314. Barling to Canewdon

I have set myself the target of walking a minimum of 3 days in England and 3 days in Scotland each month, which would hopefully see me complete my challenge later this year. As I had already walked 5 days in January, I just needed to get a single walking in, so I decided on a day’s visit to Essex. Doing a single days walk driving from Shropshire can be quite hard on the body with 7 – 8 hours of driving coupled with a 5 – 7 hours walk. The good news is I am finally nearing my completion of the Essex coastline, which has been frustrating in terms of linear progress down the coastline.

Today’s walk would involve a large amount of sea wall walking and some small sections of road walking. Because of the bus schedules I decided to reverse my usual direction of travel by driving to and parking in Canewdon. From there I caught the 08:01 #60 bus into Southend-on-Sea and then catching the 09:07 #14 bus to Barling. I had a bit of a scare when I arrived at the bus stop where I would catch the #14 bus, in that I could not see the service number on the timetable. I knew it was the correct stop because I had checked it on Google Streetmap and Traveline. Anyway I caught the bus ok and was glad to get out of the wind which was a freezing cold.

I got off the bus in Barling Magna and headed towards the Church, with its small spire sitting atop the main square tower. I joined the sea wall at Barlingham Creek, which fed into another channel called The Violet which in turn fed into the River Roach which I would be walking around today.
The thing to understand about the coastline of Essex, is yes, it has a number rivers, some of which confluence into larger estuaries and contribute to the 350+ miles plus of Essex coastline, but what adds to the difficulty of walking around these rivers are the numerous creeks, channels, inlets, pools, streams and smaller rivers that feed into the River Colne, Stour, Blackwater, Crouch and Roach and must be walked around!

I was fortunate to have the stiff breeze with me at the start of the walk, but as I reached the River Roach at Barling Ness I now headed  into the freezing breeze. I was essentially walking around Barling Marsh, which appears to be a large landfill site. I headed westwards along the sea wall before turning inland near Mucking Hall, as the public footpath on the sea wall ceased. I plotted a route along public footpaths, crossing over a miniature small gauge railway track that seemed to have fallen into disrepair and then along the odd short section of road. This worked well and I soon arrived at the outskirts of Rochford.

At Rochford I had to negotiate getting around a large boatyard, a large disused industrial site, a household recycling facility as well as crossing over The River Roach. I was surprised how easy this was, especially as the maps were not so clear. However, I managed to get over the Roach and continue  along the opposite bank and start making my way eastwards and with the breeze now at my back. I had been following The Roach Valley Way, but at Bartonhall Creek, which required a 1.5 mile detour inland, the Roach Valley Way disappeared inland. I continued along the sea wall, which was a bit rough in places.

The church at Barling Magna
Barlinghall Creek at low tide
Looking across the River Roach to Paglesham Eastend
Looking westwards towards Rochford
Heading westwards towards Rochford
Small gauge railway near Sutton Hall
Small gauge railway near Sutton Hall
Crossing over the Roach near Rochford
At the head of a 1.5 mile detour around Bartonhall Creek
Back on the Sea wall alongside the Roach heading eastwards

To the north I could see Canewdon, where my car was parked, it was quite tempting to head straight for it, but I had planned to continue walking around The Roach. I carried on along the river and soon arrived at the Jetty, with a few river boats/home moored alongside close to the village of Paglesham Eastend. After a kilometre I left the left the Roach and headed along Paglesham Creek. At this time I was rather fed up with walking along the sea wall, so I headed across footpaths towards the village of Paglesham, with its delightful church and clap-boarded cottages. I joined up with the Roach Valley Way for a short distance then made a direct line across filed paths and a quite road back into Canewdon.

 

Houseboats near Paglesham Eastend
Old boathouse near Paglesham Eastend
Zooming across Clements Marsh to Burnham-on-Crouch
Clap-Board houses in Paglesham

Distance today = 19 miles
Total distance = 5,747 miles

 

 

 

 

 

310. Bradwell to Burnham-on-Crouch

I was looking forward to today’s walk mainly because it involved no road walking. I should say that I don’t mind road walking per se, walking along even busy roads with wide verges or quiet backroads can be quite appealing. The real danger is the B-roads which are generally straighter, busier,  faster and with few, if any, verge or refuge areas, particularly in this part of the country.

