Text and pics contributed by Pauline J.

Eight of us met at Manningtree station to start a 21-mile walk incorporating parts of the Stour Valley Path, Essex Way and St Edmunds Way. We made our way across to Dedham through lush green fields, green lanes and bluebell woods. A cuckoo could be heard across the valley.

Just outside Dedham a heavy rain shower had us hastily donning waterproofs but it soon passed and the day continued in mostly bright sunshine. Lunch stop was at Boxted church, making use of its beautiful oak porch.

In the afternoon our route took us past a wonderfully photogenic wildflower meadow with wide valley views as we headed towards Nayland.

An ice-cream van very helpfully awaited us here which everyone took advantage of and had a very pleasant break enjoying the river views on the green. We headed out of Nayland, passing through sweet-sounding Honey Tye before joining St Edmunds Way and, after a short pause to eat a snack or two and recline awhile on the lush grass in dappled shade, we headed the last few kilometres to the finish line in Bures in the early evening.

Crossing the footbridge over the Stour, we reached The Eight Bells Pub for very welcome drinks and meal.

An advantage of the route, carefully planned by Francis, was that it was all in one direction as we were able to return to Manningtree using the Sudbury branch line with a brief change at Marks Tey.

Thanks to Francis (and Rachael his glamorous assistant) for a lovely day out in good company.