194. Ipswich to Trimley St. Mary

February 2008

Today I’d be following the eastern side of the river Orwell from Ipswich, the county town of Suffolk towards the sea at Felixstowe, though I didn’t quite make it as far as Felixstowe.

I was travelling by train again today and resolved the ticketing difficulties I had last time by buying two tickets, one from London to Manningtree and another from Manningtree to Felixstowe online and collecting them before setting off, so as to avoid the long queue for tickets at London Liverpool Street.

I took the train to London Waterloo, the tube to London Liverpool Street and the train from there to Ipswich.

Last time I finished in Ipswich but from the nearest crossing of the river Orwell at the Orwell Bridge I walked another couple of miles into Ipswich, but it was not an especially pleasant walk for the most part and I didn’t wish to repeat it. So having paid for a ticket as far as Felixstowe when I arrived at Ipswich I saw that the train (well, single carriage) to Felixstowe was already waiting and so I decided to take this to a station called Derby Road. This is a little nearer the river Orwell than Ipswich and so saves me re-walking quite so much of the route. I was a bit puzzled why there is a station in Suffolk called Derby Road though, but there we are, there is.

Derby Road station, Ipswich

It was a small station in the suburbs of Ipswich. From here I could follow the access road from the station and head south to the A1156. I followed roads south from here back to the edge of Landseer Park where I joined the route of the Stour and Orwell walk again, which I had followed at the end of my previous walk. I retracted my steps to soon reach Pipers Vale Country Park and the fine views of the Orwell bridge ahead.

The Orwell Bridge

I didn’t need to cross the bridge this time, having done so last time and so continued underneath it.

The Orwell Bridge

It is an impressive structure though as I said last time, not especially pretty in my view. Once under the bridge I was in the Orwell Country Park. Here the path continued on a pleasant path right beside the river. The tide was low this time and so there was only a narrow strip of water near the centre of the river channel, the rest being a mixture of shingle, sand and mud flats.

The River Orwell near Ipswich

I was surprised to find there was a bit of a beach beside the river.

The River Orwell near Ipswich

Rather than stick to the official path I decided to drop down onto this beach for a short while, as it was firm underfoot and there were even tyre tracks from a bicycle – another hint I was not going to sink into the mud.

The River Orwell near Ipswich

Soon I started to get low sandy cliffs to my left and decided it was probably not wise to stick to the shore now. When I spotted a path up off the beach and onto the official route I followed it.

The River Orwell near Ipswich

The official route now ran through an area of woodland along the top of what were now quite high cliffs, offering glimpses of the river through the trees.

The River Orwell near Ipswich

Just inside the woodland, the official route of the Stour and Orwell Walk turns inland and follows roads for around 2 miles. However the path through the woodland seemed to continue ahead and I could rejoin another right of way at the far end of it, which I could follow back inland if needed, so I decided to stick to that.

On reaching the end of the woodland the cliffs had ended again and I was back to the foreshore.

The River Orwell near Ipswich

The footpath I had now joined continued ahead for around 500 metres before coming to an abrupt end. Dead-end footpaths like this puzzle me as I can’t see any reason why there would be a path that ends at seemingly nothing. Footpaths are established by regular use over a number of years, so it seems odd people would just walk so far and stop.

The River Orwell near Ipswich

I decided to follow this path anyway knowing it was a dead-end in the hope I would be able to get through. I passed a couple of World War II pillboxes and continued on the foreshore.

The River Orwell near Ipswich

I was re-assured that the path, despite being a dead-end seemed to be regularly walked. A couple of footbridges marked on the map did indeed exist.

The River Orwell near Ipswich

However the path did indeed end abruptly but on the foreshore. The tide was a long way out and the inland route was un-appealing, following busy roads that I suspected would lack a pavement. Checking the map I could see a stream ahead and beyond that a jetty at Nacton Quay. However below the high tide line was a large area of mudflats and the going so far had been good.

I decided that if I could get past the stream ahead without too much difficulty I should be able to get round to Nacton, where the Stour and Orwell walk re-joined the shore. If not, I could turn back. I’d seen that the tide was already low and so I had some time before high tide.

The River Orwell near Nacton

Initially there was quite a well worn path along the shore and again I could see cycle tracks. The stream ahead proved not difficult to get around, I could head a bit inland and find a part that was narrow enough I could simply step over.

Once over there was again the useful cycle tyre tracks I could follow. There were areas of reeds and small areas of salt marsh to my right, but the ground underfoot remained firm.

The River Orwell near Nacton

It was very pretty too, with the beach on the foreshore and some woodland just behind it.

The River Orwell near Nacton

Strictly speaking I was not trespassing here as I believe the land officially ends at the high water mark and so there is legal access along the coast and rivers if you are below the mean high water line.

The River Orwell near Nacton

I was pleased to seen reach Nacton Quay. This turned out to be easy to get around as the main jetty was very short, the rest more a few rocks on the foreshore. I was also pleased that the large house of Orwell Park House inland was shielded from me by trees, since it meant no one was able to see me from the house crossing the probably private jetty. I continued on a mixture of the foreshore and feint path just outside of the fence.

Just beyond this there was a small house and here I had a welcome surprise – a sign informed me I was now on a permissive path with a Suffolk County Council sign telling me it was by permission of Orwell Park School. This was very welcome as I now knew I’d be able to get through at the other end and avoid the road walking.

The path was good too, there were even sections of boardwalk over some boggy areas.

The River Orwell near Nacton

I followed this lovely path through the edge of the school grounds and soon I had rejoined the official route of the Stour and Orwell Walk, but I was pleased to have found a much better coastal route, albeit one that is only possible if the tide is out.

The River Orwell near Nacton

Where I re-joined the official route there seemed to be some evidence of another jetty of some sort, a line of rocks heading out to the foreshore with a marker at the end, but I don’t know what purpose it served.

The Stour and Orwell Walk near Levington

The path continued through Home Wood with glimpses of the river through the trees.

At Nacton Shore the path gained a little height and I could see Levington Creek ahead and the masts of the boats at the large marina beyond it.

The Stour and Orwell Walk near Levington

The path soon descended again and the trees on my left ended, giving me a nice view of Levington village inland, with a pretty church and what I think is a thatched pub next door.


A path cut inland here but I continued along the official route, closer to the coast to reach the banks of Levington Creek. The tide was out so this was mostly mud, but I could see the masts of lots of boats ahead and further along the cranes of Felixstowe ahead.

Levington Creek

The Port of Felixstowe from Levington

I turned left with the path to head into the creek and towards Levington. At one point an old boat appeared to have been washed up, though it had clearly been here for some time, with much of the side having rotted away.

Levington Creek

It did not take me long to reach the head of the creek as it’s only about half a mile tall.  I could then continue on the path around the eastern side of the creek and back towards the river Orwell.

Levington Creek

I found the patterns in the mud interesting here. I’m not sure if they are natural or the remains of something man-made, but either way they were quite pretty.

Levington Creek

The path continued along the edge of the creek and back to the shoreline, with a pond to my left and what looked to be landscaped parkland beyond, probably the grounds of Stratton Hall that I could see marked on the map.

The Stour and Orwell walk near Levington

Beyond this there seemed to some wooden posts sticking out of the river Orwell. I wondered if these are the remains of some sort of structure or purely for coastal defence.

The Stour and Orwell walk at Stratton Hall Marina

A short distance beyond I reached the large Stratton Marina. It was packed full of boats, which surprised me in what is a fairly remote place.

Stratton Hall Marina

Obviously as this is open to the sea I had to head inland behind it. Last time from the other side of the river I had puzzled about how you even accessed this marina, but it turns out the footpath marked on the map heading north is also the access road to the marina.

The marina was quite interesting and there was another of the red Lightships I have seen a number of along the Essex and Suffolk shore.

Stratton Hall Marina

When the marina ended the path then ran along the coastal side of a large lake, Loompit Lake. The path was basically a causeway and I particularly enjoyed this section, with the water on both sides.

Loompit Lake near Trimley St Martin

Looking back to the marina it looked to me like there might have once been another part of the marina or some sort of sea wall here that had since been eroded away or demolished, leaving a large area of mud behind.

Stratton Hall Marina

Loompit Lake was lovely and I was amused by these ducks (or are they geese?) swimming in a straight line. across it.

Loompit Lake near Trimley St Martin

Loompit Lake near Trimley St Martin

At the far end the path continued along the shore, now with land to my left again and there was also some sand along the foreshore again. It was really pretty, with trees overhanging the beach in places and was a lovely peaceful place too.

The Stour and Orwell Walk near Sleighton

The Stour and Orwell Walk near Sleighton

I was really enjoying this part of the walk and was glad I had opted to walk around the river Orwell rather than use the ferry from Harwich.

A short distance ahead the path turned inland away from the sea wall again. The reason is that the sea wall ahead had been deliberately breached again. I suspect this is because I am nearing the large port of Felixstowe and I believe there is some law that if an area of marsh is lost to development (such as expansion of the port) a new area of the same size must be created elsewhere to compensate. I suspect I was walking past such a new area.

Trimley Marshes

I wondered how long ago it had been breached, as there were now the dead remains of trees, killed by the salt water.

Beyond this breach I was back on the sea wall, but there was water everywhere again. To my right, the River Orwell whilst too my left were numerous ponds, small lakes and marshes, all part of Trimley Marshes.

Trimley Marshes

This is a nature reserve owned by Suffolk Wildlife Trust. It is an attractive spot and there were a number of birds on one of the islands in one of the lakes. Judging by the tyre tracks alongside the path this looks like it might have been recently created, too.

Trimley Marshes

The nature reserve however ends rather abruptly. At the far end of the nature reserve is the edge of the Felixstowe Container Port, the largest in the UK and the sixth busiest in Europe. It is quite a contrast to the rural scene behind me!

The port of Felixstowe

The map I had was a little odd here. The Stour and Orwell Walk was shown as going around the port as a permissive path, but another bridlepath was shown as taking a more direct and coastal route over the port. However it was clear the landscape was changing and it seems my map was created during this time. It is clear that the port had been extended over the old area of marsh and path but this had not been completely marked on the map and the old route of the path was still shown, even though it was built over. On more modern maps I can see that the route around the port is now a right of way and the old path on my map is no longer shown.

So as public access to the port area is not permitted I’d now have to head inland though before doing so I looked back to the river and sea and couldn’t help but notice just how much rubbish had been washed up beside the wall of the port, too.

The port of Felixstowe

A shame and I do wonder what effect it has on the nearby wildlife in the reserve.

So I headed inland beside the port for about 500 metres, to reach the edge of the port where I could turn right and follow the fences at the back of the port. I followed this path east around the back of the port for about half a mile, there was not much to see.

Here I had a decision to make. I had originally hoped I might be able to reach Felixstowe. But it was February and it was clear with the distance I still had to cover I was unlikely to make it before it got dark. So I decided to cut the walk a little short and head inland on a path to Trimley St Mary which had a railway station (Trimley) and was about 1 mile away. So I did that, following the path through a small area of woodland, Christmasyards Wood. Emerging from this woodland the path continued between fields on a pleasant tree-lined path that would not look out of place in a park and was dead-straight.