Today I would actually be filling a gap in my progress around the Essex coastline, or to be more precise the Dengie peninsular, which is one of three peninsula’s running east-west and bounded by rivers north and south. The Dengie peninsular has  the River Blackwater to the north and tothe south the River Crouch. At its eastern boundary is the North Sea and with the  sea wall running its entire length it is probably one of the most isolated parts of Essex.

The only real concern I had with today’s walk was getting from Burnham-on-Crouch, where I had parked, to Bradwell Waterside. The only bus service was the Dart 4, which I had issues with when I last tried to use it. My concerns were allayed when I arrived at the Clock Tower in Burnham to see two Dart minibuses waiting at the bus stop. By 09:00 I had been dropped off close to the Sea wall at Bradwell Waterside.

I set off along the sea wall walking towards the Bradwell Nuclear Power Station. Bradwell had been decommissioned back in 2002 and was now shrouded in white cladding giving the appearance of two gigantic storage barns. I was amazed at how small the site was, but dismayed to learn that a new power station was in the design stage for possible commercial operation by 2030.

Walking along the sea wall was very pleasant, with short cropped grass and little if any mud. I gradually bid goodbye to The River Blackwater and with it the view over to West Mersea on Mersea Island. I soon arrived at what appeared to be a large stone barn, which in fact, was the remnants of a monastery built in 654AD by St. Cedd. The building called St. Peters on the Wall Chapel was built on the site of a Roman fort called Othona, with most the fort had been lost to the sea over the centuries.

Bradwell Nuclear Power Station
The hulls of old boats chained together to help prevent coastal erosion off Sales Point
St Peters Chapel
Inside St. Peters Chapel
Inside St. Peters Chapel

The next 10 to 12 miles was quite an isolated stretch of the coastline, with the actual shoreline about 300 metres away over salting’s. The area was quite featureless and flat, with occasional drainage outfalls being  a key indicator of where you were on the wall.  I later came across a book online called The Essex Coastline – then and now by Matthew Faultley & James Garon, now out of print but available free to read online.

https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Hwl1Tefe1q4C&pg=PA5&source=gbs_toc_r&cad=4#v=onepage&q&f=false

I discovered reading the book that this area was used as a bombing range during the Second World War, with little evidence of that today. The book provides a tremendous amount of information on the Essex coastline. As the salting’s gave way to a proper shoreline I continued along a concreted section of the sea wall, wide enough to drive a car along. I was now near Shell Bank, which was true to its name with the shoreline made up entirely of cockle shells. By the time I reached Holliwell Point I had entered the Crouch Estuary and could look across to Foulness Island. Owned by the MOD I could see a series of red flags flying and it was not long before I heard a series of very loud explosions coming from that direction.

By this time the sun was out and the day had a lovely spring feel to it, although the low sun was blinding as I walked into it. I passed a series of Pill boxes from the Second World War that had been built into the sea wall itself. I did wander which came first, the sea wall or the pill boxes, but the “Polderisation” of this land had been going on for centuries. I also found that in true Ministry fashion the hexagon shaped pill boxes had a design classification namely – Fortification & Works (FW3/22).  One of the fortifications was a very strange construction, built on the marsh side of the wall it had to be built high enough to see over the sea wall. Jon Combe, fellow coast walker, described it as resembling a Dalek – I would not disagree.

As I approached Burnham-on-Crouch, I could make out the high rise buildings of Southend -on-Sea, a sign that the Thames estuary lay just beyond. The path also became increasingly muddy, principally from dog-walkers. I walked along the quay into Burnham, with its small collection of cosy pubs and buildings. Perhaps one of the best Essex walks to date.

Crepuscular Rays falling over the Dengie Marsh saltings
Shell Bank
On the sea wall looking out towards the North Sea
Looking south towards the high rises of Southend-on-Sea
Looking along the Crouch estuary
Exterminate!
FW3/22 Pillboxes built into the sea wall
On the quay in Burnham-on-Crouch

Distance today =18 miles
Total distance = 5,665miles

 

 

309. Battlesbridge to Canewdon

My first walk of the new decade! I wanted to make a positive start to 2020, which meant getting some days in on the Essex coast. I’ve decided I’m going to try and do 3 and 3, 3 walks in Scotland and 3 in England in each month. Because  today was a Sunday I needed to work around the public transport issues, this meant making use of my bike.

