two options, the first is succumb to the food coma and nap on the sofa with your mouth open, or you can you can beat it, by going for a walk.

A Christmas Day walk is refreshing and a perfect way to spend some time outdoors with your family.

Luckily here in Essex we have a whole load of wonderful walks which are perfect for helping you work of that turkey.

Here are 21 walks that are perfect for after your Christmas dinner:

Palace Walk

If you want to take in some of the prettiest locks in the county, then we’d highly recommend Palace Walk.

It’s so-called because the stroll takes you past Danbury Country Park which houses the Tudor Gothic Danbury Palace.

You can start wherever you like but some good places with parking include the country park and Blakes Wood.

The route

If you start at Danbury Country Park, this route takes you past Old Hare Wood, Hammonds Road, then onto Cuton Lock, Stonhams Lock, Little Baddow Lock, then past Little Baddow Hall, New Lodge, Blakes Wood nature reserve, Lingwood Common, Colemans Lane, the Main Road, past Danbury Church and along Woodhill Road, and back to Danbury Country Park.

Along the way, be sure to stop at Cuton Lock for a photo opportunity with the war-time shelter as a backdrop, and Little Baddow Lock with its greenery and trees.

If you go into the country park territory, you’ll spot moorhens, ducks, carp and perhaps a kingfisher on the lakes, but even in the surrounding areas you can spot many species of butterflies and insects, and perhaps a dragonfly or two.

Find out more here

Papermill Lock

This walk starts at Papermill Lock itself and takes you on a 3 ½ mile circular route along this attractive part of the canal.

The first part of the walk is along the towpath which can get muddy if it’s rained recently.

On this walk you’ll pass a wooden seat and old kissing gate, little foot bridges, stiles and pleasant footpaths.

Fascinating fact – some of the tall weeping willow trees you’ll spot at the start of this walk are used to make some of the best cricket bats in the country.

You’re likely to spot all sorts of birds, butterflies, insects and dragonflies as well as wild flowers growing on the side of the canal path.

The route

Start at Paper Mill Lock, go over the bridge, through the gate and follow the tow path until you get to the footbridge.

Cross the bridge, turn right, until you get to another bridge, with the River Ter to your right, follow the footpath sign, pass Botters Farm, through a stile, follow the yellow markers back to the main road and Paper Mill Lock.

Find out more here

Heybridge Basin

Heybridge Basin is a popular place to gather at weekends but most people stick to the sea wall area and the pubs and cafe. If you venture along the canal paths a bit more, you’ll soon find the tranquility you’re looking for.

The route

Start at Daisy Meadow car park at Heybridge Basin. Walk up the canal path, to the lock and The Old Ship pub, follow the towpath towards Heybridge. Then, at Heybridge, walk along the towpath, cross the bridge, past Northey View, pass the gravel pits, past or into the reserve and then stop at the sea wall for some great views of Maldon.

Cross the lock and you are back at Heybridge Basin.

You are likely to see all manner of waterbirds such as oystercatchers, swifts, shelducks and swallows. In the winter there are hundreds of overwintering birds including Brent geese.

Find out more here

Woodland Walk

A stroll through various woodland pathways including the lovely Blakes Wood, which is owned by the National Trust.

The route

It’s a good idea to start at Blakes Wood where there’s plenty of parking. The ancient wood is stunning, especially in springtime, and is full of wildlife and flowers. From there, walk towards Chapel Lane and down to New Lodge and the nature reserve in Blakes Wood. Then travel along Graces Walk, and up along the canal pathways towards the Essex Wildlife Trust Reserve. At the ford, veer off over the fields to Little Baddow Church, up to the river just past Little Baddow Lock, down to Holybred Wood and Holybred Lane, then over to The Rodney, past Heather Hills, down to the Generals Arms and back to Blakes Wood.

In the woods, you’re likely to see warblers, nightingales and butterflies.

Find out more here

Langford

Another walk that takes in Beeleigh Falls, but who wouldn’t welcome another reason to visit?

The route

Starting at Beeleigh Falls, walk northwest towards Langford Mill and towards the scenic reservoir. Head to the pretty bridge and lake, and then to White Lodge house, past Furzelands Farm, Grapnells Farm, towards Heybridge, pass Tesco Extra, towards Mill Lane, then cross the canal on the Maldon Bypass Gates. Walk along the canal towpath with the canal on your right until you get to a brick bridge and back to Beeleigh Falls.

