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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184. Mersea Island

May 2007

Continuing my theme of visiting all the islands as well as walking the mainland coast, I decided to walk around Mersea Island too. It could be done in one day and I’ve found all the islands I’ve visited so far to be lovely and very interesting.

I drove from home via the M25 and A12 and around the edge of Colchester to reach the causeway over to Mersea Island, known as The Strood. Mersea Island is not a full island but a tidal island, connected by a causeway meaning you can reach the island at low tide without needing a boat. In fact the causeway does not flood at all most days. Generally there is around 1 week a month where the tide comes in high enough to flood the causeway, for up to 90 minutes at a time. I hadn’t bothered to check the tide times, but when I approached the island the causeway was clear and a sign warned not to proceed if the water is above the pavement.

The main settlement on the island is West Mersea, so I headed there and followed the road to the end to reach a car park on Coast Road. I was pleased to find that it was free to park (it isn’t any longer but at least the charge is a fairly reasonable at £3 a day at the time of writing).

From the car park I turned left and followed the road, the aptly named Coast Road. Mersea Island is known for it’s Oysters and sea food and I was soon seeing evidence of this, as I passed two sea food restaurants.

On my right, the map showed “Oyster Pits” and just past these I passed another sea food restaurant and an Oyster bar. It was clear sea food is big here, so it’s rather a shame I don’t like sea food.

Once past this I was now alongside an area of marshland which was dotted with numerous boats, most of which looked to be house boats, connected to the land by wooden jetties over the marshes.

House boats at West Mersea

Soon I come to a short spit of land, not marked on the map but which I suspect once connected Cobmarsh Island with Mersea Island.

The coast at West Mersea

Cobmarsh Island is now a marshy island only around 100 metres from the edge of Mersea Island. I could not find much about the island, but aerial photos showed that the island is all marsh, most of it flooded at high tide. These marshes are dotted by a few abandoned boats with a couple of small areas of sandy beach around the coast. There is not any public access that I am aware of and in any case you’d need your own boat. So I was not able to visit this island.

Onwards along the coast road there was soon a footpath pointing to the right. I checked the map and realised this was a dead-end so didn’t follow it and continued on the road. A later check on Google Earth revealed it actually crosses the marsh, is in quite good condition and would have allowed me to join the beach later, but I didn’t know it from the map at the time.

A couple of hundred metres later though there was another footpath signed off to the right and this time it was a proper footpath that continued right along the coast. So I joined this, crossing the grass at the end of the marsh to reach the beach.

The coast at West Mersea

It was lovely to be on a beach – it is such a long time since I was last on a proper sandy beach (Foulness Island, in fact). The beach was a mixture of sand, shells and shingle and as the tide seemed fairly high it was a bit harder than some to walk on as it was soft underfoot, but I didn’t care as at last I was back by the sea. In the distance, and around 2 miles away, I could see the coast of the Dengie Peninsula near to Bradwell where I had been a couple of months earlier.

Ahead I could see some sort of old concrete structure with some more rocks visible in a line in the edge of the sea. I presume this is some sort of remains from World War II. Behind it I could see the church of West Mersea.

I had to be careful walking on the beach now because there were areas of clay sticky clay appearing along the shore line.

The coast at West Mersea

On reaching the concrete structure it had a round circle on the top suggesting that it was indeed something from World War II – probably a gun was mounted on it.

The coast at West Mersea

I liked the coast here, the houses of West Mersea were separated from the beach by a line of trees and bushes which made it feel more rural than had been suggested from the map.

The coast at West Mersea

 

Ahead it was feeling more like a resort as I was seeing something else I had not seen in a long time – beach huts!

The coast at West Mersea

Though as it was an overcast day few seemed to be in use, but I liked the differing colours and designs, adding character.

The coast at West Mersea

West Mersea does not seem to be known outside the local area and I suspect it is a popular place for the residents of nearby Colchester to come for some fresh air and relaxation of a weekend.

I did have a few small wooden groynes along the beach to negotiate, but these did not stretch far inland so it was not a major problem, and I preferred to stay on the beach.

Near the end of the beach huts I came to some newer huts. These were all uniform in design but had been painted in differing bright pastel shades which added a bit more colour.

The coast at West Mersea

I suspected these were still in the process of being built because there was a gap in them where a section of beach was fenced off with a digger on the beach behind the fence.

At the far end I could see a section of sea wall with more diggers at work so I hoped my way would not be blocked. Looking on the other side of the estuary I could see another landmark I had not seen for a long while, the hulking remains of Bradwell Nuclear Power station.

Bradwell Nuclear Power Station from Mersea Island

As I approached the area of sea wall on which work was taking place I was able to stick to the beach so I never did find out if the path was closed, as I was not actually on it.

The south coast of Mersea Island

A short distance past this though the tide was far enough in I couldn’t continue on the beach so I headed up the sloping beach to the path, now past the area where work was going on. The path was now a slightly raised bank soon running along the coastal side of a large caravan park.

The south coast of Mersea Island

At the end of the caravan site there was a sandy slipway which I crossed to continue along the beach. Just past this there was low mud cliffs to my left.

The south coast of Mersea Island

The south coast of Mersea Island

These seemed to be eroding quickly and I could see a sign on the edge of the field on the top here with some sort of warning I suspect either about erosion or that the footpath was closed. Just past this there had been some attempts to shore up the coast with wooden piling, areas of rocks and a large shingle bank leading to a sea wall.

The south coast of Mersea Island

Again I was not sure if the footpath was open so I continued on the beach as the tide was now going out and I could see I could get to the end of the sea wall ahead.

At another little slipway ahead the low cliffs soon ended and so I could see inland again where I could see a number of rather odd tents. All the same colour and size, in neat lines, but with no back or front and nothing in them. It was a bit odd and I suspected some sort of scout or guide camp site which was not currently being used.

Old fashioned tents on Mersea Island

At the end of this area I joined the path again which was now along a concrete sea wall alongside an area of marsh on my left, while to my right the beach had gone to be replaced by mud. Ah I was back to the more familiar Essex landscape of mud and marsh!

Sea wall on the south coast of Mersea Island

Marshy coast at Mersea Island

This did not last long and soon I began to have beach again rather than mud on my right. As soon as this started there was another caravan site on my left, so I dropped down onto the beach to avoid it.

The beach however soon became muddy again so I had to return to the proper footpath along the sea wall at the front of the caravan site. Once this ended it was back to sandy beach for a while, so I returned to the beach. This only lasted for a couple of hundred metres where the coast returned to marsh again.