Footpath to Trimley

At the end this path came to Searson’s Farm and the road began. It was only another 300 metres or so along the road to reach Trimley railway station.

This was a pleasant and rural station with two platforms, though it was clear from the weeds that only one was in use.

Trimley Station

I had about 25 minutes to wait for the train but at least the station had a nice little garden with some daffodils just coming into flower. As it was a sunny day the waiting shelter turned out to be fairly warm, so I was glad of a rest at the end of the walk.

This was a walk that I had mixed feelings about before starting, as I could see that whilst the middle section looked like it should be nice, the first few miles were not promising, along roads and I also expected the area around the port to be very ugly. In fact it turned out to be much better than I had expected, as I’d found a lovely route right along the shore at the start, avoiding the road. The sections along the river were lovely, it is a peaceful and picturesque river. The last path, like a path through a park was also unexpectedly pretty in an area I’d expected to be marred by the heavy industry of the Port of Felixstowe nearby. It had been a good walk in the end, better than expected.

Here are details of the public transport needed for this walk :-

Greater Anglia trains Ipswich to Felixstowe : Ipswich – Westerfield – Derby RoadTrimley – Felixstowe. Trains run hourly seven days a week. It takes around 25 minutes between Trimley and Ipswich.

Here are the complete set of photos for this walk: Main Link | Slideshow

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193. Shotley Gate to Ipswich

February 2008

Almost 5 months had passed since my last coastal walk in October so I was itching to get back to the coast and a fine day in early February was enough to make me make the effort. The problem is that once the clocks changed in October, it gets dark so early. Now it takes me over 2 hours from home to get to the nearest bit of coast I’ve not walked before, the limited daylight hours in winter means leaving very early in the morning in order to get to the coast and walk a good length before it gets dark. Staying overnight is another option but this adds considerably to the expense and still means I probably need to make an early start to make it worthwhile.

I don’t spend winter weekends lazing about though, I do plenty of walks during the winter but they are closer to home and mostly not on the coast. So I was looking forward to getting back to the coast after to so many months away.

Another problem I’ve come to realise is I’m nearing the practical limit of what is possible in a day. It’s about a 2 hour drive each way by car now, which is also getting expensive and it’s a similar time and cost by train. I opted to travel by train today because at the time I had a season ticket as far as London so the journey to London cost me nothing extra. I took the train from my local station to London Waterloo then the tube over to London Liverpool Street.

My season ticket also entitled me to a 1/3 discount off weekend train tickets in the South East of England. I can’t remember the exact prices then, but at today’s prices (2018), if you hold an annual season ticket, a weekend day return from London to Manningtree (where I started the previous walk) costs £19.30. Manningtree is roughly 60 miles from London. Ipswich is less than 10 miles further up the line but a ticket from London to Ipswich costs £42.20 – more than double the price for an extra 10 miles! The reason is partly that the railway considers Suffolk outside of the South East and hence I can no longer get a 1/3 discount. Even without that discount though, it’s still a £10 jump in price which hardly seems justified given the small extra distance.

I resolved that particular issue for now by buying a day return from London to Manningtree with my discount and then another day return from Manningtree to Ipswich which works out considerably cheaper than buying one ticket (I’ve long since given up trying to apply logic to railway ticketing). The downside is I can’t buy these two tickets from the machine (it only issues tickets from London, not from Manningtree) so I have to join the long snaking queue for the manned ticket windows, behind large numbers of tourists wanting to get to Stansted Airport. I’m getting a bit stressed about missing my train by the time I get served and the clerk does little to hide their irritation when I ask for two tickets, issuing a tut and numerous sighs whilst doing so and they don’t utter a word other than telling me the final price. Perhaps they are happier churning out singles to Stansted Airport! Because of the time taken to queue I have to run for my train and just make it before the doors are locked.

It took a little over an hour from London to Ipswich  and once there I took the bus onwards to Shotley Gate. As it took a while to travel here it is still nearly midday when I get there, despite making an early start.

It was a lovely clear sunny day however and the stresses of the journey were soon meting away. I got off the bus by the Bristol pub that I walked past last time. The tide was out, revealing some sand and shingle at high tide, turning to mud nearer the waters edge.

The shore at Shotley Gate

I re-traced my steps from the end of my last walk past a long wooden pier, Admiralty Pier, which was derelict and blocked off, and I could see the wooden railings were collapsing into the sea.

Shotley Gate

Over to my left where the numerous cranes of the port of Felixstowe which were once again busy loading and unloading containers.

Felixstowe from Shotley Gate

I soon reached Shotley Marina and was amused to notice the pub and club house here was called the Shipwreck, which perhaps doesn’t bode well for those sailing from here!

Shotley Gate Marina

I continued around the coastal side of the marina, crossing the lock gate.

The marina at Shotley Gate

The marina at Shotley Gate

The beach to my right is now fenced offed, apparently due to the danger of deep mud, though the fence was only a temporary looking wooden fence that was falling down.

Felixstowe from Shotley Gate

Beyond the marina the path continued on the sea wall, with a small area of salt marsh between me and the river Orwell, as I’d now turned the corner away from the sea and started up the western side of the river.

Marshes near Shotley Gate

Soon the marsh ended and I was back directly alongside the river, with the river being tidal here, there were mud flats visible beside the water, though as I proceeded north there was a thin strip of sand too.

The River Orwell near Shotley Gate

The River Orwell near Shotley Gate

At the edge of the river I was soon passing some old wooden posts formed into lines. I was not sure if these were to try to control erosion or for some fishing related purpose, though given they formed boxes in places, I suspect the latter.

The River Orwell near Shotley Gate

Once past these there was an area where I suspected the sea wall had been breached as there was now an area of salt marsh ahead and the path headed slightly inland to get around it, though it was only short and I was soon back on the coast.

Marshes near Shotley

I could look back south along the river to the huge cranes of Felixstowe, which I’m now looking at side on.

Felixstowe from Shotley

Inland there are gentle hills leading up to the small village of Church End.

The River Owell near Shotley

For the next mile or so the path feels more like a causeway, with the river to my right and a drainage channel full of water to my left, with marshes beyond it, it is pretty and peaceful.

Marshes  near Shotley

As I round the corner to begin heading west I can see the masts of numerous boats across the river. This is a large marina which is not named on my map and oddly I can’t even see a road serving it marked on the map.

The River Owell near Shotley

The edge of the river is now mud flats and what looks like banks of shells, though soon the shells end to be replaced with mud flats.

The River Orwell near Shotley

There are a few pleasure boats passing along the river and on the other bank I can see a large house which I take to be Stratton Hall.

The path continues along the sea bank and ahead I soon get my first glimpse of the Orwell Bridge, which I’ll be using to cross the river Orwell.

The River Orwell near Shotley

It’s large and impressive but definitely in the functional rather than beautiful category.

Across the river I can see the church of Levington, flying a St George’s cross, it looks a nice village.

Levington across the Orwell

I’ve got another area of marsh ahead and a small creek, Colton Creek but the path crosses the creek so I don’t have to head far inland.

The River Orwell near Shotley

Here the path heads through what appears to be the back gardens of Orwell Cottages where there is also a grand boat house in one of the gardens, but I’m amused to see the boat isn’t in fact in the fancy boat house, but in front of it!

The River Orwell near Shotley

Looking out into the river there is a large freight looking boat heading up the river, presumably to Ipswich, so it seems it’s still used for commercial traffic, too.

The River Orwell near Shotley

At the end of the marshes I reach an area of woodland, in the care of the National Trust, where the path heads up onto low cliffs. Through the trees and on the other side of the bank I can see a very grand looking building, with what looks like an observatory on top. This I later found out is the Orwell Park School a private and no doubt very expensive school.

Orwell Park School, Nacton

As I near the end of the cliffs I pass an area filled with boats. Some seem to be in use as house boats, others are abandoned on the muddy banks of the river.

Boat graveyard, Chelmondiston

Emerging from the woods I come to a pub the Butt and Oyster which has a fine beer garden right beside the river. Despite the cold weather a couple of the outside tables are occupied.

Butt and Oyster, Chelmondiston

I resisted the temptation to stop, conscious of the time as I still have quite a way to go. There is briefly a path along the shore here and it gives me a nice view back to the pub and boat houses, which are I think part of the village of Chelmondiston, slightly inland of here.

The River Orwell at Chelmondiston

The path continues through a boat yard but then I briefly have to head inland here behind a few houses before the path then returns to the river.

The River Orwell at Chelmondiston

I pass another isolated house boat here and the path then heads a little inland again along the edge of the fields, close to the coast but not alongside it and going through a few areas of woodland.

The River Orwell at Chelmondiston

After a while the path soon returns to the waters edge at the strangely named place of Cat House. I didn’t see any cats sadly but there was a marina, almost completely devoid of boats which the building to my left tells me is the Royal Harwich Yacht Club.

Woolverstone Marina

I find the name rather confusing. Harwich is in Essex and I’m in Suffolk, it seems and odd name given it’s not even in the same county as Harwich.

Royal Harwich Yacht Club

This marks the end of the path along the coast for a while. The path I’m following, the Stour and Orwell Walk heads inland to the village of Woolverstone. To my left, but out of sight is the grounds and buildings of another large private school, Woolverstone Hall School, though I can see one of the out buildings and beyond it the pretty church.

Woolverstone Church

Just past the church the path turns to the right to head west, parallel with the road but north of it, along a track behind the houses of Woolverstone. I followed this for around a mile, to reach the B1456 at the tiny village of Freston, emerging at a pub (The Boot) which has since closed though according to the website is about to re-open. Thankfully I don’t have to walk along the main road as the path crosses this road and continue ahead on a minor road leading to the church, which is partly obscured from view by trees.

Freston Church

At the church the path turns north back towards the coast through what looks to be a recent planted woodland, Freston Wood.

Freston Wood

I emerge from the woodland and head down to the busy B-road again. Although the official route of the Stour and Orwell Walk heads back inland from the road for a short while (only to rejoin it half a mile later) I decided to stick to the road. Although there wasn’t a pavement, there seemed to be an un-official path through the marshes just to the right of the road so in fact I ended up mostly walking close to the road rather than on it.

The Orwell bridge

The Orwell bridge now dominated the skyline. This carries the busy A14, here a dual carriageway across the Orwell and is the lowest crossing point of the river. It’s is quite an impressive structure, crossing the river high above the water, presumably so that large boats can get under it. Though it’s a functional rather than pretty structure.

The Orwell bridge

As this is the lowest crossing point of the river, I decide to cross it here (the Stour and Orwell Walk continues upstream ahead into Ipswich). As the bridge is so tall this means I have to turn left away from the river a bit to head up a track to gain enough height to get on the bridge. This track serves the Suffolk Food Hall which generates a surprising amount of traffic so although marked as a footpath on the map it’s in fact basically a road. Just before the food hall I can turn right on what is a path heading steeply up to the bridge.

The views from here are wonderful as I can see right back almost to Shotley Gate along the river.

The River Orwell from the Orwell bridge

There is a pavement, though it’s separated from the 4 lanes of traffic by only a low crash barrier, so it feels a bit like walking along the hard-shoulder of a motorway, but at least I have the views to compensate from the noisy traffic to my left.

