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.

Harwich

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.

Harwich

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!

Harwich

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.

Harwich

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.

Mistley

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.

Manningtree

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.

IManningtree

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

Manningtree

Manningtree

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

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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.

Landermere

Landermere

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.

Dovercourt

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.

Clacton-on-Sea

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.

Brightlingsea

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.

Lee-over-Sands

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

Lee-over-Sands

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.

Seawick

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.

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.

Jaywick

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.

Jaywick

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

Jaywick

Jaywick

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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187. Wivenhoe to St Osyth

July 2007

Despite all the problems I had with trains at the end of my last walk I decided to take the train again for this walk as it is now nearly a 2 hour drive from home to the nearest bit of coast I haven’t yet walked. Thankfully this time I had no problems and timed my journey for a direct train from London to Wivenhoe which I made OK and soon reached Wivenhoe.

Wivenhoe Station

Thankfully the weather today was better than last time, whilst not wall-to-wall sunshine it was at least dry and warm, and forecast to stay that way. I headed through the streets of Wivenhoe to reach the banks of the river Colne. It seems it was market day in Wivenhoe with stalls lining many of the streets.

Wivenhoe

Wivenhoe is a lovely town and as I reached the water front there was bunting up. For what purpose I don’t know, but it was nice and added some colour to the town. It was clear when I reached the river that it was low tide as I could mostly see mud rather than water. The boats moored up in the river were resting on the banks of mud.

Wivenhoe

Wivenhoe

I passed a fresh sea food stall on the waterfront too, that was proving popular, with a queue of customers.

I re-traced my steps last time back to the harbour building and then the footpath along the northern banks of the Colne.

The Colne near Wivenhoe

Wivenhoe is not a large town and it’s only about 500 metres from the railway station to the eastern edge of the town, so I was now leaving the town.

The Colne near Wivenhoe

The path was easy, wide and flat and well surfaced. On the other bank I could see the Ballast Quay at Fingringhoe that I had had to head inland of on a previous walk.

The Colne near Wivenhoe

The land I was walking alongside was flat and marshy so I could look back for a fine view back to Wivenhoe, still clearly visible over the marsh and bushes.

Wivenhoe

Ahead the river began to turn right and soon my path joined the route of the old Wivenhoe to Brightlingsea railway line. Closed in the 1960s, most of the route now has a public right of way over it, which I’ll be following almost all the way to Brightlingsea, as it runs right along the coast.

The Colne near Wivenhoe

The Colne near Wivenhoe

The curve in the river means I can soon look back and see one last glimpse of Wivenhoe again, just before I lose sight of it for the last time.

The Colne near Wivenhoe

The path enters a small area of woodland here, which separates the river bank from Alresford Grange, a manor house a bit inland. This is so called because about half a mile inland is the village of Alresford. I find this a bit confusing as there is also an Alresford in Hampshire (strictly two places, Old and New Alresford) which I am familiar with, but it seems there is also Alresford in Essex which I hadn’t realised until now.

The Colne near Wivenhoe

The banks of the river are now lined with area of salt marsh so I’m now a little distant from the water.

Alresford Creek

Ahead I reach Alresford Creek. The railway line had a bridge across the mouth of this creek. Sadly it isn’t there now and in fact was reportedly the primary reason for the closure of the railway line. The line opened in 1866 and a metal swing bridge was constructed across Alresford creek, which could swing open to allow boats access to and from the then busy creek. It was reported that the high cost of maintaining this bridge was the primary reason the line was listed for closure in the 1960s Beeching report. Sadly the bridge was removed when the line closed in 1964. Now all that I could see was some remains of the embankment with a rusting and ruined shed at the end of it.

Alresford Creek

This meant of course that I have to now walk around Alresford creek.

About 300 metres further east along the river bank a ford was marked on the map. But it was wide, no bridge was marked and I was not confident about being able to cross here, so I assumed I’d need to carry on all the way to the first bridge, more than a mile up stream.

Alresford Creek

The creek was lined with old jetties and piers with a few boats moored up, but it did not look like there was much maritime traffic these days. One of the piers, rather oddly, was not even connected to the land. I assumed it had become derelict.

Old rusting cogs next to the path just near this hinted that it might have once had some industrial purpose, but I wasn’t sure what it was.

Alresford Creek

Soon I reached the ford marked on the map.

Ford over Alresford Creek

As I feared there was what looked like deep mud to cross and a section of the river. It was probably shallow but I would not trust trying to walk on the mud to reach it without sinking. So as expected, I was going to have to head further inland to get around the creek.

Alresford Creek

Beside the ford was a lovely old clapper-board covered farm house which was very pretty and looked in good condition. The creek was virtually devoid of water and I could look up it to the church tower of the church at Brightlingsea Hall.

Alresford Creek

The path on this north side of the creek was not well walked and quite overgrown in places, so I was glad it was dry as it is easy to get soaked very quickly when walking through wet long grass.

Alresford Creek

Footpath beside Alresford Creek

I was soon opposite the church at Brightlingsea Hall. This is separate from the main village and I presumed was once for the estate workers but as I got closer it was much larger than I expected.

Brightlingsea Hall church

The creek was narrowing now and ahead I was reaching the footbridge crossing marked on my map. This is at the edge of the village of Thorrington where you can cross next to a mill. I could see this ahead and it was very picturesque, with the mill also very much still intact and again in that pretty white clapper-board style.