I drove to and parked in the small village of Canewdon. I took my bike from the back of the car and got all my lights working, both on the bike and on my head! It was 07:00 and still dark, but I only had a 7km to cycle to the nearby town of Rochford. After locking my bike up I took the 07:56 train to Wickford, I then had a  45 minute wait until I caught the 09:06 train to Battlesbridge. I was only on the train to Battlesbridge for 4 minutes, so it was that close!

Today’s walk involve some sea wall walking and a large inland diversion. I set off down the road to Hullbridge, but first crossing over the River Crouch, which was now but a small stream at low tide. For the next kilometre I would be walking along a busy road, even for 9’oclock on a Sunday morning. There’s just a lot people that live in this neck of the woods. Even more annoying the road did not have a verge in some places. I was glad to join the Sea wall and continue along the banks of the Crouch. I passed along the river front of Hullbridge and soon sat opposite to the slipway  at South Woodham Ferrers.

Crossing The River Crouch at Battlesbridge
The Crouch at Battlesbridge with sluice and mill visible
At Hullbridge looking across the Crouch to South Woodham Ferrers

I continued along the river, for a short distance before I began the long inland diversion. This was because about a kilometre downriver the sea wall had been breached, living the sea wall footpath high and dry with nowhere to go. So I needed to return towards the main road I had left about 40 minutes ago. However, the amount of road walking I needed to do was about 3.5km and with no verge in many places I needed to head further inland along quiet roads and footpaths. I managed this ok, but it did take me into the town of Hockley and was almost twice as long as if I had walked along the main road. After passing through the village of Ashingdon I had just a short 150 meter section of road to negotiate before I headed off across a footpath towards South Fambridge, but not before some “muppet” pipped his horn at me for god  knows what reason and as I was clinging to what verge there was! Not very pleasant at all walking along these road sections, dangerous with all the Sunday drivers out and about!!

I re-joined the River Crouch again at South Fambridge and it was nearly all sea wall walking for the rest of the walk. I passed a granite memorial to Fambridge Airfield, which no longer exists and was only up and running for less than months in 1909! It was similar memorial to the Tain  memorial I passed by last yaer. Although it was still only 14:00, it was incredibly dull and dingy, but the sea wall was predominantly dry and I made good progress. As I neared Lion Creek the sea wall turned inland a bit. Lion Creek marked roughly the boundary of Wallasea Island, which I was not setting foot on as the footpaths, I had read, are rather ‘sketchy’ and incomplete.

I was now heading back westwards towards Canewdon and to minimise the road walking I found a few footpaths which took me almost back into Canewdon. I was back at the car by 15:00 and all that remained to do was to change my footwear and head back towards Rochford to pick the bike up again.Then onto Southend and my bed for the night.

Not an enjoyable Sunday stroll.

A rare glimpse of sunshine falling on St Peter’s and St Paul’s churrch near Hockley
The Spa, now a pub, was originally built as an hotel to cater for visitors to the nearby Hockley Spa Pump Room, the Spa ceased in 1848
Fambridge Airfield memorial
Looking across the Crouch to North Fambridge
Looking across to the Marina on Wallasea island, Burnham-on-Crouch is just visible on the left
The remnants of Lion Wharf on Wallasea island

Distance today =18 miles
Total distance = 5,647 miles

 

 

 

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

 

303. Mersea Island

I don’t normally walk around tidal islands, but Mersea is certainly different. And the reason why I chose to walk around it was its size, the fact it has a village and one small town on it and really it’s not that tidal! The causeway linking it to the mainland is called The Strood and only floods at high tide and even then only when high tide is over 5m. I have seen a lot of YouTube footage of cars, cyclists and pedestrians passing over the Strood at high tide. However, I was still mindful that today there wasto be  an high tide of 5.19m at 14:18 and I certainly would not risk driving through it in my car.

