Around Bulmer and Gestingthorpe
7.5 miles (8kms)
There is something for everyone on this walk which includes some beautiful scenery, two villages and three churches. The route also passes the former home of a member of Scott’s ill-fated Antarctic expedition.
'...I may be some time.'
There is a brass plaque on the wall of St Mary the Virgin Church in Gestingthorpe commemorating Captain Lawrence Oates who was Captain of the Inniskilling Dragoons when he died in freezing conditions after attempting to reach the South Pole in 1912. It describes him as “a very gallant gentleman.”
Oates was taking part in the Scott Antarctic Expedition and on the return leg, after discovering that the Norwegian Roald Amundsen and his expedition had already reached the South Pole before them, the team’s sombre mood turned to despair. In those days, explorers knew there was no back up to rescue them if they got into difficulties and Oates, whose injuries sustained during the Boer War were made worse by the intense cold, considered himself a hindrance. His big toe had turned black with frostbite and his body had become a yellow colour. One of the other five men who died on the expedition wrote in his diary that you had no other choice than to commit suicide if you broke your leg, for example, for the sake of your companions.
When his fellow explorers refused to leave Oates in his tent and carry on without him, he said his now famous line: “I am just going outside and I may be some time.” He went outside into a blizzard on his birthday, 17th March 1912. His body was never found.
Oates was born in Putney but grew up in Gestingthorpe Hall, where his father was Lord of the Manor. This impressive mansion with an 18th century façade lies opposite the church and after his death his mother, Catherine Oates, added an extension and a chapel dedicated to her beloved son. The hall was sold in 1948.
From the car park gates in The Street, Bulmer turn left and at the public footpath sign, turn left towards St Andrew’s Church along an avenue of lime trees. Continue through the churchyard and join a tarmac driveway beside houses. At the gravel track turn right along the bridleway which soon runs along the left-hand edge of a field. At the lane turn left and pass Little Dean Spinney, and maintain direction as the lane becomes an enclosed Byway. At the crossing of paths by a fingerpost keep ahead along the left edge of a field.
Pass White Cottage and turn right at a fingerpost along a footpath through trees. Keep ahead along the field edge, go over an earth bridge, and continue along the right edge of a field looking out for where you turn right at a fingerpost. Cross another earth bridge into a field and head straight across the field towards the hedgeline. Go through the hedge gap to a waymarked fingerpost, turn right along a dirt track and after 50yds (46m) bear left along a grassy path.
At the footbridge on the right, turn left and cross the next two fields, separated by an earth bridge, heading for the left of Oakley Wood. At the fingerpost by a path crossing here turn left along the right edge of a field. Bear right at the field corner and follow a dog leg round to the left of the next field, towards a large white farmhouse. The path curves left and then right to reach a road. You will find The Pheasant pub 30yds (27m) on the left.
Turn right along the road towards Gestingthorpe’s church and take the path to the right of it. Bear right to skirt the perimeter of a paddock and then keep ahead along the grassy path between arable land. Cross an earth bridge and bear left towards woodland. The path runs along the edge of the wood then crosses a cottage garden and at a waymarked fingerpost, take the left fork along a cross field path and go over a plank footbridge.
Turn left and keep ahead to reach a white signpost. Bear right in the direction of Bulmer and Sudbury and where the road bends, turn left at a public footpath sign along a grassy path to the right of Belchamp Brook. At a path crossing, turn left to go over a footbridge and after passing a meadow, bear right and then immediately left to walk along the left edge of a field.
At the field corner by a waymarker turn right beside the hedge and maintain direction, bearing left through a hedge gap into the next field. Continue to a fingerpost and keep ahead along a cross field path to a fingerpost at the edge of woodland. Enter the wood and bear right and at a track, bear left past cottages to a lane. Turn left here to visit the church otherwise, turn right downhill past a cottage and soon after go through a kissing gate on the right. Cross the meadow and head for another kissing gate in the top left corner. Cross a plank footbridge and go up a set of steps to an opening.
Turn left and follow the meandering field edge path for 0.75 mile (1.2km) before crossing an earth bridge. Turn right and follow the path as it curves left to run past gardens. Where these end, turn right and at the road turn left to return to Coe’s Meadow.
Track and field paths, meadows, country lanes
Rolling hills, arable farmland
On a lead near paddocks and meadows
OS Explorer 196 Sudbury, Hadleigh & Dedham Vale
Coe’s Meadow car park, The Street, Bulmer
None on route
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About the area
Essex is full of pleasant surprises. It has the largest coastline of any county in England, with its fair share of castles, royal connections and scenic valleys. Take Colchester, for example, which was built by the Romans and is Britain’s oldest recorded town. Its castle contains the country’s largest Norman keep and yet, a stone’s throw from here, East Anglia’s newest arts centre promises to put Colchester firmly on the map as Essex’s capital of culture.
Tidal estuaries are plentiful and their mudflats offer migrating birds a winter feeding place. Essex was known as the land of the East Saxons and for centuries people from all over Europe settled here, each wave leaving its own distinctive cultural and social mark on the landscape. Walking a little off the beaten track will lead you to the rural retreats of deepest Essex, while all over the county there are ancient monuments to explore:
- the great Waltham Abbey
- Greensted, thought to be the oldest wooden church in the world
- the delightful village of Pleshey has one of the finest examples of a former motte-and-bailey castle
- Hedingham Castle, magnificently preserved and dating from the 11th century.