I was looking forward to this walk as it would be the first walk I’ve done in Essex for many months which is alongside the sea rather than an estuary, river or creek. I’ve picked a good day for it too, as it is a lovely summers day.
I opted to travel by train taking the train into London Waterloo, the tube to London Liverpool Street and a train from there to Clacton-on-Sea, where I ended last time. I notice that the train company calls this route The Sunshine Coast Line and it’s certainly living up to that name today.
My train arrived on time into Clacton and I headed for the sea front, passing the very grand town hall on the way.
It often seems to be the case that the grandest building in a town or city is a town hall and that certainly seems to be the case in Clacton.
The street from the station to the sea front is lined with the usual sea front attractions – gift and beach shops and amusement arcades.
I soon reach the sea front though there isn’t much in the way of beach as it’s around high tide.
I turn left to head north, with the sea on my right. There isn’t any beach at all along this stretch. Instead the sea is right up to the sea wall which is lined with odd shaped bits of concrete which I assume help to act as coastal defence by breaking the waves.
The walk is easy along a flat concrete promenade with low grass-lined cliffs to my left.
It is busy around the pier but it soon gets quieter as I head away from the main facilities into the more residential parts of the town.
Soon the promenade is lined with beach huts though they feel rather out of place without any beach – the sea is right against the sea wall though despite this a few people are swimming.
The sea seems unusually calm too, just gently lapping at the steps.
The line of beach huts is briefly interrupted by the Gunfleet Sailing Club but beyond this it’s back to the beach huts.
It is a hot and quite humid day and the pier is already disappearing into the haze.
Even though it is a sunny Saturday in August (and therefore the school holidays) I’m surprised how few of the beach huts are in use. I do wonder when some of them ever get used.
At some point, it’s hard to tell when exactly, I’ve moved from Clacton-on-Sea to Holland-on-Sea. The latter seems a strange name, after all Holland is part of the Netherlands which is just across the English channel from here so it feels like the name is in the wrong country.
I soon pass an information board that informs me I’m on the “Clacton to Holland” walk. It tells me nothing about the walk and instead is all about the virtues of walking and sounds a bit like a lecture rather than something which might be interesting. The last bullet point instructs “If your job is office bound do this route at lunchtime while you are eating lunch”, which sounds like a recipe for indigestion.
Due to the lack of the beach some of the beach hut owners have set up chairs along the promenade instead.
However as I get further along there are now small areas of sand at the base of the sea wall and so people are starting to settle on the beach rather than the promenade.
As I’m nearing the end of Holland-on-Sea there is a large mast ahead with some satellite dishes at the top, though I’m not sure what it is used for.
Now I’ve reached the end of the built up area and entered Holland Haven Country Park. The path and promenade continue ahead even though I have left the town, which is welcome. Inland the view is of flat marshes though with some gentle hills in the distance.
I can see some information boards inland too, but I stick to the coast rather than explore the country park.
Here there is a choice of upper path, along the top of the sea wall or a lower path, also concrete below it. The latter looks rather dull as the sea wall is high enough you wouldn’t be able to see the sea, though I suppose it might be preferable if there is a strong wind coming off the sea.
Zooming in inland I can make out the village of Great Holland with it’s church tower.
Soon the country park ends, to be replaced with Frinton golf course.
Frinton is famously well-to-do. Historically it was just the church and a few farms but in the late 1800s Richard Powell Cooper had created this golf course and stipulated the quality of housing to be built in the town and also prohibited boarding houses and pubs. The town attracted many well known figures including Winston Churchill who rented a house and the Prince of Wales who played golf at the golf course. The first pub opened in 2000. The manually worked level crossing gates often cut off the town from the rest of the world and there were protests when Network Rail removed them and replaced them with automatically operated gates.
Soon I reached the edge of the town and the first buildings were more beach huts.
These were of a design I’ve never come across before though. Approached off the promenade each had it’s own gate into a little terrace whilst the huts themselves are raised up on a platform above the beach.
Presumably the idea is that the well-to-do residents don’t have to put up with people walking in front of their huts, whilst protecting them from the sea.
As the tide had now gone out I opted to walk along the beach which was more pleasant than the promenade, as the beach huts blocked the view of the sea from the promenade.
As I continued further north the raised beach huts ended, to be replaced with the more usual design at the back of the promenade.
I continued along the coast, sometimes on the promenade, now I could see the sea, and sometimes on the beach. It was pretty busy on the beach and got increasingly so as I continued north. At some point I switched from being in Frinton-on-Sea to being in Walton-on-the-Naze, though the towns seem to merge together so I’m not sure where the actual border is.
The beach was lovely, clean soft sand and lovely clear (and quite warm) calm sea. I took my shoes off and walked in the edge of the waves, it is wonderfully refreshing.