I made a very early start from the Travelodge I had spent the night at. There had been a very hard frost overnight and it took a good tem minutes to defrost my car. I drove towards Mersea and parked near The Strood on a rough car park on the island. Because I was doing a circular walk, it did not matter really where I parked. But the deciding factor was that I still had almost 2 miles to link up with a previous walk along the B1025 towards Langenhoe Hall. First I needed to circumnavigate the island.

I set off from the car park walking in a clockwise direction. The ground was frozen and although still only 6:45 the sky was clear and quite light with the heavy frost all around. The start of the footpath from the road and still marked on the OS map is wrong, with the sea bank breached a few years ago. The new path was really overgrown for the first mile. When I joined up with the established path it was very easy to walk on. I kept up a good pace, which kept me warm and ensured I did not panic too much about high tide. It was extraordinarily beautiful walking along the sea bank on this frozen morning. It was not long before I had turned off my head torch, as it was no longer needed. I was following the Pyefleet Channel with the water level quite low as there was still almost 1.5 hours to go before it was low tide. On the opposite bank of the channel I could see the warning signs for Fingringhoe Firing range which I had walked around a few walks back.

I soon approached Mersea Stone and the Colne estuary were I could look across to Brightlingsea and Point Clear. From this beach a summer foot ferry runs to both of these destinations. I turn around the tip of the island and soon take to the shore along a line of clay cliffs about 4m in height. I come across the carcass of a grey seal, I was expecting there to be a bad smell, but there wasn’t and I hurry past.

A different view now opens up with the angular grey shapes of the Bradwell power station drawing the eye and the white-washed houses of Tollesbury visible in the distance. The beach walking becomes more difficult, with the soft sticky grey clay now prominent I revert to the sea bank. I pass a holiday walk and amazed that a whole stretch of the sea defences have long since been destroyed. It looks to me like they were not constructed that well. I come to another section of the path where the path disappears at the top of the sea bank and there is a flooded section to try and walk around. I took a few minutes trying to get back onto the small sandy bit of the beach, over rubble from the sea wall.

I meet other walkers now, mostly walking their dogs as I enter West Mersea. Because, I stay on the beach I do not see much of the town. I make a quick detour to visit St Peters Well, which was to put it mildly – disappointing. Just some decking and a plaque! By this time it had begun to rain, not heavily, but verging on sleet. The footpath out of the town was already quite boggy from its constant use. As I near the road I pass a chap who is foraging for herbs. He is a chef from Mersea and is collecting Purslane. I had heard about this plant before, but was surprised when I read further of the associated health benefits of this ‘free’ food.

I arrived back at the car and I had over 3 hours before high tide. I now had to link up with a previous walk 2 miles up the B1025. As I did’nt intend to walk there and back I had brought my bike with me. I pushed my bike along the footpath over the Strood until I came to a footpath which veered off and away from the road. It was easy pushing the bike along the sea bank and after about 1.5 miles I turned off to an unsigned footpath back toward the road. When I reached the road I had  joined up with my previous walk. The road was very busy in both directions. I would have  hated to walk along this road as there was little or no verge. I cycled back along the road to the car, it only took 1o minutes and  I had now  ‘plugged’ this gap.

Early morning on a frosty Mersea
Onto the sea bank at Maydays Marsh, the wooden stakes were probably to reduce erosion at the channel apex or a means to catch fish using the tide
Heading eastwards
Looking across the Colne Estuary to Bateman’s Tower and Brightlingsea
A Wigeon near Mersea Stone
On the beach below the clay cliffs heading SW
Destroyed sea defences
Destroyed sea defences near West Mersea
Digging for bait or food on Mersea Flats with Bradwell Power Station across the Blackwater Estuary
St Peter’s Well – a underwhelming experience!
Crossing The Strood

Distance today = 14 miles
Total distance = 5,523 miles

 

302. Tollesbury to Maldon

We have had some dreadful grey and wet weather throughout November, so the chance of two days walking in Essex without rain was very appealing. But first I had to organise an overnight stay somewhere.

