On Saturday 16th July eleven group members set out to enjoy a beautiful summers day walking between Witham and Braintree on the John Ray Walk led by Jo. Arriving at Freeport, Braintree in good time there was soon some confusion with the parking arrangements and whether we had to pay or not as we only had six hours free! Deciding all would be well we went to the station to tackle the ticket machine and with Noreen’s excellent skill all tickets were purchased in time to catch the train to Witham. On arrival and after use of the station’s facilities we at last set off. There was a lovely clear John Ray Walk buttercup sign to start the walk but these became less easy to distinguish as we progressed along the route but as Jo and Clive had walked it a few days previously we managed to stay on course. Most of the paths were fairly easy to follow but as a waymarked route they could have been a lot better and maybe something that could be raised with Essex County Council. The walk progressed to the Cressing Temple Barns where a large food and drink fair was taking place but disappointingly James Martin was not due until the next day. We were lucky to find a table outside of the café for a refreshing drink before we carried on to our picnic lunch stop sitting by the River Brain. After so many walks spoiled by wet weather it was lovely to sit in the sun and enjoy the surrounding countryside. The afternoon became progressively hot but after stopping to view the Oxford, Sandy Black pigs (or Plum Puddings )asleep in the shade we managed to keep going. We had to deviate from the route towards the end to enable us to get back to where we had parked. This involved beating our way through head height nettles on some of the paths but with Braintree in sight and our six hours free parking nearly up we walked back with a bit more speed. It had been a lovely day but finished with a little sadness as some of us said farewell to Pat who is retiring back to her native Yorkshire. A big thank you to Jo for all the arrangements including the sunshine!
John Ray was born in Black Notley in 1627 and became one of the most distinguished natural historians of all time. He played a significant role in the field of botany during the 17th century and is now widely regarded as the father of British Natural History. He died in 1705 after many years laying the foundations for the classification of all living things. The John Ray Trust was founded in 1986 and to celebrate his life and achievements the John Ray Walk was devised, a nine mile linear walk linking the towns of Braintree and Witham. For more detailed information and maps of the route go to