Progress to Date

I thought it would be a good idea to have a visual representation of my progress to date in walking the coast of Great Britain. This is basically just a Google map of Great Britain with a red line indicating my progress, its rather crude, but does the job.

Just a few pieces of information:-

  1. For scaling reasons I cannot show the “Use of Ferries” sections in Devon/Cornwall/Dorset which I am currently walking when weather further north is not so good.
  2. I’ll up date the map every once in a while

 

 

308. Bradwell to Maldon

This should have been a fairly straightforward walk back along the southern shore of the River Crouch, unfortunately, it did not turn out as planned, although I got the job done in the end!

I drove very early from my Southend hotel to Maldon and parked up in Heybridge, where I had found free parking a few weeks earlier. I was catching the 7:34 #31X to Southminster, but was able to go into the local Greggs, which opened at 07:00 for a coffee and bacon/sausage bap. I got off the bus in Southminster High Street – this is where my travel plans began to go awry. Two days previously I had booked a seat using the Dart Service which would take me from Southminster to Bradwell Waterside, where I would walk back along the sea wall to Maldon. I had given my name and the place I would like to be picked up from and time which was 08:37. I waited with 3 other passengers (who incidentally were not catching my bus). About 11 minutes before my ‘bus’ was due I caught out of the corner of my eye a minibus fly past at speed with a taxi firm number emblazoned on the back. “No, that could not be the ‘bus’….could it?” I had given my name and place to be picked up, “surely the driver knew he had a fare to pick up?” I waited a further 10 minutes, then called number I had booked my seat on. A chap answered the phone and said he would just check with the driver. The chap came back and said that the driver was in Burnham with a flat tyre and was getting it replaced. Phew!! I thought, thank goodness for that at least I did not miss the bus. The chap said he would be with me as soon as he could. I waited another 90 minutes and called the number again for an update. It was a lady this time, who said she was unaware of any puncture. She then came back to me and said the driver would be with me straightaway. Fifteen minutes later the minibus that had come haring past me 2 hours ago stopped. From the front it was very difficult to see it was a minibus and not just another white van. I could see no bus markings at the front of the vehicle, just at the side. The driver immediately said he needed to have a compulsory one hour rest and was that ok? I said that I was walking back to Maldon and any further delay would mean I would be walking in the dark! I knew I was right on the edge with getting back to Maldon in the daylight. Annoyed he agreed to take me. I decided I would not argue with him, I needed the lift and I was not paying for it now. I asked the driver if he had got his puncture fixed. Grinning he said there was no puncture! I asked a few other questions and I gleaned he would not stop unless you put your arm out, he did not have a passenger manifest so would not know who’s being picked up where and when and he also told me I did not have to book – contrary to the official timetable. I finally asked him what Dart stood for. He didn’t know, but said they were just a taxi firm who took over the routes because other firms did not want them. Everything began to make sense now, a taxi company trying (and failing) to deliver a bus service and lying to its customers. The bad news is that I will need to get to Bradwell again in the next few weeks. I will have to re-think this as this taxi-firm operates a monopoly in this area – I may have to make use of the bike.

I got dropped off at the Bradwell Waterside and already I was playing catch-up. Although the sun was shining brightly I knew I would end up walking in the twilight. I started to examine my intended route to see if I could shave anything off it, as I set off at pace along the sea bank. I was heading for the small village of St Lawrence, composed mainly of holiday homes. I managed to walk along the foreshore around St Lawrence where I got talking to a dog walker. Forever conscious of the time I did not linger and set off at a brisk pace through the nearby marina. I then came to Stansgate Abbey Farm, this was/is the home of the Benn family, in particular Tony Benn. I’m not too sure if it remains in the family, but they don’t want you walking along the sea wall by their property so I had to revert to the beach or what there was of it!

