Car-free adventures aroundChelmsfordEssex

Birthplace of radio, only city in Essex, engineering boomtown of the industrial revolution: Chelmsford has an urban reputation. But a great network of trains and buses make it easy to get out into the surrounding countryside, full of unexpected beauty. There are stately homes and pretty rivers, flowering hilltops and ancient woodland; even the seaside is not far off. And, back in Chelmsford itself, there are interesting relics of the city's pioneering heritage. The RHS gardens at Hyde Hall are the first stop on this varied itinerary.

  1. 3. Head to Hylands Park

    Open every day for free, this sprawling estate with lakes, woods and pleasure gardens is a beautiful place for a walk with a café in the courtyard and a playground for the kids. Here you’ll find more than 500 acres of parkland and the new Rize Festival in August.

    • You can follow a choice of walks around the central formal flower beds and topiaried hedges and creeper-covered trellises or wander further afield, along the Serpentine Lake into wilder woods and hay fields.
    • There are tours and open days in the Georgian house. Built for a local lawyer in the 1730s, it was redesigned for a Danish merchant in the early 19th century by the architect and landscape gardener Humphry Repton, who died 200 years ago in 1818.
    • Hylands’ stables are also home to several artists’ studios. The craftspeople here produce knitted rugs or glass ornaments, designer jewellery or wax pictures.
    • If you’ve come with kids, don’t miss the free castle-themed adventure playground, accessed via the Roman Walk or the Willow Tunnels. Mauro’s Kiosk nearby can keep the wolf from the castle door with bacon or sausage sarnies, picnic boxes and cups of tea.
    • The 351 bus from Chelmsford to Brentford (First bus) stops near Hylands and runs every half an hour. You can either hop off at Widford Road near the roundabout and walk through the huge fields a mile or so from St Mary’s church (see 2 above), or go on one stop to the stop called Hylands Park. Walk back a few steps and carefully cross the main road where you see a crossing point. The gates are to your right. Returning is easier since the buses stop on the same side of the road – simply turn right out of the gates.
  1. 4. Danbury Commons and Blake's Wood

    Another great trip out of Chelmsford is a visit to the village of Danbury with its National Trust woodlands, crisscrossed by walking routes.

    • Catch the 31B or 36 bus from Chelmsford and get off at Eve’s Corner. A choice of pubs and tea rooms surrounds this pretty village green and pond, including the community-run Bakers Arms and the Tea on the Green cafe.
    • For a leafy stroll, cross over and walk down Mayes Lane (there’s pavement all the way). Soon after the junction with Copt Hill, where the pavement ends, look out for a path on the left. This will lead you to this short walk through the varied habitats of Danbury and Lingwood Commons. You can pick up the route at marker post 3, between the scrubland and the grassy heath.
    • For a different route back to the village from the Cricketers Arms near marker post 11, turn left outside the pub and left again when you reach a large gate. Keep straight on this path to reach Danbury’s John the Baptist church with its ancient wooden effigies of crusader knights and carved pews. In bluebell season, don’t miss Blake’s Wood, an area of ancient forest on the far side of the main road.
    • Danbury also lies on the Saffron Trail, a 70-mile long distance walk that eventually reaches the beautiful town of Saffron Walden. From Danbury, you can follow the route’s crocus waymarks westwards along a pleasant track called Grace’s Walk and then beside the River Chelmer back to Chelmsford, about five miles away. The route passes close to the city’s cathedral and through riverside Admiral’s Park and past the towering viaduct.
    • The 31X bus route that runs through Danbury also goes on to Maldon, where you can explore the estuarine Essex coastline. There are dozens of lakes, rivers and canals to stroll beside and a town full of maritime and military stories. Don’t miss the Maldon Smokehouse on the shores of the Chelmer, as it broadens into a mud-banked seagoing tidal river. The Smokehouse serves up platters of salmon, duck, ham or mackerel, followed by homemade honeycomb cheese cake or Rossi ice cream from Southend.

Look out for the Good Journey Mark – where car-free visitors are welcome and enjoy a discount

Visit car-free in 2019!