Alresford Creek near Thorrington

Oddly there was also a large tent near by. I suspected some sort of event had been going on here, perhaps a wedding.

Thorrington Tide Mill

This is a tide mill, one of only a few surviving and I could see the large mill pond behind the mill, mostly covered with pond weed.

Thorrington Tide Mill

The path went right next to the mill and it felt a bit like walking through the garden of it. Once past the mill I could pick up the road and follow this to the B1029.

Thorrington Tide Mill

Sadly there isn’t a footpath on the south bank of the creek, so I had to walk beside this rather busy road.

I was however pleased to find a pavement. Soon this crossed to the other side of the road where it became a shared pavement and cycle path, though there were no cyclists using it. I followed this path beside the road for around half a mile, to reach the grand church at Brightlingsea Hall that I had seen from the other side of the creek, at the top of a hill.

Brightlingsea Hall church

It was a surprisingly large church given it was in quite a remote place. Ahead a road sign welcomed me to Brightlingsea, but I turned off right just before the sign. This is because I’d otherwise be missing out the area of land west of Brightlingsea along the Colne which from the map now has a path most of the way around it. So I turned right, off the B1029 and follow this road as it soon turned right, heading west.

I was now passing another large area of sand and gravel extraction, with large pools of water created by the gravel extraction. The road I had been following had turned to gravel too and was now a byway rather than a road. Although Essex is generally quite flat I was on a small hill here so as the track twist and turned it’s way back towards the river I could at least get some nice views of Alresford creek and the river Colne.

Alresford Creek

Soon I was back beside the banks of the Alresford Creek now on the other side of the ford I had reached earlier.

Ford over Alresford Creek

I was only about 30 metres from where I had been earlier, but it had taken more than an hour to get around the creek!

From here though there was a footpath back to the mouth of the creek.

Alresford Creek

I could soon look across back to the end of the old railway line and that ruined shed. A shame the railway bridge did not still exist or was not replaced with a simpler footbridge, it would have saved a lot of walking! A couple too were peering over the edge and seemed resigned to having to turn back.

Alresford Creek

Here I turned the corner, having reached the end of Alresford Creek and turned left back beside the Colne. On the other side of the estuary I could see the Essex Wildlife Trust signs for Fingringhoe Wick where I had walked a couple of weeks previously.

Near Brightlingsea

I was now back on the route of the old railway line, so the path soon widened and surfaced with compacted gravel, so it made for easy going. It was clear erosion here was a problem as large grey boulders had been placed just to the right of the path presumably in an effort to reduce the speed and force of the waves and offer some protection to the land behind.

Near Brightlingsea

Ahead now I could see the tower, Batemans Tower, at the edge of Brightlingsea. Despite the name, Brightlingsea isn’t really on the sea as such but at the mouth of yet another creek, Brightlingsea Creek. Nevertheless as I got close it was clear the town saw itself as a resort.

Brightlingsea

There was a promenade, beach huts, a shingle and mud beach which even warranted a blue flag award.

Brightlingsea

It wasn’t much of a beach a couple of hundred metres long, really.

Brightlingsea

There was a little lake I could go the coastal side of, too. The beach huts continued though right along this promenade to soon reach a second larger lake, this one a boating lake.

The Blackwater Estuary at Brightlingsea

There was also another small beach here but again it was mostly mud at the shore line.

The beach at Brightlingsea

Boating lake at Brightlingsea

Ahead a marina was marked with blocks of new flats (sorry “apartments”) going up, presumably to be advertised as luxury waterside living or similar.

Brightlingsea

Just behind this was the older centre and the harbour office.

Brightlingsea

There was also a jetty and here I could see something I failed to find before – the Brightlingsea to Mersea Island ferry.

The Brightlingsea, St Osyth and Mersea ferry

So at least it does exist, even if I was unable to find where it docked on East Mersea. Having just walked all the way around though, I had no need for it now!

East of the harbour it became a little industrial and so the path went inland here along the road behind this small area of industry. It looked like barges were loaded up here with gravel, probably extracted from the pits I had walked past earlier.

Back on the waters edge, now part of Brightlingsea creek, I could see over to Cindery Island.

Brightlingsea Creek

This is a tiny uninhabited, and inaccessible marshy island about 500 metres wide, though it was clearly once used for Oyster fishing as the map shows the island covered with Oyster pits.

My path soon turned inland away from the creek too passing more Oyster Pits, now marshes beside the river. Sadly I have to take a long inland diversion to get around Brightlingsea Creek, as the isn’t a path on this side of the creek.

Soon the path I was on turned further inland to join the road Mill Street, though I could cross this and continue on a footpath to Eastend Green, an eastern suburb of Brightlingsea. Here more new housing was being built and I could turn right along a path to the road, Robinson Road. Here I turned left and soon could fork right off the road beside another lake, probably as a result of more gravel extraction.

Lake near Brightlingsea

At the end of the lake I could turn right on a track (a footpath) heading for Marsh Farm House and beyond it the end of Brightlingsea Creek.

Flag Creek near Brightlingsea

The creek ends here, having almost doubled back on itself and a footpath continues along the left hand side of the creek. It is nice to be off the road and back beside water even if there is little water and lots of mud.

Flag Creek near Frowick

The path soon turns right with the bank of the creek and then reaches a junction ahead with another creek. I have to turn left here to head further inland to get around this second arm of the creek. Boats are moored up on the other side of the creek and beyond this there a wooden bungalows which I quickly realise are rather more fancy than usual caravans, that look more like wooden chalets.