Here you’re in with a good chance of seeing a kingfisher, as well as other waterbirds and waders.

Find out more here

Ulting to Paper Mill Bridge

The route

This long walk starts at All Saints Church in Ulting and takes you along the banks of the River Chelmer, past Hoe Mill Lock and Paper Bridge Mill. It also passes Church Road bridge and continues along the river before passing Rushes Lock. The first section of this walk is almost all along the riverside and you’ll find calming waters and peace and quiet there.

For full details, see the link below.

Find out more here

Tollesbury Wick

This one is perfect for anyone who loves boats and the water.

The route

This one takes in Tollesbury, the marina and along the seawall with its views of the Blackwater Estuary. From East Street, head to the Marina, past the light ship and Shinglehead Point, and towards Rolls Farm. Head down the farm track, follow the footpath and then loop back round to Church Street.

Be sure to look out for all the birds including oystercatchers, terns and ringed plovers.

Find out more here

Bourne Mill ‘a wee wander’

Bourne Mill, Bourne Road, Colchester CO2 8RT

How far is it? 3 miles

How long does it take? About an hour

Walk details: Starting at Bourne Mill, this circular walk will take you through some of Colchester’s best country nooks. It’s a mixture of paths and town pavements and is pushchair friendly.

What’s the walk like? On this stroll, you’ll see the River Colne, Bourne Valley, Cannock Mill, Distillery Pond and the Almhouses of Winsley Square. Some of the pubs and streets you’ll pass by were built in the 19th century. It’s classed as an easy walk so should be fine for those with younger children.

More details here

Hatfield Forest Capability Brown walk

Hatfield Forest, Bush End Road, Takeley CM22 6NE

How far is it? 1.9 miles (3km)

How long does it take? 1-2 hours

Walk details: Start at Lakeside Cafe, then head past the Shell House towards Hatfield Broad Oak, across Shermore Brook, alongside Cedar Ride and Decoy Lake before returning back to the cafe.

What’s the walk like? This is a National Trust trail in the Hatfield Forest area which takes in the changes made to the forest in Georgian times including the work of Capability Brown – the famous English landscape architect who designed more than 170 parks. This is a circular walk which takes you along woodland paths and fields, and can be muddy if it’s been raining.

More details here

Paycoke’s Tudor Coggeshall walk

Paycocke’s House, 25 West Street, Coggeshall CO6 1NS

How far is it? 2.5 miles (4km)

How long does it take? 1 hour

Walk details: Start at Paycocke’s House and walk along West Street. Then, take Bridge Street and head towards the River Blackwater. After that, pass Grange Hill, Abbey Lane, Gallows Street, Dead Lane and Church Green before finishing off at The Woolpack.

What’s the walk like? A Tudor-themed walk – perfect if your little ones are learning about the period at school. Discover the medieval Grange Barn, the Chapel of St Nicholas and St Mary’s Abbey. The walk is described as ideal for families as it’s quite short and there’s loads of history to talk about along the way.

More details here

Danbury Lakes

Danbury Country Park, 6 Maldon Road, Danbury, Chelmsford CM3 4QG

How far is it? About 1 mile

How long does it take? Under an hour

Walk details: Start at the main car park, which is right on the lakeside. Walk around the edge of the first lake by following the short path that then take you to the second one. There are well-marked paths.

What’s the walk like? The two main lakes are next to each other and are full of ducks, swans, moorhen and carp. If you take a stroll around the two lakes and the woodland, you’ll see some beautiful forest areas and lake life. You can adjust your walk to the age of your kids but even just walking around the perimeter of the two lakes is good exercise.

More details here

Little Waltham Meadows Nature Reserve

Back Lane, Little Waltham, Chelmsford CM3 3PP

If you go for a wander around this reserve, you could be lucky enough to see all sorts of wildlife.

The reserve is on the east bank of the River Chelmer and is made up of woodland and dry meadows.

If you’re patient you can easily see adorable water voles in the river here. Also around this area are kingfishers and bats which come out in the evenings.

Backwarden Nature Reserve

Backwarden, Danbury Essex

This area is part of the Danbury Ridge Nature Reserves and is something of a wildlife haven.

