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

 

 

296. Clacton-on-Sea to Brightlingsea

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.

Martello Tower in Clacton
Recently paved and metalled road at Jaywick
Seawick
Lee-over-Sands
Many of the houses in Lee-over-Sands were built on stilts
Approaching point St. Osyth with Mersea island across the Colne Estuary

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.

Looking across Brightlingsea Creek to the town of Brightlingsea
A large Thames Barge at the end of St. Osyth Creek
Flooded section of path
St. Osyth Priory

Distance today = 18 miles
Total distance = 5,401 miles

 

 

 

295. Great Oakley to Clacton-on-Sea

Although the weather forecast did not look that good, especially as it was down to rain for most of the day, I thought I would give the walk a go. Generally, I’ve found that the BBC forecast can be a bit pessimistic! So today would be a day’s walk in Essex, which meant for an early start. Fortunately, the drive over from Shropshire was trouble free with no road diversions in place. There was also a bus service available in order that I could get to the start of the walk.

I parked on the seafront in Clacton-on-Sea and was careful to find the free parking section using Google Street view. I then caught the 07:57 #3 bus to Great Oakley. The bus service was run by a new bus company to me – Hedinghams and I was impressed to catch a bus at this time on a Sunday morning.

I could see that the area had had a great deal of rain overnight so I selected to walk in my boots, as opposed to my walking shoes. The first part of the walk was to circum-navigate the explosives factory at Bramble Island and keep off the roads as much as possible as they have little or no verges to walk along. I made good use of the available footpaths which were not very muddy and took me ultimately to the head of Hamford Water near Beaumont Cut. I did have a couple of short footpath diversions to contend with and was totally flummoxed by the 3 page “Council legalistic speak” on the notices attached to a finger post. I just gave up trying to interpret what they said  and just followed the pointers! I soon met a local chap out with his dogs and we had a nice chat about a number of things. I stayed on the sea bank for the next hour and a half as it snaked eastwards. I did have views out to the small islands of Skippers Island and Horsey Island, with the Felixstowe Dock cranes in the far distance. At Kirby Quay, I came inland quite a bit before crossing over a concrete dam and onto another section of sea wall that took me out to Peters Point. It was not long before the footpath turned inland again, this was at the start of the tidal road out to Horsey Island. I followed a lane inland to the outskirts of the small village of Kirby-le-Soken on the B1034.

The Maybush Inn Great Oakley
Council “Mumbo Jumbo” re: a footpath diversion
The sea bank at Beaumont Cut
Little Egret at Hamford Water
Skippers Island
Dam at Kirby Quay
The tidal road out to Horsey Island

I followed the road, on a footpath, into Walton-on-the-Naze. Here, after visiting an M&S Food hall for some snacks I joined up with the sea bank at Walton Mere, following the footpath around Sole Creek and past a holiday park. The official and marked public disappeared on the map, but it was obvious the footpath continued along the sea bank towards Walton Channel and Walton Hall Marshes. I was now walking the headland that is the Naze, which juts out into the North Sea. At its NE corner, I reached the actual coast, here my left foot started playing up, in particular the flexy part between my sole and toes. To make matters worse I was now heading into quite a strong headwind, which would be against me for the next 8 miles! And it started to rain and fatigue started to creep in! Grrrrr!

I was now heading due south and soon made a quick call to Naze Tower, a square brick building built in 1720 by the Trinity House to act as a day mark. I did not linger at the tower but continued on along the cliff top, feeling tired and trying to ignore my sore foot. I passed a multitude of coloured beach Huts, 4 deep in places that extended way beyond Walton and past Frinton-On-Sea. By the time I reached the Holland Haven golf club I was now walking along the sea wall proper. With the high tide the beach had disappeared and the sea was breaking along the base of the wall.

I could now see Clacton in the distance and I was wishing the walk would end soon. I passed through the small outlier of Clacton that is Holland Haven and then into Clacton itself. It was certainly strung out and I was desperate to catch a glimpse of the pier, because I knew my car was parked about 400m from it. When I did eventually see the pier it seemed miles off and for the next hour just didn’t appear to get any closer! The pain in my left had subsided some time ago, but the wind was still there. I eventually arrived back at the car, amongst the thinning visitor crowds as the late afternoon wore on. Not a bad days walking, but became rather mundane walking along the promenade.