At the end of the creek I turn right but sadly there is no path on the other side of the creek, so I have to continue ahead on the path to reach the busy B1027 on the inland side of this holiday centre.

St Osyth Creek

Thankfully there is a pavement, but once the houses ends, so does the pavement.

This is a horrible stretch of the walk as the road is very busy and now there is no pavement, though there is at least a grass verge that is mostly wide enough to walk on. Sadly I have to follow this road for almost a mile so walk as quickly as possible to get it over with as quickly as I can.

As I reach another caravan park on the other side of the road I can cross to an overgrown pavement, which is better than the road. I continue to walk quickly ahead but then checking the map realise I’ve now gone too far down the road! Thankfully only by about 50 metres, but I didn’t spot the footpath on the ground. I head back and see it, unsigned but at least it’s there and I can get off the road.

The path heads over an area of heathland west and then joins a wide track, which serves Wellwick Wharf to my right. I continued ahead along this but it soon forked. I stuck to the main track, directly ahead, ignoring a more minor route slightly to the right. But then the main track veers left. That can’t be right, so I continue ahead into a field. When I end up near some lakes (part of St Osyth Park) I realise I’ve gone wrong and I’m lost. I get out the GPS and check the co-ordinate I’m at with the map and realise I’m too far east. So I have to turn back and into the next field I decide to turn left to head back to the path I should be on. Sadly I can’t get through the hedge to it, so I have to re-trace my steps further back to the main track and take the more minor route to the right which I now realise is the footpath, even though it’s not signed.

I’m a bit irritated by this as the more obvious route on the ground is the wrong one, and there are no signs. Still I soon reach confirmation I am on the right path with an Essex Wlidlife Trust notice welcoming me to Howlands Marsh. I was hoping this might mean more access is available than is marked on the map but sadly not, there is a dead-end permissive path to a bird hide beside the creek but that’s it.

So I stick to the only public right of way heading south on the eastern side of the nature reserve, away from the waters edge but at least also away from the traffic.

Eventually this path brings me down to the edge of the next creek, St Osyth Creek.

St Osyth Creek

Here I can turn left alongside this creek which mostly seems to be lined with a boat yard.

St Osyth Creek

The path is only a few hundred metres to the road which crosses the creek. I’m now only a short distance from the centre of St Osyth, so here I turn left away from the coast along the road.

St Osyth

The road is lined with houses of differing ages and soon I come to a beautiful green with what looks like a castle. A check at the map shows this is in fact St Osyth Abbey.

St Osyth Abbey

This dates from 12th century and was once one of the largest monasteries in Essex. After the Dissolution of the Monasteries during the reign of Henry VIII it stopped being used as a monastery. I am not sure what it is used for now all I could find is that it was used as a convalescent home in the past. Whatever it is used for, it is a beautiful building and very well preserved.

Heading a bit further along the road I came to a church where a wedding was just taking place with the bride and groom about to depart.

St Osyth

I carried on a bit further along the road where I was able to reach the bus stop which marked the end of my walk.

From here I took a bus to the short distance onto Clacton as there is a railway station in Clacton from where I can catch the train home. I could have got the bus the other way to Colchester or Wivenhoe, but it took much longer. There was in fact another reason I opted to go home via Clacton rather than Colchester. It was so long since I’d walked next to the open sea as really wanted to see the sea before I went home, too! I knew that my next walk I’d finally reach the open sea once again, but I wanted to have a sneak preview.

Clacton Pier

It was a warm sunny day, early evening now so I had time to sit and have an ice cream on the beach before heading back for the railway station and the train home.

The beach at Clacton-on-Sea

It was nice to see the sea again and at least I know I’ll walk here next time.

Clacton Pier

For now I headed back into the town to find the railway station, which turned out to be a rather grand building, too.

Clacton railway station

From here I took the train back to London Liverpool Street, the tube over to Waterloo and another train home from Waterloo. It took a little over two hours in total.

This had been a varied walk. I enjoyed the initial section beside the Colne out of Wivenhoe and to the lovely tidal mill at Thorrington. However there was then quite a bit of road walking to get around the other side of the creek and back to the coast at Brightlingsea, which was a slightly strange town I felt, like a beach resort, but without much in the way of beach! Then it was another diversion inland alongside busy roads to reach St Osyth, which I didn’t much enjoy. However St Osyth itself turned out to be a nice end to the walk as it was a very pretty and historic town. I was pleased too that next time I would, at long last, reach a beach and the open sea again, it seemed such a long time since I’d walked next to the sea!

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

First Essex bus route 74 : Clacton-on-Sea – Coppins Green – St Osyth – Thorrington – Alresford – Wivenhoe – Essex University – Colchester. Hourly Monday – Saturday, once every 2 hours on Sundays. It takes around 20 minutes between St Osyth and Wivenhoe.

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

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186. Colchester to Wivenhoe

June 2007

This ended up being a rather shorter walk than I had planned, for reasons that I’ll explain later. I had hoped to reach the sea but in fact I only made it part way along the banks of the river Colne.

As before I travelled by train, first a train into London Waterloo, two tube trains to London Liverpool Street, a train from there to Colchester (North) and another from there to Colchester Town. Despite all the connections I had to make, I arrived on time.

Colchester Town Station

I headed back along the same route I had followed at the end of my last walk (but now in reverse) back to the waterfront in Hythe. In hindsight maybe it would have made more sense to stay on the train to Hythe, but there we are.