Late morning at Bradwell Waterside
Passing through the marina at Bradwell Waterside
Looking back towards the Power Station at Bradwell
Heading towards St. Lawrence along the Blackwater
On the shore at St. Lawrence
looking towards Osea Island from the Marconi Marina

I re-joined the sea wall some distance past Stansgate farm. Soon afterwards I made the first of my route corrections, to try and shave some distance of my intended route. I followed a footpath into the small village of Steeple with its attractive church. I stayed on the road for about a kilometre before joining the St Peters Way trail as it entered the twin villages of Mayland and Maylandsea. I mainly followed the muddy back lanes behind the houses and was soon heading out of the villages. St Peters way continued west, but I continued to follow the Sea bank as it snaked its way north back towards the Blackwater. As I re-joined the River Blackwater, my feet began to hurt. I had been wearing my walking boots, which I had not done for a while, but the amount of mud I was walking through meant I had made the correct decision to wear them.

The sun was just dipping below the horizon and the light was fading fast. I passed the tidal road that led out to the small island of Northey. The lights of Maldon were on now and as the footpaths became increasingly thick with mud I entered Promenade Park on the outskirts of Maldon. The park was very busy even though the street lights were now on. I struggled past the moored Smacks alongside The Hythe, with aching feet and onto my parked car in Heybridge. My various attempts at cutting some bits of my intended walk had failed as I still ended up walking over 20 miles. And that was it for 2019.

The church of St. Lawrence at Steeple
The boatyard at Maylandsea
Looking across Mundon Creek towards Maldon
Looking back towards Maylandsea
The tidal road out to Northey island
Looking towards Maldon from Promenande Park (It was much darker than these photos show)
Tugs berthed at The Hythe in Maldon

Distance today =20.5 miles
Total distance = 5,629 miles

 

 

307. Burnham-on-Crouch to Battlesbridge

I decided I needed to get two more days of walking in, preferably along the Essex coast, to complete my travels for 2019. For the last two days  the weather in the south of England had been particularly wet, but I needed to get my days in before Christmas. Because one of the walking days would be on a Sunday, I would also need to select a route where public transport was available. The most logical solution was to skip ahead and use the railway service between Battlesbridge and Burnham-on-Crouch. Today was the Winter Solstice which meant that at least the daylight hours would begin to increase from this point on. I decided to maximise the amount of daylight availability by driving to and parking in Burnham-on-Crouch and begininng my walk in the very dull light of early morning. It had rained most of the way down on the drive from Shropshire, but the forecast was for a dry-ish day.

I started off on the sea wall, walking westwards along the banks of the River Crouch. It did not take long to realise there would be an awful lot of mud to plough through. I was wearing my trail shoes, gaiters and water-proof trousers which kept most of the mud and water at bay. I was soon walking into a stiff breeze, which together with the mud made for tough going.
I soon reached the small village of Althorne where the lump of Bridgemarsh Island appeared in the River Crouch. Although not really an island it was more a case of disparate salt marsh clumps with two channels of the Crouch running on either side. By the time I reached North Fambridge I had to make a 2.5km detour inland, as there is no footpath along the Crouch for at least another 2km. I followed the road north out of North Fambridge over a farm track and then crossing the railway track for the first time. When I came to the main road, the B1010 there was no way I was going to walk along that. With no verge in many sections and very heavy traffic, even for a Sunday morning, I chose to continue along a quiet lane towards Pantile Wood. Here I joined up with the old disused Maldon to Woodham Ferrers railway branch and now a bridle path. I was only on the bridle path for a short distance before I headed back towards the river estuary, following paths over fields.

Early morning looking back to Burnham-on-Crouch
Don’t have a clue what this is used for? [PS. I later learned from a friend that these contraptions are used for Frisbee Golf – How bizarre!]
Looking up the Crouch estuary
Brent Geese with Ringed Plovers amongst a flock of Dunlins
Heading inland

I crossed over the railway line for the second time at Little Hayes Farm. I then headed back onto the sea wall which carried me towards South Woodham Ferrers. I then entered Marsh Farm Nature Reserve, where I started to meet more dog walkers and the path became very boggy again. The car park was quite busy and sat just opposite the slipway to Hullbridge, just 70m across the Crouch, it would be possible to walk across the river at low tide and with waders on! I did spot some youtube footage of vehicles being driven across it.

