Originally part of the route of the Eastern Counties Railway, a fore-runner of the Great Eastern Railway, the line opened in 1854, with this single-track stretch being part of the Wrabness to Dovercourt section.
With the opening of Parkeston Quay, however, the original line was diverted in 1882 to serve the new Parkeston Quay station (now Harwich International). The track through The Hangings was subsequently removed. For a more complete history of the ‘Mayflower Line’ railway click here .
Two bridges dating from around 1870 remain on Parkeston Road just short of the A120 roundabout; the southern bridge (nearest the camera in this picture) carries the road over the former rail-bed and the northern bridge is over Dock River.
Between the two bridges is the Western entrance into The Hangings, indicated by a cycle route sign (obscured amongst foliage). The entire length of The Hangings is tarmac although leaf fall can make it slippery under foot. During the winter months, some stretches are prone to frost and ice. The nearest bus stops (serving Dovercourt,Harwich & Parkeston) are less than 20m distant from this entrance.
This Google Map shows the access/entrances onto The Hangings and other notable points. For the purposes of this guide, it is assumed that you would travel from the Western end and head East (towards Dovercourt Station).
View The Hangings in a larger map
Parkeston Road to Vines Estate:
The Western end of The Hangings is connected to Parkeston Road by an access road. The Hangings itself starts behind the carpark of the Lidl supermaket and “Mayflower” Brewers Fayre pub/restaurant. Beyond this carpark is the Gateway Retail Park and the Morrison’s store. Many people using The Hangings do so to walk to & from these shops.
Also at this point is the entrance to Parkeston Pet Cemetery. A sign at the entrance says it is open from 9am to dusk, although several groups have visited the grounds at night in recent years to watch for ghosts. Their success or failure is not known.
A second path along the Hangings, the ‘High Path’, ran along the cemetery fence until access to this path was blocked in 2007 due to building work. This author remembers the High Path from the 1960s until early 2007.
Vehicles, other than cycles, are prohibited in the Hangings. This is enforced using a series of gates. The property opposite this gate, at the end of the access road, is “The Gatehouse” and sits directly on the former trackbed. As befits a former railtrack, the path is mostly straight!
The path was for many years a dirt or mud track, depending on the weather. Tendring District Council installed the tarmac in 2003 when carrying out other works to create the cycle route. The Hangings is also popular with dog walkers. This author notes that the sensible dog owners are clearing up after their pets. Unfortunately not all dog-owners are sensible.
The name ‘Hangings’ does not have a macabre explanation, its’ origins are from the way the trees on both sides overhang the path, as can be seen in this photo.
Children over the many decades since 1882 have used The Hangings as a play area. Several trees, such as the one here, have been pressed into action as swings. Hanging off the branch on the left are several ropes.
Unfortunately, trees do not always survive. In this example, the bank is being worn away and the roots exposed. Here, run-off from roads such as Harcourt Avenue is causing the erosion. In other cases, trees have been deliberately cut down to make room for building works. It is hoped that tree preservation orders will protect most of the rest from such vandalism.
Central Government’s house building policy inevitably means that spare land is used for housing. In this case it was the field between The Hangings and the A120. The new estate is clearly visible from The Hangings.
With the building of the new estate, a new entrance onto The Hangings was created. It leads onto Williamsburg Avenue (from where you can walk back to Lidl)
Just before the next metal gate is the exit into the Vines estate. This short lane takes you into Rawden Close, just off Larksfield Crescent and a short distance from The Vineway. This area is only just above sea level and is some of the lowest land in Dovercourt.
As you can see from the photo to the right, the alley is quite untidy and at times there is only a narrow gap between the nettles!
Immediately next to the Vines Estate (Rawden Close) exit is the next anti-vehicle gate. Also just beyond here, the original route of the railway diverges from the Hangings path and takes virtually the same route to Dovercourt Station as the present line.
There is a heavy camber too. Best avoided on frosty days (or indeed the morning after a heavy frost!)
This has been rebuilt recently and now includes a grab-rail but it remains difficult for those with restricted mobility.
Turning again to look behind you (if having walked up the hill) is the A120 bridge over the current railway track. The bridge carries the A120 that allowed freight and other traffic to reach Harwich quayside without having to travel through Dovercourt town centre.
To the right of the bridge are these hangers alongside Parkeston Quay. They were used to store parts for the many wind turbines that have been erected off the Suffolk, Essex & Kent coasts.
Across the railway lies Pattricks Junction, a pretty useless roundabout seeing as there are no roads connecting to the A120 here. I’m sure someone will eventually find a use for it. Note the cranes of Felixstowe in the background, Hutchisons Ports own Bathside Bay, Parkeston Quay & Felixstowe.
Looking towards the railway line you can spy this pillbox. A relic from WWII it was obviously placed here to protect the railway from attack. Nothing more is known for the present.
A short distance further along, as the path continues its’ descent, the next housing development comes into view. In February 2014 work was unfinished.
Another exit into King George’s Avenue is here but is now somewhat overgrown.
Continuing along the path, it levels out as we go past a the housing development.
A new exit off The Hangings here provides an easy & relatively safe access to Asda. Access is down the side of the play area (fenced in green).
I’m trying to work out how old it is, but the current railway line goes over it. Walking under the bridge will take you onto reclaimed land by the A120. It is not, however, a right of way.
Return from the diversion the same way you came and rejoin the main path as we reach the bottom of Pattricks Lane.
From this point onwards, the path is accessible to road vehicles.
Please be careful.
View The Hangings in a larger map
At the junction of Pattricks Lane, Station Lane and The Hangings is a curious sign. It suggests that, for trains, you head West towards Parkeston (Harwich International) when Dovercourt station is 3 minutes away to the East (1 minute on a bike!)
Note the bin, this is the third since we joined the Hangings by Parkeston Road. As recently ago as 5 years, there were none!
If you climb up Pattricks Lane you will come out on the High Street, next to a Co-Op store. There’s a bus stop across the road that will take you (routes 20/20A/22B) back to the other end of The Hangings, otherwise there’s an incline down the High Street past the many small retailers. Notice the traffic lights at the bottom of the hill.
Continuing along our original route, we now walk into Station Lane. This is a private road with pedestrian right of way. Several new properties have been built here in recent years. The road climbs slightly, giving further views over the River Stour.
The road now drops gently towards the small carpark attached to Dovercourt Station. The path and cycleway ends at this carpark.
Dovercourt Station dates from 1854 when the line first opened. The station was formerly known as Dovercourt Bay Station and it sits just off Dovercourt’s High Street at the junction of Kingsway and Station Road.
The station is manned most days (not Sunday) from 6am to 2pm
If you turn right outside the station you will find yourself in Kingsway, walking up the road brings you to the same set of traffic lights I mentioned earlier. This is the centre of town. Bus stops are to the left.
All text & photos © Paul Turvey 2008 & 2014. Originally hosted on www.topsy.me.uk