The River Orwell from the Orwell bridge

The bridge opened in 1982 before which I think the main road went through Ipswich.  At the highest point of the bridge a sign for the Samaritans reminds me that sadly not everyone comes up here to enjoy the view.

Having crossed the bridge the logical route is to now turn right and head back towards the shore and towards Felixstowe. However it is a few miles to the first settlement, Levington and I decided I didn’t have time to get as far as that today and so the best solution was to continue inland to Ipswich where I could get the train home and return here next time.

Thankfully the Stour and Orwell Walk also goes into the centre of Ipswich so I could follow that all the way, though in hindsight it might have been a better option to take a bus!

The walk started well, taking me into a wooded area, Pipers Vale Country Park where I followed the main sign-posted route through the woodlands. There was a stretch of a circular path that headed a bit closer to the shore, giving me a good view back to the bridge but sadly it was a dead-end, as industry is now along the river banks ahead, so I had to return to the official path.

The Orwell Bridge, Ipswich

Emerging from the country park I crossed the road and continued behind a modern school. From here I had a brief stretch along residential roads to Landseer Park. The path heads around the eastern then norther sides of this park. At the end of the park the path continued alongside a little stream squeezed between houses on the right and an oil storage depot on the left. Crossing the road at the end of the park I continued into Holywells Park, past a couple of ponds. This emerged onto a residential road and then the busy A1156 ahead. Here I turned left and could soon follow a path down to the water front, Ipswich Dock.


This was mostly a modern development of blocks of “Luxury Apartments” and a marina though with a few old buildings having been kept and converted.



It was a slightly jarring mix of old and new I thought. I decided to divert from here and explore the town centre. There were some nice old buildings but overall I was not that impressed.



It’s a nice enough town with a some old buildings mixed in with the new, rather like at the docks. However there was nothing much that particularly grabbed my attention and I was soon heading back across the river to the station, which is on the edge of the town and the train home, which I had around a 15 minute wait for.

Overall this had been quite a nice walk. Mostly well signed and maintained paths and little road walking. The Orwell was proving to be quite a pretty river. I enjoyed the walk over the impressive Orwell Bridge though the rest of the route through the outskirts of Ipswich and around the industry was not so good, but it was great to be back on the coast again after my winter hiatus.

Here are details of the public transport needed for this walk:-

Ipswich Buses routes 97 and 98Shotley Gate – Shotley – ChelmondistonWoolverstoneFreston – Bourne Bridge – Ipswich railway station – Ipswich (Old Cattle Market Bus Station). The bus runs 11 times per day Monday – Saturday and takes around 30 minutes.

On Sundays, First Norfolk and Suffolk route 202 runs 4 times per day on the same route.

Here are the complete set of photos for this walk : Main Link | Slideshow

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192. Manningtree to Shotley Gate

October 2007

After my decision to walk around the Stour I’d now be heading back towards the coast as close as possible to the north banks of the river. This was also a day of excitement since I’d be crossing into a new country, Suffolk, completing the coast of Essex.

This walk was an easy one to get started since I took the train into London Waterloo, the tube across to London Liverpool Street and another train from London to Manningtree, which is served by the main London to Norwich trains. It took a little over 2 hours in total but the trains ran on time.

Manningtree is also famous as it is just inside the Dedham Vale and Stour Valley area of outstanding natural beauty. Perhaps the most famous well-known sights are Flatford Mill and Willy Lott’s cottage both of which were made famous in the paintings of John Constable. I didn’t visit them on this occasion but I did at a later date, so here is a view of Flatford Mill.

Flatford Mill

And here is Willy Lott’s Cottage, made famous by the painting “The Hay Wain”.

Willy Lott's Cottage, Flatford

So on from the beauty of Dedham Vale it’s time to get started on my walk. From the station I follow the station access road down to the main A137. There is a rather odd arrangement here where the road splits into two, with one route of the road going under the railway line in an underpass and the other route crosses the railway on the level at a level crossing. I presume this is done so that most vehicles do not have to wait for the trains if the level crossing is down and can use the underpass, only high vehicles having to wait to use the level crossing. I crossed via the underpass as this has a pavement. Once through the underpass I can continue beside this busy road which at least has a pavement though it now moves from one side of the road to the other (why?) so I’m forced to cross this busy road.

Just beyond this I reached the river Stour or to be more accurate part of it, as it splits into two separate channels just west of Manningtree which both flow out into the estuary here. However the first of these channels marks the border between Essex and Suffolk.

River Stour

This is the view inland, there is some sort of sluice which presumably controls the flow of water on the coastal side.

I cross the first part of the river and with that I’ve finished walking the coast of Essex, my tenth county completed. I had been warned that Essex has the longest coast of any county, which I initially doubted, but now I can see that it’s true, because there are so many rivers, estuaries and creeks to cross, and numerous marshy islands. In fact it took me 27 walks to complete the coast of Essex, spread over broadly one year, since I was only able to get to the coast on some weekends. Of course if I had used the ferries and not visited so many islands it would be fewer walks.

Despite the long distance I had enjoyed Essex far more than I had expected. It had certainly been a country of contrasts, with areas of heavy industry, particularly on the Thames estuary but I was also surprised to find how much of the coastline is rural and undeveloped. Essex is a more rural county than I had expected and this had added to my enjoyment. I had also been pleased to find just how much of the coast was accessible – most of the rivers and creeks had paths along their banks, which made route planning easier.

I was however looking forward to exploring the coast of Suffolk though I could see initially it would not be much different from Essex since the southern part of this counties coast continues like Essex, as one of rivers, estuaries and marshes. I had though noticed that there was a coast path of sorts, at the time I walked here it was known as the Suffolk Coasts and Heaths Path, it has since been renamed as the Suffolk Coast Path. Though it would be a while before I reached it (it starts in Felixstowe), having opted to round all the creeks in the south of the county.

Now into Suffolk, the two channels of the river are separated by an area of marsh which is marked on the map as Stour Estuary Nature Reserve, owned by the RSPB. It’s only about 150 metres tall and soon I’ve reached the end of the marsh and the second, narrower channel of the Stour. Here the road has obviously been re-routed onto a new bridge, but I can leave the main road and cross the much older bridge just to the right, which is free of traffic, it’s nice to leave the A137 behind. Once across I turn right into Factory Road.

As the name might suggest, this passes a number of factories as it heads through an area of light industry. It is not the welcome I had hoped for from Suffolk. The industry soon got heavier and I was walking past a large ICI plant, much of which looked derelict. ICI was once a huge company, the largest manufacturer in Britain for much of it’s history, but it was acquired in 2008 and so no longer exists and many of the sites closed. This particular site, ICI Brantham, was primarily used for the manufacture of chemicals associated with film processing, printing and development. So if it hadn’t already closed, when I walked past it soon wood because I was carrying a digital camera with me, as were increasing numbers of people, sending the film and processing industry into a near-terminal decline. The site has since closed and most of it has been demolished, I believe the latest plans are for a new rail depot to built there.

At the end of the road, a bridleway continued ahead. I was now following the Stour and Orwell Walk, another long distance footpath which is considered a westerly extension of the Suffolk Coast Path around the estuaries of these two rivers. Immediately the industry ended and I had reached something rather prettier, Decoy Pond.

Fishing lake at Cattawde

I’m not sure what it was originally used for, but now it is a fishing lake, owned by an angling club, though I think it might still have been owned by ICI at the time I walked here.

Fishing lake at Cattawde

The path rounded the south end of this pond and continued north east, parallel with the railway line. However on reaching the railway line there was another path off to the right which ran closer to the coast, so I opted for that route. After turning right on reaching the railway line and then I reached a crossing, first a bridge over a little stream and then I was directed straight onto the main London to Norwich Railway line to cross it. This is not a particularly pleasant crossing, as with steps up onto the track it is hard to see if a train is approaching until you are almost on the track!

Once safely across the railway I was right beside the Stour. It was very pretty, the marshes gradually giving way to the shallow waters of the river.

The Stour

This was a pleasant path alongside this pretty river and soon the route of the Stour and Orwell Walk rejoined my route. I could see Mistley on the other side of the river too and even smell the maltings! The path was a raised sea bank making for a flat and easy walk and so I made quick progress, soon approaching Stutton Mill.

Stutton Mill

This is an attractive building, painted in the distinctive pink colour for which Suffolk is known. In fact Dulux even make a special “Suffolk Pink” paint! Many buildings throughout the county are painted this colour, and you can read a bit about the history of it here.

Once I reached the mill the path seemed to go more or less through the garden of the now converted mill, along the sea bank. They have a nice view, at least at high tide with the waters of the Stour glistening in the sun.

The Stour

Beyond the mill there was roughly a mile more of path right along the river side. This was a lovely stretch of the walk as there were now areas of sand beside the river and inland much of the land was given over to woodland, it was beautiful.

The Stour

The Stour

Soon there were cliffs too, clearly eroding quickly, as some trees had fallen onto the beach below and others had died from the salt water. The cliffs got surprisingly high, giving me good views ahead to Stutton Ness.

The Stour

I could also look back along the tree-lined banks of the Stour.

The Stour near Holbrook

At Stutton Ness there is an old rotting jetty and the path turned north with the river bank but sadly this was short-lived.

The Stour at Stutton Ness

Around a mile of the shore ahead is private, part of the grounds of Crowe Hall and so I have to head inland to get around it.

So I turn inland with the Stour and Orwell walk, an enclosed path that climbs a bit and gives me a glimpse of the grand house I’m having to walk past.

Crowe Hall

I headed north past Little Hall and turned right at the junction of paths to continue on the Stour and Orwell walk where the track soon widens, passes some bungalows and reaches the road. I follow this road east through the edge of the village of Stutton and passed the private entrance to Crowe Hall. This was a pretty little village, with some thatched cottages, in Suffolk Pink, naturally.

Cottage in Stutton

Ahead the road turned left, further inland but I could continue ahead on another short dead-end road. This passes Stutton House and the church just beyond it and then narrows to a track (a right of way). Here I can soon turn right and return to the banks of the Stour again, having rounded Crowe Hall. It is nice to be back by the river, but I’m also distracted by another large and very grand building to my left.

Royal Hospital School

This is the Royal Hospital School a private (and I suspect very expensive) school. The school was established in 1712 and has connections with the navy. It is certainly a grand building and a beautiful place to go to school.

To my right the tide had really receded, leaving acres of mud flats and the waters of the river just visible in the distance.

The Stour

Soon I reached Alton Wharf which was presumably once a busy place but although there were quite a few boats moored up, is a quite place now. Beyond this the Stour and Orwell walk is slightly inland from the coast. I couldn’t work out why this might be as there is another footpath marked on the map right along the coast, so I followed that instead. This was a nice path right by the river giving me some nice views. However as I approached an area of trees, marked as “The Grove” on the map the route ahead seemed to be blocked by a bungalow! Rather than trying to find a way around this I decided to drop down onto the beach to my right. This was a bit difficult under foot, with numerous wet boggy and muddy areas and some rocks to negotiate too. To my surprise there were also soon low muddy cliffs. I suspect this route would be impassible at high tide because the rocks right at the back of the beach were covered in sea weed, but the tide was well out now so that wasn’t a worry.

