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Essex Walks: Advice


  1. Preparation
  2. Country Safety
  3. Country Courtesy
  4. Rights of Way

Preparing for your walk

A walk in the country should be a relaxed enjoyable experience. It's not a route march under enemy fire, after all! But there are a few things we can do to make the experience more enjoyable

Footwear

Berghaus Boot The only special clothing you need to enjoy walking is a good pair of boots. At first these needn't be fancy, so long as your boots are comfortable and have good ankle support. The ankle support is needed because the terrain you are walking on will rarely be smooth. Also, at any time of year and in any area you can come across muddy patches and boots are are a great boon in these circumstances. In choosing boots, ensure they fit well - if your feet are sliding around in them, you will get blisters. Go for comfort over style.

Clothing

Good boots fit better with good walking socks. For short walks the quality of your socks may not matter, but for longer walks there is a risk of getting blisters unless you have appropriate socks. Bare legs are nice in summer, but this is also the growing season for nettles. More generally, when you get ready for a walk bear in mind that the environment you are walking in will change as you go. Light winds on the slopes of a hill can feel like a strong gale on the crest; languid wafts inland can be replaced by stiff breezes on the coast. A cool and misty morning can turn into a hot afternoon. Showers can come on quickly and can dramatically lower the temperature. The best advice is, wear layers.

Drink

Always take a drink with you when you are out walking. Although we've tried to give you rough timings for the walks, you may well be out for longer than you think.

Maps

We have provided a PDF of the route for you to print off, which you should protect from rain. In addition to the detailed route map we have provided, you might want to print out a larger scale map to help navigate to and from the start point. Sometimes the rural roads of Essex can be confusing if you don't know the area.

A useful guide to map reading can be found here: OS Map Reading Booklet PDF Ideally, you should have the full sized OS Explorer map of the area which will show the terrain at a very detailed 1:25000 scale: as shown on the interactive Bing maps where you can zoom in to show the footpaths are charted with green dotted lines: - - - (1:25K scale).

 

Timetables

Essex bus and train timetables can be very useful, especially when you plan to do a walk longer than you are used to, but the going is particularly difficult and you decide to cut the walk short. Some bus stops have a copy of the timetable attached, some don't. And in our experience, where they are attached they are often very out of date or downright misleading. You don't need to take a whole book, but just print out a single sheet from the relevant website - we have provided links.

Daylight

Don't get caught out in the dark without a good torch. It might be an idea to check daylight hours to time your walk appropriately, as even public footpaths can be quite hazardous out in the dark wilds of Essex.

Compasses on map

Tide Tables

Access to some of our walks may depend on the tides. For example, access to and from Mersea Island is not possible at high tide at some times of the year. This may mean that if you get the timing wrong you will have to wait up to 6 hours! The timing of tides changes from day to day, so check the times on the date you intend to do the walk. Where this affects the walk, we will state it clearly in the walk description.

Compass

You might find it useful (and interesting) to take a compass with you in case you get lost or want to double check the directions. Beware cheap toys: you get what you pay for.

Mobile Phone

For emergencies.
But turn it off. The research of a leading US psychologist has concluded: "Cell phone use causes people to be oblivious to their surroundings while engaged in even a simple task such as walking. "

Livestock

Highland with young Footpaths, bridleways and byways are all legal rights of way. That means you and I have a right to use them even though they go across privately owned land.
Please be aware that although most landowners keep their routes clear, at certain times of the year there may be some problems with the routes. Where paths cross fields in use by grazing farm animals, keep dogs on a lead and keep away from any young. Young creatures often have over protective parents! If this means straying off the route within that field, so be it.

The National Farmers Union says "Our advice to walkers is if you have a dog with you, keep it under close control, but do not hang on to it should a cow or bull start acting aggressively. If you feel threatened, just carry on as normal, do not run, move to the edge of the field and if possible find another way round the field, returning to the original path as soon as is possible. And remember to close the gate."


Dogs

You may encounter a potentially aggressive dog while using a public right of way. If you suspect a dog is being used by a landowner to deter walkers from using a public path on, or near, their property, you should contact the local Council. If you are attacked by a dog, you should contact the police. It's not the dog's fault - it is just being territorial, it is the irresponsible dog owner that is at fault.

Care should be taken when a dog exhibits tense body language, especially if it raises its tail, makes growling noises, and glares at you. If it shows its teeth the wisest course of action is to back away smoothly and slowly.

