ONE OF THE BEST-KNOWN and visited historical villages in Essex, this location for pleasant easy birdwatching is surrounded by relatively undulating varied countryside of a kind not usually connected with the county. The tracts of woodland are established, the river meanders in a very ‘English countryside’ sort of way, quietly giving Colchester its name as it does so; the farmland is little changed from when I grew up here and there’s a ubiquitous stretch of disused railway line. All that’s really missing for the birder is the sound of the Curlew on those fields… but then that’s gone missing all over. Spring is probably the best time to visit but in all seasons a decent walk here will reward. There are well-marked footpaths as well as the railway tract and the lanes you traverse are surprisingly quiet. Being rather level land to walk on you could be out all day dipping back in to the village for an excellent lunch if you didn’t pack a picnic. In winter, it’s still possible to encounter Lapwing flocks though smaller these days, while in summer there still exists the chance of Grasshopper Warbler close to the river. The hum of bees further calms your soul and if you like flora then her offerings are profuse in places. If you’ve time, enjoy the centre of the village, too, and take a peek at the castle. The churchyard is a goodie. Look for Jay, Jackdaw, Sparrowhawk, Goldcrest (and Firecrest in season), Bullfinch, Long-tailed Tit, Siskin and Redpoll (winter). Scan the first fields both sides of the road. If you are early or late you’ll see the Barn Owl.
1Leave the lane, turning right onto a path. The large conifers at Dyne’s Hall further on have given up Crossbill every winter. Farmers’ fields will add Rook, Magpie, Stock Dove at times and gulls following the plough – Common Gull included.
2The railway line can be checked for warblers including Lesser Whitethroat. Reed Buntings hide here, too, and Foxes like the banks.
3Cross Alderford Lane heading for Maiden Ley farm. The river twists and turns into view. In my experience, early winter regularly features Snipe on the mini mudbanks, along with Grey Heron and sometimes Water Rail. Personally, I have seen Jack Snipe and Green Sandpiper on several occasions.
4Take a mini scope – there’s often ‘something’ beyond your bins!
Treecreeper Tufted Duck