Oddly there are two footpaths here one of which goes on mud banks beyond the high tide line whilst the other turns inland to the road. The beach was too muddy to walk on ahead so I entered another caravan park on the left and walked through this, following the route of neither path, where I could cross a small stream ahead, go around the back of the marshy area and back to the coast.

The beach now was a bit odd, mostly sand but with some muddy “islands” in it.

The coast at Cudmore Grove Country Park, Mersea Island

It was clear that Mersea Island is not quite the open sea, but a sort of transition between a sandy beach and the marsh and mud flats I’ve spent much of the rest of my time in Essex walking alongside.

A warning sign inland warned “Falling cliffs please keep to the beach” so I’m not sure if the footpath marked on the map even exists here. The sign wasn’t lying either since ahead the cliffs got a little higher (they were now perhaps 2 metres high) but were clearly very soft with freshly crumbled clay and earth at the bottom of the cliffs.

The coast at Cudmore Grove Country Park, Mersea Island

The coast at Cudmore Grove Country Park, Mersea Island

I was now in Cudmore Grove Country Park and here some wooden groynes had been erected presumably in an attempt to reduce the seemingly rapid erosion. These didn’t stretch all the way to the back of the beach though (perhaps they did reach the cliffs once) so I was able to get around them without problem.

The cliffs became increasingly high here backed by an area of woodland which seemed to be eroding and falling onto the beach fairly frequently so I kept near to the shoreline here.

The coast at Cudmore Grove Country Park, Mersea Island

The coast at Cudmore Grove Country Park, Mersea Island

There was more concrete remains too, probably more World War II structures now fallen off the cliffs and being slowly destroyed by the sea.

The coast at Cudmore Grove Country Park, Mersea Island

The country park was quite busy now and I soon had to follow a slip way off the beach onto a brief section of sea wall where a sign informed me that various bones of animals have been found in the cliffs which are thought to date back around 300,000 years.

The coast at Cudmore Grove Country Park, Mersea Island

This brought me to another area of beach which was near the eastern end of the island.

The coast at Cudmore Grove Country Park, Mersea Island

Ahead I could see more beach huts but these were not actually part of Mersea Island but were the other side of the River Colne which I was now nearing. This river flows through Colchester and I have to had almost to the centre of this town in order to get around it – but that is for another day.

The beach ahead was backed by marsh but a sign informed me that the way to my left was “Sea Wall Walk” and there was also a foot ferry, so I followed that as it was a good path just behind the marsh.

Near East Mersea

At the far south eastern tip of the island I had reached Mersea Stone where the ferry marked on the map is supposed to run.

Near East Mersea

Here another footpath left the sea wall path I had been following and headed over the shingle beach to the shoreline and the far tip, which I followed.

I didn’t see a ferry here but perhaps the map is either wrong, or I missed it. There was no jetty either so I’m not sure where this ferry is supposed to land. It does seem still to exist so perhaps it was just not running on the day I was here for some reason.

Rounding the corner I was now entering the more usual Essex scenery of mud and marshland which makes up the north shore of Mersea Island, running alongside the Pyefleet channel that separates the island from the mainland.

Near East Mersea

Over the other side of the river Colne I could now see the town of Brightlingsea and Batemans Tower on the sea wall there.

Brightlingsea from Mersea Island

Returning from the path out over Mersea Stone I returned to the sea wall path which was still good and ran along the top of the grassy sea wall. A short distance ahead I reached what I presumed was the end of the country park as there was a sign pointing back to the visitor centre and to the end of the road at East Mersea.

Here there was also a slipway but no sign of any ferry from here either.

Slipway near Mersea Stone

It was an easy walk along the sea wall for around half a mile to reach the Colchester Oyster fishery where there was some sort of pool and sections of the muddy estuary fenced off.

Old Oyster beds near East Mersea

Old Oyster beds near East Mersea

The marsh continued beyond this and about half a mile ahead the path briefly left the sea wall according to the map, to go around a marshy area. However there was a well walked route along the sea wall ahead so I stuck to this missing out a seemingly unnecessary diversion a few hundred metres inland.

I continued now past the marshy area and continued along the sea wall alongside rather featureless flat farm land on my left and the muddy creek of the Pyefleet Channel now more or less completely empty of water.

Mersea Island

After about a mile of walking along this sea wall path I was now reaching another area of marsh. This is unnamed on the map but a wide channel of water cut inland here, which I walked alongside. However as the tide was low there was no water, just mud flats and some odd wooden groynes whose purpose I couldn’t work out.

Marshes on Mersea Island

At the mouth of this I continued along the sea wall for a while, but soon I had a problem. The footpath ahead headed over an area of salt marsh. It is clear there used to be a sea wall here but it had been breached long ago, flooding the land. The path is still marked on the map but it goes over gaps in the sea wall that are now just boggy muddy marshes interspersed with deep water channels. I later read that the sea wall had collapsed some years ago. So there was no way through on the official right of way.

Thankfully although not a right of way a Permissive footpath continued along the newer sea wall – further inland, but at least it avoided a longer diversion inland to the road.

Marshes on Mersea Island

Soon I reached the end of the path at the road and turned right. This was not very pleasant because the road lacked a pavement. However I soon reached the main B1025 road that leads out onto the island which does have a narrow pavement. Sadly this soon gives up too and I’m left in the edge of the road.

This does irritate I mean, why build a pavement that suddenly ends before you’ve reached anywhere, any buildings or junction? The road is very busy, as all traffic on and off the island has to use it. Thankfully I only have to follow the road for around 300 metres until I come to the footpath off to the right. Peace from the traffic at last!

This path follows the sea bank again and soon I stop to take a photo looking back to the causeway, The Strood.

The Strood

Ahead there are the wooden posts that mark a former Oyster bed. Oysters are big business on Mersra Island, I’ve come to realise.

Old Oyster pits near West Mersea

Inland there is a drainage channel and beyond large fields of crops growing.

Fields near West Mersea

As I near West Mersea the channel becomes packed with boats of varying sizes and colours which makes for an attractive scene.

Old Oyster Pits, West Mersea

Strood Channel, West Mersea

Ahead I can now see the buildings of West Mersea and soon I am back at the car park where I parked this morning having completed my walk around the island.

