15th June 2017, Essex Way Stage 5: White Notley to Coggeshall

Four of us set out from White Notley station to rejoin the Essex Way paths traversing broad arable fields to the ancient (and very small) Cressing church. Nearby were the Cressing Great Barns but we skipped a visit to these pressing on along farm tracks by fields of beans, barley and wheat. After passing the hamlet of Bradwell with a budding vineyard we found we were following the course of the River Blackwater shielded by willows and elders. We soon found a way through the bushes to picnic in lush grass alongside the muddy stream. After another mile on farm tracks we reached Grange Farm, on the outskirts of Coggeshall. We had a quick look into the massive Grange Barn (a monastic abbey tithes store) and a craft exhibition before finding the Abbey Mill. Across the pond from the mill was a small mansion, and in its yard a well preserved 14th century flint-built chapel with royal connections. Unlike the grange barn this complex remains in private hands; one of us had ten years ago listened to the owner complaining that he needed an agency such as English Heritage to take over its management. However, he seemed to be coping still.

By now we had passed Coggleshall on its S flank into more unspoiled farm countryside; but turning N a sheltered path took us right into the town. Here we crossed a wide common to explore the High Street. Coggeshall is a significant 16th/ 17th century market town with many half-timbered houses and one major merchant’s house (Paycockes). The clocktower tea garden claimed our attention straight away. Then Steve’s friend Glynn turned up to give us a quick guided tour of the residential streets and on down to the ancient bridge and quay where the Blackwater spreads its waters. We had intended to find our way to Braintree by bus from here but Glynn’s family sized car brought us smartly to Chelmsford Station for the journey home. On 29th June we will return to Coggeshall via Marks Tey Station for the Stage Six walk to West Bergholt on the outskirts of Colchester (10 miles).​
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