I liked these crooked houses that I passed on the way.

Colchester

There were also some attractive Clapper-board houses further along the road.

Colchester

Soon I was back beside the river Colne and the eastern side has a good path, which is also a cycle path. The industry I passed last time was now on the other side of the river, my side was now office buildings and blocks of flats.

The River Colne in Colchester

It was clear the tide was low, because where I might have expected to see the river Colne I just saw mud.

This part of the path was not very interesting – block paved, wide and almost totally deserted (presumably because the businesses in the adjacent business park were not open at weekends), so I walked quickly.

The River Colne in Colchester

Soon I had escaped the suburbs of Colchester and was back out in the countryside. The path had now narrowed and was lined with wild flowers and some recently planted trees, which meant it would soon become increasingly green.

The path beside the river Colne near Colchester

To my left I could make out those ugly tower blocks I saw last time (and confirmed they are part of the University of Essex) and in front of that, the trains whizzed past on their way to Clacton-on-Sea and Walton-on-the-Naze.

As I reached a slight bend in the river bank, I could look back upstream to Colchester, now just a trickle of water is visible, surrounded by mud – the tide must be coming in as the river was gradually filling up.

The River Colne looking towards Colchester

This was a lovely stretch of the walk, the path disappearing in and out of patches of woodland, providing welcome shade on this hot and humid day.

The River Colne near Wivenhoe

Path beside the river Colne near Wivenhoe

Sometimes the path was right next to the railway line and at other times it was close by, but out of sight because of the trees.

Path beside the river Colne near Wivenhoe

Ahead on the other bank I could see the edge of Rowhedge now coming into view ahead.

The River Colne near Wivenhoe

The buildings got closer until I was opposite the pretty town and now just reaching the edge of Wivenhoe on my side of the river.

The River Colne near Wivenhoe

Rowhedge from Wivenhoe

As I reached the edge of the town the path left the river and headed into a new housing estate.

Just as I was entering this, a few large drops of rain began to fall (I had noticed the sky getting greyer). Very quickly the rain increased in intensity until the point the rain drops were practically bouncing back up off the ground they were coming down so hard. I quickly found some shelter under a slightly overhanging roof of what I suspect was some sort of bin storage building for these new houses and waited for the worst of the rain to pass.

Once the rain had reduced to drizzle, after about 15 minutes, I ventured out from under the shelter of the overhanging roof, put up my umbrella and continued on. Not wanting to get the map out and turning it to a damp mush, I decided to find my own way back to the river. I’m not sure I took quite the quickest way, but soon I made it back to the rivers edge.

The waterfront at Wivenhoe

I soon reached the end of the new housing and then reached the older centre of Wivenhoe.

Wivenhoe

The welcoming pubs I had seen last time, with the beer gardens packed full with happy drinkers were now deserted and rather forlorn.

The waterfront at Wivenhoe

Across the river I could look out to the “Ballast Quay” I had to walk around the inland side of on my last walk on the other side of the river.

Ballast Key, Fingringhoe

I soon reached the end of Wivenhoe and the footpath then resumed right alongside the river. As I headed out of town the trees in the distance became hazy, it was clear another heavy shower was heading my way.

The River Colne east of Wivenhoe

I got my umbrella out again but I could see there was little prospect of shelter this time, there were not even any trees. Soon the rain started, and quickly got heavy again. This time I heard a distant rumble of thunder too, which was not a welcome sound.

The River Colne east of Wivenhoe

I continued a bit further but soon there was another much louder rumble of thunder. It was clear then that this storm was heading right for me. I was going to get wet again but that wasn’t my primary worry. I was now in an area of very flat land, on a slightly raised river bank path. In short I was the highest thing about in the area, and I was holding a metal umbrella. I was worried I might get struck by lighting (which I appreciate is probably unlikely, but….). So it was time to put away the umbrella and switch to a rain coat. Sadly I’d not bought waterproof trousers so the lower half of my legs below my coast (and feet) were soon soaking wet.

As I was not far out of Wivenhoe, I decided to head back to the town to seek shelter again. On reaching the edge of the town I was able to shelter again this time under the overhanging roof of a small office building by a jetty (the harbour masters office, perhaps). Once this shower passed I could already see the sky darkening ahead as the next heavy shower approached, perhaps thundery again.

I decided that perhaps it would be wise to abandon the walk at this stage as I was not comfortable about walking along an exposed river bank path during thunderstorms. I decided that since Wivenhoe had a station I’d walk back to there to consider my options.

Having reached the station I sheltered in a bus stop, as the next heavy shower arrived. Whilst I did so I checked the map to work out the distance ahead to my originally planned destination, Birghtlingsea. I worked out it was a little over 10 miles unless I could get across a ford marked on the map (I had assumed not when working out the mileage, which would have cut the distance if I could). With the time I had already wasted waiting for the train to stop, walking back to Wivenhoe and the fact the weather did not look like it was going to improve, I decided even if it stayed OK now I would be pretty late when I arrived in Brightlingsea. So I decided on a change of plan. (I would point out this was before the age of smart phones so I wasn’t able to check the immediate weather forecast).

So my change of plan was to end here at Wivenhoe, but rather than head home I’d stop and explore Colchester a little on the way home. On my last walk I had not been too impressed by the town having past lots of industry to reach it. But the parts I had seen near the centre looked quite nice and I had read that it was in fact very old. I didn’t quite realise how old until I looked into it once I got home at the end of my previous walk.