West Mersea

I had enjoyed taking in this circular walk around Mersea Island. It was quite a varied coastline, with areas of sand and mud beaches, low eroding cliffs topped with trees and of course many areas of marshland. It was clear that sea food is an important industry of the island as I passed numerous Oyster beds, sea food stalls and restaurants, even if I did not partake. It was good too that the island seemed to have some sort of path all around it, even if, as I found, it is not quite where you think it should be in places!

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

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183. Salcott to The Strood (Mersea Island Causeway) and Copt Hall Marshes

December 2017

I finished walking the Essex coast around 10 years ago. Or so I thought. It was whilst searching for photos a few weeks ago for this write up that I could not find any for the section between Salcott and Mersea Island. I went through my notes and found that in fact I had decided that this was all road walking along busy roads without a view of the coast at all, that I would miss it out and resume at the Mersea Island causeway. Instead I decided to go to the only part of the coast I could get to on this section with a visit to Copt Hall Marshes, which I did after completing the previous walk to Salcott.

Well that wouldn’t do, so I needed to fill in the gap (and was annoyed with myself that I had been lazy in missing this out 10 years ago). Having looked into the route though I could see why I had chosen to make that decision – the route was almost entirely on roads and roads that also lacked a pavement for most of their length. It wasn’t a walk I was looking forward to and a look at Google Street view confirmed my fears that the road was lined with hedges for much of the length too. Hedges are bad news for walkers, because when the road is twisty, they restrict the view ahead, drown out the sounds of traffic and mean you have nowhere to get out of the way when it does come.

Given a choice of Saturday or Sunday I decided therefore that Sunday would be better because I hoped the traffic would be lighter then. Since it was also winter I figured there would be fewer people visiting Mersea Island then, which is where the road headed. The downside with going on Sunday is there is no bus service, so I would have to walk the road in both directions.

So a few weeks ago I set off for Essex, to fill in the gap. I had a good journey there with no delays and parked on the road in Salcott (there isn’t a car park). It was a grey, overcast and drizzly day – it was clear I would not be seeing the area at it’s best, but then if I was only on roads it did not matter much.

The first part of the walk was along footpaths. There are a number of footpaths heading north from Salcott, I opted for the most easterly one to minimise the amount of road walking I would have to do.

I found the road (Mill Lane) where this began. Initially this is a tarmac road but it soon became a concrete track heading for a farm. On reaching the farm it went through the farm yard. This was a livestock farm seemingly mostly pigs and cows but all were in the barns today, making various odd noises. I initially turned left too early and ended up at a dead end but once I found the right route I found the path, marked with a white and blue sign indicating no way ahead and the footpath going to the left. The stile was rather makeshift, a couple of breeze-blocks placed either side of a wooden part of the fence, but I made it over OK. The path followed the left hand edge of the field north until the road.

It being winter, the field was devoid of any crop.

Near Salcott

As I neared the road I was dismayed to find that it was quite busy and most of the traffic was continuing east rather than turning off onto the B1026, as I had imagined it would. So I turned right along the road and past the turning for the B1026, but as I had seen most of the traffic continued straight ahead even though this road was then unclassified. It was a horribly busy road too, even on Sunday.

There were hedges most of the times and sometimes narrow verges, which were very uneven and not easy to walk on, when I had to take refuge. Sometimes there would be a minute or so with no cars, but then a dozen or so would come all at once, often at the point I had no where to go. Most drivers did at least give me plenty of space. Some slowed down too. The usual suspects (Audis, BMWs, Range Rovers) mostly did neither, going past just an inch or two from me.

In a little over half a mile I came for a turning to Abbotts Hall Farm Nature Reserve. I hadn’t spotted this on the map so it came as a bit of a surprise.

Abbotts Hall Farm

It seems however that it is primarily the headquarters of the Essex Wildlife Trust and so the reserve is only open to the public on weekdays during office hours, so I was not able to go down there. Back to the road, then.

Another half a mile or so beyond the reserve, it was a great relief to reach Great Wigborough . There was at least a short stretch of pavement here and a 30mph speed limit (though only about half the traffic took any notice of the speed limit).

There wasn’t much of interest though, but I did like the village sign.

Great Wigborough

The pavement did not last long though and I was soon back on the horrible road, dodging traffic and occasionally having to jump out the way onto the uneven verge, or squeeze to the edge of the road. It was in the back of my mind that I would have to do this twice (in order to get back)!

In another half a mile or so I reached the small village (a hamlet, really) of Little Wigborough. Perhaps half a dozen or so buildings but it too had a nice village sign.

Little Wigborough

Though it was not enough of a village to warrant the road getting a pavement. A little further along the road and I reached the turning for Copt Hall Marshes. I though about diverting down here, but I knew it was a dead-end and I had been here before, so I continued along the road, but at least the bus shelter on the junction provided a brief place of refuge from the traffic to have a drink and check the map. I decided as a treat, I would come back and visit this at the end of the walk.

Around ¾ of a mile further along this horrible road and I reached the village of Peldon. This was quite a nice village, with attractive buildings, a pub and a pleasant green at the western end of the village.

Peldon

The Plough, Peldon

There was a pavement too and this time it stretched most of the way through the village. But soon I was back to traffic dodging again, but the traffic did seem a little lighter now, some having been going to Peldon and some having turned off on to the road to Abberton.

Soon the houses ended and I was back to the horrible road walking. In a little over a mile I head reached the end of the road and the pub at the junction.

Near Peldon

Here I turned right and followed the road to the causeway over to Mersea Island, which is called The Strood. It does occasionally flood but I think only on unusually high tides, so the island is rarely cut off and a true island.

I was back on the B-road again and the traffic was much busier, as this is the only access to and from Mersea Island, which has a sizeable population. This was the worst part of the walk and I was relieved to finally reach the footpath on the left where I could step off the road, have a quick bite to eat and then turn back. It is soul-destroying really to walk there and back when it’s all on roads and not very pleasant.

However there was a bonus in that I thought there was no bus at all on Sundays. It turns out that there is a service between the causeway to Mersea and Peldon on a Sunday, just not west from Peldon. I had spotted a bus going the other way and I was in luck as soon there was one behind me. I wasn’t at a proper stop but flagged the bus down and the driver did stop for me. It was only a couple of minute bus journey to Peldon, but I was very relieved to avoid the busiest part of the road again.

From Peldon I had the horrible road walk back to the Copt Hall Turning where I stopped in the bus stop again. Checking the map I decided I didn’t want to continue on the road unless I could possibly avoid it. I had already walked as close as I could get to the sea, so why take a chance on this busy road again – I wanted to find a different route going back.