South Woodham Ferrers appeared to be a huge mass of modern day homes, bounded by Fenn Creek, an offshoot of the River Crouch, which I still had to cross. I crossed over Fenn Creek at Woodham Farm and then the railway line for the third time. The whole area here was very boggy and very noisy with the adjacent A132 close by.

Is was not long before I had to cross the busy A132 which only took a few minutes of waiting. After passing a few nurseries I picked up the long distance 70+ mile Saffron Trail which runs from Southend-on-Sea to Saffron Walden. This trail led me across fields back towards the A132, which I crossed again and then the railway for the fourth and final time. I entered the small village of Battlesbridge and made my way to the railway station. I had about 35minutes to wait, which gave me plenty of time to clean myself up for the short train journey back to Burnham-on-Crouch. Although, the first bridging point of the river Crouch is at Battlesbridge, I was still some 150m away, but that could wait until my next trip to the area. All that remained was to drive the 26 miles into Southend-on-Sea to my cheap hotel room for the night.

Crossing the railway line the first time
Heading back towards the River Crouch
Back on the sea wall near Little Hayes Farm
Heading towards Woodham Ferrers along the Crouch
Looking across the Crouch to Hullbridge
Now following the banks of Fenn Creek
Crossing over Fenn Creek
Now on the Saffron Trail
Waiting for the train back to Burnham-on-Crouch at Battlesbridge

Distance today =19.5 miles
Total distance = 5,608.5 miles

 

306. Findochty to Lossiemouth

Today’s walk should have been a straight forward affair of simply walking along the coast, not so!

I had opted to walk this route in reverse because of the availability of buses, meaning I would be able to gain an hour of daylight by walking east to west. It also meant getting up very early and driving back to Lossiemouth then parking up. I caught the 6:38 #33C bus into Elgin and then the 07:00 #35 bus to Findochty. It cost £7.40 for the latter journey, probably the most expensive bus fare I have paid on my coastal walk. I knew that the bus fares in this neck of the woods would be expensive and I did look to buying a weekly Mega-Rider ticket. The total cost of the 6 bus journeys, I made on this trip, came to £26; a Mega-rider may have saved me money> I did look into this and found I would have been travelling through 5 or 6 zones and the online information did not cover the complexity of doing this. Anyhow, £26 is much cheaper than just a single taxi fare and the Stagecoach service availability in this area was excellent….so no complaints from me.

I got off the bus in Findochty and walked through the small fishing village. It was just getting light, but I could see my way around ok. In the far distance I could make out the twinkling lights of Lossiemouth. I crossed over a golf course and soon entered the outskirts of Buckie, passing the smaller settlements of Portressie, Ianstown and Gordonsburgh. Buckie is quite a large town and its port is still used to land fish and repair boats. The whole town is quite strung out along the coast, being composed of a number of smaller individual settlements. I passed through Buckpool and headed towards Portgordon close to the line of the old dismantled Highland Railway line.

I now left the small towns behind and set off towards the mouth of the River Spey at Spey Bay. The River Spey is one of great rivers of Scotland, being the ninth longest river in the UK, as well as the third longest and fastest-flowing river in Scotland and is still important for salmon fishing and whisky production. Today it was in full spate and difficult to see its main channel. I was able to cross the river via the old Garmouth railway bridge. The local golf club in Garmouth has borne the brunt of the Spey in flood having parts of its course washed away in the past. I walked through the small village of Garmouth and noticed a Polling Station – a reminder that today was the General Election (I had already voted by post).

Early morning at Findochty with the lights of Lossiemouth in the far distance
Cluny Harbour at Buckie
The old Highland railway line heading towards Portgordon
The rather drab harbour at Portgordon
The mouth of the River Spey at Spey Bay
The old Garmouth Railway viaduct across The Spey
Crossing The River Spey
Garmouth village
Polling station in Garmouth
Looking back towards Buckie with The Bin of Cullen visible
Oh bug^*r!
Looking towards Lossiemouth

