Chalkney Wood has been managed almost continuously for hundreds of years, producing timber, firewood and coppice products, such as poles and rods for hurdle making and thatching. The coppice rotation is still in operation in part of the woodland, adding to its overall diversity.
Chalkney Wood holds a wide variety of wildlife including deer, badgers and over 30 species of breeding birds. The plant and insect communities include a number of scarce species such as violet helleborine and dive different types of hawk moth. Tree species include small leaved lime and wild service, both indicators of ancient woodland.
Chalkney Mill was built in the early 18th century as a fulling mill, fulling being a process in the treatment of wool. In the 19th century it was converted for corn milling. It was last used as a mill in the 1930s and was converted into a house in the 1980s.
From Bacon's Farm there are fine views across the Colne Valley. To the north is Chappel, with the railway station and museum beyond on the northern slope of the valley. From here you can also look down-river towards Ford Street and the village of Fordham on the other side of the valley to the North East.
Margery Allingham was a distinguished author who lived in Viaduct Farm, Chappel, in the early 1930s before moving to Tolleshunt D'Arcy. Her principal genre was detective fiction and Agatha Christie regarded Margery's books as superior to her own. However it was the publication in 1941 of The Oaken Heart, which detailed life in the village of Pontisbright (the old name for Chappel) in the late 30s, which shows her deep affection for the village and its people. On much of this walk you will be following a trail named after her.
The walk starts opposite the church car park, passing by the church and heading straight on keeping the river to your right. When you reach a field, head towards the far left gate into another field where you follow the grassy track. Pass by a stile and keep to the right field edge. Climb over a stile and turn left crossing over a stream and another stile.
Turn left along the field edge passing a pond on your right. At the end of the field climb the stile by the pond and follow the track, crossing a brook and over a stile into a field of sheep keeping the copse on your left. You will see a stile going into the copse - at this point you can cut out the next section of the walk if you wish, and skip to **.
|Ramblers in field|
For a longer walk, pass by the stile and cross the field to a gate. Keeping the brook on your right follow the right field edge, and near the far corner climb a stile, and cross a bridge over a stream onto an enclosed track.
When you reach a lane turn right and a short way on your left follow the footpath sign into Chalkney Woods. (In spring the wood floor is covered in bluebells). This eventually opens onto a wide grassy track leading to a lane. Turn right and when you reach a crossroads take the right lane which will take you to a boarding kennels that likes its privacy!
Pass through their gate and after the stables turn right with the river and Chalkney Mill on your left and vehicle sheds on your right to join a track. Continue through a gate to a field with horse jumps and cross it to reach a four-bar metal gate. Continue down the track which ends at Swanscombe Farm. Follow the brick lane until you see a stile on your left marked Margery Allingham Walk. Take the path across the middle of the field and over a stile. Keep straight ahead across the field crossing a small brook via a plank to return to the stile into the copse.
** Enter the copse via the stile and follow the path. (At certain times of the year this can get over-grown with nettles so long trousers are advised). Keep heading uphill through the wood and at some stables continue on the track eventually passing a house and onto a lane. At a fork in the road bear left and take some steps on your right up into a field. There is a view down to the viaduct to your left from here.
Cross the field on the marked path and cross a bridge and over a stile. Hug the left edge of the field and over the stile, down some steps cut away in the earth to the road at Swan Street. Turn right and then left into Bacons Lane. Continue down Bacons Lane passing Katoomba and Apple Croft to reach a track which takes you over a railway bridge to reach Bacons Farm.
Walk straight ahead through the farmyard, turn right around the last building, then after a few paces more reach a gate on your left to pass into a field. Keeping to the left field edge proceed downhill. At the bottom of the field go over a stile by a pillpox. At the end of this field climb over a gate and continue to another stile. Keep heading to the right and walk along the field edge. You can see Popes Hall ahead.
As you follow the path through the field you can see Chappel Viaduct ahead. Go over a plank bridge and follow the burnt way across the field to a footpath sign where you bear left to a lane. Pass Holly Cottage then shortly turn right into a field heading towards a shed.
Cross a bridge and follow the path by a copse to a stile by the viaduct. Pass under the viaduct and either head straight on back to the car park, or to reach the Swan Inn for a well-earned drink turn immediately right passing through the play area to reach a gate into the pub garden.