A footpath left the road about 100 metres west of here, heading inland to the church at Great Wigborough. From there I could follow other footpaths and rejoin the road only about 500 metres short of the footpath I needed back to Salcott. So that is what I did. This turned out to be a good plan.

At the point on the right where the footpath should be, a footpath sign pointed me along a wide farm track. I followed this but near the end of the track, another sign pointed me left off the track and over a field. The field had been ploughed and crop planted (but only just poking through the soil) and there was no visible path, but I could see the footpath sign at the other side, so I just walked over the field. I suspect in summer this would be impassible if the farmer is not bothering to re-instate the path after ploughing and plants crop on it.

I now continued into the next field. Passing Moulsham’s Farm this turned out not to be a farm really any more but a large house with a garden and the fields I was passing through just seemed to be a rather unkempt area of grass that was almost an extension of the house of the garden. However the path was at least passable and I soon reached the church at the end of the road. I walked around the attractive church.

Great Wigborough Church

Better still the church was uphill so I could get a bit of a view and and look down over to the open waters of the Blackwater estuary. The sea at last, if only a glimpse.

The Blackwater Estuay

I followed Church Lane and soon came across a footpath to the left. This went round the edge of a field but looked to be reasonably passable without too much mud, so I followed this to get off the road, even though there was no traffic on this bit. Emerging from the field down a step to the road there was then my onward footpath marked just ahead on the right. This was a good track to Hill Farm as it is also the access road to the farm. I got some good views from here as I had gained enough height to see down to the shore again.

Near Great Wigborough

I found the route onwards past the farm and was pleased to see the farmer had left a wide grassy path at the edge of the field and the grass was nice and short too. S0 it made for an easy and pleasant walk back to the road. It was so nice to be off that road and I was enjoying it now.

Sadly it could not last and soon I emerged back onto the road. But at least it was only about 500 metres before I could turn left back again to the path to the farm at Virley Hall and Salcott. I re-traced my steps along this this time negotiating the correct route around the farm yard and back to the road and my car. I was glad I had filled in that gap.

Rather than heading home immediately, after the horrible road walk I decided as a little treat I would drive onwards along the same road I had just walked to Copt Hall Marshes and go for a walk around here, so I could at least be by the coast, if only muddy marshes.

I drove down the road and came to a small area with a few cars parked, though it was not signed as a car park. Then I spotted a sign pointing left saying “Car Park”, and a man standing beside it. I thought he was a National Trust warden (perhaps collecting parking fees) so I thought i’d better stop and check. He seemed not be a warden though and was just standing there (why I’m not sure) and told me there was another car park down there but “it’s miles away”. So I headed for that. In about 500 metres I was there. Miles away, indeed! It’s next to an old barn. I took a photo of it, but on my previous visit it was sunny, so here is one from that visit instead!

Copt Hall

I checked the map here and found there is not as much path next to the shore as I remembered and part of it is a dead-end leading to a bird hide. I followed it anyway and I could see the wide water channel passing Sunken Island and leading to the wider Blackwater and the buildings on Mersea Island ahead.

Copt Hall Marshes

Copt Hall Marshes

Copt Hall Marshes

At the far end I came to the bird hide, the end point of the path along the shore. Sadly at this time of year there was not much activity to see.

Copt Hall Marshes

Copt Hall Marshes

I then headed back and completed the circular route, though most of this was inland just next to fields or along a tree-lined path so there was not a lot to see. I did however reach the farm and hall itself, beside the first car park I had reached (perhaps I should have parked there after all!). The hall is and farm buildings are tenanted however so the public is not permitted to look in. I’m not clear (and neither were the signs) as to whether this also applied to the church but I decided to avoid any doubt and settle for a picture from the road.

Copt Hall Marshes

I had then just a short walk back along the track to my car where I then headed home.

I opted to head back around the south side of the M25 to get home, a slightly longer route as I know the northern and north western part of the M25 tends to get very congested (and hence slow) on a Sunday afternoon and early evening, whilst the south is usually clear. This does mean paying the Dartford Toll (or congestion charge, as it is now, which has to be done online later) but at least it worked and I had a clear run on the motorway. It was only when turning off an A-road and down a minor road a couple of miles from home (a shortcut, a bit of a rat-run really) that suddenly the cars ahead stopped and put on their hazard lights, just before a corner. Not a great place to stop I thought! However it was then I realised that the problem was a car ahead had failed to go around the corner and crashed into a tree ahead. It was not especially cold (about 10 degrees) or icy, so I can only assume they were not paying attention. There were already other drivers giving assistance, with the car door open and talking to the driver, so having checked an ambulance had been called and there was nothing for me to do I made a U-turn (not wanting to risk causing another accident by passing the parked cars and crashed car, which would mean going around a blind corner on the wrong side of the road) and headed back home via the A-roads instead.

Well this is certainly a walk I would be in no hurry to repeat. This is not the worst coast walk I have ever done, but it is certainly in the top 10, probably the top 5. Almost all horribly busy roads with no pavement and no view of the sea. I came to realise that actually walking beside an A-road is often better than these roads because an A-road is usually wider and with better visibility than these narrow, hedge lined roads I had been walking on. I was glad to have made it without any injury but was also glad I would never need to do it again.

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

First Essex route 67 : Colchester – Colchester North station – Blackheath – Abberton – Peldon – The Strood – West Mersea. Every 30 minutes Monday – Saturday, 8 busses per day on Sundays.

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

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182. Tollesbury Circular

May 2007

This is another walk of marshes and creeks, this time around the various creeks at the north western edge of the Blackwater estuary. Such is the nature of all these creeks that after nearly 10 miles of walking along the twisting turning banks of the creeks, I’ll end up at Salcott, only around 2 miles from my start point! So rather than bother with busses (there aren’t many in this part of Essex) I decide to make it a circular route and walk back to Tollesbury.

I drove up to Tollesbury via the M25 and A12 because there is limited public transport in this area. It was busy but the traffic kept moving. I parked in the same place as before, in the square in Tollesbury, near the Kings Head.

Tollesbury

I’d like to point out that isn’t my car abandoned in the middle of the square!

Tollesbury

From the square I head east along East Street and then fork right into Mell Road. I then take the second road on the left, Woodrolfe Farm Lane to pass Woodrolfe Farm and reach the marina.

Tollesbury Marina

The marina is busy with boats though there is not much activity despite being the weekend and fairly good weather. At the end of the marina there is a sort of man-made lake which has a path around one side and a road around the other, so I follow the path. Some rather 1970s looking housing backs onto the lake.