I have been using Airbnb for a while now, particularly in the far north of Scotland. They had provided great value for money in those areas where available accommodation is both thin on the ground and sometimes excessively expensive. However, my ‘love affair’ with Airbnb is now over for two reasons. The First, is that I pay Airbnb using PayPal, no money is exchanged between myself and the person letting the room. Airbnb required that they keep my PayPal login details, they say to “save me having to do this, each time I pay” – hardly an onerous chore! What you can do on your online PayPal account is to examine all of the Active automatic payment firms and when I did this on my account I found a number of firms having automatic payment access through my PayPal account. I considered this a potential security threat so I made all of this access Inactive. This included Airbnb. So when I finally found an Airbnb place to stay last week I went through PayPal to pay them. I then had to go through a protracted process to actually pay them AND had to make active future payments automatic. My main gripe here is not having the choice and dealing with an agency that makes it very difficult to pay unless you allow automatic payments. The whole purpose for having and using PayPal is for a degree of protection from firms having your credit card details. Anyway, I made the payment and cancelled the automatic payment again. However, I was not allowed to complete the transaction without a mandatory requirement that I submit an ID check, in the form of a photograph of my passport or driving licence. This was the final straw, I cancelled my ‘pending’ booking’ with them. They had my PayPal login details and other personal details, details that even my own bank does not have! I doubt I will be using them again, which is a shame really because I did meet some very interesting people on some Airbnb stays.

I booked a single night in a Travelodge, which was actually cheaper than the Airbnb. So enough of yet another rant about something I feel quite strongly about.

I left Shropshire very early and this time tried to do something different by avoiding the  lower reaches of the M1 and M25 traffic. I thought I would hop across country heading SE after Bedford setting up route points to ensure my sat Nav pointed me in the right direction. It worked quite well until I passed into Hertfordshire and came to a road that was closed throwing me and the sat Nav out. However, I still arrived in Maldon at a similar time to that if I had gone further south.

For my first day I had opted to continue on from Tollesbury to Maldon, leaving until the following day the gap I had left behind at Mersea Island. I parked in an industrial area of the neighbouring town of Heybridge, then walked the mile into Maldon. As I entered the High Street I was approached by a BBC Radio Essex reporter. He was seeking to gauge local opinion about an FA cup tie that was taking place in the town later that evening, when non-league Maldon & Tiptree took on Newport County. The game was sold out and was also to be televised live on National TV.

I caught the 08:35 #95 bus to Tollesbury and  made good time. By 09:00 I was making my way around the marina in Tollesbury. The morning was lovely and sunny, with only a few clouds in the sky to be seen. Today’s walk would be almost entirely along the sea bank. The sea bank provided excellent underfoot walking conditions, being for the most part dry and with short grass. In no time I arrived at Shinglehead Point where I had great views across to Mersea and  Bradwell on the shore of the River Blackwater. Apart from the odd dog-walker I had the Sea bank to myself.
After passing around the Tollesbury Wick Marshes, I was almost back at Tollesbury, albeit a short distance to the south. I was now heading upstream along the River Blackwater. The sea bank here, although easy to walk on was never a straight line, making numerous incursions, which made for a more interesting walk. Because everything here is quite low-lying it is always difficult to know what is mainland and are islands. Looking down the Blackwater I could now see the privately-owned 385 acre Osea Island emerging in the distance.

After passing a large caravan park I began to meet more and more walkers on what had now become the sea wall as I drew closer to Heybridge. Here the River Blackwater made a sharp turn around another tidal island called Northey, owned by the National Trust. Passing behind numerous boatyards and marinas I walked over the locks of the Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation. The Sea bank was now just a short distance across The River Chelmer from the historic town of Maldon. Its position on a small hill (38m) is probably what gave it status and prominence over the centuries. After 18 miles this was the end of today’s walk.

Looking back to Tollesbury from the Sea Bank
Looking across to West Mersea from Shinglehead Point
Looking across the Blackwater to the decommisioned Bradwell Nuclear Power Station
Looking west down the River Blackwater
Brent Geese on the Blackwater shores
The nearby village of Goldhanger
Recently updated and refurbished beach huts with a difference near Heybridge
Looking across the Heybridge Basin towards Maldon
Crossing over the Chelmer Blackwater Navigation
The gaff-rigged fishing Smack “Telegraph” built in 1906 in Boston Lincs.
The Moot Hall in Maldon high street

Distance today = 18 miles
Total distance = 5,509 miles

 

 

 

298. Langenhoe Hall to Tollesbury

I have set myself a target to complete my coastal walk in 2020. To achieve this I will need to walk at least 5 days each month. At the moment I am hoping to do at least 3 days in Scotland and 2 in the South East. The first two weeks of November had seen torrential rain, which had kept me indoors and added to my frustration at not being able to get out.