It turns out that Colchester is in fact the oldest recorded town in Britain, known to have existed since at least AD79, though the towns original name was found on coins dating back to 20BC, so it is clearly even older. It was at one point the capital of Britain during the Roman era before that status was transferred to London after much of the town was attached and destroyed in a battle in AD61.

So I was hoping there would be plenty of interest in the town and since I’d spent a fair amount travelling to the area I didn’t want to just hurry home. Just as I made this decision, a bus heading to Colchester went past before I could stop it. I hadn’t considered the option of a bus, but having just missed one I suspect it would now be quicker to wait for the next train, due in about 20 minutes which took me back to Colchester Town station.

My first stop was the castle, as I do like a good castle.

Colchester Castle

Though not dating from Roman times this too has a distinguished history having been built during the Norman Era though on the foundations of the Roman temple that used to stand here. It also boasts the largest keep ever built in Britain and the largest surviving example in Europe.

Sadly I was a little disappointed because whilst I was hoping to be able to see the castle as it was once was it was now basically converted to a museum, which I was less interested in.  I did however decide to go in. There were the usual array of Roman coins of course, but many towns have similar displays. I was pleased however that you could go up onto the roof, which I did. The castle is now located in a a pleasant park with well-kept gardens.

Colchester Castle

I was however more impressed with the outside than the interior, because with all the museum displays inside I felt I couldn’t really appreciate the building, which was what I was more interested in seeing.

Colchester Castle

I was however very interested in the Roman Mosaics in the nearby well house of the castle. They were very well preserved, too with only a few sections missing.

Roman mosaics at Colchester Castle

Roman mosaics at Colchester Castle

Having explored the castle I went off to explore the rest of the town. You might notice the some of the rest of the pictures are rather grainy. Unfortunately, I turned the ISO on my camera up in order to capture the mosaics, then forgot to set it back again for a few photos afterwards.

Colchester

Colchester

Having walked through more of the gardens I also came across the remains of St. Botolph’s Priory, which dates from the 1100s, but is now in ruins.

St. Botolph's Priory, Colchester

St. Botolph's Priory, Colchester

After that I headed for the town centre, where there were plenty more grand buildings of varying ages, some stone and brick, some half timbered.

Colchester

Colchester

Colchester

It was an attractive town and I enjoyed walking about it. Having not known anything at all very much about Colchester until I came here on this walk I was pleased to find that it is in fact a lovely town, despite my initial poor first impression last time.

Colchester

Colchester

Colchester

Colchester

Having satisfied myself I had seen most of interest in the town I headed back to the railway station. By now the weather had improved, but it was too late to continue my walk because after Wivenhoe it was a long way (around 10 miles) before I would reach another town and another suitable break point. So I took the train home instead, first the shuttle train back to Colchester North then the train from there back to London.

Sadly my journey did not exactly go well (and I began to regret having hung around to explore Colchester or not having driven there). As we reached the edge of London the train ground to a halt and stayed motionless for 15 minutes. Eventually the train crept forward slowly and then we reached a station called Gidea Park (I’d never heard of it) where we stopped for another 20 minutes. After no announcements had been made at all I got up and walked to the end of the carriage to find the doors open. I could see the guard standing around on the platform so it didn’t look as if we were about to depart and the train had not been scheduled to call here.

I headed down the platform to ask him what was happening to which I was told, slightly aggressively “I’ve already made two announcements explaining why we’ve stopped” and he went on to explain that there was an “incident” up ahead at Romford on the line (I think a suicide) which is why we’d stopped as the power had been turned off. I replied that I hadn’t heard anything and another passenger standing nearby also confirmed they’d heard nothing. The guard dropped his tone slightly then and asked where we had been sitting – we were both in the same carriage at the back of the long train. The guard went to check and then came and apologised and told me that he’d tested and found that the PA system was not functioning in the carriage I had been sat in. So at least it was not my fault I didn’t know what was happening!

Sadly things did not go well, the guard advised that he was not sure when we would be getting to London Liverpool Street and that it might be better to catch a public bus to a tube station or a station on a different line, but he couldn’t advise which and directed me to the ticket office. The station was run down and horrible, with a large pile of sick on the stairs I had to avoid. When I headed outside there was a large crowd waiting for a bus at the stop. The only place the buses seemed to go was Romford, which was no help because that was where the power had been turned off and there is no tube station there. So I headed to the ticket office as instructed where I was told there was also a bus to Upminster tube station and that was the best option, but from a different bus stop. I found the map and realised the bus stop was nearly half a mile away! Taking a photo of the map at the station (no smart phones, remember, and I didn’t have a street map of East London with me), I followed this to the bus stop. Only to find the bus route in question ran only once every two hours (which surprised me in London) and the last bus of the day had already gone!

Frustrated now I was seemingly abandoned in an unknown area of East London and not really sure how to get home I headed back to the station where the lady in the ticket office was very apologetic (and told me another passenger had come back and reported the same, just after I had set off). By this time the trains had started running again, so I headed back down to the platform to find the train I had got off earlier still here, but the guard told me “we won’t be going to London, we’re going back to Norwich. As soon as we can.”. So I managed to squeeze on another very crowded local train into London, where I had to stand all the way and arrived almost two hours later.

Train at Gidea Park

The only plus side was I was at least able to later get a refund for my ticket as I was over 1 hour late.