Tollesbury

On reaching the road, I turn left and follow the road back around the north side of this lake. This takes me past a few lovely old sail lofts. I’m not sure if they are still used for this purpose or are houses or offices now, but it is nice to see how well kept they are.

Old sail lofts at Tollesbury

The last one of these is being used by some sort of boat-sales business. I’m surprised to see the price of the nearest one. It is small but is priced at £675. I imagined owning a boat was much more expensive than this, which perhaps accounts for why there are so many marinas and boat yards around the Essex coast, either that or there is something major wrong with this boat.

As the road turns inland I can turn right off it and follow the footpath along the grassy bank. Here I’m rounding a marshy creek, Tollesbury Fleet. On my left are more boats just below the sea wall, though these soon end.

To my right is a large area of marsh land. Tiny grass islands dotted with muddy creeks and pools between them. I can see a few plank bridges heading out over the marshes. It is tempting to try and follow them but I can see from there map there is no path onwards, so it will be a dead-end if I do.

Old Hall Marshes

After passing the sewage works, the path heads a bit inland. The land to my right now between me and the creek is marked as land on the map, but it isn’t any more. It is clear the sea wall has been breached, allowing the water to flood in at high tide and hence the path has been diverted off the old sea wall onto the new one.

I’ve seen this a lot in Essex and I suspect it didn’t happen that long ago, because I can see the remains of trees and bushes now dead from the salt water, and the trees are still in neat lines.

Flooded marsh land near Tollesbury

(Oddly, some 10 years later the Ordnance Survey maps still show this area as land – why they haven’t been updated to show it’s now marsh I don’t know).

Past this area of flooded land I’m now back on the route marked on the map and beside the marshy water once more. On reaching the head of the marsh I can continue along the sea wall to turn back to due east towards the sea (but not for long).

I’m now heading for Old Hall Marshes. This is a narrow peninsula of marshy land, more than 2 miles wide but no more than half a mile tall. It appears uninhabited and devoid of any buildings on the map. I assume it is used as grazing land or farm land.

Soon the path meets the end of the road heading out to the marsh at Old Hall Farm. This is the last building I’ll be seeing for a while!

Old Hall Farm

The path now continues on the sea wall out onto this marshy land. I can see now the tide has come in as I look along the creek and can see water rather than mud.

Old Hall Marshes

Looking inland I can see sheep so my hunch about it being used for grazing looks to be right.

Old Hall Marshes

About half a mile further on I’m surprised to find a large area of water to my left (again, not marked on the maps) and the muddy creek on my right, revealing a large area of mud flats. As a result, the path is largely a causeway now!

Old Hall Marshes

There are some wooden structures heading out from the shore to the mud flats. They seem to have been used, at some point, to enclose sections of the water, though for what purpose I’m not sure.

Old Hall Marshes

They look like they are not used any longer, though I know the Blackwater estuary is famous for it’s salt, so perhaps it was related to that.

At Joyce’s Head I turn to head south for a short while, alongside the sea wall where there is water again, and a ruined boat (you can see it sunken and half sideways below).

Old Hall Marshes

The land to my left is a little drier now and seems to be used for grazing sheep which are settled just below the sea bank path.

Old Hall Marshes

Soon I’m heading east again, along the north side of Tollesbury Fleet, though there is little activity to be seen. It is a rather featureless walk, just the sea bank, marshes to my left and mud and creeks to my right.

Nearing the far end of the marshes a little sand spit seems to have formed.

Old Hall Marshes

Beyond that I can see the houses of Mersea Island, only a short distance as the crow flies but still over 10 miles to walk!

In the distance on the other side of the estuary I can see another familiar landmark, Bradwell nuclear power station.

Old Hall Marshes

This bit of the walk is lovely, there is more to see now with the boats moored up in the creeks (now I have reached deeper water), a Thames sailing barge going by and the bird life on the marshes.

Mersea Island from Old Hall Marshes

Zooming in in the distance I can also see a beach and beach huts out on Mersea Island.

Mersea Island from Old Hall Marshes

I’m looking forward to getting there, it is such a long time since I’ve seen a proper beach having spent the last 12(!) walks entirely around marshes and creeks.

In fact I suspect the land I’m now one was once part of these creeks as to my left is Pennyhole Fleet which looks like a creek but the far end has been blocked by the sea wall the path I’m following runs along, so it’s now a sort of long thin lake.

Old Hall Marshes

I’m now heading back west along the southern bank of the next creek, Salcott creek and there are a lot of boats moored just off the marsh. Somewhere out there is another marshy island, Sunken Island.

Old Hall Marshes

The tide is coming in now so it is hard to make out, but I assume it’s the green marshy land between me and Mersea island in the distance.

In the distance I can see some gentle hills which a look at the map suggests is the village of Great Wigborough.

Great Wigborough

The tide has really come in now, it was surprising how quickly it did so and I’m now walking beside water rather than mud, which is now lapping at the bottom of the sea wall.

Salcott Channel

Between me and the open water are a huge number of marshy little islands. I suspect this is what all the land around would be like if it was not for the sea wall keeping the area to my left drained of water.

I’m getting near to Salcott now and soon pass a sign facing the other way, which if I look at the other side welcomes me to the Blackwater Estuary (which I guess I must therefore be leaving) but it does tell me that the Old Hall Marshes where I have been walking are owned by the RSPB and has numerous important designations such as a “Natura 2000 site” and “Ramsar Site”, whatever those things might be.

Salcott creek

A short distance ahead and the footpath along the sea wall ends. There is a lot of road walking ahead, but first I need to cross the farm land to Salcott. I’m pleased to see that the farmer has made the route of the footpath very obvious and made a clear line that is clear of crops. Well done!

Footpath near Salcott

This brings me to the end of the road in the small village of Salcott. It has a pretty church which is obviously well looked after as a man is cutting the lawn as I pass.

Salcott church

Just passed the church there is another footpath off to the left. This is the point where I turn back to Tollesbury as there is no bus service to Salcott (the nearest is on the B1026 to the west of the village). The path initially heads over an area of grass so neatly mowed it looks more like a football pitch, but without the lines.

Salcott

Beyond that it heads across a large field with a distant view of the Blackwater estuary.

Oddly ahead, the footpath on the map is marked as going right over a small pool of water. I walk around the edge of it instead, to pick up a farm track and then turn off it back over the fields. This is not the most interesting walking as the fields are vast.