  1. Stand still.
  2. Don't scream.
  3. Avoid eye contact as the dog sees this as confrontational.
  4. With very slow movements, back away from the dog, away from his perceived territory.
  5. Keep your hands reasonably high and close to your body. Moving hands tend to be the first part of your body to be bitten.
  6. If you have anything to hand, like a rucksack, use it to block the approach of the dog.
  7. If you are knocked down, lie still, curl into a ball and play dead.
  8. Don't ever turn your back on the dog and never, ever run: - running will only elicit a 'chase response' from the dog.

 

Electric fences

Electrified spring gate Electric fences are often used by farmers to keep animals in enclosures. Landowners are required to put up warning signs where they are in use near footpaths, and to insulate them where the wire crosses a stile. Temporary electric fences use a white mesh conductive tape. Where they cross the footpath there should be a black non-conductive handle attached to a fence post, which you can use to lower the tape to get through. The energiser unit sends electricity in small millisecond pulses every second or so, so if you touch a live wire you will get a nasty "snap", but it won't create a reflex where you get stuck on the wire as in the cartoons!

 

Rabbit Holes

Down the rabbit hole Rabbit holes, fox holes, badger holes. It may sound obvious but our little furry friends are laying traps everywhere for the unsuspecting walker. It is so easy to be walking along, enjoying the view, or checking the map , and suddenly, your foot goes into a hole. You can't stop the forward momentum and you break your shin bone, shatter ankle bones etc. All miles from civilisation! (A good reason to carry a mobile phone for emergencies)

A great number of paths run along field edges and banks of ditches, which is exactly where animals like to burrow. Churchyards and cemetaries are also a favourite. Enjoy the scenery, but don't forget to glance down regularly, even if it appears to be a well-used path, because the view could all too easily change to the walls of your nearest A&E department.


 

Clifftops

Be careful near the edges of cliffs. The bases of cliffs often get worn away by the sea, leaving an overhang. These may not be stable, and can crumble into the sea without warning. Very often the state of the underlying cliff is not visible from on top (although it might be clear from the shore line), so stay away from the edges.

Ticks

tickTicks which normally infest deer, sheep, cows or other mammals in the countryside can also attach themselves to humans. There are a variety of diseases they can transmit, the most serious of which is Lyme Disease. If a tick does attach itself to you, it should be removed with tweezers as soon as possible. Wear suitable clothing that makes it hard for ticks to get close to your skin. The less exposed skin the harder it is for ticks to attach. Use an insect repellent as this will help to deter ticks from climbing on to you. Walk in the centre of paths rather than in the rough because ticks wait on vegetation for a host to brush past. For more information, see BADA-UK .

 

Respect

The English countryside is primarily a working environment. Although we have a right of access in designated areas, we need to understand that for the farmers, gamekeepers and woodsmen the countryside is their workplace. Most of the time you won't even see the farmers, but if they are working in the vicinity, let them get on with what they are doing. Keep out of the way when farm animals are being gathered or moved and follow directions from the farmer. Keep out of the way of tractors or other heavy machinery and don't wander into outbuildings.
In summary, being respectful of the countryside working environment will only enhance your enjoyment of it. Download Countryside Code

Gates

You will encounter a variety of gates, styles and footbridges. Please use these rather than finding your own way between fields. Leave gates as you find them (open or shut, and maybe latched or tied as well).

Litter

As the saying goes, leave only footprints and take only memories (although photographs are OK too).

Privacy and Noise

The pretty villages and quaint cottages which are scattered through the Essex countryside often look so extraordinary that we might think they were theme parks rather than living, working, communities. But they're not. So please remember that showing consideration and respect for other people makes the countryside a pleasant environment for everyone.

Traffic

Small country roads are not designed for speed - they have "grown up" from cart tracks. So slow down, be considerate of other road users and watch out for wildlife. Watch out for passing places to use on single-track roads.

Parking

Be considerate when parking and don't block driveways, gateways or field entrances. Most of the routes on Essex Walks have very limited parking places, and maybe full when you arrive. Please note: the walks on this site are not intended for group outings requiring more than one car. Large walking organisations have been banned from some parking facilities near footpaths because they turn up in droves of cars and spoil it for the locals. Abuse (& inappropriate use) of local parking facilities such as church car parks can result in access being withdrawn.