Cliffs on the Stour near Harkstead

Cliffs on the Stour near Harkstead

It was a nice stretch alongside these crumbling cliffs, but soon these ended and I had an area of salt marsh ahead. There was no obvious path and it was too wet and boggy to attempt to continue on the shore, so I headed up into the fields alongside to try to regain the route of the official footpath, which appeared to exist only on the map!

I soon found a clue that I was in the right place in the form of steps with a collapsed hand rail, but the collapsed hand rail did have a public footpath sign on it.

I made my way along the edge of the field as best I could. At the point where a footpath turned inland, to Sparrow Hall and Needle Corner, the path ahead continued and now followed a sea wall and actually seemed to exist again.

The path rounded the oddly named Johhny All Alone Creek. Inland were agricultural fields, some crops and some with cattle in them.

Near Erawarton

I continued on the sea wall path around the creek to reach Erwarton Ness where I had my first view of my destination ahead, Shotley Gate.

Shotley Gate

In places I’m right on the river bank, in other places the view is blocked by a line of trees to my right. Inland I can see the pretty church of Erwarton on a hill.

Erwarton Church from the Stour

Suffolk is definitely more rolling than Essex, it’s hardly steep hills but it’s definitely not entirely flat, either.

As the marshes on my right end I can again return to the rivers edge, where there is a mixture of sand, shingle and mud.

The Stour at Shotley Gate

Ahead at Rose Farm Cottages the path heads inland behind the houses but soon returns to the shore once past them. Beyond them the path is meant to continue but part of the rusty sea wall has been breached. I can get past, but it looks to be eroding quickly so I’m not sure for how much longer the path was passable. Beyond this though it improves and soon I reached the edge of Shotley Gate.

The path emerges onto the road by a large pub.

Shotley Gate

It’s painted (at least partly), in Suffolk Pink, of course! From the pub it’s only a short distance ahead to the pier where I can look out over the huge docks at Felixstowe.

Felixstowe from Shotley Gate

This is a very large container port and I can see numerous ships docked, with the cranes used to lift the containers on and off the boats. As it was still fairly early rather than end immediately here I decided to continue on the path along the rivers edge, turning up into the mouth of the river Orwell and passing the marina, where I could then turn inland on a path back to the road.

The marina is packed with boats, but there is not much activity.

Shotley Gate Marina

Unusually, the coast path goes around the coastal side of the marina and over the lock gates. I can look out across the Orwell to Felixstowe ahead.

Felixstowe from Shotley Gate

It’s less than half a mile away as the crow flies, but to walk there I will have to head inland almost as far as Ipswich in order to cross the river Orwell, so it will take me a while to reach Felixstowe.

Felixstowe from Shotley Gate

Shotley Gate Marina

At the end of the marina I turned inland and follow Marsh Lane back to Shotley Gate.

The easiest way for me to get home now would be to cross on the ferry to Harwich and take the train. But there is a problem with this approach. The ferry stopped running at the end of September and it’s now early October (these days the ferry continues to run until the end of October, but it didn’t then). So instead I had to head back inland to the Bristol Arms Pub and take a bus into Ipswich instead but at least it drops me at the railway station.  From here I take the train back to London, the tube to Waterloo and another train from there to home.

This was an interesting and varied walk. The Stour is a pretty estuary and it was nice to find beaches and cliffs on the north bank of the river, something I hadn’t expected to find. I was also pleased to make a start on a new county, though it was a shame that some of the paths were in poor condition and the industrial section near Manningtree was also not good.  However I enjoyed Shotley Gate at the end, with the fine views over to Harwich and Felixstowe.

Here are details of the public transport needed for this walk:-

Ipswich buses routes 97 and 98 : Shotley Gate – Shotley – Chelmondiston – Woolverstone – Freston – Borune Bridge – Ipswich railway station – Ipswich (Old Cattle Market Bus Station). The bus runs 11 times per day Monday – Saturday and takes around 30 minutes. On Sundays, First Norfolk and Suffolk route 202 runs 4 times per day on the same route.

If you prefer you could take the Harwich Harbour ferry from Shotley Gate marina to Harwich. This runs from late March to the end of October on a broadly hourly basis which takes 7 minutes to cross. From Harwich you can then take the train (from Harwich Town station) back to Manningtree, which runs hourly.

Here are the complete set of photos for this walk : Main Link | Slideshow

Posted in Essex, Suffolk | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

191. Dovercourt to Manningtree

September 2007

I was nearing the end of Essex, having reached Dovercourt last time. The coast of Essex had been a surprise to me. Far more rural and remote than I expected, but also much longer than I had expected. It is a coastline characterised by rivers, streams, estuaries, marsh and creeks. At times it had been frustrating, with seemingly never-ending twists and turns but other times it took me to numerous places of unexpected beauty and tranquillity. Now I was nearing the end of the county I had mixed feelings. Having walked around so many of the estuaries and creeks I was now nearly at the end of the coast of Essex. I could see the coast of Suffolk just across the river Stour.  As I was reminded from a sign last time, I was only around a mile and a half from the ferry that would take me over to Felixstowe in Suffolk. I thought for a while I might be pleased to finish Essex, but now I was nearly there I was changing my mind.

I pondered whether to take this route or whether to walk around the estuary of the river Stour. I decided that having come so far without the use of any ferry it would be quite nice to cross into Suffolk on foot and walk around the last of it’s estuaries, the Stour. The border between Essex and Suffolk is this river. My decision was helped because there is a proper long-distance footpath running most of the southern length of the estuary, the Essex Way so I hoped that the footpaths would be good and easy and it ends at an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Dedham Vale.

So I set off for Dovercourt with the knowledge I’d be heading back inland again today. I took the train to London Waterloo, the tube over to London Liverpool Street and a train from there to Dovercourt (at the time there were direct trains to London, normally you have to change at Manningtree these days).

The trains ran on time and I was soon back in Dovercourt. I re-traced my route of last time back to the beach.


In the distance I could see the cranes at Felixstowe, which has a huge container port and these cranes are used to lift the containers on and off the large ships.

Ahead was a large breakwater which I presume marks the start of Harwich Harbour. There are the remains of what I presumed at the time are World War II defences on the left, Beacon Hill Fort and Cornwallis Battery. Whilst they were last used then they are in fact much earlier as Harwich has been an important port for centuries.

Once around the breakwater I was still following the promenade, also part of the Essex Way. There were more military structures on the left, Harwich Redoubt, a large circular fort built in 1808. The sandy beach is now becoming a bit of a mixture of mud and rocks, with the container ships of Felixstowe looming ahead.

Felixstowe from Harwich

I continued past the round building of Harwich Maritime Museum and then came to the southern arm of the harbour wall. There wern’t many boats in the harbour, the larger commercial port if further up the Stour estuary.


The far end of the harbour had some unusual brightly coloured objects and zooming in with my camera I found these are various buoys used to mark the site of ship wrecks etc. I hope they don’t get much use!


This marks the end of the footpath (in fact the Essex Way had turned inland a little earlier) so I have to follow roads around the back of the docks to reach the south bank of the Stour rather than the open sea. Here there is a small pleasure pier, Ha’Penny Pier. As you might expect, the name derives from how much it used to cost to access the pier, but happily these days there is no charge.

The pier was originally built for paddle steamers and was originally twice as long as it is now, but part of it was destroyed by fire in 1927. I walked along it, enjoying the views of the Stour and to Felixstowe and the docks beyond, which all looked rather industrial and not at all walker friendly.

Felixstowe from Harwich

I also noticed a Lightship which you can see above. I had never heard of these until I started walking the coast and I find them very interesting, essentially a lighthouse mounted on a ship. This one seemed to still be in use and the array of solar panels suggested it is now solar powered.

Felixstowe from Harwich

In fact as I looked closer I spotted there are in fact 3 of these light ships, all in a row, you might be able to make them out below.


A couple of small fishing boats were also arriving at the pier.

Fishing boat at Harwich

Having enjoyed the view, it was time to move on, so I left the pier and continued along the road. This is now the A120, which ends here at Harwich so there was a bit more traffic. There is a second jetty ahead here but this one is fenced off from the public as I’m now entering the commercial port. The A120 was busy so I headed onto the pavement on the road alongside, Stour Road, which is only separated from the A120 by a narrow strip of grass, so I suspect this is the old A120 and the new road is a more modern by-pass of sorts.

When the roads turned left, inland, a footpath continued ahead. This part of Harwich was not so good, as is often the case as I approached the port it became run down. The path was littered with fly tipped rubbish, including TVs, fridges and mattresses as well as huge amounts of general littler, not a pleasant place. This path crossed the roundabout ahead and continue to the footbridge over the railway tracks beside Dovercourt station, where I arrived earlier! This is because Harwich is on a narrow peninsula and this is about it’s narrowest point, 300 metres or so tall. Here I crossed into a residential road and continue ahead to Dovercourt station.

Beyond the station I continued along Station Lane. I think technically it’s a road but it’s a very narrow one. As the road turned left I could continue ahead on a foot and cycle path, part of the North Sea Cycleway. In fact, though not marked on the map, it continued on the old railway line here. The still existing railway line turns north to serve Harwich International station and the port on what I presume was once a loop off the line, whilst this former railway ahead was the more direct route. Presumably at some point it was decided to route all trains to the port and so this line closed, but at least it has been made into a cycle path.

It emerged onto Parkeston Road about a mile west of Dovercourt. Here I turned right heading for a large roundabout which is the junction for the port. The short road into the port is numbered the A136 but it runs for barely more than half a mile. Is this Britains shortest A-road? Rather than follow this though I turned right along the A120 to another roundabout a couple of hundred metres beyond it. On either side now I had the shops of a large retail park. I turned left through this on the Parkeston Bypass. At the end of the shops there was another roundabout and here I could continue north on another cycle path next to the road. As the main road headed for the port, where I suspect there is no public access, the cycle path forked off to the left into Garland Road. This is the village of Parkeston. It did not look too nice though perhaps my opinion was coloured by a couple standing in the middle of the road having a blazing row!

I walked past making sure not to make eye contact in case either of them tried to involve me in their argument! I took the third road on the right here, the first not a dead-end to and left on Coller Road, which is parallel to the Parkston Bypass. At the end of this road I was back on the Parkeston bypass. To my right the A136 continued to the right to the port itself, where there is also a railway station, Harwich International. This port, along with the station, used to be called Harwick Parkeston Quay but was renamed in 1995.

This was once a busy ferry port, with ferries to the Hook of Holland in the Netherlands, Esbjerg in Denmark and Gothenburg in Sweden, though ferries also used to run to Kristiansand in Norway too. However the port has been in a long decline and now ferries only operate to the Hook of Holland with all services to Scandanvia having ceased. The last, the route to Esbjerg ended in 2014.

In theory I can follow this road to the station which (another) end of the Essex Way. However it is a dead-end road to the docks and I could see there was a security barrier across the road, with a security hut along side it. I presume you can ask to walk into the port, but I didn’t see a lot of point as it was a dead-end (and in any case I’d already seen what little was to see from the train earlier!).