There are several areas of restored heathland which are home to all sorts of fungi as well as animals. You may well find lizards and adders if you’re quiet, and as it heads towards early evening, the dormice come out and ‘scurry along the branches of the woodland trees’.

There are some lovely walks to be had here.

Woodham Fen Nature Reserve

Off Ferrers Road, South Woodham Ferrers CM3 5ZF

As this is a fairly unusual habitat for Essex, you are likely to spot some different wildlife at this reserve.

At Woodham Fen Nature Reserve, the saltmarsh turns naturally into grassland so there are all sorts of plants and animals that have made their home here.

You may well spot small teal ducks, rock pipits and common snipe in the colder months.

There are various walks around here, most of which head towards the River Crouch. They are of varying lengths and there are handy benches along the way if you need a rest.

Sawbridgeworth Marsh Nature Reserve

Sawbridgeworth CM21 9HR

There’s a chance to spot one of the UK’s rarest mammals at this reserve – the water vole.

The ditches along this section of the River Stort have been opened up which has allowed the water voles to make their home here.

Around 190 voles were released into the area to try to bring the species back in 2017.

The reserve itself is full of reedbeds and marsh plants which are bursting with wildlife. While you’re there, see if you can spot some of the rare plants that only grow in a couple of places in Essex, such as the Southern Marsh Orchids and the Marsh Valerian.

There are walking trails around the reserve and along the river.

Rushy Mead Nature Reserve

Bishops Stortford CM22 7QJ

This reserve used to house a pumping station for a sewage works but is now full of reedbeds and all the associated wildlife.

Just like Sawbridgeworth, it’s another place to spot rare water voles. These adorable little creatures can be found among the reeds and ditches and are sure to delight anyone who lays eyes on them.

Also to be found here are lots of dragonflies, water beetles and if you’re lucky, a rare willow tit.

Visitors will find walks around the reserve, some of which link up with the Stortford navigation path.

Iron Latch Nature Reserve

Halstead Road, Stanway, Colchester CO3 OJR

Go for a walk in these woods and meadows and you could be lucky enough to see two pretty special species.

It’s also a good place to see and hear nightingales. There are many species of butterfly too such as the Purple Hairstreak and Common Blues.

There is a pleasant footpath that takes you around the reserve.

Thameside Nature Park

(Image: Getty)

Mucking Wharf Road, Mucking, Stanford-Le-Hope SS17 0RN

This was once a landfill site but it’s now a nature park.

It’s located on the Thames Estuary and is made up of mucking flats and grasslands.

Here, you could be lucky enough to see short-eared owls, barn owls, water voles, harvest mice, cuckoos, skylarks and the shrill carder bee. Many species of wild birds and butterflies are also found here.

There’s a lovely long walk here if you’re brave enough – the park is on the 27-mile Thames Estuary path route which goes from Tilbury to Leigh-on-Sea.

Hornchurch Country Park

Squadrons Approach, Hornchurch RM12 6DF

This park is set in the Ingrebourne Valley which is made up of 261 hectares of marshland, grassland, river, open water, reed beds and woodland, making it a haven for wildlife – particularly birds.

An impressive 61 species of birds breed there and there are also lots of rare beetles. You’ll see dragonflies, crickets and other types of insects.

Hopefully you could see a water vole or kingfisher or two as well.

The Naze at Walton-on-the-Naze

The Naze Visitor Centre at Walton

Old Hall Lane, Walton-on-the-Naze

A stunning coastal walk along the clifftops at Walton. The headland is made up of around 300 acres of grassland, scrubland and saltmarsh. There’s so much to explore here with your dog, from the clifftops to the beach.

Whenever the tide is out, you and your dog can run and walk on the sands. The area is also a Site of Special Scientific Interest, mostly because the cliffs are positively bursting with fossils and shark’s teeth.

Weald Country Park

Weald Country Park

South Weald, Brentwood

There are more than 500 acres of meadows, woodland, grassland and lakes on this site.

There’s lots of wildlife for you to admire including cows, deer, herons, ducks and lots of water birds. There are some great hills to challenge you a and some spectacular views on the north side.

If you’re there with the whole family, you must check out the Stick Man play trail, inspired by the Julia Donaldson children’s book.

Essex Live