So all in all a rather frustrating day having covered only around 4 miles of the coast, much less than I had been expecting and the train problems getting home. But at least the weather gave me the chance to explore Colchester, something I would otherwise not have done which turned out to be far more interesting than I had expected.

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

Greater Anglia trains Sunshine Coast Line : Walton-on-the-Naze – Frinton-on-Sea – Kirby Cross – Thorpe-le-Soken – Weeley – Great Bentley – Alresford – Wivenhoe – Hythe – Colchester Town – Colchester North. Trains run hourly Monday – Saturday and take 8 minutes between Wivenhoe and Colchester Town.  There is no service to Colchester Town on Sundays but see below.

In addition to the above, there are also trains running hourly, seven days a week : Clacton-on-Sea – Thorpe-le-Soken – Wivenhoe – Colchester North – Witham – Chelmsford – Ingatestone – Shenfield – Straford – London Liverpool Street. These trains do however skip Colchester Town. There are regular buses (seven days a week) between Colchester North station and the town centre.

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

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185. Mersea Island to Colchester

June 2007

For this walk I need to cross the river Colne which means taking a long diversion inland to the town of Colchester which is the first bridge across the river. There is, in theory, a ferry further south, from Mersea Island to Brightlingsea  but although I found a sign for it, I didn’t find any actual ferry or timetable last time. Fellow coastal walker Ruth did manage to use it on her walk (in the other direction, and not without a few problems on the way) so I do at least know that it exists now.

I decided for this walk to travel by train. To re-start on the Causeway to Mersea Island might be tricky as I was not sure there was any safe parking nearby (the road is too busy to park on, assuming it is even legal to do so). The road also floods at some high tides and I wasn’t sure if that would happen today and if so how far from the causeway it was safe to park – I didn’t want to come back and find my car under water. Since I’d be ending in Colchester where there is a station (the first place I’ve been to with a station for a long time on my coastal walk), it made sense to use the train.

I travelled by train to London Waterloo, then the Waterloo and City Line to Bank and the Central Line from there to Liverpool Street. I needed to buy a ticket from there to Colchester but on using the ticket machine I was presented with two options “Colchester” or “Colchester Town”. I hadn’t realised that Colchester had more than one station. So I opted for “Colchester Town” in the hope that the “Town” suffix indicated that this station was closer to the town centre. The next issue was that I could not see any trains on the departure board going to Colchester Town. So I opted for the Norwich train that was calling at Colchester on the way.

This took around 50 minutes and I found that once I got to Colchester, there was a shuttle train that only runs between Colchester and Colchester Town, so I got that reaching the town station a few minutes later. I managed to find the bus stop for the bus to Mersea Island quite quickly and had about 10 minutes to wait for the bus. (Naturally, it was only later I realised the bus actually started from the main Colchester station). The bus arrived on time but the driver was a little puzzled at my request to get off at the causeway (where there are no buildings near by) and double checked that was really what I meant (it was). He dropped me at the road junction just onto Mersea Island, I’m not sure if that is an official bus stop or not though.

So now I could continue from where I got to last time. It was a lovely early summer day with clear blue skies, plenty of sunshine and quite warm, a perfect day for a coastal walk in fact.

First I re-traced my steps over the Strood. The road was busy, but once on the north side of the causeway I could immediately turn right off the road and onto a footpath that followed the coast north.

Strood Channel

I could now stop and take photos, away from the traffic and look back at the causeway. It was clear the tide was low at this time of day.

Strood Channel

I was now passing an area of marsh land, part of Langenhoehall Marsh I think (don’t ask me to say that). The path was lined with some poppies and some kind of daisy, which added some nice colours to the view.

Langenhoehall marshes

A short distance along this path I reached Bonner’s Farm which judging by the state of the rusty barn whose roof had mostly collapsed, had seen better days.

Bonner's Farm, near Mersea Causeway

As I headed further up the marshes I had an area of water to my right and I was quite surprised how much water there was here given the causeway to Mersea island was mostly dry.

Langenhoehall marshes

Soon the path turned inland over what was clearly re-claimed land. The map still showed the S-shapes of the water heading further inland, but now dry and you can see it on Google earth, too. However now I was on a raised path on a bank heading back to the main road, probably built when the land was reclaimed.

I decided, just before I reached the road to stop for lunch because it was now gone midday (it had taken me a while to get here) and I knew there was a section of road ahead.

Once I’d eaten I joined the road and turned north. This was a horrible part of the walk because this is a very busy road (being the only road on to Mersea Island) and lacking a pavement. At least there were a few houses and a bit of grass verge in places.

Langenhoehall

Thankfully I only had to follow the road for around 500 metres where I could turn right off the main road onto Langenhoe Hall Lane. This is a short road, running for only about 300 metres to Langenhoe Hall which despite the grand name seemed to be a fairly ordinary farm.

At the end of the road a track continued more or less ahead, which had a footpath along it. After a further 300 metres or so the footpath turned left off this heading for some trees. There was no path on the ground so I had some difficultly finding the route so just headed over the rough field to the trees. Here I made my way along the edge of the trees into the field ahead and then turned left with the now obvious path.

This is as close to the coast as I can get here, because the coast to my right is blocked off the public as it is part of the Fingringhoe Miitary Firing Range. The path I’m on follows the edge of this so I was walking alongside the usual warning notices to my right.