At Peters Point on The Naze looking across to Felixstowe in the distance
The Naze Tower
Looking back at Walton-on-the-Naze pier
Heading along the Sea Wall at Holland Haven
The pier at Clacton-On-Sea
Martello Tower “F” with old Coastguard lookout at Clacton

Distance today = 23 miles
Total distance = 5,383 miles

 

 

 

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

 

 

284. Freston to Manningtree

It had been a few weeks since I had last been for a walk. This was due to the deteriorating health of one of our three dogs. Roxanne Tinkerbell Chutney was a rescue dog that had been with us for 13 of her 14 years. She was part of our family and she gave us so much in her life. Three days ago we had to make an extremely difficult decision, her condition had become bad and it was time to let her go. She will forever be in our hearts. Rest in peace my beautiful girl.

Roxanne Tinkerbell Chutney 2005 – 2019

I decided to do quite a long day on this visit to Suffolk, so I set off very early from Shropshire. As usual I had serious misgivings about catching a specific train from Manningtree, where I intended to park. The problem was the massive road works around Huntingdon and Cambridge, nearly every night the A14 is closed and diversions are put in place. The first diversion was at Huntingdon where yet again poor diversion signage meant that traffic was re-directed back down the A14 westwards, it was chaos with large articulated lorries reversing down the carriageway and cars trying to cross the carriageway. I managed to get past this diversion, but was later confronted with “A14 East Closed”, I along with many large lorries followed the diversion signs into Cambridge, which then disappeared and A14 west signs appeared! I saw a diverted traffic sign and headed towards Ely,  trying to keep to the north while heading east. I finally re-joined the A14 near Newmarket. I had lost about 45 minutes. I must seriously look at an alternative route when I next drive to Essex.

I parked up in Manningtree in Essex and set off to walk to the Railway station where I caught the train to Ipswich. I had a tight bus connection in Ipswich and a 15 minute train delay meant I had just 3 minutes to catch my bus. I managed it …….just and was really relieved to get off the bus at Freston and begin my walk.

I would be following the Stour and Orwell Walk, however, like The Suffolk Coast path, it spends a good deal of time away from the river even when there are existing paths running alongside both rivers. The path follows an old farm track which leads through the grounds of Woolverstone School, now a fee paying school and from 1992 is now  known as Ipswich High School. The path drops down to the Orwell River at Pin Mill. It’s still quite early and the local pub is just opening to serve coffee.  I continue on through Chelmondiston Woods and out along a sea wall or bank that protects some of the lower lying lands. I can pick out a number of sites on the far bank of The Orwell that I had passed through a few weeks back.

A field of Sunflowers near Freston
At Pinmill on The River Orwell
Looking back down The River Orwell from the sea bank near Shotley Gate
Looking across Harwich Harbour to the docks at Felixstowe
The Stena Hollandica bound for the Hook of Holland

The river swings around to the right and I am rewarded with the imposing sight of the huge cranes of Felixstowe. As I approach the marina at Shotley Gate, a huge Stena ferry is departing from Parkeston Quay, it’s the Stena Hollandica bound for the Hook of Holland. As I pass around Shotley Point I say goodbye to the River Orwell and hello to the River Stour. I don’t see a great deal of Shotley Gate as I remain close to the river. The Stour and Orwell Path has disappeared inland for some miles. I continued around Erwarton Bay passing Erwarton Ness and around to Holbrook Bay. I was getting tantalising glimpses of the Royal Hospital School and could not wait to get a better view. I don’t think I have ever seen a school like this before, with its huge clock tower dwarfing the two storey wings extending either side of it. The huge open grassed playing fields extended virtually right down to the river. A very impressive building and setting.

I eventually joined back up with the Stour and Orwell walk and continued along the river past Stutton Mill. I could now see Manningtree across the river, but first had to cross the railway line. Nearby to Marsh Farm I crossed the busy rail line via a bridge and headed down a concrete road past a sewage works. Further on I could see some construction work going on and close to the footpath I was on. Fortunately, a pedestrian walkway around the site was marked, but unfortunately, like this morning’s shenanigans around Cambridge onward signage was nowhere to be seen and a worker had to let me through the Arras fencing and into Cattawade. I joined the very busy A137 on a wide footpath and crossed over The River Stour via The White Bridge passing  out of Suffolk into Essex. A simple walk along the sea bank into Manningtree was all that needed to get me back to my car.