I headed back the short distance to the coast and through the small village of Kingston. Here my coastal walk ended as I was confronted with a large sign that said that the footbridge at Lossiemouth was closed and to use Arthur’s Bridge on the B9103. This bridge was off my printed maps and I did not know if I could get there by walking along the coast. It was very frustrating not being able to make decision which would be the easiest, safest and best route to get me to Lossiemouth. I could see the houses of Lossiemouth some 7 miles away, meaning that I could walk all the way along the coast almost into Lossiemouth and then be thwarted by a bridge from the sand bar over the River Lossie into Lossiemouth itself. I asked a few people on the beach where Arthurs Bridge was, nobody really knew, so I was on my own. This had been the second time on this trip that I had experienced a missing segment of my printed map. My phone is a ‘bog-standard’ voice and text and I vowed that I would look at getting either a GPS with OS 1:50/1:25k or upgrade to a smart phone with an OS app. [I have since upgraded my phone with the OS subscription to use as a back-up to printed maps.]

I headed in land and knew the direction I needed to travel to get towards Lossiemouth. After 3 miles of road walking I picked up a signpost to Lossiemouth indicating the town was still 7 miles away. By coming this route I would have walked an additional 4 miles. I checked my watch, it was a bright day and I knew i would have enough hours of daylight to complete the walk. I eventually arrived at Arthurs Bridge, which was the first bridging point over the River Lossie. Not long after I came back on grid with my printed maps. The B9103 was quite busy, but had a reasonable verge for most parts.

I then had one of the most bizarre encounters of my whole coast walk and the first instance of ‘Road Rage’! As I was walking along a wide 2m grass verge, on the left hand side of the road, a white car stopped next to me sounding its horn and a woman wound her window down and said that I should be walking on the right-hand side of the road. She had obviously not noticed that there was no verge at all on the right-hand side! I blurted out that she should read the Highway Code, but to be quite honest, the guidance contained within it, is poor for pedestrians walking along roads with no pavement. Before I could get my next sentence out this mad woman drove off. What she also did not understand is that if I was walking on the right hand side, I would have been walking on the road itself and any vehicle approaching me would have had to slow down or stop if traffic was coming the other way. The whole encounter was over in seconds, but it really annoyed me. I could not believe that someone had sounded their horn for no reason other than to alert me to their intended rant, stop their vehicle in the carriageway creating an obstruction and then driving off. I had decided to call her Mad Lady of Lossie.

Soon afterwards I entered a forest path and I came upon a sign giving information about the Moray Coast Trail diversion. I could see that I could have easily walked along the coast and then cut inland towards Arthur’s Bridge. Soon after passing the cemetery I was able to follow a footpath all the way into Lossiemouth. I emerged close to the bridge that was closed and the cause for all the extra miles I had walked. I could see Heras fencing on either side of the bridge, the bridge looked complete and ok but obviously there must have been a valid reason for its closure. However, if i was starting my walk here I would have been sorely tempted to climb around the fencing and continue my walk along the coast.

Crossing The River Lossie at Arthurs Bridge
The closed bridge at East Lossiemouth

NB: I also publish all my Scottish Blog entries on the excellent Scottish Hills website, I use the same narrative, but larger photos and a few extra ones. They can be found here:

http://www.scottishhills.com/html/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=24783

 

Distance today =23 miles
Total distance = 5,589 miles

 

 

305. Kinloss to Lossiemouth

Today would be an easier day with virtually all coastal walking, with little road intrusion. My use of public transport over the days of walking would involve the use of two bus services on each of the three days. In order to make use of the available daylight I had to make an early start each day. From my hotel in Buckie I drove down the coastal road and parked up in Lossiemouth. There I caught the 07:07 # 33A bus to Elgin. I then caught the 07:53 #31 bus to Kinloss. As I travelled on the bus it began to rain quite heavily. I dreaded getting off the bus and becoming soaked even before my walk began. I had successfully dried gear from yesterday’s rain overnight in my bedroom. So I was relieved to see the rain cease just as I got off the bus in Kinloss.

The 2 miles to the village of Findhorn fortunately had a good footpath all the way, although there was little see there and I was soon walking along the sea wall out of the village and on the Moray Coast Trail. I looked down onto the beach and could see very little of it, consisting only of  large cobbles making up the shoreline, which would have been murder to walk along. After about 2 miles out of Findhorn I happened to look behind me and could see the sky getting very dark. By the time the bad weather hit me I had entered the fringes of a large forested area that followed the coastline in a long sweeping curve around to Burghead, the next town on my walk.

