5 of the best running routes in Essex
Whether you’re a couch-to-5Ker who’s missing the fun of an organised Parkrun or a seasoned long-distance pro coveting a new patch to pound, we've got you covered with our edit of off-the-grid jogs.
Here’s some of the county’s prettiest running routes to help you stay on track – and keep putting one foot in front of the other this month.
The heritage hit for short-distance plodders: Bourne Mill, Colchester
Full of countryside nooks and historical landmarks, this 5km circular route is easy going on the calves and perfect for newbie joggers. Beginning at Bourne Mill – which once powered the industries of Colchester – the River Colne slopes off towards Bourne Valley, the Cannock Mill and Almhouses of Winsley Square. You’ll scoot past 19th century pubs, spy duck-filled Distillery Ponds and paddle alongside flocks of regal resident swans. Our tip? Hit the National Trust site before you set off: you’ll get so much more out of your run if you know what you’re pounding past.
The wet ’n’ wild 10K: Whetmead Nature Reserve, Witham
Following the River Brain for just shy of 10km (add on a loop at the end and you’ll have smashed it), this meadow-rich route is teeming with wildlife and often throws up sightings of muntjac deer, cruising purple crests of Mandarin ducks, and playful otters floating their way downstream. Beginning at Chipping Hill Bridge, drop down onto the river trail and head south, where you’ll cross a small bridge before reaching the tranquil duck pond. Rest here under a fringe of weeping willows if you need to catch your breath, before embarking on your final leg to Whetmead nature reserve – where glittering vistas of the River Blackwater await.
The seafaring front-runner: Fambridge to Burnham-on-Crouch
This calming riverside route, which spans 13km of sea wall, begins at Fambridge Yacht Haven marina and peruses the rolling hills of Althorne before bouncing gently along the river’s blue grey tides to bunting-festooned Burnham-on-Crouch. The sea wall path ends here at the town’s harbour, where an orchestra of yacht masts chime in the wind and a rug of wild flowers carpet the quay. Who needs a crowd cheering you on, eh?
The half-marathon hero: South Woodham Ferrers
Seasoned runners will love navigating SWF’s coastal path, which ribbons its way along an atmospheric stretch of the River Crouch and takes in the county’s stunning labyrinth of mud flats and salt marshes. Kick your run off from Marsh Farm and stay waterside until you reach Riverside Park for the full 21km experience.
The one for long-distance pros: Thames Estuary Path
Up for a challenge? This 29-mile stretch along the Essex strait wiggles its way through some of the county’s most dramatic landscapes, from a tapestry of mud flats in the south and Tilbury town’s industrial docks, to the sheaf of cockle-shed bays that bid the Thames goodbye in Old Leigh. Positively brimming with biodiversity, a criss-cross of bubbling creeks and clay-like marshes dominate this low-lying riverscape, but the trail is clearly marked out, so don’t worry about ending up in the bog if you knees give way again (or is that just me?).