Looking down the River Stour from Shotley Gate
The curiously named “Johnny All Alone Creek”
The impressive Royal Hospital School
A worker operating a drone grass cutter at Seafield Bay
Hello Essex and goodbye Suffolk

Distance today = 22 miles

Total distance = 5,153 miles

 

 

283. Felixstowe to Freston

I left the Airbnb early and popped into a nearby MacDonald’s for a breakfast roll and coffee, not my usual fare but it filled a gap. I had the short drive then to a layby near to the village of Freston, close to the Boot Inn. I caught the 07:41 #92 bus to Ipswich railway station and then got the Felixstowe train.

By 9’oclock I was walking down Felixstowe high street with the sun out and blue skies all around. It was already quite hot. I linked up with the route from yesterday and headed through the suburbia of Felixstowe. I was heading towards the docks using back lanes and paths. I emerged close to a roundabout that marked the start of the A14, which I would not be walking along, but instead chose the A154. This led me to another road, solely for Industrial use. There were warning signs about trespass, but my maps indicated that the Stour and Orwell Walk, that I would be on for most of the day, used this road. My next objective was to cross a set of railway tracks at junction that served the adjacent container port. The gate across the tracks was locked. However, I did see a yellow phone box with a number to call. I picked up the handset and immediately a voice said “hello”. I said I needed to cross the tracks and the chap just said “right the gates are now unlocked”. I had to cross about 6 sets of tracks separated by a further 3 gates. I was dreading that the other gates would not open because there was no phone at the middle gate. I was soon across the tracks, which probably saved about a mile of having to walk inland.

I set off down a road which skirted the container port, hidden by a raised wooded bank. At Fagbury Point I emerged onto the sea bank of The River Orwell and continued along the edge of Trimley Marshes. I had brought my sunscreen umbrella along with its silver top to direct UV rays and black underside to absorb the indirect ones. However, the stiff and erratic breeze on top of the sea bank caused the brolly turn inside out on a couple of occasions – but I still got the benefits of the shade.

I passed the freshwater Loompit Lake, separated from the river, just by the sea bank and then onto the marina at Stratton. The footpath went right through boatyard, but I got my navigation spot on in picking up the footpath signs at its far side. At Nacton, the Stour and Orwell walk set off inland along a road. Here I made an error in not re-reading fellow coastal walker Jon Combe’s account who 11 years previously had successfully and ‘legally’ walked along the shoreline at low tide all the way from The Orwell Bridge.

https://britishcoast.wordpress.com/2018/03/13/194-ipswich-to-trimley-st-mary/

Port entrace near to the start of A14
Railway crossing point
At Fagbury Point
Heading up the River Orwell
Looking towards Stratton Marina
Stratton Marina
Volunteers from Suffolk Wildlife Trust cutting back vegetation at Levington Creek
Impressive wrought iron gates Orwell Park School

I continued along the Ipswich Road, which was not as bad as I thought, emerging at an underpass of the very busy and noisy A14. I continued over a roundabout and along a short distance before turning off down a road signposted for the Orwell Country Park.

I had been rather apprehensive about crossing the Orwell Bridge on foot, even though you can walk across it on either side, I had read reports that  drivers sometimes report sightings of walkers on the bridge, thinking they are doing a good thing in preveting a potential suicide. However, the good thing about walking across the bridge is that you can actually see something, because when you drive over the bridge in a car all you can see is bridge barrier wall, which I suspect is intentional. The bridge was very noisy and very busy and  I was glad to be off it.

I followed the Stour and Orwell path off the bridge and across some fields that had recently been harvested. I walked the short distance along the B1080 towards Freston and to the layby where I had parked earlier that morning.

The Orwell Bridge
Looking back down river towards Felixstowe from the Orwell Bridge
The Orwell Bridge
Heading towards Freston

Distance today = 16 miles

Total distance = 5,131 miles

 

 

 

282. Woodbridge to Felixstowe

It was time for another trip to Suffolk and this time I decided to make it a two day trip with an overnight stay. I drove to and parked in Felixstowe, a town I had heard about but never visited. I was pleased to see that I had numerous options with the public transport on offer. Not so enjoyable was the early-morning drive over from Shropshire with a section of the M6 closed for overnight repairs and two sections of the A14 due to the major roadworks around Cambridge.

