Saturday, 31 January 2015

Dunton Hills Walks

Basildon is surrounded by beautiful green spaces with many opportunities for pleasant walks, especially around the Langdon Hills Country Park. Dunton Hills falls outside the nature reserves, perhaps because it lies next to the C2C line and has always been a potential site for urbanisation to supply houses for London's growing commuter population, but it is still green belt land and well worth a visit especially if you are interested in seeing for yourself what is at stake.

Ordinance Survey Map of Dunton Hills
The ordinance survey map shows public footpaths (short green dashes) and bridal ways (longer green dashes) which are suitable for walking. The main footpath crosses from Dukes Farm on Church Lane along the Basildon-Brentwood boundary line to the A127. It is not a hard walk but you will definitely need your wellingtons. Another footpath that breaks off to the West after the gold course is less well marked. An alternative walk is to start from the garden centre off the A127 and take the bridal way down to East Hordon which is well kept.

There is no easy parking around Dunton itself. You can park at the Essex Wildlife Trust visitor centre and walk back but there are no paths to the side of the road so this is not advised. The better option is to park in Westmayne and start your walk from the Toomey roundabout from where a footpath leads towards the Lower Dunton Road.

Footpath from Toomey Roundabout to Lower Dunton Road
Along this footpath (no. 110) you will see the Dunton Park mobile homes off to the left and Hereford Farm on the right.
Hereford Farm
When you reach the Lower Dunton Road turn left until you find Church Lane to the right. At the end of Church Lane before you get to Dunton Hall which is a grade II listed building you will see the signpost for footpath 109 next to the pond in the grounds of Old Church, Dunton Hall
Start of footpath near Old Church, Dunton Hall
After crossing the stile and heading north you can look back and see the spire of the church.
"Old Church" Formerly St Mary's
When you get to the end of the field you have to cross another field and here you will be very glad you brought your boots because it is surrounded by a deep puddle

From here you pass Dunton Hills Golf Course on your left and The Old Rectory on your right. Another footpath splits off to the left round the golf course. It is not well marked but it is worth taking the detour to get the view from Dunton Hill towards London
View from Dunton Hill towards London
If you continue along the main footpath you will come across many scenic spots with lone trees and especially the field boundaries marked with widely spaced Oak trees. These boundaries are said to have not changed since Anglo-Saxon times and there are ancient archaeological remains in the area.

Ancient field boundaries marked with Oak trees
When you reach the end of the fields the path continues into woods where it can be followed with some difficulty up to the noisy A127. A better move is to turn left and head up towards the woods on the horizon keeping to the edge of the fields.

Around the other side of the woods you can find an undisturbed pond that is likely to be the home for wild species such as the rare Great Crested Newt.
The hidden pond in Dunton Hill woods
From here you can make your way down towards the garden centre until you reach the stream that runs down to East Horndon. It can be crossed by a small wooden bridge to join the bridal way that follows the line of the stream.

This part of the Dunton Garden Suburb site will probably not be built on because it is lower and therefore prone to flooding.

The bridal way towards East Horndon

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