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Essex Walks

  1. The Saffron Trail
  2. Instructions
Saffron Trail

The Saffron Trail

The Saffron Trail is a long distance footpath just over 71 miles in length stretching all the way from Southend-on-Sea in the south east of the county to Saffron Walden in the north west. There are some lovely sections along the route including riverside walks, visits to unspoilt villages and historic monuments, strolls through beautiful woodlands in the heart of the urban sprawl, and miles and miles of walking in the wilds of the Essex countryside. However there are also less pleasant sections of this route including several miles of urban street walking and some extensive rural road walking, often with no verge. One or two minor changes to the route are suggested e.g. giving access to a lovely view or cutting out unnecessary diversions. We have described both the actual route and our alternatives, but the gpx track on the map follows the original Saffron Trail. See the directions for each section for details.

We have broken the route into 7 sections accessible by public transport, either by train or by a regular bus service. Some sections of the route are poorly served by public transport links which means that the start and stop points are in towns or large villages. So the length of each section depends on how far it is to the next town, and some rural sections are quite long as a result. But of course, you don't have to be bound by our break points: you can break the walk into smaller sections, combine chunks to get a longer route, or walk it in any way you choose.

Hover cursor over links to the right of the map to display each walk section.
Click on a link for detailed map and walk directions and photographs.


Walk Description

Saffron Walden

The walk starts in Southend overlooking the pier, then takes you west along a coastal route through Old Leigh into Hadleigh Castle Country Park, with a close up view of the castle and a lovely vista across the Thames Estuary. From there it goes inland with some urban walking interspersed with beautiful woodlands, before turning north into the countryside, through Hockley Woods, and across the rolling hills to the River Crouch. A tranquil stroll along the coastal path to Battlesbridge is followed by more open countryside to Danbury, after which the route turns west to walk along the meandering banks of the River Chelmer right through the county town of Chelmsford. From here the route gradually becomes more and more rural, as you walk north to Great Waltham. Heading north again the trail takes you through undulating farmland past Lees Priory then along the Flitch Way into Great Dunmow. After this, the route becomes even more pastoral, the villages both more idyllic and more isolated and the terrain becomes hillier, until after crossing a high plateau, you descend into Newport. From here it is a simple walk northwards to Saffron Walden.

The Saffron Trail was devised by Essex Ramblers because they noticed that the two major long distance walks in Essex - The Essex Way and St Peter's Way - both went from west to east, and thought it would be a nice idea to have a south-north route as well. The walk is called the 'Saffron Trail' because it ends in Saffron Walden. The name conjures up exotic images of an historic spice trail and since the town is named after the saffron grown there from 1400 - 1700 (extracted from crocuses), this seems to make sense. Sadly though, there is no evidence of any such spice trail between Saffron Walden and Southend. Nor is it likely as Southend has never been a trading port. In fact the bulk of the saffron crop was sold in England, where it was in high demand as medicine (it does have many medicinal uses, and was thought to be a cure for the plague), as a flavouring and for dyeing, and a small amount was exported via London in the 17th century to the American colonies and to northern Europe.


How to Use this Section


Key to icons used on the Essex Walks OS, Bing & Google maps :

  • parking Parking
  • Scenic view Scenic view
  • Panoramic view 360° Panorama
  • Food available Food
  • Rail station Railway Station
  • Bus stop Bus stop
  • Pub Pub
  • WC Toilets
  • Info Information
  • 1 Direction No. 1
  • 2 Direction No. 2
  • 3 Direction No. 3  etc etc

The full list of Essex Walks on this website is available under the main menu 'Short Walks' and 'Long Walks' links. 'Short' walks are between 3 and 19 miles long and are usually circular. 'Long' walks are 20 or more miles long. These include Long Distance Footpaths, such as the Centenary Circle, which have been divided into sections that take no more than a day, starting/stopping at convenient public transport links. Click on any one of them to get more details.

For each walk you will find:

The route map is interactive: you will see various icons along the route. The numbered ones tie back to the cross-referenced photos and show important points along the routes. The photos come up as a thumb-nail with a brief description, for more detail click on the thumb-nail and the picture will expand so you can see it more clearly. Click the back button to return to the route.

Other icons are explained in the key.

Once you have decided which route you want to walk, you can download and print off a pdf of the directions and photos to take with you.


Printing Maps

You can also print off a copy of the route map. The description page of each walk has an Adobe PDF document with a screenshot of the route on an Ordnance Survey map. Click on the link marked pdf Download Map PDF to view and print off a copy. However, these maps are fixed in scale and size - so you might want to use the interactive map, where you can zoom in on different parts of the route to get more detail and print these off separately. The Bing map for each walk will display the route on an 1:25K scale which has the best detail for walking.

If you are printing the screen direct from your browser, we would suggest using the Firefox Firefox browser for the most reliable results. When printing from your browser, you may want to optimise the map before printing. Drag the map so that the route appears on the top left of your screen. Go to Print Preview: you may need to toggle between portrait and landscape, and you may wish to alter the % print size. Due to the layered nature of OpenLayers graphical rendering, sometimes the map will not display in Print Preview. This can sometimes be remedied by playing with size / orientation settings in Print Preview. Allow time for all the map tiles to load before trying to print. Early versions of Google Chrome and Safari for Windows fail to produce consistent results in rendering the full screen maps.

Alternatively, for Windows 7 and Vista users, you can capture the screen or a selection of it with the " Snipping Tool " and print it out with Paint or other graphic program such as Picture Viewer or Irfanview . To use the Snipping Tool, first get the walk route displayed on the full screen OS Map, then go to Start > All Programs > Accessories > Snipping Tool and drag the cursor around the area you want to capture. The captured map image can then be saved as a .PNG, .JPG or .GIF file for printing off.

Fold up the map, directions and photos and put them in your pocket, and go off and enjoy your walk, unencumbered!