I opted to do a single days walk in Essex and decided that I would skip my original planned trip to walk the island of Mersea and instead do the next sequential section onto Tollesbury. The reason for this was the high tides of 5m+ meant that the causeway road – The Strood- linking Mersea to the mainland would be under water when I expected to finish my walk. I would therefore wait a couple of weeks until the tides had dropped to below 5m.
Having read other “coasters” accounts of the section I had planned today it was apparent that footpaths near the coast were few and the roads had little or no verges for safe refuge from the busy traffic. I decided to minimise the road walking to three short sections, using the available inland footpaths.

I drove to and parked in the small village/town of Tollesbury at the free car park close to the coast. I walked into the town and caught the 07:50 #50 bus into Colchester, where I only had a short distance to catch the 8:46 #67 bus towards Mersea. I got off the bus where I started my last walk from – at Langenhoe Hall. The weather was a beautiful sunny autumnal day, with few clouds in the sky and a gentle breeze blowing. My first section of road walking was about half a mile. The road was busy and I managed to make use of a narrow verge. I set off across fields using the fairly well marked signs. I soon made the village of Peldon, where I encountered the second section of road-walking, just over a mile, although not as busy, I had to be alert, constantly crossing the road to get the best and safest side to walk on.
At Little Wigborough I set off across fields leading towards the church at Great Wigborough. The church stands on a hill and although the land is 25m at this point it does give a commanding view over the low-lying farmland and marshes. I continued on field footpaths passing through Hill Farm and then back down to the third and final road section, which was just less than a third of a mile. From there I set off down another footpath taking me towards the village of Salcott – here I met my first obstacle.

Heading over fields near Peldon
Looking down a Salcott Creek

I knew that I would need to pass through a working farmyard, but on arriving at the stile I was confronted by a marker direction pointing somewhere entirely different to the map, a council letter and map tie-wrapped 12″ from the ground – which I had to bend over the stile and read upside down! I got the gist that this was another famous Essex Council diversion, but the map was virtually impossible to read and understand. I crossed over the fence and headed towards a sea bank that contained Salcott Creek and followed this around the periphery of the farm before emerging at the other side. Apparently this was in preparation for the England Coast Path. I suspect that the Essex Council footpath people are idiots and do not have a clue when it comes to displaying signage or imparting diversion information to normal people!

I arrived in Salcott and spoke to a chap, who sounded foreign – Australian in fact; he pointed to the house he was born in – about 30 metres away and said the house behind him was the one he had built some years ago. He said that most people thought he sounded Australian, but he was Essex born and bred.

I set off towards Old Hall Marsh, a large nature reserve that jutted out into the Blackwater estuary bounded by Salcott Fleet and Tollesbury Fleet. I would be walking along the sea wall almost in a complete circle. The walking in the afternoon sunshine was a delight and the short grass footpath was very easy on the feet. Towards the east, the small town of West Mersea, was visible and but a short distance off across the Virley Channel. To the south across Tollesbury Fleet and The Blackwater I could see the blocky incongruent shape of the disused Bradwell Nuclear Power Station, which I would be walking past over the next three walks. At the tip of the peninsula I spoke at length to a bird watcher, I had been keen to know if he had seen a Marsh Harrier, he said yes and there was one back along the reed beds. On my walk back towards Tollesbury I met a few more bird watchers, but try as I did, I did not see a Marsh Harrier. I suppose you need to just stay in one spot and wait, something I am not particularly good at!

I walked around the head of Tollesbury Fleet, still on the sea bank. I passed someone carrying a gun, although sheathed he was heading to the part of the marsh with no public access. I soon found the turn-off back to the car walking past the sewage works. The journey home was slow – I really need to take 2 days walking on future trips.