So instead I turned left and soon right along West Dock Road which is the road around the south western part of the dock. I then took the first left, the none too promising sounding Refinery Road which the sign showed as to the Refinery only. Harwich wasn’t getting any better and I was beginning to regret my decision to follow the estuary! Thankfully before the road turns into the refinery I can fork left off it and onto the Essex Way. This path is hemmed in between the railway line on my right, the refinery beyond it and to my left, a golf course! It seemed rather an odd mix of lush green of the golf course right next to a refinery!

The path continued to cross the old railway line again. This soon became a track between fields, passing a sewage works and coming to some isolated cottages. The Essex Way turns off to the left here, but I didn’t see it and continued ahead as the path ahead is also a footpath (and the closest to the sea, anyway). This took me the odd hamlet of East Newhall. Here the second path I had been following is supposed to turn left. However the track continued ahead and was more coastal, so I stuck to that. I’m not quite clear of the access here, there was nothing to say it’s private so I assume it’s OK, though it seems odd it stops being a right of way. I continued and this track soon turned left to emerge onto the B1352.

I now had an unpleasant stretch of road walking along this fairly busy pavementless road. In about 500 metres the route of the Essex Way rejoined me from the left, but I’d kept to a more coastal route. About 400 metres beyond that I turned right on the Essex Way leading to Copperas Wood. This is an Essex Wildlife Trust reserve and I continued on the Essex Way soon crossing the railway again via a footbridge and returning, at last, to the banks of the Stour.

The Stour near Wrabness

It was nice to be back in countryside. The Stour is very beautiful here and the Essex Way now follows the south bank of the river along the foreshore of Copperas Bay. It is a mixture of sand, mud and grass and offers lovely views.

This is more like it, and what I hoped this walk would be like.

The Stour near Wrabness

The Stour at Wrabness

Soon I entered the Stour Estuary Nature reserve where there was another information sign. There was soon a very grand building visible on the other bank of the Stour.

The Royal Hospital School across the Stour

This turned out to be the Royal Hospital School a (presumably very expensive) private school.

The Essex Way soon turns inland beyond here but another footpath continues along the shore, so I continued along that. This too soon turns inland so there is no official path along the coast. However there was a beach so I continued ahead along that.

Between Wrabness and Mistley

There were low cliffs here, showing signs of erosion with numerous trees having fallen off them.

The Stour near Wrabness

Beyond these trees I came to a row of wooden houses that front right onto the beach.

Between Wrabness and Mistley

I’m not sure if these are permanent residences or holiday homes, but I suspect the former. Ahead the route of the Essex Way rejoins the coast and there is now a footpath on the map again so I’m pleased I’ve managed to find a more coastal route.

The Essex Way was now slightly back from the coast, passing through Wrabness Nature Reserve and alongside the marshes of the Stour. In about a mile it turned left again, but another bridleway continued along the coast so I stuck to this as the more coastal route. Soon though the path seemed to disappear so I just stuck close to the edge of the fields to my left, as there was now an area of salt marsh on my right, and the path was becoming very boggy and difficult underfoot.

I was beginning to doubt I was still on the correct route when there were some steps up to the left into the field. These had partly collapsed, but I took their presence to mean this was the correct route and made my way up the broken steps into the edge of the field. Just my luck though that the farmer was in his tractor in the field. I walked along the edge and he didn’t seem to object, so I hope it was the right route. This passed the end of Shore Land and I continued ahead until I reached Ship Lane on the left. Here the bridlepath becomes a byway (though it’s surfaced so a road, really) which crossed the railway line and took me back to the B1352 again.

This was another unpleasant section of the walk. I can see why the Essex Way is routed inland of this road through fields, half a mile from the coast. The road is twisting and there is no pavement, but at least visibility ahead is usually not too bad. There are fields and marshes to my left.

Near Mistley

The road I’m following at least doesn’t have any fences or hedges so you can step up into the fields either side if need be.

Road to Mistley

It’s a relief when I reach the edge of the village of Mistley. Here thankfully the pavement begins. I took the very first road on the right to avoid the main road, Stourview Avenue. I followed this only to find it was a dead-end, at least until I actually got to the end and found, thank goodness, a short footpath bringing me back to the main road. I turned right along the main road again, still with a pavement. Mistley is known for it’s maltings and I passed some of these on the left. The road then crossed the railway line and passed Mistley station on the left and beyond that I was in the more historic centre of the village.


There is an unusual building ahead, Mistley Towers. There are the remains of a once grand Georgian Church that is now partly ruined.

Mistley Towers

There is not really much of a gap between Mistley and Manningtree, as I carried on along the road which was now right along the river again, opening up to give fine views of the now marshy river.


It was clearly low tide, there was little water visible, mostly just mud and marsh. Soon I had the buildings at the start of Manningtree on my left and the river on my right.It looks like there might once have been some sort of causeway or byway across it.


There was also some sand beside the estuary, even this far up.



Now the there was a Jewson along the coast so my views of the estuary were blocked as I followed Quay Street and then North Street. This soon emerged onto the B1352, Station Road, which I could follow as far as a roundabout on the A137. Here I could go straight ahead to reach Manningtree station. This is on the main London to Norwich railway line so I was able to take a more comfortable “Intercity” train back to London. Signs on the platform told me to “alight here for Dedham Vale” which starts around here and was made famous by Constable. But Manningtree is as far inland as I need to go because the first bridge over the Stour is here, so exploring Dedham Vale will have to wait for another time (though this time I did later got back and go there!)

I had a pleasant journey back to London and as this train stopped at Stratford I got off there instead to take the Jubilee line back to London Waterloo, which is a slightly faster route.

This had been a mixed walk. I had enjoyed Harwich and the old town area. However beyond that was run-down and rough feeling suburbs, which continued to Parkeston and the docks, not an area I would want to rush back to. However past that other than a few unpleasant road sections this was a lovely walk alongside the pretty Stour passing with the usual Essex coastal scenery of mud and marsh!

Here are details of the public transport needed for this walk:-

Greater Anglia trains The Mayflower Line : Harwich TownDovercourtHarwich International – Wrabness – Mistley – Manningtree. Trains run hourly seven days a week and take 20 minutes between Dovercourt and Manningtree. There are a few additional trains from Harwich International to London Liverpool Street.

Here are the complete set of photos for this walk : Main Link | Slideshow

Posted in Essex | 4 Comments

190. Walton-on-the-Naze to Dovercourt

September 2007

After a walk beside beaches last time this was to be another walk that was mostly away from the open sea, as I need to get around Hamford Water. I described this before as an inlet or estuary but it turns out I’m wrong. According to the official “gov.uk” website it is in fact an “embayment”, to quote:-

Hamford Water is not an estuary as it does not have a major river running into it. Instead it is classified as a coastal embayment that has been formed due to a natural dip in the underlying geology of the area.

So now I know, I’m going to be walking around an “embayment” today! Logistically this is a trickier walk than some because it takes over 90 minutes by public transport between Dovercourt and Walton-on-the-Naze. So I resolve that by travelling by train, though even this is not simple because there seems no suitable return ticket that covers both my outward and return journey.

I take the train from my local station to London Waterloo and the tube to London Liverpool Street. I’m not clear what ticket to buy from there, so I have made an effort to get there earlier to ask the station staff. The suggestion is a day return to Colchester, then a single from Colchester to Walton-on-the-Naze and another single from Dovercourt to Colchester. So armed with numerous pieces of orange cardboard and a lighter wallet, I head for Walton-on-the-Naze, first by taking a train to Thorpe-le-Soken and then another to Walton-on-the-Naze. As I reach Thorpe-le-Soken the Walton-on-the-Naze train is already waiting so I run across the platform and make the connection, arriving at Walton-on-the-Naze on time. Today is another fairly good day, a mixture of cloud and sunshine, but still fairly warm and dry.

From the station I turn right and then left along Church Road, away from the coast. The reason is simple, there is no path along the first south eastern most section of Hamford Water so I have to follow the roads nearest to the coast instead. At the junction ahead I cross and continue ahead now on Kirby Road, also the B1034 which soon curves to the left. This road follows the north edge of the town.

Soon I reach a road off to the right which is marked on the map, Coles Lane. This is a dead-end road leading to the shore and Titchmarsh marina. I had debated whether to walk it but was not really enthusiastic at the prospect, being a dead end, but a sign warned “Private No Footpath” so that option was out anyway. I continued soon reaching the end of Walton-on-the-Naze. I was not looking forward to the next section as it was along this busy B-road and I expected that the pavement would end when I reached the end of the town. Thankfully this was not the case and there was a pavement all the way to the edge of the next village, Kirby-le-Soken (it seems every place name is hyphenated around here!).

Here at last I can leave the roads and turn north on a footpath, a track really, called Island Lane which heads to the edge of Hamford Water. The island after which this track is named is Horsey Island. This is another tidal island where there is a causeway at low tide.

Island Lane

Sadly it wasn’t low tide, so the track soon disappeared to the water, with Horsey Island just visible in the distance. I’ve not been able to find out much about the island other than it’s jointly managed by Essex Wildlife Trust and English Nature and you need permission to visit. The former organisations website makes no mention of it and the latter doesn’t exist any more, its replacement, Natural England, also makes no mention of it. So I’ve been unable to find out who to ask permission for in order to visit and hence not been able to visit this island.

Thankfully this marks the point where there is then a footpath along the south edge of Hamford Water so I can now continue on the coast. It is a familiar landscape of mud, marsh and shallow water to my right and flat fields to my left.

Hamford Water near Kirby-le-Soken

Soon the path turns left with the coast, into another inlet (or should that be embayment?) that heads to Kirby Quay, with a Thames sailing barge moored up on the mud (which makes me wonder how the owner gets back on it).

Hamford Water near Kirby-le-Soken

Hamford Water near Kirby-le-Soken

At Kirby Quay the path crosses the creek and as I get there I realise this footpath must be tidal too.

Kirby-le-Soken Quay

It seems that the water has only just receded enough to allow me to cross with dry feet, though the concrete is still wet.

Footpath over Kirby-le-Soken Quay

Kirby Quay was probably once a busy place – but it isn’t now with just a single house and a few small buildings, there is no one about and it is quiet.

Kirby-le-Soken Quay

The path continues along the banks of the water soon heading north again. The view to the right is the familiar one of the Essex shore, marshes and mud.

The coast near Kirby-le-Soken, Essex

The coast near Kirby-le-Soken, Essex

Soon the path turns left again and to my right are now three islands, part of Horsey Island, the tiny Honey Island and Skippers Island. The latter seems to have mostly flooded, with the outline of the sea banks around it’s edge visible on the map but most of the land in between flooded. It is owned by the Essex Wildlife trust and once again you have to telephone them to get permission to visit, so I didn’t bother. I couldn’t find anything about Honey Island at all.

The coast near Kirby-le-Soken, Essex

On the marshes there are various little wooden jetties and slipways where presumably people moor up boats and use these paths to reach them.

The coast near Kirby-le-Soken, Essex

Some connect the marshy islands but I don’t try following them as I can see they are dead-ends. I can also see a wooden building visible on Skippers Island beyond, which I zoom in on.

