Secretive North Essex
An energetic ride round the extremely pretty rural countryside of North Essex, taking in some very picture postcard villages along the way. The ride includes some steep hills and a fair bit of offroad track, so is not suitable for road bikes, but provides a great near traffic-free day out on a hybrid bike or MTB. Best ridden as a clockwise circuit.
Bures Railway Station Car Park (or street parking nearby if full).
Between Colne Engaine and Greenstead Green the route follows the busy A1124 for about 200m. The track through Shardlow's Wood can be muddy and slippery at times. The bridleway from Bloom's Farm down to the A1017 is lumpy and bumpy in places, so requires particular care. The riverside trail from Lamarsh back to Bures involves an unmanned railway crossing - take great care please. The first 200m after the railway crossing are also probably best walked rather than ridden, but the steep grassy slope quickly gives way to an excellent farm track leading back to Bures.
The nearest facilities to your start & finish point are the Village Deli and the Eight Bells pub, 250m east of the Station Car Park.
Out on the ride, refreshment stop options include:
Colne Engaine: The Five Bells pub.
Great Bardfield: Co-op store.
Finchingfield: several pubs to choose from.
Castle Hedingham: The Bell Inn.
Lamarsh: The Lamarsh Lion community-owned pub.
Points of Interest
Although not as well known as the Stour Valley of Constable Country fame, the Colne Valley is equally as beautiful along much of its length.
Henry VIIIth apparently gave Bardfield to Anne of Cleves as part of his divorce settlement, and she acquired some magnificent barns and lodges here as a result. At the other end of the scale, Great Bardfield is also known for its tiny 19th century village lock-up, the Bardfield Cage.
Sometimes referred to as the most beautiful village in England. Whether or not that is the case, it certainly has a lovely traditional village green complete with duck pond, bridge, windmill and several pretty pubs. And the Tour de France passed through in 2014 too!
Not to be confused with nearby Hedingham Castle, Castle Hedingham is the village nestling in the shadow of the impressive Norman Castle. It is also known for the nearby Colne Valley Miniature Heritage Railway. The village itself has some lovely old narrow streets and medieval houses.
These tiny, secretive, Essex hamlets sit atop some surprisingly steep sided hills on the western side of the River Stour. The surrounding countryside is impressively beautiful, in particular the view down to the Stour Valley from Great Henny Church.