I used a direct bus service from Felixstowe to Woodbridge, the #173, alighting at the railway station and climbing the footbridge over the tracks. I continued along the banks of the River Deben on a beautiful sunny morning, with the occasional cloud giving shade from the already hot sun. With a refreshing breeze at my back I followed the well-defined riverside track around Martlesham Creek to Martlesham Hall where I had to divert inland. This would be the first of two occasions today when I would need to go inland, due to breaches in the riverside sea bank, purposefully done to create salt marshes.

After leaving Martlesham I made a slight navigation error, by heading towards Waldringfield Heath instead of Waldringfield. However, I carried on and it was not long before I entered the small charming village of Waldringfield with its unique houses built of brick on the ground floor and its timber-clad upper floors. I was tempted to sample a pint in the village pub, The Maybush, but I still had a long way to go. I walked along the shoreline of the Deben for a short distance before I had to start heading inland again to get around the second breach in the sea bank at Early Creek. I passed by White Hall and Hemley Hall before heading back to the River Deben. I was able to recognise many of the features on the opposite bank of the Deben that I passed through some weeks before.

Looking back up The River Deben towards Woodbridge
The Maybush at Waldringfield
Looking across the Deben to The Ramsholt Arms pub
A Black-Tailed Godwit

I was now on the excellent path atop the sea bank which would take me all the way to the mouth of the River Deben. Felixstowe Ferry sits at the mouth of the river and provides a foot passenger ferry service across the river to Bawdsey on the opposite bank. Felixstowe Ferry itself is an odd mishmash collection of house boats, wooden boatyard buildings, a pub and cafe’s. the place was very busy. I was amazed that some older children where swimming in the river, near the rocks and with the tide in full flow pouring in from the sea. A Coastguard vehicle was close-by, I suspected, aving given the youths some advice. On the same day, further down the coast at Clacton, three children had been recused from the sea while swimming below the pier; sadly a young girl of 15 had drowned.

I joined the sea wall proper and passed a converted Martello Tower, here I said goodbye to the River Deben and hello again to the North Sea. The sea wall was very busy with holidaymakers making great use of the hundreds of multi-coloured beach huts of all shapes and sizes. I was now back on the Suffolk Coastal Path, a path I have probably spent more times off than on, as it quite mercurial tending to drift quite some distance away from the coast.

The sea wall ended at Undercliff and I now had the option of climbing over high groynes and rocks or climbing the cliff and walking along the suburban road a short distance. I opted for the inland route passing large and impressive established residences. At Cobbolds Point I dropped down to the sea wall again and continued along the promenade, passing the many holiday makers, more beach huts, the pier and onto a spit of land that jutted out into Harwich Harbour. This was Landguard, containing a military fort, gun emplacements, a Nature Reserve and a brilliant viewing area for the massive adjacent Felixstowe ferry port, with its huge collection of cranes for container handling. Here the walk ended and I caught the bus back into the town and headed off to my Airbnb in Ipswich.

Looking across to Bawdsey at Felixstowe Ferry
The mouth of The River Deben with the tide now racing in
Heading towards Felixstowe, with the Martello Tower a permanent feature on the Golf Course
Old Victorian gun placements at Landguard
Huge container ship being unloaded at Felixstowe Ferryport

Distance today = 20 miles

Total distance = 5,115 miles

 

 

 

279. Woodbridge to Shingle Street

I decided to do another one day trip to Suffolk before I returned to Northern Scotland. With a reasonably fine day forecasted I was hoping to get at least half way around one of the Suffolk river estuaries. Unfortunately it was a Sunday, which meant no public transport back to the car, so I took my bike along. It was a longer cycle ride today, compared to last Sunday and would involve some 9 miles from the car to the start of the walk.
I decided to drive to and park in the small rough car park at Shingle Street. I opted to get the cycling out of the way, as the roads would be much quieter at 07:30. I made very good time to Woodbridge railway station, with the help of the flat and level terrain of the Suffolk countryside. I decided that I would push my bike to a car park near Melton, which would be easier to retrieve when I later drove back in my car.