Soon I came to a breakwater, Burnt House breakwater, where the sea reached the sea wall, so I had to put my shoes back on and head up to the promenade to continue. After the breakwater there was little sand again, just wet firm sand and so rather than sit on the beach the sea wall and beach huts were proving more popular, so much so that the beach huts were on 3 levels now, there were so many.
Ahead I was approaching the pier of Walton-on-the-Naze. Generally I like piers, but this pier would not win any awards for beauty or architectural merit, in fact I think it is the ugliest pleasure pier I have come across – a single long yellow painted building with what looked like an asbestos roof.
When I reached the pier I decided to walk along it.
First you have to go through the building, but this only occupies about 1/4 of the length of the pier. Beyond this it is unusually bare, no seats just a long wooden deck.
I walked to the far end, the town now seeming quite a distance away and disappearing into the haze. The pier is in fact almost half a mile long.
At the far end is a lifeboat station but not a lot else, the pier seemed to be mostly used by fisherman beyond the buildings.
Having explored the pier, it was time to walk back and continue along the coast.
The other side of the pier the promenade was lined with Victorian houses which I suspect were once all hotels and guest houses (many still were).
I mostly walked along the beach though as there was enough sand to make it easy most of the time.
The promenade was soon lined with beach huts again these accessed by little stair cases leading onto the beach. Soon I had reached the end of the town and come to the Naze, a spit of land which lends it’s name to the town. On the east side is the sea, whilst the north and west are surrounded by salt marsh and creeks – familiar features of the Essex coast.
The Naze offered something else I’ve not seen in a while too, proper cliffs. Though from the shape and profile of them it was clear that erosion is a big problem.
I headed down onto the beach pleased to be in more natural surroundings. Now away from the town the beach was much quieter.
I headed along the beach soon with the top of the tower visible inland. The tower was built as a navigational aid. The tower is privately owned now and mostly houses an art gallery, though it is possible to climb to the top. However from the beach there was no obvious way up other than turning back so I didn’t bother with it and continued along the beach.
Well I say beach but in places it it had turned to mud, presumably the base of the soft cliffs that had been eroded away.
It was clear how soft the cliffs are here, with evidence of cliff falls all along the coast and piles of soil and small rocks at the base of the cliffs.
I was also seeing World War II pill boxes and various other concrete structures from that time now some distance away from the cliffs and covered in sea weed – an indication of how far the coast has eroded in the 60 years or so since they were built, as they would once have been on the cliff top.
The cliffs got higher for a while, but as I neared the end of the spit they became lower again, with the remains of trees that had fallen over the cliffs, along with concrete foundations of some sort of building that presumably once stood here.
Near the end of the marshes the cliffs ended entirely, now with the sandy beach just backed by grass.
I made my way along the shore here and was pleased to find, as I had hoped that there was a proper path you were welcome to walk around the edge of the spit. The public right of way ended on the north eastern corner so I was hoping I would be able to continue along the north and western coasts, rather than turn back, as had turned out to be the case.
First I was passing cormorant creek which separates the Naze from an area of marshy islands beyond, known as Hamford Water National Nature Reserve.
Heading west to the north western tip of the Naze, I turned left to now head south alongside the much wider Walton Channel, which was lined with boats.
Looking inland, this part of the Naze was very flat, with the tower visible in the distance.
The path was pleasant, sometimes with some bushes between me and the creek but mostly good views over the many creeks and water channels that are known as Hamford Water.
After the noise and bustle of Walton, it was nice to be somewhere so peaceful.
Soon the sea wall path was a right of way again and I continued past a boating lake now just a couple of hundred meters from the beach, so I cut back across the thin strip of land to the beach.
Now late afternoon, the beach was noticeably quieter than it had been earlier and the tide was now much lower.
I stopped for a takeway near the pier and sat on the sea wall. It had been a good walk and it was lovely to be beside a proper sandy beach again after all that walking around creeks and estuaries!
After that I headed for the station at Walton-on-the-Naze. The rail route splits at Thorpe-le-Soken with a line to Clacton and another to Frinton and Walton-on-the-Naze. However the Walton side is only served by trains to Colchester, which stop at every station so I changed onto a faster train through to London at Thorpe-le-Soken. The train I took was a little late so I had to run to make the connection, as the guard kept one of the doors open for me.
I enjoyed this walk very much. It had a great variety, from the lovely sandy beaches lined with a promenade and beach huts around Clacton, Frinton and Walton to the more rural cliffs of the Naze and then followed by the creeks and marshes of Hamford Water. It had been so nice to be next to the sea, but I knew that next time it would be a long walk inland around the marshes to get around Hamford Water so I made the most of being next to the sea whilst it lasted!
Here are details of the public transport needed for this walk :
First Essex buses 7 and 8 : Clacton – Holland-on-Sea – Great Holland – Kirby Cross – Frinton-on-Sea – Walton-on-the-Naze. Every 15 minutes Monday – Saturday. Hourly on Sundays. It takes a little over 35 minutes to travel between Clacton-on-Sea and Walton-on-the-Naze.