Exploring the Flitch Way

The Flitch Way

Who doesn’t love a winter walk followed by a coffee and a bun? We certainly do and we are forever looking for new and different places to explore before we treat ourselves to a couple of cappuccinos and something very unhealthy.

We are currently housesitting in the remote countryside of rural Essex looking after the lovely Ed, our German Pointer buddy. Most of his walks obviously take place in the fields and lanes around the house but when the weathers good we try and find somewhere new for both him and us. Jo once again lived up to her Queen of Research title and found such a place just half an hour from here.

White Colne Essex
“Our beautiful housesitting lodge through the trees”

White Colne


The Flitch Way

Located on an old disused railway line the Flitch Way Country Park is a fifteen mile cycling and walking route between Braintree and Bishops Stortford. It was developed back in 1869 by Great Eastern Railways and although it was initially popular a substantial drop in passenger numbers caused it to close in 1952. Freight traffic continued using the line until 1970 but the route was finally closed completely a year later.

With the rails now removed the Flitch Way is now a safe, traffic-free environment for walkers, cyclists and horse-riders and is part of the National Cycle Network.

Flitch Way

Why is it called Flitch?

We assumed Flitch was a place but No, it’s far more interesting than that. Named after an old Essex tradition if you really want to know.

The ‘Flitch’ ceremony in nearby Great Dunmow was for couples that could prove that they had not argued in their marriage for a year and a day so were awarded a flitch (side) of bacon as a reward.

Have you qualified for a Flitch?


Rayne Station

We headed for Rayne Station where we could have a decent walk with Ed, visit the Carriage Museum, and treat ourselves in the Booking Hall Cafe. Seemed to tick all of our boxes and Ed was well up for it. We thought we’d head west towards Bishops Stortford for a while then retrace our steps before going east to the edge of Braintree. Should give us a good look at the Fitch Way and end up back at the station.

We were prepared for there to be shedloads of dogs but it wasn’t as busy as we expected, perhaps the overnight rain or slightly windy conditions put people off but as long as you are wrapped up it’s no problem is it? Keeping our Ed on the lead was fine as he had so much opportunity to run free back at home and to be honest he isn’t bothered by other dogs at all. In fact he does that funny thing where he almost pretends that he can’t even see them and pushes on completely ignoring them.

Rayne Station

Built in 1866 Rayne was one of the busiest stations on the line in its day with a goods yard, cattle dock, station masters house, and more. Restored in 1994 with the Booking Hall Cafe being opened in 2009. The complete station still stands with cafe tables and chairs scattered along the platform with the carriage museum standing slightly further down.

Rayne Station

Flitch Way

We couldn’t resist having a quick look in the Carriage Museum and at the great little model railway depicting what the station and line looked like back in the 1950s. I do like a model railway but unfortunately my most dreaded person materialised as soon as we entered.

The Over Helpful Volunteer‘.

Now I know that these people give up their time willingly and without them these museums wouldn’t exist but I have to admit that I’m not that good interacting with them. Jo on the otherhand is positively brilliant and makes them believe that she is their best friend and absolutely fascinated by every little thing they say. I’m not.

I’m not rude (I hope) but like Ed I try to avoid any eye-contact and attempt not to engage more than a cursory ‘hello‘ and ‘good bye‘. Maybe throw in a ‘nice train‘ if they seem especially in need of a compliment. Obviously the ‘nice train‘ comment wouldn’t work as well as expected if it was an art gallery.

Rayne Carriage Museum
“The Carriage Museum, in a carriage, showing the model of Rayne Station from the 1950s”

Rayne Station


The Booking Hall Cafe

Not the main reason for our visit but we were looking forward to a sit down after a long old walk and a couple of coffees and perhaps a bun or two! The Booking Hall Cafe is, as it sounds, located in the old booking hall which is still kept in its original decor. Shelves of calorie-laden cakes and tasty biscuits adorned the walls as we grabbed a table in the corner and enjoyed our well earned rest. A fabulous place for a cafe with so much character and it knocks the spots off Starbucks and Costa Coffee. Always so much better to find an independent coffee shop to one that’s in a big chain isn’t it?