Woodbridge is a charming little town with a pretty little station housing a taxi service and cafe. I carried my bike up over the bridge across the railway lines and followed a footpath that skirted along the River Deben, which I would be walking around. The footpath already had a few people out and about on a lovely sunny morning. Just after passing Melton railway station I walked through a car park and chained my bike up to a railing. I set off along a footpath that led to a bridge over the River Deben, before turning down the B1083. I soon passed the entrance to Sutton Hoo. I had read something about Sutton Hoo, but knew little detail. Although I would be passing close to the site of the two 6th- and early 7th-century cemeteries I had intended to revisit them at a later date, enabling me to devote more time to such a significant site. I followed a signed footpath which was not marked on the OS map or was not in its exact place. Needless to say I soon lost the footpath indicators and then made a navigation error. I ended being confronted by a large pig farm. I walked around the site and could not pick up anymore footpath signs. I wasted about 20 minutes wandering around trying to get my bearings. I eventually recognised the small tree plantation patterns and managed to pick up my intended route near to Ferry Farm. However, I had missed about 2 miles around Sutton Hoo Farm and Ferry Cliff. I headed towards Methersgate passing through the hamlet and finally picking up sight of the River Deben below me. I pjoined up a riverside footpath which although overgrown in places with nettles and bracken, was well-trodden. At Stonner Point I picked-up a Sea Bank, providing me with a great view down the River Deben which at high tide was about 800m wide. The river snaked around long sweeping bends and turned towards Ramsholt, where I met and spoke to a couple out walking along the sea bank. I rarely stop for a alcoholic drink on my walks, but today I just fancied a pint! I deposited my rucksack at an outside table and went in and bought a pint of Adnams – what else? The Ramsholt Arms was very busy serving food to yacht people and those who had driven down the dead-end road.

Woodbridge Railway Station
Looking down the River Deben at Woodbridge
Looking across The Deben to Waldringfield at Sconner Point
Walking along the Sea Bank towards Rockall Wood
Looking across the Deben from The Ramsholt Arms
The Ramsholt Arms

The pint of beer did not last long, as thirst usually takes over from taste when I take on fluids on warm days. At Ramsholt there is no public footpath south along the River Deben towards the Bawdsey Ferry. I am not sure why there is no footpath along this 3 miles stretch bordering the Ramsholt and Alderton Marshes – I was tempted to try though. Instead, I set off on an inland diversion towards Alderton. When I came to the first road junction I continued straight ahead up a green lane bridle path. I had not gone far when I was confronted with a crop sprayer sending a plume of water over the track ahead. The plume was not deviating, so unless I wanted to back track, I was going to have to make a mad dash through it. Needless to say I got a right soaking! Within 20 minutes I was dry again. I passed through the village of Alderton and continued onto the village of Bawdsey. I had given thought about continuing down the road to Bawdsey Ferry, but did not fancy the walk back along the single shoreline. Instead I headed directly along a lane to the coast, where I emerged near the sight of an old WW2 gun emplacement.

I could see Shingle Street, about 3km in the distance at the end of the Sea Bank which had an excellent path running along its top. I passed three Martello Towers on my final 2.5 miles, the first tower had been restored as a residential property, with a flashy new access staircase, the second tower had not been restored but had a WW2 pill box built on the roof and the third tower was also restored as I could hear loud music blasting out through the 1m thick walls. I walked onto the shingle bank at Shingle Street, a bank that protects the row of cottages from the sea. It was hard going over the shingle – even for a short distance. I was fascinated by some of the flora growing on the shingle bank, in particular a tall 4 – 5ft stalk plant with yellow flowers – this was a Great Mullein and an impressive plant it was too. I rounded the coastguard cottages and arrived back at the car park. Just the drive home now, calling in to Melton to pick up my bike.

Time for a soaking with the crop sprayer deluge blocking my way
Back at the sea at East Lane on a WW2 gun-site looking west
Modern-themed Martello restored
Unrestored Martello with WW2 pill box on its roof
Restored Martello at Shingle Street
4 – 5ft high Great Mullein – very impressive

Distance today = 18 miles

Total distance = 5,049 miles