Blackwater Rail Trail
20th March 2019
||Elevation in meters
The route closely follows the former Witham-Maldon Railway. The track runs from the centre of Witham starting at the railway station, through the villages of Wickham Bishop and Langford, to the north of the Maldon bypass. At this point the track divided to serve the two former rail stations in Maldon, and there are several routes into Maldon itself from this point. An outline map is provided by the Friends of The Flitch Way on their website http://www.friends-of-the-flitch-way.org.uk/, and whilst this gives a general outline of the route it is not sufficient for navigation. I consider it imperative to have a copy of the Ordnance Survey Map 183 Chelmsford & The Rodings to hand to be able to follow the path properly. Unfortunately British Rail sold off several sections of the railway before selling the rest of the route to Essex County Council, so deviations are necessary where no rights of way longer exist.
Map courtesy of http://www.friends-of-the-flitch-way.org.uk
The Start Point..... Witham Railway Station
A handy coffee stop next to the railway station.
The last map in the John Ray Walk description shows how to get to the Blackwater Rail Trail from Witham Station. You cross the railway bridge and take Avenue Road to the end. Here, on the right hand side is Markham & Smith Garage. Across the road and to the right of some cottages is a sign....the only sign I saw all day.... indicating the way to the Trail
From Witham Railway Station head in the Chelmsford direction and turn left over the railway bridge.
The Avenue is straight ahead, and Avenue Road goes off to the left
The route goes down The Chase to the right of the cottages, and there is a blue sign pointing the way.
At the bottom of The Chase the route turns to the right along what was obviously the old railway track.
The track comes to a road, Freebournes Road to the left and Pasture Road to the right. The path
continues the other side slightly to the right on the Pasture Road side.
The path continues..... a housing estate to the left
The path drops down to a small road via a zig-zag ramp, with what I thought was a scrap yard to the right. I turned left here by mistake and walked along the River Brain. I should have gone right as shown in blue on the map below, or possibly the route shown in green off the Maldon Road and back on to the old railway track. Need to investigate this next time!
After 100 meters on this road the path went off to the right towards the River Brain
The path then passed under the A12 alongside a small stream.
Just under the A12 bridge there are three options; a path to the left, a path straight on, and a rather obscure path to the right over a small wooden bridge. My compass bearing told me to go straight on, but a quick word with a local person and I realised that I had to go to the right towards Benton Hall Golf course. I thought that the information board on the right might help..... but no.
This is the route straight ahead, which looks like an old railway line
This was the route I was advised to take.... over the wooden bridge, walk for a short distance along the A12, then diagonally left towards Blue Mills Lane. By now I had my Ordnance Survey map out as I struggled to work out the route.
Coming out on to Blue Mills Road I turned left towards the hump back bridge over the
River Blackwater and the adjacent Blue Mills building
Not a lot of room on the hump backed bridge
Blue Mills off to the left
The hump backed bridge I had just crossed
Almost on the bridge itself, the path goes off to the right across Benton Hall Golf course
with the River Blackwater to your right hand side
Looking back towards the hump backed bridge
Quite a long way across the golf course
Approaching the weir
Benton Hall Gate
Continuing across the golf course
Eventually you leave the golf course behind and the route becomes a narrow path along the River Blackwater
Approaching the Railway Tressel Bridge. I had high hopes of re-joining the disused railway line here,
but unfortunately it is now private land
The Witham to Maldon Line
The 7 mile branch line from Witham to Maldon East was built between 1845 and 1847 to enable local merchants to link the agricultural region of Mid Essex with London markets and because, at that time, there was the expectation that Maldon would develop into a major port. Initially the line was double tracked and had stations at Wickham Bishops, Langford and Ulting before its terminus at Maldon East. However it didn't remain double tracked for long as in the mid 1850's the line was turned into a single track. The viaduct at Wickham Bishops was then reduced in width and cut into two to provide an embankment between the River Blackwater and the mill stream. The railway line was operational from 1848 until 1964, with up to 7 trains a day by the First World war, rising to 10 a day by the late 1950's. The line carried passengers and local produce as well as flour from the mill. Trains brought in goods such as coal, salt, fertilizer and slate.
Passenger traffic on this line was never great and the expected development of Maldon Docks never happened.
The line, running at a loss, was finally closed to passenger traffic in 1964 as part of the Beeching cuts and two years later the goods traffic ceased. Parts of the line were sold off.
Witham still has a thriving railway station, but the station building for Maldon East, a Grade 2 listed structure, is currently used as offices and Wickham Bishops Station is now a private house.
The route comes out on to Station Road, turns left across Wickham Mill Bridge, and goes off
across the fields to the left towards St Peter's Church
Approaching St Peter's Church
St Peter's was built in the 11th century using Roman bricks and tiles
The route rejoins the railway track a short distance from the church
The railway track was flooded in places making it necessary to go to higher ground
Eventually the path approaches and old bridge; here you leave the path to the left, cross the bridge to the
right along the Langford Road, and then turn left through a farm opposite Langford Hall
Essex barn on the left as you cross the old bridge
Langford Hall on the right; the path goes off across the fields immediately opposite Langford Hall
The path goes past a small reservoir, after which you turn immediately right down to the Hatfield Road
Coming out on to the Hatfield Road by this sign, you turn right for 100 meters and cross the
road to the left to continue down the trail to Maldon
Back on the railway track
You eventually reach the canal at Maldon Bypass Gate. Crossing the gate you turn left along the canal; you can continue to Tesco's, or you can turn right once you have passed under the Maldon Bypass Bridge
The path parallel to the maldon Bypass, on the Maldon side next to Tesco's
Maldon across the River Chelmer
After a stiff climb up Market Hill you reach the centre of Maldon and St Peter's Church