Booking Hall Cafe

With lots of regulars tucking into full English breakfasts and doorstep bacon sandwiches it looked to be doing really well and we could only imagine how nice it would be in the summer when you could sit out on the platform. Bit cold in January for that.

So in the midst of a cold wet winter we managed to find a break in the weather and a lovely location to enjoy a morning out in the sunshine followed by coffee in a fascinating building. What more could we have asked for?

White Colne

31/01/2020

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29 comments

  1. Oh, yes over attentive museum guides! I once met a lovely old gent who insisted on showing me their wedding gown collection! If there is one thing I can’t stand it’s costume collections, all that dusty old lacy fabric makes me want to puke. But the sheep washer, now that was worth seeing and worth putting up with the gowns too I guess.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Everyone must love a winter walk followed by a coffee and a bun! I do wonder how these married couples offered evidence of never arguing. Looks a great walk and wow you do stay in some great places, (I know I’ve said that before!) 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Lovely, I like seeking out old railway stations and it’s good to read that the booking hall has been repurposed into a cosy cafe, just what we all need after a brisk walk. I’m in a little cafe now down the road from where I live where I spend many an hour crafting out blog posts over a bacon sandwich and a couple of cappuccinos! Will have to visit Essex sometime, only been to Stansted Airport and many years ago once spent a night with university friends in Epping.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bacon sandwiches and cappuccinos sounds perfect. What a fabulous way to spend the day. Not a Starbucks or Costa I hope? Essex is such an underrated county, countryside and villages are beautiful. Gets a bad name from the media I think.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. As a volunteer manager, I had to laugh about the overly helpful volunteers. I tell my volunteers that they don’t have to do anything other than greet visitors when they come in, unless they specifically approach front desk and ask for help, because I know there’s nothing worse than getting drawn into a conversation when you don’t want one. I do have some chattier volunteers though, and I have been known to come out of my office to rescue visitors who look desperate to leave but are too polite to just walk away!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sounds all too familiar then? I know they all mean well and it’s just being over helpful but it’s always far too much. I leave Jo to chat and wander off to safety.

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      • Yes, but sometimes the reverse is true too, and I have to save the volunteers from overly chatty visitors. A lady came in today as I was leaving for lunch, and I could tell she was going to be a handful so I made a rather hasty exit, but she was still there when I came back half an hour later, so I had to break into the conversation just to rescue my poor volunteer!

        Liked by 1 person

        • Ha yes you see that a lot don’t you? Visitors that just want to stand and chat for ages about nothing or are ‘experts’ in their own right about anything and everything. Did you read our post about the Normandy museum? You’ll love the story about helpers there.

          Liked by 1 person

    • It’s a lovely walk isn’t it and the cafe is so good, we didn’t actually try any cake but it all looked delicious. May get over there again in a few weeks when we’re back this way.

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      • Last time they were getting rid of a slice of coconut cake, I had quarter of a cake for something silly like £2….amazing! We’ve never really gone any further than Rayne though, it’ll be my next goal! We like to go on a Sunday, as the parking at the Braintree station is cheaper 😉

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  5. I grew up in Essex and have never heard of this place! Your comment about the over zealous volunteer made me laugh as I’ve come across a few in my travels as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. What an interesting story Jonno, and no we don’t qualify for a flitch either! It’s funny because we are currently working on the opening ceremony for our local Rail trail, a multi-user path that uses an old disused rail way line with the rails removed, it’s 22 km each way. It’s take nearly 18 years to get to this point and it will be officially opened (or re-opened) on April 3 and will be the first of it’s type in our state (on public land). There have been lots of obstacles along the way but we seem to be over most of them now. It will be for walkers, cyclists, mobility scooters, prams, runners etc but no dogs or horses allowed, due to local landholders requests.Our rail trail won’t have as much atmosphere as your walk but it will be a great drawcard for our little town.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s a great way to re-use these old train lines isn’t it? Stops them falling into disrepair and creates a great walking and cycling trail for people to enjoy. Sounds like a real labour of love Deb?

      Liked by 1 person

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