The Blackwater Rail Trail follows the route of the old Witham to Maldon railway branch line, closed in 1964. Essex County Council purchased the land and track bed from British Railways in September 1986 as a joint initiative with Braintree and Maldon District Councils, but only after some of the land had been sold off to local farmers.
The trail has now become a wildlife walk from Witham to Maldon, but with some diversions because of the sold off portions. The first entry point to the Trail is at the Catholic Bridge, one of the Witham to Maldon branch line’s four 1847/48 cast iron girder bridges. It is known as the 'Catholic Bridge' due to the location close to the old Catholic Church located on the corner of Avenue Road. Here the Trail links with Witham's Industrial Estate.
The Trail then passes a footpath connecting the Grove Estate with the Industrial Estate. The path goes on to Newland Street, finishing at the junction with Avenue Road. At the point where this path diverges, lies a World War 2 Spigot mortar emplacement. The spigot mortar gun was also known as a ‘Blacker Bombard’ after its inventor. The guns, issued to the Home Guard in 1942, would rotate on the stainless steel spindle, with the men standing in a pit round the edge. The Trail then passes a number of informal paths off to the Grove Estate, the next formal access point being Pasture Road (for Tesco and the Town centre).
The Trail then continues alongside some new housing to Blackwater Lane, where there is access to Whetmead Nature Reserve and across Sauls Bridge to the River Walk. The Trail then resumes off Constance Close, a little further along Maldon Road, passing some more new housing. Next the Trail passes under the A12 Bypass and continues on to Blue Mills Hill. Here the path ends, and to continue to Maldon, turn left and then right into Benton Hall Golf Club. The Trail then continues along the banks of the River Blackwater.
Blackwater Rail trail is covered by the set of Essex Country Park byelaws.
Sources: Essex County Council, Peter Kay (Essex Railway Heritage Supplement); Witham & Countryside Society; Janet Gyford.