By Kate Ford

Roman River Valley is a British ancient woodland hiding just south of Colchester, Essex.  Now a nature reserve managed by Essex Wildlife Trust, the site is a welcoming, wild space suitable for all experience levels.

It would be easy to rush through this wild space: its gentle, rolling terrain opens out towards the furthest boundaries where the bubbling busy water of the Roman River widens slightly. Here, the trees become sparser, making way for what remains of the valley’s marshlands – reed beds that march alongside the water’s edge – and offer an unexpected change of space and view. But take your time; whether you follow the suggested paths for walkers or use your intuition, this is not a space big enough or savage enough to get lost within. Rather, the Roman River Valley is a quiet and immersive space for nature lovers.

Aetla Magazine Roman River Valley Ancient Woodland Forest Colchester

About the Roman River Valley

The Roman River runs as a narrow stream through the woodland, a tributary of the River Colne, rising from springs to the west of Great Tey. Hiking along the river’s edge is grounding; in a space heaving with the weight of well-established Oak, Hornbeam and Yew, the swaying willows along the riverbank are gentler yet no less stoic.

Aetla Magazine Roman River Valley Root Outdoors Woodland

Explore Colchester’s Green Space

Walking trails include footpaths and bridges through the woods and along the river’s edge, providing accessible options for less-avid hikers. However, an impressive carpet of autumn’s fallen leaves protects walkers throughout most of the woods from the slippery, muddy ground, meaning that for the more adventurous, you are free to explore much of the Roman River Valley reserves slopes and thicker woodlands off-track.

Aetla Magazine Roman River Valley Tree

Completely unspoilt, and extraordinarily peaceful, in Spring the site begins to come alive with spring flowers and wildlife. While our visit was before the green had begun to return, it was a bright and warm day with birdsong a constant companion, tell-tale signs of squirrel, deer and other small mammals lingering, moss creeping over bark, and the first sign of the wood’s impressive floral display are yellow stars along the riverbank. 

Aetla Magazine Roman River Valley Walking Guide

Seemingly the only souls around for miles, it’s easy to get lost inside for a couple of hours. Signs of management are low, and for a nature site that sits just outside of a major town, there is a lingering deep breath sensation of rugged, feral freedom. This is one of its major charms; for those in need of recharging outdoors, this is the perfect space for physical and mental rejuvenation.