Skipper's Island from the sea wall near Kirby-le-Soken

I continue on the path along the sea wall. The tide is coming in still and now all the creeks and channels are filled with water, it is much prettier like this than when the tide is out and it’s all mud.

Kirby Creek, Hamford Water

I follow this for a mile or so to reach some isolated houses, marked as White House and Gull Cottages on the map which are perhaps in some way connected with the Landmere, a tiny village just inland.



The path heads briefly inland along the track the serves these cottages some of which are painted pink (I suspect this is in fact Suffolk Pink, a colour which I’ll be seeing a lot more of once I reach Suffolk).

There is soon a path turning right off the track and along the south end of the creek as I head to the most inland point of Hamford Water, Beaumont Cut.

Hamford Water National Nature Reserver

The creek narrows until the water disappears as I reach Beuamont Quay.

Beautmont Creek, Hamford Water

Beaumont Cut

My path ends at Quay Lane, the minor road that serves the quay. Sadly the whole area ahead is either private property with no footpaths or part of an explosives factory and testing area. That doesn’t sound like the sort of place where it’s a good idea to trespass, so I have to turn inland now for several miles.

I follow the track north here to Lower Barn Farm and then as the track turns right into the farm I can continue ahead as it becomes a footpath heading along the edge of fields. This is initially flat but soon it climbs a gentle ridge as it heads towards the road giving me a bit more of a view over the surrounding countryside, which is all fields.

Near Great Oakley

On reaching the road I had a decision to make. The most coastal route is to turn right along the road, the B1414. But the road is narrow and has no pavement. The road is in a sort of L-shape and directly across the road there is another footpath that cuts off this corner, taking a more direct route, albeit slightly more inland. I decide that the road is dangerous and since I can’t see the sea from it anyway it makes sense to follow this footpath and cut the corner, which is what I do.

Initially it is a track leading to Bucks Farm. It soon becomes a footpath which I struggled to find initially and is somewhat overgrown, but it’s preferable to the road. Soon I emerge back onto the road at Cabbage Row, which is not the most attractive sounding of names. Sadly there isn’t a pavement but at least there is a verge for the most part. Soon the main road turns to the left and I can continue ahead on a more minor road, Pesthouse Lane.

When the road turns left I can continue ahead on the track leading to Mosses Farm, which is a public footpath. Just before the houses there are numerous signs about trespassers being prosecuted and a stile to the right leading into an area of nearly waste high nettles. This is the footpath – and I can see why people might be tempted to trespass ahead to avoid these nettles! Thankfully the nettles are only for a few metres or so where the path then opens out into a field. It then turns right and heads to a bridge over a stream. Once over I turn left onto another footpath that emerges onto the road just south of Great Oakley Hall.

This soon reaches an area of woodland. The map suggests the path goes into the edge of the woodlands here but I continued on the main track on the north edge of the woods, which the path rejoins about 30 metres further along anyway. At the end of the wood the path was then more obvious along a wide track heading north east back to the road.

Sadly there is no escaping the road walking now as I continue ahead along this busy road without a pavement. After about 100 metres there is another road off to the right, Dock Lane. This has security barriers across the roads and a security hut, as it leads into Bramble Island, the explosives factory and testing area so it is not accessible to the public.

The route ahead is unpleasant as the road is narrow and busy and I have to keep jumping onto the narrow grass verge. It is a relief to reach the end of this section where I can turn right on a bridleway opposite Little Oakley Hall. This track leads me back to the shore, at long last, now having finally made it to the north bank of Hamford Water.

On reaching the shore there is a footpath to my left, but very definitely not to my right, where the sea bank leads to Bramble Island and where it is clear you would not be welcome!

Bramble Island

So I turn left, glad to be away from roads and explosives!

Hamford Water National Nature Reserve near Dovercourt

Soon I come to an odd wooden jetty. It’s not possible to reach it without getting wet feet, though I presume you could at low tide. Signs warn public access is not permitted but it seems to be a dead-end anyway, rather odd.

Hamford Water National Nature Reserve near Dovercourt

The path continues around another area of marshland, along the sea wall heading back towards the sea at last. Full of water, the marshland is now very pretty with areas of grass poking above the water and the sun glistening on the water.

Hamford Water National Nature Reserve near Dovercourt

Hamford Water National Nature Reserve near Dovercourt

In around a mile I reach the shore again. There is even a small sandy beach, Irlam’s Beach according to the map. I stop here for a quick break to enjoy being back by the sea once more and for a rest, as this has been a long walk.

Irlam's Beach, Dovercourt

Once I’m ready to continue I have to leave this small beach as it soon ends at a wall and what I presume are some sea defences.

Irlam's Beach, Dovercourt

However beyond it there is again another small area of beach. I’m seeing other people now, for the first time since I left the road which suggests Dovercourt is near.

Irlam's Beach, Dovercourt

I stopped to check the map here. There is another creek ahead, South Hall Creek. The footpath, which soon becomes part of the long-distance Essex Way heads inland behind this. But there does seem to be a beach ahead and I decided to see if I can follow it into Dovercourt instead of having to follow the marsh. This turns out to be a mistake. After a few hundred metres the beach ends and I have mud and creeks ahead. It would not be a good idea to try and get through so I have to re-trace my steps back to the path and follow the official footpath behind the marshes.

Irlam's Beach, Dovercourt

Looking out to sea I can see a large boat leaving Harwich, which is only a short distance ahead which looks like a small cruise ship.

South Hall Marshes, Dovercourt

South Hall Marshes, Dovercourt

The path around the back of the marsh is good (thankfully), as it’s part of the Essex Way and soon I have reached the edge of Dovercourt where there is a row of brightly coloured beach huts and a small beach. There are only a few people on the beach but the promenade behind it is busy.


I was a bit surprised to find that Dovercourt was in fact something of a resort as the map suggested the beach was mostly mud. In fact just behind where I am was once the site of the Warner’s Dovercourt Bay Holiday Camp. This was used as the filming location for the comedy Hi-de-Hi in the 1980s. The holiday camp closed in 1990 a few years after the last episode of Hi-de-Hi. It has since been demolished and a housing estate built on part of it.

The beach and promenade at Dovercourt

I continued around the corner and north along the promenade lined with more beach huts. It was quite a nice sandy beach and it was nice to be back beside the sea again after most of the walk was around Hamford Water. There was also an odd arrangement of lighthouses with one at the back of the beach and another a little further out to sea on stilts, for what purpose I’m not sure but I expect it has something to do with the nearby port at Felixstowe.

Lighthouse at Dovercourt

Lighthouses at Dovercourt

Continuing on the promenade I soon spot a sign telling me it’s 1 3/4 miles to the foot ferry to Suffolk. I’ve nearly reached the end of the Essex coast! However between me and Suffolk is another river, this time the Stour (not to be confused with another river of the same name in Dorset). This forms the border between Essex and Suffolk and just across the bay I can see the huge container port of Felixstowe – my first glimpse of Suffolk is rather disappointing – looking so industrial.

Felixstowe docks from Dovercourt

It’s now a pleasant evening and I stop in Dovercourt for a takeway at the back of the beach enjoying the warmth of the early evening sun.

The beach at Dovercourt

The beach at Dovercourt

From there I cut inland to Dovercourt station which is a short distance inland on the Stour side, as I’m now on a narrow peninsula which leads to the town of Harwich.

From Dovercourt I took the train to Manningtree where I could pick up a mainline train back to London and then a tube train across to London Waterloo and home.

This had been a mixed walk. A boring urban walk to get out of Walton-on-the-Naze followed by paths along the south side of Hamford Water which was rather nice especially because the tide was in. However then I had a long trudge around roads and inland paths to get around that explosives factory which I did not enjoy. But it was lovely to end the walk back by the open sea and with the excitement of a new county, Suffolk, just a short distance ahead.

Here are details of the public transport needed for this walk.

Logistically this is a complicated walk as there is no direct public transport between Dovercourt and Walton-on-the-Naze and so it is a time consuming and potentially expensive journey. You might prefer to travel by train both ways as I did. If not, there is a bus and train option or a train only option, the latter however is more expensive and time consuming. First the bus and train option. Take the below bus to Thorpe-le-Soken station then the train to Walton-on-the-Naze.

First Essex bus 3 : Harwich – Dovercourt – Little Oakley – Great Oakley – Beaumont – Thorpe Green – Thorpe-le-Soken – Clacton-on-Sea. Hourly Monday – Saturday and once every 2 hours. It takes around 30 minutes between Dovercourt and Thorpe-le-Soken station.

Greater Anglia trains Colchester – Walton-on-the-Naze : Colchester – Colchester Town – Hythe – Wivenhoe – Alresford – Great Bentley – Weeley – Thorpe-le-Soken – Kirby Cross – Frinton-on-Sea – Walton-on-the-Naze. Trains run hourly seven days a week.

If you prefer to travel entirely by train you will have to take a train from Dovercourt to Manningtree, another from Manningtree to Colchester and a third from Colchester to Walton-on-the-Naze. The total journey will take around 1 hour and 50 minutes. All these trains are operated by Greater Anglia and you can download timetables on their website.

Here are the complete set of photos for this walk : Main Link | Slideshow

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189. Clacton-on-Sea to Walton-on-the-Naze

August 2007

I was looking forward to this walk as it would be the first walk I’ve done in Essex for many months which is alongside the sea rather than an estuary, river or creek. I’ve picked a good day for it too, as it is a lovely summers day.

I opted to travel by train taking the train into London Waterloo, the tube to London Liverpool Street and a train from there to Clacton-on-Sea, where I ended last time. I notice that the train company calls this route The Sunshine Coast Line and it’s certainly living up to that name today.

My train arrived on time into Clacton and I headed for the sea front, passing the very grand town hall on the way.

Clacton-on-Sea Town Hall

It often seems to be the case that the grandest building in a town or city is a town hall and that certainly seems to be the case in Clacton.

The street from the station to the sea front is lined with the usual sea front attractions – gift and beach shops and amusement arcades.


I soon reach the sea front though there isn’t much in the way of beach as it’s around high tide.

The coast at Clacton-on-Sea

I turn left to head north, with the sea on my right. There isn’t any beach at all along this stretch. Instead the sea is right up to the sea wall which is lined with odd shaped bits of concrete which I assume help to act as coastal defence by breaking the waves.

Clacton Pier

The walk is easy along a flat concrete promenade with low grass-lined cliffs to my left.

The coast at Clacton-on-Sea

It is busy around the pier but it soon gets quieter as I head away from the main facilities into the more residential parts of the town.

Soon the promenade is lined with beach huts though they feel rather out of place without any beach – the sea is right against the sea wall though despite this a few people are swimming.

The coast at Holland-on-Sea

The sea seems unusually calm too, just gently lapping at the steps.

The line of beach huts is briefly interrupted by the Gunfleet Sailing Club but beyond this it’s back to the beach huts.

The coast at Holland-on-Sea

It is a hot and quite humid day and the pier is already disappearing into the haze.

The coast at Holland-on-Sea

Even though it is a sunny Saturday in August (and therefore the school holidays) I’m surprised how few of the beach huts are in use. I do wonder when some of them ever get used.