Dogs and Livestock

The Countryside is a great place for dogs. Not only do they get great exercise, they are out in the fresh air experiencing all the smells and sounds and excitement of their ancestors. As a result they can get overexcited. In particular, all dogs, even well behaved ones, cam go a bit crazy near livestock or wild animals. So keep your dog on a lead near farm animals, nesting birds and wild deer.
Remember - farmers are entitled to destroy a dog if it injures or worries their animals.
And, of course, clean up after your dog.

Natural England and the Kennel Club have produced a useful guide, downloadable here: CA205: You and your dog in the countryside V2PDF(2Mb).

Support the rural economy

If you can, buy your supplies from local stores., use the local pubs, and pop in to the farm shops - they can be surprisingly good value!

Conservation areas, SSSIs etc

Some area of the countryside contain rare plants or wildlife, or cover a particularly precious ecology. Such areas are clearly signposted. If you go into such an area it might not be ovbvious to the unskilled eye just what it is that is special - it may be as simple as a patch of moss, or grasses which encourage the breeding of a rare butterfly.
So the general rule is, don't stray off the footpaths in these areas, and keep dogs on leads and small children under control.

Public Rights of Way (PROW)

Footpath sign Generally, private land is just that - private. But sometimes the public has the right to cross this land along a specified route. This is called a "Public Right of Way" (PROW). Most PROWs go over farmland or through woods, but just occasionally might take you through what seems to be someone's garden!

If the right exists for foot traffic only, it is called a footpath. Bridleways are also footpaths, but additionally users are allowed to ride a horse or bicycle along them. On bridleways, cyclists must give way to walkers or horseriders. Wheeled vehicles other than bicycles (motorbikes, horse and carts) are not allowed.

Byways are open to all kinds of wheeled vehicles in addition to pedestrians and horseriders.

All PROWs should clearly identify which category they fall into. There is a colour code - yellow for footpaths, blue for bridleways and red for byways.

By law there must be a clearly visible sign at the point where the PROW leaves the road network, pointing out which way the PROW goes. Additionally, there are often waymarkers - usually posts with arrows carved on or attached - pointing out where the route changes as it gets further from the road. Waymarkers may also be found attached to trees or telegraph poles, carved into stiles, or even at ground level fixed to footbridges! But this signage cannot always be relied on, so where there is possible confusion over the exact route of a PROW on any our our walks, we have given verbal and photographic directions.

 

For all types of rights of way, the same rules prevail - these are part of the public highway network, and need to be adequately maintained. Problems with PROW's generally relate to poor signage, obstructions (by crops, fallen trees, fences, or by overgrown hedges) or to broken stiles, bridges or gates. If you find you can't get through because of a problem like this, you have the right to divert around the problem. And when you get home, please report it - you will be doing a service to other PROW users. Although maintenance of the PROW is the responsibility of the landowner, it is usual practice for problems to be reported via the local County Council (see below). These problems are legal matters and Essex CC will take them seriously.

In addition, because the countryside is a working environment, there may be temporary problems due to farming and woodland management. Where crops have been planted across a footpath the landowner often cuts a route through the crop. Follow this even if it strays slightly from the printed route. Where no route has been cut, walk through the crop staying as close to the route as possible. You will often find that previous walkers have created a path of sorts to follow. After harvesting the crops, and before sowing new crops, farmers must plough their field. This erases any visible evidence of the path. In such cases, try to stick to the directions on the field edge waymarkers, and we have tried to provide directions as well.

Recently, the clearing and maintenance of PROWs in Essex is being reduced. This means that some footpaths increasingly likely to be impassable in summer, despite the Council's statutory obligation to keep paths clear. We have tried to include on this site routes that are less likely to suffer from vegetation overgrowth problems. These are walks we enjoy and we don't like being stung and scratched anymore than anyone else.!

 
Public Bridleway sign

Reporting PROW problems

To report an obstruction of or an encroachment onto a public right of way, or to report any other defect, then you could try the Essex County Council's online reporting system but it is appallingly user-unfriendly.

If you find the web program difficult to use, or the responses less than helpful, then tell the managers at the ECC:

Garry White
Public Rights of Way and Records Manager,
Essex CC,
E3 County Hall, Market Street
Chelmsford
Essex
CM1 1QH
Email address: prow.web@essexcc.gov.uk
Telephone: 08457 430 430
Fax number: 01245 490705