River Walk – northern views – Witham
Why not listen to the audio clip of the walk…
The River Walk runs beside the River Brain starting at the north end of the town and running past the oldest part of the town, under the main railway line, past the duck pond, under the old A12 and down along the water meadow towards Maldon Road.
This amble is along just part of the walk, the north end, and I will add another sector later.
The starting point is in Powers Hall End, by the entrance to Spring Lodge car park, just five minutes from Witham train station.
The 16th century red brick wall runs along the north side of Powers Hall End has a great display of flowering wall flower plants in the spring. Several chunks removed from the wall to allow access to houses; at the end of the wall turn into “the lane” on the right.
Thankfully this lane has been allowed to continue in its natural state despite the building of nearby housing; in the spring there is sheep’s parsley and there may be the odd apple or cherry blossom overhanging the path. At the end of the lane you are faced with a large open space and play area that leads to what was once known as the watercress meadow. An unkempt stream still runs through the meadow but the cows that used to stand in the water have long gone, it is now a popular dog walking area for the locals. At the end of the lane we turn right to walk along Bramble Road, past the houses, towards the River Brain.
A high bridge takes us over the narrow river then we follow the path –
I turned left at the top of the slope to explore beyond the arch of hawthorn and brambles which opens out to rough open grass to the left and hidden back gardens to the right. Part of the grass seems well mown, but I am not sure if this is thanks to the council or the rabbits.
I stop to look at a few firm grassless mounds, some clean and some with currant like pellets on them. A local countryman tells me that rabbits like to absorb the rays of the sun to warm their bodies early in the morning and bare soil warms up quicker than grass. The rabbits use of their double digestion system means that they can quickly eat the grass, and then retreat to the undergrowth for safety, the grass goes through their system and is excreted but not wasted; they eat it again to extract the maximum amount of goodness before dumping these currant like pellets. No sign of rabbits today but they have probably taken refuge while the dog walkers are exercising.
Several solo trees can be found on this part of the river walk; thanks to a scheme run by Witham Town Council trees have been planted along the river walk, funded by individuals in memory of a loved one.
A chance to pause before retracing our steps under the arch of hawthorn and bramble then take the left fork in the path as it winds its way till you reach a small bridge that allows a land drain to spill clear water over pebbles as it flows down to the river.
The tarmac river walk path provides a safe access throughout the year but during a dry spell it is worth taking a short detour along an uneven grass path on the right towards the river.
It is a well-trodden path past weary trees collapsing on each other and a great crop of sharp stinging nettles that probably make good cover for the wildlife. I found what I thought to be a couple of mole hills, strange because they were the only ones I could see, perhaps the ground wasn’t to the mole’s taste so he moved on.
The uneven path re-joins the “official ” river walk leading us past the old vicarage on our left, a place I used to visit as a child when they had church fetes in what appeared to be a huge lawn at the back of the house; the house is now in private hands and the vicar moved to a modern house nearby. Across the fence we can see the tower of St Nicolas Church, the churchyard is not a sad place to me, it is a reminder of dear friends and family – happy times.
The river walk path drops down to the road beside Chipping Hill bridge – a lovely historic red brick bridge that is partly hidden by the wooden pedestrian bridge that takes us to the far side of the river and the next stage of the river walk or back to our starting point by Spring Lodge. If you have time you could drop pooh sticks but there are other wider bridges that may be more fun.