Near Tollesbury

In a little over a mile I can emerge from the fields to a minor road, the other end of Old Hall Road. Here I turn left and on meeting the “main” road it is odd to see that the road to the left is called Back Road whilst to the right it is North Road. The next section though is not pleasant.

I have almost a mile of road walking. Although not a classified road there is still a fair bit of traffic and no pavement. In places there are hedges beside the road, but much of it is open with small grass verges going straight into the fields, which at least provides a way to get out of the way of the traffic.

It is a relief to soon reach the edge of Tollesbury and the safety of a pavement. I pass the Hope Inn (since closed, demolished and replaced by flats) and continue past the pretty cottages of Tollesbury to head back to the square where I parked.

The Hope Inn, Tollesbury

Tollesbury

This was a pleasant walk, but not the most interesting or varied either, as it was mostly following sea walls beside marshes and mud. But it was nice to see the views of Mersea Island and the bird life of the Old Hall marshes.

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

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181. Maldon to Tollesbury

May 2007

It’s another walk alongside marshes and creeks as I follow the northern side of the Blackwater estuary back towards the sea to the village of Tollesbury.

Public transport links are sparse in this area, even Maldon – a sizeable town – does not have a railway station, so I’m travelling by car. This time I aim to arrive in Tollesbury in time to catch one of the few busses into Maldon so I can then walk back to my car without worrying about the time or missing the bus. I’m also a bit reluctant to park in Maldon again after incident last time where someone crashed into the car I parked next to, almost pushing it into mine. The roads were busy on the way but there were no major hold ups, it just takes a little longer than I had expected to reach Tollesbury from the A12, as it’s quite far from the A12 at the end of a long B-road.

When I reach the main square in Tollesbury I am in time to catch the bus but surprised to see it is already parked up in the square and waiting. So I hurriedly park grab my bag and head for the bus in case it leaves before I can get there, but I make it in time. My fellow passengers are mostly pensioners heading to Maldon (presumably for shopping) and the conversation on board the bus is all about Madeleine McCann, who went missing a day or two before I did this walk (and still has not been found, more than 10 years on).

A little under half an hour later and I have reached Maldon. I get off in the High Street and follow the road down to the bridge over the Blackwater, this being the lowest point you can cross it (without your own boat, anyway). Although Maldon is a very pretty town, the harbour area is rather industrial and the tide is out, leaving mud flats and just a shallow channel of water.

The Blackwater in Maldon

There is no footpath initially so I have to carry on along the road. For half a mile this heads through the middle of an industrial area, with warehouses all around, though there is a row of houses right beside the road, with industry all around them, it’s not somewhere I would want to live. Just before a roundabout ahead I can turn off on a footpath.

This takes me south east through the industrial area, but with a small area of marsh to my left. This soon opens up to a wider area of marsh, where the path goes along the top of the sea wall to end up on the north side of the marsh.

Heybridge Creek

I can look back to the pretty part of Maldon and the tall church tower I can see above the buildings along the water front. The path I’m on seems to be a man-made causeway over what I suspect was once a mill pond. It’s all silted up now, but there is a building that looks a bit like a mill at the far end.

Heybridge Creek

This is Heybridge Creek and  as is so often the case in this part of the world, the bank is lined with boats, some in good condition, others seemingly abandoned and some rather make-shift wooden planks heading out to the boats.

Heybridge Creek

Thankfully the path is better than these planks and heads along the edge of a bank between the creek and some housing behind. When the housing ends, there is a large and pleasant lake to my left. This is long and quite thin, and spreads for over half a mile towards the estuary. For such a large body of water I’m surprised to see it isn’t named on the map.

Lake in Heybridge

At the start of it there is a car park and then a good gravel path that I’m following on the top of the sea wall between the lake and the estuary. As I head further east I can look over to the pretty quay area in the centre of Maldon, behind the various sails of the Thames sailing barges that line the water front. I liked Maldon very much and it’s nice to see it again.

Maldon from Heybridge

I’m also surprised at the scale of the church in comparison with the rest of the town. It is not a cathedral, but it suggests Maldon was (I think still is) a wealthy place.

Lake in Heybridge

Looking back over the lake I can see more sails and masts to my left too. This is the Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation. This is a canal (or more a canalised river, if that’s a word) that links the mouth of the Blackwater with the city of Chelmsford, around 15 miles inland. Like most canals it’s use now is entirely leisure and there are a lot of boats moored up along it’s banks. There are quite a lot of birds to watch on the lake too.

Heybridge

I continue to enjoy the ever-changing view of Maldon on the other side of the estuary as I progress and see it from different angles.

Maldon from Heybridge

Maldon from Heybridge

Soon I round the corner, to start heading north east, as the Blackwater makes a sharp turn to the right and the footpath follows it. Ahead I can see the mouth of the Chelmer and Blackwater and once again the banks of the river are lined with all sorts of different boats. Nearest me are some abandoned and rotting wooden hulks, but further on I can see a Thames sailing barge and what looks to be some sort of military boat.

Rotting boats at Heybridge

In fact the whole bank between me and the mouth of the canal seems to be made up of rotting boats, very rapidly returning to nature.

Rotting boats at Heybridge

I continue on the path until I am alongside the military boat. This turns out to be a retired “fast attack craft” called Defender that is I think being restored and behind it a more traditional Thames sailing barge.

Heybridge Marina

Looking inland, Heybridge Basin is a very pretty place.

Heybridge Basin

There is a welcoming looking pub and some brightly coloured clapper-board houses. Thankfully as I hoped there is a path across the lock gate at the mouth of the canal, so I can cross the canal without having to head further inland.

(A couple of years ago I decided to walk the length of this canal from Chelmsford to the coast. It was a nice walk and I decided that as it was an old canal towpath it should be easy going, as these towpaths were designed for horses. This turned out to be a mistake, it was a mud-bath and I remember slipping and sliding most of the way along a very muddy path, as it was winter).

Looking along the canal I can see the numerous masts of the huge numbers of boats moored along the length of the canal. It’s a lovely view, with the masts of the boats reflecting in the ripples of the water.

The Blackwater and Chelmer Navigation at Heybridge Basin

Having crosses the canal I continue north soon passing another pub, the Jolly Sailor next to another marina. Heybridge is bigger than I realised as there are several roads of houses beyond this, then a brief area of greenery and the large Blackwater Sailing club.

