ONE of the real advantages of living in Maldon is that you don’t have to walk very far out of town before you are in the countryside.

One of my favourite routes has always been around the hamlet of Beeleigh, with its two rivers, canal and waterfalls.

But there are equally fascinating areas if we care to go just that little bit further.

Take, for example, the circuit that encompasses part of the neighbouring rural village of Woodham Walter.

Let me take you round it and be your guide as we walk via the old coaching way of London Road, past the cemetery, turn right into Abbey Turning and left to the high banked Cut A Thwart Lane.

This is a truly historic thoroughfare, a sunken way into an almost forgotten ancient landscape.

Corrupted over the years by successive generations of locals to “Cut Throat”, this actually has nothing to do with murder, but simply means “cutting across” – a short cut if you like, but one that dates back way before the invention of the car. We continue along the lane, passing the track (on our left) to Great Beeleigh Farm and on our right to what I have always known as The Lanes.

We then catch a glimpse of Little Beeleigh Farm in the distance over the fields on our left and arrive at 19th Century, red-brick Northall Cottages. This building sits alongside the boundary between Maldon/Beeleigh and Woodham Walter.

Maldon and Burnham Standard:

Woodlands Lodge with its columns. Photo Jon Yuill

A bit further on (on our right) we have the Georgian Doric-columned Woodlands Lodge and then eventually we come to a T-junction and turn left onto Manor Road.

This snaking thoroughfare bends right and we come to High Oaks Cottage. At the fork in the road we then take a right and turn right again into Curling Tye Lane, after the hamlet of the same name.

Alias Colickey Green, it derives from the “Curlai” of the Domesday Book and probably means “mill clearing”, but this is far from certain.

The lane includes a number of noteworthy early listed houses. First amongst them is timber-framed Black Cottage (on our left).

This dates from at least the late-16th Century, with later 17th to 20th Century extensions. During Victoria’s reign it was home (and all at the same time) to no less than three families.

Moving on and on the same side of the road we have Ashman’s Farm and its associated out-buildings. This is earlier still with its roots back in the medieval period, but with major alterations in the late-1630s.

Opposite is the Shrubbery (formerly Earls Cottage), said to have been built in 1804, but enlarged around 1845 to make it, in the words of the time, “fit for a gentleman”.

Maldon and Burnham Standard:

Guy’s was formerly East Bowers. Photo Jon Yuill

We press on and turn right at Whitehouse Cottages, on to Hop Gardens Lane. This is another long and winding road with more scattered homesteads.

The next T-junction is a return to Manor Road and we go right, keeping Guy’s Farmhouse to our left. Guy’s was formerly called East Bowers and was an outlying grange (or farm) belonging to Beeleigh Abbey.

The canons there leased it to Thomas Guy – hence the name change. What is particularly fascinating about that is, just beyond the farm and through a gap in the hedge on our left, there is a public footpath.

This runs parallel with ‘Cut A Thwart Lane’ and is the most direct route between the farm and the abbey. Could it really be the same path that the canons used between 1180 and 1536? Whether that is the case or not, we will follow it.

Keeping to this path we pass 18th Century Woodlands, formerly Bawds Grange, and eventually arrive back at Abbey Turning with Beeleigh Grange to our left.

Going right and then left past Beeleigh Abbey, we continue through the old field that was once (in the 18th to early 20th centuries) a rifle range.

Up tree-canopied Constitutional Hill, over the bypass (or underneath it if you prefer), we puff our way up the rest of the hill, keep Hillyfield cottage (of 1925) to our left and the rear of The Lodge (the former Napoleonic scare barracks) to our right and drop down into Beeleigh Road.

That leads us to Silver Street, All Saints' Church, the Blue Boar and Maldon High Street. A short walk right (up the High Street) then takes us back to where we started – London Road. Although it might feel longer, we have only done around five miles, but I hope you agree it is a really rewarding walk, packed with local history just waiting to be explored.

Thanks for coming with me in your imagination and now why don’t you do it for real?