The coast at Holland-on-Sea

At some point, it’s hard to tell when exactly, I’ve moved from Clacton-on-Sea to Holland-on-Sea. The latter seems a strange name, after all Holland is part of the Netherlands which is just across the English channel from here so it feels like the name is in the wrong country.

The coast at Holland-on-Sea

I soon pass an information board that informs me I’m on the “Clacton to Holland” walk. It tells me nothing about the walk and instead is all about the virtues of walking and sounds a bit like a lecture rather than something which might be interesting. The last bullet point instructs “If your job is office bound do this route at lunchtime while you are eating lunch”, which sounds like a recipe for indigestion.

Due to the lack of the beach some of the beach hut owners have set up chairs along the promenade instead.

The coast at Holland-on-Sea

However as I get further along there are now small areas of sand at the base of the sea wall and so people are starting to settle on the beach rather than the promenade.

As I’m nearing the end of Holland-on-Sea there is a large mast ahead with some satellite dishes at the top, though I’m not sure what it is used for.

The coast at Holland-on-Sea

Now I’ve reached the end of the built up area and entered Holland Haven Country Park. The path and promenade continue ahead even though I have left the town, which is welcome. Inland the view is of flat marshes though with some gentle hills in the distance.

Marshland near Holland-on-Sea

I can see some information boards inland too, but I stick to the coast rather than explore the country park.

Here there is a choice of upper path, along the top of the sea wall or a lower path, also concrete below it. The latter looks rather dull as the sea wall is high enough you wouldn’t be able to see the sea, though I suppose it might be preferable if there is a strong wind coming off the sea.

The coast between Holland-on-Sea and Frinton-on-Sea

Zooming in inland I can make out the village of Great Holland with it’s church tower.

Great Holland from the coast

Soon the country park ends, to be replaced with Frinton golf course.

Frinton golf course

Frinton is famously well-to-do. Historically it was just the church and a few farms but in the late 1800s Richard Powell Cooper had created this golf course and stipulated the quality of housing to be built in the town and also prohibited boarding houses and pubs. The town attracted many well known figures including Winston Churchill who rented a house and the Prince of Wales who played golf at the golf course. The first pub opened in 2000. The manually worked level crossing gates often cut off the town from the rest of the world and there were protests when Network Rail removed them and replaced them with automatically operated gates.

Soon I reached the edge of the town and the first buildings were more beach huts.

Beach Huts at Frinton-on-Sea

These were of a design I’ve never come across before though. Approached off the promenade each had it’s own gate into a little terrace whilst the huts themselves are raised up on a platform above the beach.

Beach Huts at Frinton-on-Sea

Presumably the idea is that the well-to-do residents don’t have to put up with people walking in front of their huts, whilst protecting them from the sea.

The beach at Frinton-on-Sea

As the tide had now gone out I opted to walk along the beach which was more pleasant than the promenade, as the beach huts blocked the view of the sea from the promenade.

The beach at Walton-on-the-Naze

As I continued further north the raised beach huts ended, to be replaced with the more usual design at the back of the promenade.

The beach at Walton-on-the-Naze

I continued along the coast, sometimes on the promenade, now I could see the sea, and sometimes on the beach. It was pretty busy on the beach and got increasingly so as I continued north. At some point I switched from being in Frinton-on-Sea to being in Walton-on-the-Naze, though the towns seem to merge together so I’m not sure where the actual border is.

The beach at Walton-on-the-Naze

The beach was lovely, clean soft sand and lovely clear (and quite warm) calm sea. I took my shoes off and walked in the edge of the waves, it is wonderfully refreshing.

The beach at Walton-on-the-Naze

Soon I came to a breakwater, Burnt House breakwater, where the sea reached the sea wall, so I had to put my shoes back on and head up to the promenade to continue. After the breakwater there was little sand again, just wet firm sand and so rather than sit on the beach the sea wall and beach huts were proving more popular, so much so that the beach huts were on 3 levels now, there were so many.

The promenade at Walton-on-the-Naze

Beach huts at Walton-on-the-Naze

Ahead I was approaching the pier of Walton-on-the-Naze. Generally I like piers, but this pier would not win any awards for beauty or architectural merit, in fact I think it is the ugliest pleasure pier I have come across – a single long yellow painted building with what looked like an asbestos roof.

The pier at Walton-on-the-Naze

High-rise beach huts at Walton-on-the-Naze

When I reached the pier I decided to walk along it.

Walton-on-the-Naze Pier

First you have to go through the building, but this only occupies about 1/4 of the length of the pier. Beyond this it is unusually bare, no seats just a long wooden deck.

Walton-on-the-Naze Pier

I walked to the far end, the town now seeming quite a distance away and disappearing into the haze. The pier is in fact almost half a mile long.

View from Walton-on-the-Naze Pier

View from Walton-on-the-Naze Pier

At the far end is a lifeboat station but not a lot else, the pier seemed to be mostly used by fisherman beyond the buildings.

Having explored the pier, it was time to walk back and continue along the coast.

Walton-on-the-Naze Pier

The other side of the pier the promenade was lined with Victorian houses which I suspect were once all hotels and guest houses (many still were).

The coast at Walton-on-the-Naze

I mostly walked along the beach though as there was enough sand to make it easy most of the time.

The coast at Walton-on-the-Naze

The promenade was soon lined with beach huts again these accessed by little stair cases leading onto the beach. Soon I had reached the end of the town and come to the Naze, a spit of land which lends it’s name to the town. On the east side is the sea, whilst the north and west are surrounded by salt marsh and creeks – familiar features of the Essex coast.

The Naze offered something else I’ve not seen in a while too, proper cliffs. Though from the shape and profile of them it was clear that erosion is a big problem.

The coast at Walton-on-the-Naze

I headed down onto the beach pleased to be in more natural surroundings. Now away from the town the beach was much quieter.

I headed along the beach soon with the top of the tower visible inland. The tower was built as a navigational aid. The tower is privately owned now and mostly houses an art gallery, though it is possible to climb to the top. However from the beach there was no obvious way up other than turning back so I didn’t bother with it and continued along the beach.

Walton Pier

Well I say beach but in places it it had turned to mud, presumably the base of the soft cliffs that had been eroded away.

The beach at Walton-on-the-Naze

It was clear how soft the cliffs are here, with evidence of cliff falls all along the coast and piles of soil and small rocks at the base of the cliffs.

Eroding cliffs at Walton-on-the-Naze

I was also seeing World War II pill boxes and various other concrete structures from that time now some distance away from the cliffs and covered in sea weed – an indication of how far the coast has eroded in the 60 years or so since they were built, as they would once have been on the cliff top.

Old World War II pillbox, Walton-on-the-Naze

The coast at the Naze, Walton-on-the-Naze

The cliffs got higher for a while, but as I neared the end of the spit they became lower again, with the remains of trees that had fallen over the cliffs, along with concrete foundations of some sort of building that presumably once stood here.

The coast at the Naze, Walton-on-the-Naze

The coast at the Naze, Walton-on-the-Naze

Near the end of the marshes the cliffs ended entirely, now with the sandy beach just backed by grass.

The coast at The Naze, Walton-on-the-Naze

I made my way along the shore here and was pleased to find, as I had hoped that there was a proper path you were welcome to walk around the edge of the spit. The public right of way ended on the north eastern corner so I was hoping I would be able to continue along the north and western coasts, rather than turn back, as had turned out to be the case.

The coast at The Naze, Walton-on-the-Naze

First I was passing cormorant creek which separates the Naze from an area of marshy islands beyond, known as Hamford Water National Nature Reserve.

Hamford Water National Nature Reserve, Walton-on-the-Naze

Heading west to the north western tip of the Naze, I turned left to now head south alongside the much wider Walton Channel, which was lined with boats.

Hamford Water National Nature Reserve, Walton-on-the-Naze

Looking inland, this part of the Naze was very flat, with the tower visible in the distance.

The Naze, Walton-on-the-Naze

The path was pleasant, sometimes with some bushes between me and the creek but mostly good views over the many creeks and water channels that are known as Hamford Water.

Walton Channel, Walton-on-the-Naze

After the noise and bustle of Walton, it was nice to be somewhere so peaceful.

Soon the sea wall path was a right of way again and I continued past a boating lake now just a couple of hundred meters from the beach, so I cut back across the thin strip of land to the beach.

Walton Channel, Walton-on-the-Naze

Now late afternoon, the beach was noticeably quieter than it had been earlier and the tide was now much lower.

The beach at Walton-on-the-Naze

I stopped for a takeway near the pier and sat on the sea wall. It had been a good walk and it was lovely to be beside a proper sandy beach again after all that walking around creeks and estuaries!

Walton-on-the-Naze pier

After that I headed for the station at Walton-on-the-Naze. The rail route splits at Thorpe-le-Soken with a line to Clacton and another to Frinton and Walton-on-the-Naze. However the Walton side is only served by trains to Colchester, which stop at every station so I changed onto a faster train through to London at Thorpe-le-Soken. The train I took was a little late so I had to run to make the connection, as the guard kept one of the doors open for me.

I enjoyed this walk very much. It had a great variety, from the lovely sandy beaches lined with a promenade and beach huts around Clacton, Frinton and Walton to the more rural cliffs of the Naze and then followed by the creeks and marshes of Hamford Water. It had been so nice to be next to the sea, but I knew that next time it would be a long walk inland around the marshes to get around Hamford Water so I made the most of being next to the sea whilst it lasted!

Here are details of the public transport needed for this walk :

First Essex buses 7 and 8 : Clacton – Holland-on-Sea – Great Holland – Kirby Cross – Frinton-on-Sea – Walton-on-the-Naze. Every 15 minutes Monday – Saturday. Hourly on Sundays. It takes a little over 35 minutes to travel between Clacton-on-Sea and Walton-on-the-Naze.

Here are the complete set of photos for this walk : Main Link | Slideshow

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188. St Osyth to Clacton-on-Sea

July 2007

At last after all that walking around estuaries, rivers and creeks I was going to reach the open sea again on this walk, ending at the large resort of Clacton-on-Sea.

As St Osyth does not have a railway station I travelled by car for this walk. From the A12 I took the slightly more back route via Thorrington rather than the A133 as I suspected the latter would become congested on the approach to Clacton, it being a fine summer weekend in late July.

Thankfully I did not have any major hold ups and parked near to the church in St Osyth.

St Osyth is a pretty village and very peaceful and I enjoyed a brief wander around the village before I set off.

St Osyth

St Osyth

Once ready to go I headed west along the road back to the pretty former Abbey buildings and onwards past the pretty clapper-board houses of the village.

St Osyth Abbey

St Osyth

Soon I was back at St Osyth Creek where I could then cross via the bridge and resume my walk along the coast.

I was amused to see some rather unusual craft moored up on one of the jetties in the creek – these giant swan pedalos, which looked rather out of place on a creek like this.

St Osyth Creek

Looking in the other (coastal) direction the creek is full of moored up boats and barges, and I did wonder how often any of them move.

St Osyth Creek

Once over the creek I could turn right and follow a footpath right along the south edge of the creek towards the village of Point Clear. I was back in the familiar landscape of the Essex coast, salt marsh, creeks and mud flats!