The Blackwater estuary at Heybridge

The path goes around this and heads into what looks like an artificial cut of the river as the bank is suspiciously and un-naturally straight and there are what look like old sea-walls out in the marsh, beyond which is Northey Island.

Across the water I can see a pretty old mill of some kind (I found out later it’s maltings).

Old maltings near Heybridge

The creek here is full of more ruined and rotting boats as I walk around the back of it.

Marshes at Heybridge

I passed the old Maltings and onwards past a little lake that seems to be surrounded with chalet-style houses. Out in the estuary there are numerous boats now moored up.

Heybridge

It feels like I’m nearing the open sea again now. I start to see a bit of beach rather than mud, though it is a mixture of shingle and muddy sand.

Mill Beach, Heybridge

There is another hint I’m nearing the sea too, since there is a massive caravan park just to my left.

Mill Beach, Heybridge

At the end of the caravan park I come to the causeway leading to another tidal island (I’m surprised just how many islands Essex has, I’d only heard of Canvey Island when I started walking the coast).

Osea Causeway

At low tide you can walk out here but the tide is coming in now and only a few metres of the causeway is above the water, so it is not possible to walk out there today.

In fact at the time there was no (legal) access to Osea Island. Osea Island has an interesting history. During World War I it was the site of a coastal motor torpedo base with as many as 2000 sailors based on the island. It was used again and occupied by the army during World War II. Later on it was used for filming.

More recently, in 2005 it became a rehabilitation centre specialising in the treatment of addictions and alcoholism, which is what it was being used for when I walked here. For this reason it was strictly off limits to the public and there were warning signs against attempting to access the island. Despite this Peter Caton did visit the island and wrote about it in his book No Boat Required, where he visited the tidal islands around the British coast. I remember that he was discovered and escorted off the island, but did get to see a fair bit of it before he was caught (I recommend the book). I gather a number of celebrities came here, including the now late Amy Winehouse, which perhaps explains the secrecy. However it did not last. In 2010 the nurse managing the centre was suspended and pleaded guilty to running an unlicensed hospital and the judge was reported to have said the standards at the centre “would really shame a third world country”. I guess another reason for the secrecy!

These days I think it has changed hands again and it is now a “Luxury Island Holiday Resort” so it is possible for the public to get to the island but it does not come cheap as even the smallest property on the island you can rent (which sleeps 2) comes in at over £350 for 2 nights (the minimum). So sadly this isn’t an island I’ve been able to visit.

Having passed the causeway the path continues on the sea wall, which winds it’s way past a number of little inlets and marshy areas.

Near Decoy Point, Heybridge

Inland, across fields I can see the tower of the church in the village of Goldhanger.

Farmland near Goldhanger

After a mile or so there is a thinner and longer inlet which I suspect is man-made and was probably once a harbour serving Goldhanger.

Creek at Goldhanger

It is quiet now and I can see the pretty church a few hundred metres away behind hedges inland.

Goldhanger Church

Continuing around the creek I am soon back beside the Blackwater again.

Creek near Goldhanger

At the end of this there is a sand-spit heading out quite some distance into the estuary and it makes me wonder how it has formed and if it is natural or man-made.

Marshes near Goldhanger

Briefly black on the Blackwater after about 100 metres the sea wall heads back around another marshy little inlet at the head of which is a grand house.

Joyce's Farm, near Goldhanger

The map only shows “Joyce’s Farm” here but this does not look much like a farm. If it is, I’m guessing it must be very profitable if this is the farm house!

A sign here tells me this is Joyce’s Marsh and tells me that this was a marshy area drained to create farmland in the 1970s and there are plans to return it to it’s former marshy state which will benefit wintering wildfowl.

Marshes beside the Blackwater near Tollesbury

Rounding the corner I am again back on the Blackwater but there is another area of marsh just ahead, Gore Saltings. Here there is a hole mixture of marshy islands and old rotting wooden structures.

Marshes beside the Blackwater near Tollesbury

Marshes beside the Blackwater near Tollesbury

Soon the path straightens out so I make quicker progress heading east as the Blackwater continues to widen.

Tollesbury Wick Marshes

In places the marshes is mixed with a few small shingle beaches.

Tollesbury Wick Marshes

Ahead and on the other side of the estuary I can make out another familiar landmark, though not a pretty one – Bradwell Nuclear Power Station.

There is a small creek to go around just ahead and then I’m onto a large area of marshland that forms a peninsula, Tollesbury Wick Marshes.

Tollesbury Wick Marshes

A sign tells me I’m now following the Tollesbury Heritage Trail that goes around the edge of this marsh. One of the things I learn, which surprises me is that just ahead there is a pier which was once the terminus of the Kelveldon and Tollesbury Light Railway which opened in 1907. Given the remote location it was, unsurprisingly, not a success and closed to passengers just 14 years later in 1921, but it does wonder why they ever thought it might be a success!

I soon pass the remains of this old pier now just a grassy bank with a World War II concrete Pill box at the end.

Old Tollesbury Pier Station

I walked along for a closer look, but there wasn’t a lot more to see, really.

Old Tollesbury Pier Station

Onwards and the marsh had numerous rows of wooden posts going over it, the purpose of which I’m not sure.

Tollesbury Wick Marshes

I liked the patterns formed by the little muddy islands sticking up above the water.

Muddy islands in the Blackwater Estuary

Muddy islands in the Blackwater Estuary

Across the estuary I was now nearly opposite the Nuclear Power Station and it was certainly not any less ugly from this side of the estuary.

Bradwell Nuclear Power Station

At the end of the marsh there was a sand bank creating a little sandy island just off sure and I wondered it this was somehow caused by those wooden posts I passed earlier and they were acting as some sort of coastal defence. Not sure.

Shinglehead Point near Tollesbury

At the far end of the spit I could see over to West Mersea on Mersea Island. As the crow files, it is less than 2 miles. But it is more than 15 miles to walk there, because of all the creeks I have to go around to get there.

Tollesbury Wick Marshes

Rounding the corner again I’m soon starting to go around the first of these creeks, Tollesbury Fleet. By now, having been overcast all day the weather is improving and the sun is beginning to break through which makes this last part of the walk more pleasant.

Marshes beside Tollesbury Fleet

It has bought the boaters out too, as there are numerous yachts making their way down the channel, adding a touch of colour.

Marshes beside Tollesbury Fleet

Inland the land is a mixture of marsh, water and islands with sheep grazing on the drier parts.

Tollesbury Wick Marshes

As I’m nearing Tollesbury I see an unusual and very interesting ship ahead.