Fingringhoe Ranges

There wasn’t a lot to see in this part of the firing range – it was very flat!

Fingringhoe Ranges

Soon the path reached the end of another road on my left. I couldn’t initially see the route of the onward footpath. Well in fact I’m meant to go through the wooden kissing gate to the left of the gate ahead, it took me a minute to spot the footpath sign.

Fingringhoe Ranges

I also thought from the map that the footpath I was on was outside of the firing range and hence always open, but it seems I was wrong. A sign at the gate warned me “This footpath is closed under range bye-laws when red flags are flying”.

Fingringhoe Ranges

Luckily for me, the red flags were not flying, so I could proceed.

The range turned out to be quite interesting. Zooming in with my camera I could just make out the banks of the river in the distance beyond the range.

Fingringhoe Ranges

But it would be some time before I’d get to the water. Onwards I passed a bin with an unusual sign attached!

Fingringhoe Ranges

Just past this were a couple of houses which are obviously not real houses but part of the range presumably used for training or shooting from (or at).

Fingringhoe Ranges

Further along the path was what I presumed to be an observation tower, but none of this was in used today.

Fingringhoe Ranges

At the north edge of the range I passed another flag pole, with the red flag tied up at the bottom of the post, thankfully not needed today. Ahead a sign told me I was now at “Post Wood”. This area of woodland was quite pleasant as it was shady and cool.

Woodland at Fingringhoe Ranges

My foray into the woods was short lived since I was soon back on the footpath that warned again that the path was closed under range byelaws when the flag is flying.

This stretch ran over the edge of fields at the north end of the range (but just inside it) and passed another road leading into the range.

Fingringhoe Ranges

It continued east to reach the north edge of the water at Fingringhoe Marsh. It was nice to see shore again and I could see the tide had come in a long way since I was last next to the water.

Geeon Saltings near Fingringhoe

Not for long though, as immediately, the path turned left to head north to the road at South Green. Here I turned right and then right again to another road which ended at the start of an area of woodland marked as Fingringhoe Wick on the map.

I had spotted a visitor centre marked on the map ahead and yes, as I hoped, you can enter this area. It is a nature reserve owned by the Essex Wildlife Trust and so when the public road ends, a road continues ahead into the car park of the reserve.

The woodland to my left turned out to be quite hilly, with the trees growing up a steep bank.

Fingringhoe Wick

Near the south east corner of the reserve I could get a nice view out to the marshland of Geedon Saltings.

The Colne estuary at Fingringhoe

I was seeing wildlife, too as I saw several pheasants in the grass beside the path.

Pheasant at Fingringhoe Wick

On reaching the car park and visitor centre, there was a nice lake on the left surrounded by trees. It was a lovely spot, though there was little wildlife to be seen at this point.

Fingringhoe Wick

Ahead after the visitor centre there was a bit of a hill from which I could get an even better view over Geedon Saltings and the coast beyond in the range.

The Colne estuary near Fingringhoe

Paths continued ahead and soon I could reach the shore beside the Colne Estuary. I was surprised to find there was even a sandy beach here!

The Colne estuary near Fingringhoe

I could continue north along the shore for a short distance, where the beach soon gave way to marsh where a viewing platform had been built. I walked out along it, though there was not much to see in terms of wildlife.

Fingringhoe Wick

Fingringhoe Wick

Having reached the end of the nature reserve, sadly there wasn’t a path north along the shore so I had to follow a path within the reserve along it’s north side and back to the road.

Here I could head north on the bridlepath parallel with but around half a mile from the waters edge. On the map I could see some lakes and odd tracks and I soon realised this was an area that was being used for gravel or sand extraction. Ahead the path turned left on a track passing beside a moving conveyor full of sand. It was a slightly surreal sight because there was no one around and no other noise.

Sand near Fingringhoe

The path ended at the end of another road which I followed into the small and isolated village of High Park Corner. At the end of the road I turned right into Ballast Quay Road. This too is a dead-end for cars as it leads to Ballast Quay Farm and a quay where I think the sand extracted from the land is loaded onto boats. It is not a dead-end for those on foot though, as near the end there is a footpath that turns left. I followed this, skirting a somewhat wiffy sewage works and reaching another road, Ferry Road.

Wivenhoe from Fingringhoe

I had heard that there is a ferry between service across the Colne at Wivenhoe, which is now on the other bank opposite, (it is the town you can see above), but I was not sure if it would be running or exactly where from. Since the road I’d now joined was called Ferry Road, I hoped this led to the ferry, as the road ended at the waters edge.

It was only a couple of hundred metres to the waters edge so it seemed worth investigating even if I had to turn back, as it would be nice to finally see the river I’ve been trying to get around.

Wivenhoe, ahead, looked an attractive town with the church tower dominating the scene, it reminded me a little of Maldon, but smaller.

Wivenhoe from Fingringhoe

Wivenhoe from Fingringhoe

Sadly when I got to the end of the road there was no sign of any ferry. I could see the beer garden of the pub opposite was packed full of happy drinkers sitting in the sun, but I couldn’t get there because there wasn’t a ferry. A bit frustrating – but not unexpected.

At the time there was no timetable online about the ferry, and not much in the way of information either. However it listed as going to Rowhedge, which is not where I was. However there is a website now. This shows the ferry runs roughly 6 days a month from April to October and a few more days a month in July and August. However it is subject to the tides and only runs for around 3 and a half hours around high tide on the days that it does run. What the website does reveal is that the ferry does also come here to Fingringhoe but “only if the water is right” and “passengers wishing to travel to or from here must ask the ferry skipper to land”. So maybe it would have been possible, but this information was not available online at the time that I could find.