Marshes beside St Osyth Creek

Though it was clear that some of the ponds in the salt marsh were far from natural being almost completely square. I suspect either Oyster Pits again, as there are some marked on the map on the other side of the river, or perhaps used for getting salt.

Marshes beside St Osyth Creek

In fact the land I was on was almost an island, a raised  sea bank with the marsh and creeks to my right and a drainage ditch to my left beyond which was a large caravan park. Not seen one of those for a while – I must be near the sea again!

Caravan park near Point Clear

Now I could look across the now wide river to Brightlingsea where I walked last time. So many miles walked but so little distance covered as the crow flies!

Marshes at Point Clear

Point Clear, where I’m now reaching is a linear village which stretches along a spit of land with St Osyth Creek on one side and the sea on the other.

Marshes at Point Clear

Brightlingsea from Point Clear

Near the end a Martello Tower is marked sadly it was within the caravan park and behind hoarding so I didn’t bother to investigate it further.

Looking out to sea instead there was a thin spit of sand at the tip of the peninsula with the beach huts of Brightlingsea visible just behind that.


That tower definitely has a lean to it. Sure it might not be the leaning tower of Pisa, but still, I’m sure it leans!

I decided to walk out along the spit for a better view, as it was only short.

Point Clear

At the far end I was so close to Brightlingsea, but the water was deep and fast flowing, so it would be far too dangerous to ever cross, other than by boat. Mind you I didn’t want to linger on the spit of sand I was on either – it was only very narrow and I wasn’t sure if the tide was still coming in or not!

Point Clear

Once back I continued along the beach towards the centre of Point Clear. Here was another familiar sight. The Mersea to Brightlingsea ferry which it turns out also links Brightlingsea with Point Clear!

The Point Clear, Brightlingsea and West Mersea Ferry at Point Clear

It was just arriving with some passengers whilst this man and his dog was waiting to go back. You can see though how I missed it at West Mersea as the ferry just seems to stop against the beach rather than at any sort of jetty. I’m not sure how you summon it, other than knowing where to stand.

Now I was back on the open sea at last, the sound of the waves breaking on the beach a lovely sound that I’d not heard for a while.

The beach at Point Clear

As well as sounds I hadn’t heard for a while, there were also sights I hadn’t seen for a while too – zooming in on my camera I could, once again, see the remains of Bradwell Nuclear Power station on the other side of the Blackwater estuary.

Bradwell Nuclear Power Station

I estimated I had walked around 70 to 80 miles along the ground since then, and yet as the crow flies I was only a few miles away – it really highlights how the Essex coast is so full of rivers, creeks, streams and marshes, and how that really adds to the miles.

Rounding the corner the caravans had ended and I now had more permanent homes, tightly packed bungalows behind a concrete sea wall. It was not the most appealing coastal settlement I had seen!

The beach at Point Clear

Still it was lovely to be able to walk along the beach again. The tide was high though so the sand was softer making it a bit hard going, but I didn’t mind, I was enjoying being back beside the sea.

The beach at Point Clear

Sadly soon the beach ended as the tide was high so I had to continue on the sea wall ahead, though the beach did soon resume I stuck to the sea wall.

The beach at Point Clear

The beach at Point Clear

Families were now beginning to appear sitting on the beach, enjoying the fine summers day. Sadly my nice walk along the coast was about to come to a temporary end.

The beach at Point Clear

Ahead the beach narrowed. The footpath I was on turned inland to join the road. Although a sea wall continued along the map behind the houses there was about a mile without any right of way along it, a footpath joining the sea wall again about a mile ahead. I had hoped it might be possible to walk along this anyway but it was soon clear that would not be an option.

An unfriendly barrier had been set off blocking off the beach and heading some distance out into the sea to stop you getting past.

The beach at Point Clear

So I was going to have to turn inland here, as it was clear there was no further access possible along the shore.

I continued along the road past the now much larger houses of Point Clear until I reached a sign indicating I was leaving Point Clear and entering St Osyth. I was back on the road now just a couple of hundred metres from the causeway where I started, I had walked in almost a complete circle!

As I reached this sign I spotted a road sign pointing down a road on the right. It was signed as a “Private Road to Lee-over-Sands”. I wondered if the private only applied to vehicles and if it was permitted to walk along the road. I thought it was worth taking a look, if I could get through it would save about a mile of walking. So I followed it as it turned right and then left towards Lee Wick Farm. Sadly this looked very much private as it headed towards the farm yard and I decided not to risk walking through, but to head back to the road.

It was frustrating to have to turn back but I suspected I’d be spotted if I continued and given the road was clearly signed as private, I’d have a hard time arguing I didn’t know and thought it was a footpath. So after a frustrating wasted 15 minutes I was back at the road and this time continued ahead. When the road turned sharply left towards the causeway I continued on the minor road ahead to Wigboro Wick Farm (great name!).

I could see this time from the map that when this road reached the farm a public right of way continued across fields and back to the sea wall. So I continued along the track and through the farm where there was indeed the footpath. It meandered alongside drainage ditches and water channels on this very flat land. It did not look to be used much, as it was quite overgrown for quite a bit of the route.

I passed these odd concrete structures, I assumed relics from World War II.

World War II remains near St Osyth

I continued eventually to emerge onto that private road I tried to follow earlier which to my left lead to a rather wiffy sewage works.

The road to Lee-over-Sands

A short distance further along the path and I am back on the sea wall where thankfully the footpath continues again so I can resume my route along the coast, even if it has reverted to the more usual scenery for Essex – marshes!

Near Lee-over-Sands

Soon I near the village of Lee-over-Sands. This is a small and un-appealing hamlet. The houses such as they look rather temporary and run down, and most are raised up on stilts presumably because this area floods at high tides or storms.


Some of the houses look abandoned but it’s difficult to tell.


Checking the map I realise the only way the owners can get here is along that private road I gave up on earlier, so perhaps I should have been braver and just followed it earlier, but it’s too late now.

At the end of this rather ugly hamlet the path turns a little further inland behind a larger area of salt marsh, so views of the sea are more limited. It is a peaceful and pleasant stretch of path though.

After about a mile I reach more rather ugly buildings. I’m not quite clear if these are holiday chalets or permanent homes. Either way they are not pretty.


Now back on the shore again at the end of the marsh I was hoping for a nice beach. But that too is un-appealing, mostly consisting of broken up bits of concrete.

The beach at Seawick

Cars are parked at the back of the beach here and a sign warns “Rough road subject to flooding. Drive at your own risk”. Hmm, I’m not warming to this corner of Essex.

I was hoping for a nice beach, but this feels more like some sort of industrial wasteland, with an odd shelf of land forming at the back of the beach.

The beach at Seawick

The beach ahead gets much busier and soon I’m at the main beach car park of the village of Seawick.


This village seems to consist almost entirely of caravan parks and chalet parks. I soon pass the main park facilities, the bar and fish and chip shop, which are really busy.

I don’t linger, it’s noisy and crowded now and I continue along the sea wall path. The coast is gradually improving now. The concrete blocks seem to have ended and areas of sand are appearing.

Ahead is another Martello tower. This one is better maintained even if the same cannot be said of it’s immediate surroundings, with an abandoned caravan alongside and long grass growing over abandoned areas of concrete.

The beach at Jaywick

I’m not at all impressed with this area, but at least the beach is quite nice now.

The beach at Jaywick

Now I’m approaching Jaywick. I didn’t really know anything about this place but the state of it prompted me to search out more information when I got home. It seems it has a certain reputation in the area, and not a good one.

The beach at Jaywick

Jaywick started out as an area of holiday chalets (and I think some caravans). The vast majority of these holiday parks have planning conditions that mean the site must close for a part of the year (often only a month or two) so that they do not become permanent residences and remain as holiday accommodation. It seems Jaywick had no such clause and what started as holiday accommodation is now mostly permanent houses, but without the infrastructure ever having been provided to support them properly, such as proper roads etc. In some cases people have improved the existing structures, in other demolished and replaced them.

The result is a very run-down place which feels more like a shanty town in places. I believe the houses are cheap and it is a very deprived area. It certainly did not look somewhere to linger.


I headed down to the beach for a while. But progress was difficult as large rock groynes and breakwaters had been built at fairly regular intervals which it was not easy to climb over, so I returned to the road along the coastal edge of Jaywick.

Looking inland it did not look inviting. Many of the roads had rubbish dumped in what passed for the road. Further along many of the houses were boarded up.


As I continued many were burnt out and boarded up. It seems vandalism is a problem too. I was not keen to linger.



I headed back down to the beach again, keen to get away from Jaywick.

The beach at Jaywick

It was much nicer down here. The breakwaters did not stretch all the way to the sea wall so I could get along the beach now (and barely see Jaywick). The breakwaters had caused the coast to form all sorts of little bays between each one.

Soon I had left Jaywick, to my relief, and was approaching Clacton, there is only half a mile between the edge of Jaywick and the edge of Clacton. My welcome to Clacton was another Martello Tower.

Martello Tower near Clacton-on-Sea

It was clear this coast has been well fortified over the years.

Soon the large piles of rock that had been used as breakwaters in Jaywick came to an end, replaced with wooden groynes and the coast straightened out and now I could see Clacton Pier ahead, my destination for the day.

Clacton Beach

The promenade and beach were both quite busy, this being quite a large resort. The beach was nice here too, no more piles of concrete or rocks! Soon I had reached the pier.

Clacton Pier

It reminded me a little of Brighton, with a fun fair at the end, though it was not such a pretty building as Brighton. The large sign on the front promised “Free Entry” so I decided to take a walk to the end.

Clacton Pier

Here I could enjoy a fine view along the coast further north. Though there didn’t look to be much beach further north as I could see the sea reached the sea wall ahead.

View from Clacton Pier (looking north)

At the end it was clear the pier also had an important function as the lifeboat station was at the end of the pier, too.

Clacton Pier

The pier of course contained rides and the usual assortment of amusement arcades and take-aways, and it was proving popular. I stopped for a rest on the sea wall and to have an ice cream. It was nice to have finally reached the open sea again.

Clacton Pier

Clacton Pier

I decided to end my walk here as the bus back to St Osyth went from Clacton so I’d have to come back here later if I continued anyway and it was now early evening. It also left most of this area of coast next to the sea to walk next time, it was nice not to rush it. So I headed a little further inland to take the bus from Clacton back to St Osyth. It did not take long and it was nice to be back in peaceful St Osyth, after the noise and bustle of Clacton.

This had certainly been a walk of contrasts! Starting in pretty St Osyth I was soon walking alongside the usual Essex scenery of peaceful salt marsh and creeks to Point Clear. Then a frustrating diversion inland to reach the coast at the odd hamlet of Lee-over-Sands. Although I was now by the sea the villages of Seawick and Jaywick were not at all appealing and I was glad to have passed them. At least the beach was nice and it was good to end at a bustling resort in the shape of Clacton.

Here are details of the public transport needed for this walk:-

First Essex bus 74 : Clacton-on-Sea – Coppins Green – St Osyth – Thorrington – Alresford – Wivenhoe – Essex University – Colchester. Hourly Monday – Saturday and once every two hours on Sundays. It takes about 15 minutes between Clacton and St Osyth.

Here are the complete set of photos for this walk : Main Link | Slideshow

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