Lightship at Tollesbury

This  is a light ship and there were once numerous examples of these around the coast, acting as essentially mobile lighthouses though I don’t think any are in service any longer. This one looks to be lovingly cared for now, whatever it is used for.

A short distance ahead and I have reached Tollesbury Marina. As I’ve said before, it seems all towns and villages on the coast of Essex have a marina! It is a well used, too.

Tollesbury Marina

Tollesbury Marina

From the Marina I follow the road inland for about half a mile to Tollesbury, past the old Mason Hall which I think is now part of a school and back to the square, with it’s pretty church. It seems a pleasant village.

Tollesbury Church

This was another walk of marshes, mud flats and creeks, like so much of Essex. However there had been a lot of interest on the way (much more than I had expected), the paths had been good and the terrain and walking easy, so it had been a very enjoyable walk even if the scenery had not been spectacular.

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

Hedingham bus route 95 : Tollesbury – Tolleshunt D’Arcy – Goldhanger – Heybridge – Maldon. This bus runs 5 times a day Monday – Friday, 4 times a day on Saturday. There is no service on Sunday or bank holidays. It takes around 25 minutes between Tollesbury and Maldon.

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

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180. Northey Island

June 2017

When I walked the part of the Essex coast around Maldon in 2007 I came across Northey Island. The island is accessed via a causeway which I began to walk out, but a National Trust signed warned that there was no public access without a permit which had to be obtained at least 24 hours in advance. So I didn’t visit the island and planned to come back on a later date.

Roll on some 10 years(!) and that latter date arrived – I finally got around to visiting the island. The island is owned by the National Trust but it is not generally open to the public. Instead to access the island you either need to telephone in advance and make arrangements or attend on one of the (rare) open days (usually a weekend in September every other year).

To arrange access you need to telephone the warden of the island on 01621 853142 and make arrangements to visit. You should do this at least 24 hours before you plan to visit. Generally it seems to be possible to visit providing the warden is there and you can find a suitable time when the tide is low.

I telephoned on Friday with the intention of visiting on Sunday and this was fine. If you are a National Trust member, admission to the island is free, otherwise it is £2 (paid to the warden on arrival) and £1.50 extra if you would also like a copy of the leaflet and map.

Having arranged a time to visit I was told to report to the house on reaching the island. I drove to Maldon. It was a very hot day, with temperatures around 30 degrees and it was a hot and sticky drive up since the air conditioning in my car does not work very well any longer. I parked in Maldon at the Promenade Park as advised and followed the path along the shore south, as I had done on my previous walk. Since I was last here, the National Trust have erected a sign pointing the way from the main facilities of the park, which was handy. On reaching the salt marsh I stopped to put on some sun screen as it was mid June so I knew that I would burn quickly otherwise in the strong sunshine. This was those 4 weeks or so when it looked like we were going to have a great summer.

As I did so I watched a family head out to the marshes and start to walk into the mud to try to reach other areas of the marsh. It did not seem very sensible as they could easily sink into the damp mud! Having sorted out sun cream I headed over to the island, soon reaching the causeway.

Northey Island Causeway

Inland the track meandered over fields.

The road inland from Northey Island

This is because the residents of the island can drive to the island. From the information leaflet I got on the island it seems the public used to be able too, since it showed a car park here at the end of the causeway but clearly it does not exist any longer. Though there is now an information sign, which also was not here last time I came.

Northey Island sign

The tide was low enough there was no water even close to the causeway so I had no problem walking over, but there was plenty of sand and mud alongside.

Mud beside the Northey Island Causeway

On reaching the island, a sign warns access is for permit holders only, which seemed a bit odd, as I didn’t have a permit!

Northey Island Causeway

The track headed along the west of the island. Tree-lined, it provided welcome shade and there were enough gaps in the hedges on the left to provide fine views over the estuary, where I could see plenty of the pretty Thames sailing barges and other boats.

Marshes on Northey Island with the Blackwater Estuary beyond

Marshes on Northey Island with the Blackwater Estuary beyond

Marshes on Northey Island with the Blackwater Estuary beyond

At the northern end of the island the track turned right and a barrier blocked off the salt marshes ahead, a sign warning it was dangerous. I was a bit surprised on reaching the house, that there was a pond on the right and an interesting looking stone wall around it, but the sign ahead warned this was private and that the path around the island went to the left.

Northey Island pond

I started to follow this but the house was now to my right and I realised this must surely be the house I was meant to report to, to meet the warden. I headed back to the private sign and telephoned the number. This started dogs barking and I could hear them on the phone too once the warden answered, I was clearly in the right place!

She came out and introduced herself, took payment (I am not a member) and offered me a leaflet and map of the island for £1.50 which I took up. She also showed me the toilets I could use on the side of her house and offered to fill water bottles if I didn’t have any already (but I did). It was a nice welcome. I was then left to make my own way around the island and back to the mainland.

The island now is roughly ¼ of the size it once was. Originally sea walls were built all around the island, but these were breached during the late 1800s causing much of the island to flood. Now only the south west corner is protected by sea walls, the rest (around 3/4) is all tidal salt marsh now.

Marshes on Northey Island

The sea wall path was easy to follow and had fine views over the salt marshes. I was passing intiailly behind the two houses. One the warden lived in, the other is used as a holiday cottage.

Soon I reached a brief part of the now dead-end old sea wall that could be followed ahead, but it was difficult underfoot so I soon gave that up.

Marshes on Northey Island

This side of the island was exposed to the sun, but I decided to sit here for lunch anyway, it was such a peaceful spot. Once finished I continued around the short path around the island.

On the south west corner of the island the origianl sea wall was moved back about 15 years ago to create more marsh – so the island is continuing to shrink!

Northey House, Northey Island

Cattle were grazing on the field here. Soon I was back at the causeway – the path around the island is only around half a mile.

The Blackwater Estuary from Northey Island

Having completed my navigation of the island I returned over the causeway and back to the mainland. This time I took a different route back to Maldon continuing ahead on the track to the farm (it’s also a a footpath) and going through the gate, then turning right on a footpath that headed back to Maldon. This took me past quite a lot of new housing over what was once fields. A shame to see ever more of the countryside being built over.

Nothey Island was an interesting little island, though a long way to come for a small place like this – which is why I then had a plan for the rest of the day, to head onto Wallasea Island. It was to be a day of island hopping! I knew that too had changed a lot since I first came here in 2006 and I wanted to see the difference for myself (you can see my post about Wallasea Island here).

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

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