The last remaining Nimrod reconnaissance aircraft now in private hands and based at Kinloss. This particular aircraft saw service in The Falklands War and the Piper Alpha disaster
Entering Findhorn
The view along the coastline towards Burghead
Looking back towards Findhorn and being pursued by bad weather

The Moray Coast Trail disappeared inland but I was able to keep close to the forest edge next to the shoreline for most of the way. The forest also shielded me from the worst of the showery weather that that was blowing horizontal rain and sleet. Fortunately after 40 minutes the rain ceased and the sun came out for the rest of the walk.

I re-joined the Coastal trail and entered Burghead as the wind picked up coming in very strong across the Moray Firth. The sea was very choppy splashing waves over the sea wall, along the promontory that Burghead sits on. Once the centre of a large Pictish settlement, this small town is dominated by a large malting’s site and one of the largest drum malting’s in Europe which seemed to dwarf the rest of the town. Known as “Brochers”, the people of Burghead have a number of local customs and traditions, including the Burning of The Clavie. I joined the route of the old Burghead railway, which was a branch line of the Aberdeen to Inverness line, although the line to Burghead closed recently, the section onto Hopeman closed in 1957. I followed the cycle path out of the town towards the village of Hopeman. On the way I checked out a couple of holy wells, including St. Aethan and Braemou. I also came across something I had never seen before – a bicycle repair station composed of a rack to hold the bike, tools and a tyre pump. By the time I left Hopeman I felt very confident of getting the walk done in daylight.

Heading along the forest fringe towards Burghead
Squeezing along the beach towards Burghead
A very choppy Moray Firth at Burghead
Heading past the maltings at Burghead

I was now walking along a real coastal path which made for excellent walking. I started to hear the roars of very loud jet engines which told me I was nearing RAF Lossiemouth. The coastal path rose high above the shoreline with some impressive cliffs below me. I had brilliant views across the Moray Firth and to the lighthouse at Tarbat Ness. By the time I reached the lighthouse at Covesea Steading I had dropped down to the beach and would remain on the sand all the way into Lossiemouth. This had been a great day’s walk along a superb section of coastline, with the weather in the main being sunny and the wind at my back.

On the old railway route heading towards Hopeman
St. Aethan’s Well
A bicycle repair station
The harbour at Hopeman
Braemou Well
Looking back towards Burghead and Hopeman above a working sandstone quarry
Headings towards Covesea lighthouse
Large previously inhabited caves below Covesea Steading lighthouse
Heading along the beach towards Lossiemouth

NB: I also publish all my Scottish Blog entries on the excellent Scottish Hills website, I use the same narrative, but larger photos and a few extra ones. They can be found here:

http://www.scottishhills.com/html/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=24782

Distance today = 19 miles
Total distance = 5,566 miles

 

 

304. Nairn to Kinloss

I decided I could just fit in a three day trip to the NE coast of Scotland before Christmas. I managed to get a really good deal with a hotel in Buckie where I would operate from for the three days. My route up to the NE, on this occasion, would not see me travel up the A90 from Perth and not the A9. I would also be able to make use of the new bypass around Aberdeen. In the end it took me a lot longer than if I had gone up the A9. I think it was the many roundabouts around Dundee, the Aberdeen traffic and the state of the A96.

As I slept in my hotel room I could hear the wind outside, it sounded really rough. The following day I drove the 27 miles down the A98 and A96 to Kinloss, where I would end my walk. I caught the 07:41 #31 bus to Forres, it was an expensive 6 minute ride costing £3.05. I got off in the centre of Forres and then caught the 08:05 # 10 bus to Nairn. This was a 25 minute ride and cost £3.50. I got off the bus in Nairn and immediately headed for the harbour. I was very pleased and relieved that I would have a very strong tailwind for today’s walk. By the time I started walking it was quite light, but I was still concerned as I had originally planned to walk 20 miles today, which would be quite tight with the light available.

