291. Great Oakley to Manningtree

I had a free Saturday and so decided to do a day’s walking in Essex. Like parts of western Scotland, you can do a lot of walking only to appear on the opposite side of a loch or river estuary. So today I would appear less than a mile away from Felixstowe, which I passed through some 3 walks ago!

I drove very early from Shropshire and parked  in Manningtree. I caught the 07:35 #104 bus service and got off in the small village of Great Oakley. It was slightly overcast and slightly chilly when I started to walk out of the village assisted by quite strong tail-wind. I walked past Great Oakley hall and then cut around a fieldto geton the main road for 100 metres before following an access road down to the marshy shoreline. The reasons why I had to come so far inland was due to the access restriction of walking around the Bramble Island area due to the previous manufacture of explosives and lack of alternative footpaths.

It was not long before I joined up with the sea wall, which soon met the Essex Way, a footpath that I would spend most of the day on. I continued into towards Harwich walking past a series of brightly coloured beach hits. Harwich’s position at the mouth of two rivers gives it a prominent position in terms of maritime and naval history. Passing two recently restored cast iron lighthouses I soon came upon two more – the High and Low Lighthouses; with the High lighthouse the grander of the two being built from brick. In fact, Harwich is somewhere I would like to return to particularly in visiting the historic sites around the town. I turned the corner around Old Harwich and headed back into the town. I was heading for The Hangings, a cycleway that follows the line of the old dismantled railway track into the town and which avoid walking along the busy A120.

Heading down to the shoreline near Little Oakley
Heading towards Harwich with Felixstowe Docks in the distance
Restored lighthouses in Harwich
Stena Hollandia setting out from Parkeston Quay bound for Hook of Holland
The Low Lighthouse now used as a Maritime Museum
The High Lighthouse
The Treadmill Crane in Harwich
The Ha’Penny Pier
Looking across The River Stour to Shotley Gate
The Hangings

I emerged close to Parkeston Quay, where much of the land is taken up by Port of Harwich. I continued down a road that headeing towards the Ferry terminal, a destination for  the Hook of Holland. Before I entered the ferry teerminal, I turned left and followed the Refinery road past a security barrier(this was a right of way) and then along a rough track between the oil refinery / rail track and a golf course. I opted for minimising the amount of road walking on this trip, as the roads appeared to be busy and had little or no verge. I headed slightly inland to the village of Ramsey, before turning back along fields towards the nature reserve at Copperas Wood. I joined the River Stour and could see that the tide was well in and I could not walk along any of the shoreline. In some places the Stour is over a mile across and is very impressive.

Where I had a tailwind walking in to Harwich I now had a strong headwind walking out! So much so that the Stour was very choppy. The walk along the Stour riverbank was very easy, although I had to divert slightly again inland to Wrabness, as a number of signs indicated that the public footpath had been washed further up and that hut owners wanted their privacy respected. I passed the charming church of All Saints, with a wooden cage housing a church bell cast in 1854. The original roof and tower were destroyed in the 17th century. After the churchyard I had seen a sign adverting Woodland Burials, I did not think anything of it at the time, but a mile further on, while walking down an avenue of young trees I noticed a series of small plaques with the names of deceased. The size of the plots meant that these were the final resting place for people that had been cremated.

It would have been nice and a lot shorter to stay on the shoreline all the way back to Manningtree, but looking ahead I could see that I would run out public footpath and the ability to walk on the shoreline. I could join up with the road, but decided against that. Instead I followed the Essex Way into the village of Bradfield and out again passing over fields to the small hamlet of Mistley Heath. From there I followed a good footpath across fields skirting a large new housing development on the main road in Mistley. Mistley was once a large grain processing centre, but today the Edme flour mill and Crisp malting’s are the only remaining representives. I arrived at the odd-looking Mistley towers, odd until you get up close and see that the main body of a church has been removed with the addition of a set of columns to give the towers a symmetrical appearance.

I arrived back in Manningtree glad for the walk to have finished, as it taken me 7.5 hours; still, I was pleased to have done a minimal amount of walking on main roads and it had remained dry all day!

 

Continuing along Refinery Road through the security gate
Looking across the Stour in full tide to the Royal Hospital School on the opposite bank
The Bell Cage in All Saints churchyard Wrabness
The 1854 bell within the bell cage
Woodland burial plots near Wrabness
The Mistley Towers

Distance today = 23 miles
Total distance = 5,302 miles

 

 

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