So with no sign of the ferry I had to continue on to Colchester. This meant turning back along Ferry Road back to High Park Corner and on along Church Road to the church of Fingringhoe.

Fingringhoe church

I have to head a bit away from the Colne here too because there is another small river to cross, Roman River, and the first bridge is a little over half a mile inland in the village centre.

The waters of the river were so calm they were like a mirror.

Roman River near Fingringhoe

All these estuaries might be a bit frustrating, but if you catch them in the right conditions like this, when the tide is in, it’s warm, sunny and calm, they are extremely beautiful.

Once over this river there is a footpath right along it’s northern banks, back to the larger Colne estuary. A sign informed me this was the “John Brunning Walk”. I’m not sure who John Brunning is or was I’m afraid.

However his walk turned out to be very pleasant, with nice views of the meandering river.

Roman River near Fingringhoe

Roman River near Fingringhoe

Roman River near Fingringhoe

As I neared the river though I was now rounding some sort of derelict old industrial site, behind fences to my left. I’m not sure what this was used for, but it was all derelict now.

A short distance ahead I was back on the banks of the Colne, now opposite the northern edge of Wivenhoe. This is a very pretty town and I was looking forward to getting there on my next walk.

Wivenhoe from Rowhedge

Wivenhoe from Rowhedge

Even the modern housing to the north of the town had been done in keeping with houses of different styles and colours.

Wivenhoe from Rowhedge

Wivenhoe from Rowhedge

Once around the old industrial area I had reached the water front of Rowhedge, the next village along the estuary. Whilst not quite as pretty as Wivenhoe it was still a pleasant village with many people out taking advantage of the fine weather.

Rowhedge

Rowhedge

Ahead I came to a pub with a nice beer garden, the Anchor. This time, as I was not driving, I decided to stop for a quick pint in the sunshine. I’d had lunch earlier so I decided against food and just had a nice drink overlooking the Colne.

Suitably refreshed I continued past the village green. Again there were some interesting and attractive buildings here and it was clear the Colne was once a busy commercial waterway, but all I had seen today were leisure craft.

Rowhedge

Rowhedge

Having followed the road along the waters edge in Rowhedge, when I reached the end of the road there was a footpath right along the banks of the Colne.

The River Colne near Rowhedge

This was really beautiful. On this side of the river were small areas of marshes and the other side of the river was tree-lined. A few people were out boating along the river too, it was a nice scene.

The River Colne near Rowhedge

Ahead in the distance though I could see the pylons, cranes and factories ahead- that must be Colchester.

The River Colne near Rowhedge

On my left soon were some more lakes. I suspect these are the result of more gravel or sand extraction but now a sign informed me it was “Hythe Lagoons” which seemed a rather grand name for them.

Still the path along the river was lovely and I could see the other side had a busy path with plenty of people walking and cycling past, too. Soon I realised the railway line runs alongside it too, as I saw this train passing by on the other side of the river.

A train beside the River Colne

Just ahead, on the other side of the river were some particularly ugly tower blocks – it was clear I was near Colchester now and it did not look as if it was going to be a very pretty place.

Essex University

I checked the map and concluded these towers were likely part of the University of Essex, it did not look very nice.

As I suspected, my first impressions of Colchester were confirmed as the path headed through a large industrial area. This is part of Hythe, but at least the path continued on the edge of the river rather than forcing me inland to the road. On the other side of the river were some modern flats (or possibly student accommodation), which had a view of all this industry – it made me wonder how the estate agent had described the view!

The River Colne near Colchester

Beyond these flats were some odd office buildings with raised roof areas at the front, I didn’t like them much.

The River Colne near Colchester

The path had now ended and I was walking down the dusty road beside the quay, though I did come across this light ship, I do find these ships quite interesting and attractive.

Lightship beside the Colne, Hythe

I soon reached the first crossing of the Colne ahead, the A134 Colne Causeway. This is on the edge of a suburb called Hythe. There is a station here too, so I could have ended the walk here but I decided to continue along the road through Hythe to the centre of Colchester as there is a better service and I would have a while to wait from Hythe.

Now passed the industry this part of Hythe was quite pleasant with a few old buildings, mixed in with new. The church was quite pretty, too.

Hythe

Hythe church, Colchester

I continued along this main road, the A134 for almost another further mile to reach the large roundabout by Colchester Town station where I ended my walk.

Colchester Town station

From here I took the shuttle train back to Colchester station (which I later found out locals refer to as “Colchester North”) for the train back to London.

I had an uneventful journey back from there home via London.

Despite the fact much of this walk was not near the coast (and when it was it was a river or estuary rather than sea), I ended up really enjoying this walk. It helped that it was a lovely warm early summers day and this made everything so much more attractive. But there had been a lot of interest too, such as the firing range and the lovely views over to Wivenhoe, which I was looking forward to getting to next time. I also enjoyed Fingringhoe Wick, an unexpected area I could explore, and the waterfront in Rowhedge.

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

First Bus service 67/67A : Colchester – Peldon – The Strood (Mersea causeway) – West Mersea. Twice per hour Monday – Saturday. 8 buses per day on Sundays. It takes around 35 minutes between Colchester and the Mersea causeway.

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

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