Because it is now a 400 mile round trip to Essex I needed to fit at least two days of walking in, so I decided to book an Airbnb in Colchester.
I gave myself an extra one hour travel time from Shropshire and opted to take the M1 – M25 route that the Sat Nav offered me. The A14 was closed right at its start at the M6/M1 junction so the decision was an easy one to make. Unfortunately, there was an accident on the M1 that held me up for almost an hour – it was touch and go whether I would make my first bus. Fortunately, once past the accident I had a clear run and I was able to catch the 07:12 #62 bus from Brightlingsea to Wivenhoe. Here I caught a train to Clacton-on-Sea. I only just made the train because the bus had to contend with the morning commute traffic and various road works. I was a bit aggrieved and confused why the ticket machine would not accept my Senior Railcard. When I reached Clacton I went to the ticket office to query this. It turned out that my Senior Railcard is invalid on “Peak Time” journeys into and within the South East. I had never had any problems in the past with “Peak Time” travel in other Regions. I had always thought that Standard Anytime tickets which my Railcard allows for, means “Anytime” !
As I emerged from Clacton rail station, still fathoming what “anytime” meant it started to rain, I decided I needed a coffee and a sausage/bacon bap from Greggs! I set off down the Promenade where the rain gradually eased and stopped. I passed by a couple of Martello Towers which had been very prevalent along this stretch of coast. The next settlement I came to was Jaywick. Infamous for being desinated as the most deprived town in the UK since 2010, it was also known for appearing on a political advert for the Trump party in their US mid-term elections. Depicting a street which had all the elements of a “Shanty Town” I was keen to see the street myself. What I did see however, was an attempt by the Council to tidy the place up with all the short roads leading to the shoreline being recently paved and tarmacked – to be fair I’ve been to a lot worse places. Virtually all of the buildings in Jaywick are “pre-fabs” and while some are shabby and decrepit others are beautifully maintained and looked after – I suppose that is the same for most places in the UK. The two places that did look really scruffy were the next two settlements along the coast namely Seawick and Lee-over-Sands.
I was now heading along the top of the grassy sea bank, which began to head north into combined estuaries of the Rivers Blackwater and Colne, more specifically Brightlingsea Reach. Although the grass was wet, my feet were kept dry by my North Face Hedgehogs. I had hoped to make use of a road that ran down to Lee-over-Sands, but I suspected it was a private road, so I simply followed the sea bank around to the sewage works where the path turned inland. I knew that a large black palisade fence barred my way if I continued on the sea bank to Point Clear. I followed the footpath on to Wigboro Wick Farm, where I saw a small map attached to a finger post that indicated a couple of extra permissive paths, but which ultimately pointed back to the public footpath I was already on. I followed the farm lane north to a minor road which passed into the strung out town of Point Clear.
Point Clear is at the end of a small thin peninsula that juts out into the Colne estuary. The tip of the peninsula is called St. Osyth Point which is surrounded by a “Holiday Village”, what this means is unclear to me, except to say the number of decrepit pre-fab houses gave the impression of a really run-down place.
I turned eastwards following the shoreline of Brightlingsea Creek, the creek was very narrow with Brightlingsea itself just about 200metres away, but it would take me another 3 hours to get around this estuary to the other side. The sea bank I was on passed around into a subsidiary water channel called St. Osyth’s Creek. I eventually arrived at the first bridging point of the creek hoping to follow a footpath towards Howlands Marsh Nature Reserve. Unfortunately due to a combination of high tides and recent heavy rain the footpath was flooded and I could see no way of getting around it.
So I headed into the nearby town of St. Osyth passing the scaffold-cladded Priory of St. Osyth and onto the B1027 and out of the town. The road was quite busy, but I managed ok using a combination of intermittent footpaths and a reasonable verge. After a few miles I was glad to get back onto a proper footpath and continued along a farm track to Marsh Farm, then onto Marsh Farm House. I soon reached the outskirts of Brightlingsea and made my way through residential streets towards the marina and then onto my car.
I then drove to Colchester to my Airbnb. That evening I walked into the town to visit the local Weatherspoon’s, called The Playhouse, it was indeed once a theatre and still retained many of the original features from when it first opened in 1929.
Distance today = 18 miles
Total distance = 5,401 miles