As much as I love London, I sometimes need a break from the city. I grew up with hiking trails outside my front door and my inner nature lover craves the countryside from time to time. So when an opportunity came up to join a friend’s walking group on a country ramble near Cambridge, I jumped at the chance to go on one of their Essex walks. It promised to take me through some of the prettiest villages in the area, too.
Country Walk near Cambridge
I knew it would be a good walk no matter what. It was going to be the second of my Essex walks since I moved to London, and the previous one took me through beautiful countryside.
My friend plans out his own walks with proper survey maps and he’s done this one before. He assured us that we were in for a treat, and he was right.
It’s an early wake up to meet the group at Liverpool Street station, but I arrive excited for a day outside the city. The hour-and-15-mintue train journey takes us to Audley End, which is in the village of Wendens Ambo in north Essex. We leave the platform and start our 14-mile walk, and a few steps in I can already tell I’m going to like this area.
From pink cottages to fall foliage, Wendens Ambo lures me in with its storybook atmosphere and scents of wood smoke coming from the chimneys.
But we’re not here for long. Soon this loveliest of Essex walks takes us deeper into the country.
We ramble along fields and through pastures and find ourselves in Arkesden. This might just be the prettiest village in Essex.
Thatched roofs abound, a red phone box doubles as a lending library, and a historic church sits at the top of a hill.
Add to that the idyllic Wicken Water stream running through the village and I’m sold.
We stop for a bit to photograph the cottages and walk around the churchyard, then continue our walk through tree arches and forested paths until we reach Duddenhoe End. Here we find more country cottages to admire before our path turns north to take us to Chrisall.
Chrishall is our lunch stop, and it couldn’t come at a better time. We’re hungry and it’s raining, so it’s the perfect place for a pub lunch. We stop at The Red Cow in Chrishall, a historic watering hole with all the rustic charm I could hope for.
A big lunch of fish and chips goes down a treat. Mabye it’s because I’m hungry, but the fish is some of the best I’ve had in a long time. It’s hard to pry ourselves away from the table when we’re done, but we have miles to go and the day is progressing.
We leave the pub and head down a lane called Loveday Close to reach more farms and fields on our way to Elmdon. Upon arrival we’re greeted by painted street signs directing us to nearby villages and crooked chimneys on thatched-roof cottages.
From Elmdon our prettiest of Essex walks takes us down a narrow path and back into fields. We say hello to resident cows as we pass through their farm, then walk beneath a tree canopy shaped in a perfect triangle.
A sheepdog comes bounding up to say hello, and I’m on full cute overload.
The rest of our walk takes us through big open fields as we make our way back to Wendens Ambo and Audley End station. It’s raining harder now, but we don’t feel the cold. We’ve kept a good pace the whole time and we’ve seen so many beautiful places along the way that a bit of precipitation can’t get us down.
When we finally make it to the end of our walk we’re exhausted and elated at the same time. We do some celebrating and stretching on the platform while we wait for the train back to London, then pile in and relax on the journey home. It’s been a great day out in the countryside and the walk has fully satisfied the part of me that was itching to get out of the city.
By the time we get back to Liverpool Street I’m happy to be home and excited for urban life again (not to mention dry clothes and a hot shower). But I’m sure it won’t be long until my feet feel the itch again. And when they do I know which of my Essex walks I’ll want to do again.
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