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The John Ray Walk

Monday 18th March 2019


A 10-mile linear walk between Braintree and Witham celebrating the life of John Ray

Distance Time Elevation in meters

Gain Loss Min Max
16.75 3H56 68 88 27 70






John Ray 1627-1705

John Ray is heralded the father of English natural history, and was a pioneer, way ahead of his contemporaries in terms of knowledge and understanding of the natural world. He was a brilliant linguist and wrote much of his work in Latin. He published two books in 1670, the first being a pocket-sized Catalogue of English Plants, and the second a Collection of English Proverbs. Ray's most famous work was undoubtedly his "Historia Plantarum" ("History of Plants") published in three volumes in 1686, 1688 and 1704.

John Ray died on 17 January 1705 and was buried in the churchyard at Black Notley, where an impressive monument marks his grave.



Braintree Station


Braintree Station is a terminus. The walk starts to the west of the station and crosses the ground where the track would have been if the railway had continued. It works its way through buildings and flats before coming on to the Notley Road. Here the path turns left, climbing the hill, until it goes off down the cul-de-sac that is Hoppit Mead.


Leaving Braintree towards Black Notley
(Map courtesy of Essex County Council)

Hoppit Mead

Hoppit Mead cul-de-sac comes to an end, and the path goes off to the left. The path that goes to the back of the Playing Field is not obvious at first glance; it goes off to the left about 10 meters down Tortoiseshell Close.

The path goes off to the left between the lamppost and the yellow car; this was the first marker
for the walk that I spotted, and is on the lamppost itself.


Path leading to the playing field

The track skirts the playing field until it reaches the busy A120, where it turns left
and skirts the A120 for a few hundred meters.

Path between the playing field to the left and the A120 to the right

Footbridge crosses the A120

After tracking the A120 on the far side, the path goes off across the field into
open countryside to the east of Hayeswood Farm

No obvious footpath here, so I followed the tractor marks which went straight across
the field to John Ray Cottage on Baker's Lane

The path emerges onto Baker's Lane

John Ray's image set into the pargetting work

John Ray Cottage


The path turns eastward along Buck Hill for a short distance, before joining Church Road.
The path then goes right to the Church of St Peter and St Paul

Black Notley Hall

Church of St Peter and St Paul


I wandered lonely as a cloud ..........

A marker in the church yard points to a kissing gate in the corner

The path continues in a south-easterly direction skirting the village of Black Notley. By now we are at the end of the first page of the Essex County Council map and have covered 5 km. The path continues to White Notley, past Fambridge Hall, and emerges on Station Road close to the ford. Here it shares the route with the Essex Way



New housing estate at Black Notley constructed in 2000

Cross field towards Pole Lane and Pennet's Farm


The path emerges on to Pole Lane via this gate Webb's Farm is to the right

Short distance road walking along Pole Lane

Soon back in to open countryside as we approach Fambridge Hall


Fambridge Hall

The path emerges on to Station Road in White Notley, just above the ford. From here the
path goes off to left behind the sewage works

Path goes off to the left


The Essex Way comes in from the right at this point. The John Ray walk continues straight
on before turning left towards the railway crossing.

The railway crossing

After the railway crossing, the path goes across a field towards the Witham Road, next to Cressing Temple

Cressing Temple.

The path goes through the Cressing Temple barn complex and comes out the other side on Temple Lane. Here it turns right along the road until it swings off to the right across open countryside towards Whitehead's Farm.

Approaching Whitehead's farm

From this point the map looked straight forward, heading towards Rectory Lane in Witham and then on to the station. Unfortunately I went slightly wrong. I realised quite quickly, but decided to "wing it" rather than retrace my footsteps! The map below shows the correct route in red, and my route in blue. I came out on to the B1018 Cressing Road and made my way to the railway station. Here, for the sum of £6.80 I obtained an adult single to Chelmsford and was soon on the 13-46 hrs train, arriving at Chelmsford Station at 13-55.

(Map courtesy of Essex County Council)