Looking back towards Salcott from the sea bank
Brent Geese in Salcott Creek
Looking across Virley Channel to West Mersea
Looking down Tollesbury Creek to Tollesbury
Looking across The Blackwater to Bradwell
Twe old Lock-up or Cage in Tollesbury
The square in Tollesbury

Distance today = 16 miles
Total distance = 5,433 miles

 

297. Langenhoe Hall to Brightlingsea

I decided that I would need to reverse my walking direction today as I could see no legal or safe place to park my car near Langenhoe Hall. I left my Airbnb in Colchester very early and drove the short distance back to Brightlingsea. I caught the 07:56 #62 bus service into Colchester and alighted near to Colchester Castle. I had about twenty minutes to spare so I managed to find a Greggs and got myself a sausage/bacon bap and a cup of coffee. I then caught the 08:06 #67 bus towards Mersea and got off on the B0125 at the road end to Langenhoe Hall. There was already a queue of traffic behind the bus and I knew that this area was notorious for no footpaths or verges, which I would have to contend with on my next visit to the area.

I set off eastwards towards Langenhoe Hall, walking through a large farmyard and then onto farm tracks. I was heading towards the Fingringhoe Firing ranges where I would walk around the periphery of the range on a designated footpath …or so I thought. I noticed that new infrastructure had been installed and I soon reached a very confusing set of arrow directions. I managed to find a footpath that continued onwards north, but soon came to a kissing gate that in fact had a padlock on it. I was now close to the main entrance to the firing range. I could see no further way north, a chap emerged from the buildings and told me that the path had been diverted some time now, so I headed down the approach road for a few hundred meters to pick up the path again. As I was doing so a car pulled up and I spoke to the Range safety Training officer. We talked awhile and he said he would take a look at the confusing directions that I mentioned to him. I asked why the diversion was in place and he said it was to move the path off MOD land as part of the England Coast Path route. We both agreed that the local Council should have put diversion maps / notices at various locations, also the OS should have amended their online 1:25k maps.

I continued around the firing range and onto the small village of Fingringhoe, where I joined a road, which again was quite busy. Just after the village I descended a farm track past an old mill and crossed the Roman River then walked across fields into the village of Row Hedge. I walked through a huge building site in Row Hedge and emerged on the banks of the River Colne on the opposite bank to Wivenhoe, which I would be passing through in a couple of hours. The walk into Colchester was along the levee above the River Colne. The footpath was hard-core and I made excellent progress to the first bridging point in Colchester, or more precisely Hythe.

Walking around the Fringringhoe Firing Range
Crossing The Roma River at Fringringhoe
Looking across the River Colne to Wivenhoe from Row Hedge
Walking atop the levee above a low tide River Colne
Black-Tailed Godwit near Colchester
An old Lightship now used by the local Sea Cadets in Hythe
Looking back down the Colne at Hythe

I crossed the Colne, which because it is still tidal was no more than a small stream. I began heading southwards along the Colne. On my left was the large campus of Essex University which dominated the skyline. After two miles I entered Wivenhoe. I tried to get a closer look at the Wivenhoe Tidal barrier, which was built 20+ years ago to prevent tidal-surge flooding up river, but a security fence prevented me getting too close. I continued along an excellent footpath along the river which seemed to be very popular with walkers, runners and cyclists.

I soon reached a subsidiary of the Colne – Alresford Creek which I would have to walk around. On the OS map a ford is marked, but I suspect it has been many years since any one last crossed over the creek by foot. There have been a number of 4×4 crossings. This YouTube footage from 2008 shows a plough device on the front of a land rover moving the mud away. I suppose with waders on I could have crossed on foot and saved some mileage!

I continued eastwards along the northern shore of Alresford Creek towards the tidal mill on the B1027 near Thorrington. After reaching St. Andrews church on the outskirts of Brightlingsea, I had a bout of laziness and decided winding my way through a myriad of roads, lanes and paths out to the sea bank at Alresford was not for me, preferring to take a more direct route back to my car.

 

Looking across to Row Hedge from Wivenhoe
The Colne Barrier at Wivenhoe
Looking down The Colne, now at high tide
Alresford Creek ford
Tidal Mill at the head of Alresford Creek
The Millenium Oak at Brightlingsea
Batemans Tower at Brightlingsea, with its slight ‘lean’ to the right

Distance today = 16 miles
Total distance = 5,417 miles