After passing the harbour I made my way down onto the beach. Most of today’s walk would be along the shoreline, with some forest tracks and a few miles of road walking. I had excellent views across the Moray Firth to the Black Isle and the Tarbat peninsular, with the lighthouse at Tarbat Ness flashing at its regular beat. For most of today’s walk along the beach and salt marsh I would have the Culbin and Lady Culbin forests on my right side. There would be few physical features to plot my exact position, however I did pick up an offshore sand bar, called The Bar. Where The Bar joined the beach I would be able to pin point my position. This position I later found out marked my transition into the Moray Council Region and out of the Highland council. I had been walking through the Highland Region for over 2 years since 2017 when I passed from Argyll & Bute in Appin.

I was now walking along an indistinct path on the salt marsh and I wanted to cross the marsh area and scale the line of sand dunes that now stood between me and the beach. When I reached the dunes I was able to look down their length and see that they provided a continuous line all the way along the coast……or so it seemed! My printed out 1:25k map seemed to indicate a continuous line, but I was missing out a crucial 1km square, which I did not include my print. I took a gamble and found that the dune was not continuous but had a 150 metre section where the sea had come into an inlet called The Gut. In fact I later found out that this was the old route of the River Findhorn, which was now located 5Km to the east. So this meant walking back some 3Km back along his spit of land, before continuing along the salt marsh at the forest edge. It also meant walking into the head wind which had been assisting me for most of the morning. I was really annoyed at having to re-walk the section, but I was more concerned now because the extra 3 or 4 miles would mean me finishing today’s walk in the dark and on roads!

I walked back and after about 1.5hours was back at a similar position but this time on the opposite side of The Gut. Another 45 minutes of walking saw me getting close back to the beach, but the path had disappeared and I spent a good 20 minutes trying to get through some 6 – 9ft broom down to the beach. Here I was defeated again, not by the Broom but the Dog Rose that was growing amongst them! Dog Rose is really nasty stuff and will destroy your jacket and trousers if you get caught by their barbed thorns.

Crossing the River Nairn near the Harbour
Looking down The Moray Firth towards the Black Isle
Looking towards the mouth of the Cromarty Firth with Cromarty on the left and Nigg on the right
Heading eastwards along the beach
Easy walking along the tidal sands with Culbin Forest on my right
The offshore sand bar
Looks can be deceptive and there is break in this dune line further up
About turn!
Large area of dead Silver Birch

I picked up a path of sorts and made my way through a large area of deciduous forest where every tree, nearly all Silver Beech, where dead. The trees were just a grey/white colour which contrasted with the dark green of the nearby conifers. I found the beach again, but with time marching on I decided I needed to get through the massive Lady Culbin Forest. I followed a forest track for some distance but then came to area where logging operations where underway. It had been difficult following the tracks seen on my map, because they had long-since disappeared. After fixing my point on the map I set a bearing on my compass that would see me emerge on the western banks of The River Findhorn. Walking through the forest was very easy as the trees were all Old Scots Pine and well-spaced apart. After 20 minutes I emerged near Binsness and the track that I wanted to be on. I soon picked up the public road just as a heavy squall blowing horizontal rain hit me. I was soaked and the light was now beginning to fade fast.

I headed down the road past Mains of Moy and then onto Broom of Moy, where I picked up the Moray Coast Trail. The Bridge or rather bridges, took me to the outskirts of Forres. Here I skirted the newly constructed railway station and passed around the Distillery for Benromach. I was now on quiet roads which would take me the 3 miles back into Kinloss. It was now dark so I donned my hi-vis jacket and put my forward facing Petzl head torch to strobe and another Petzl to strobe red at my back. There were a few cars along the road, but they were not driving fast and I made it safely back to my car.

Back on the beach for a short distance
Arriving on the banks of the River Findhorn
Crossing The River Findhorn near Broom of Moy
A lot darker than it appears while looking across Findhorn Bay towards Kinloss

NB: I also publish all my Scottish Blog entries on the excellent Scottish Hills website, I use the same narrative, but larger photos and a few extra ones. They can be found here:

http://www.scottishhills.com/html/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=24781

Distance today = 24 miles
Total distance = 5,547 miles