300. Rosemarkie to Inverness

Today should have been a simple day regarding the logistics of getting to the start of my walk at Rosemarkie, but instead it turned out to be a bit of a trial, although it all came good in the end.

I left my car at the B&B in Inverness and walked towards the bus station. I was hoping to catch the 07:00 #424 bus run by D&E coaches. I was a bit wary as the vast majority of bus services run in and around Inverness are operated by Stagecoach. The fact that the bus left from a stop just around the corner from the main bus station was further cause for concern. By 07:10 my concerns were beginning to be realised. I was slightly annoyed with myself for not getting one of two much earlier coaches run by Stagecoach, but that would have meant hanging around for almost an hour while it got light. By 07:30 I had given up on that bus coming, the only trouble now was I had to wait another 90 minutes until the next Stagecoach bus. Because of the number of miles I had planned to walk today, using the available light was key in getting the route done. I waited at the designated bus stanceat the bus station, keeping a watchful eye open for the #26C bus. Even though the bus station was extremely busy, I remained alert. At the time the bus was due to depart I was becoming concerned again. As I turned around I could see the #26C in a queue of buses that had departed the bus station and were waiting for the lights to change to join the main road! How did I miss that? I ran after the bus and managed to get the driver to open the door. The driver insisted he departed from the bus stance that I had been waiting at. Very confused I sat down and pondered how the hell I had missed that. Looking around I recognised some of the passengers that had been waiting with me. I then ‘twigged’ that the bus had come into the station under one service number and then changed its number to another service. Because I had positioned myself at the front of the stance I could not see any number change.

By the time I had reached Rosemarkie, it was almost 09:45. I knew I would struggle with the light if I kept with my original route, so I would need to shave 2 or 3 miles off my intended route. I set off along the shoreline walking towards Chanonry Point, one of the best places to view at close range Bottlenose Dolphins. Unfortunately, no dolphins were visible today. Apparently, there are certain times when you stand a much greater chance of viewing them, particularly during a flowing tide. I rounded the lighthouse and headed along the other side of the spit into Fortrose.

Fortrose sits on the southern side of the spit of land that juts out into the Moray Firth, forming Chanonry Point. I walked past the ruins of Fortrose Cathedral, founded in 1200, the cathedral has been in ruins since the late 16th century. However, the ruins still look recognisable as a church or abbey and are impressive. I knew the road between Fortrose and Avoch is not pedestrian friendly with a huge cliff on one-side and sea wall on the other with no footpath or verge available for refuge from the busy traffic. Fortunately, there is a cycleway/footpath following the route of the old Black Isle Railway which used to run freight and passenger services from Muir of Ord to Fortrose up until 1960. The footpath provided a high level walk through the trees and above the main road below. I would make further use of the old railway route later in my walk.

At Avoch I dropped down to the shore and followed a row of houses along Avoch Bay. The minor road turned inland and it was here I trimmed my first bit of the planned route. Further up the road I met a lady dog walker and asked if there was any paths to avoid having to walk along the A832 into Munlochy. She said a friend had told her of a route and what she described which was spot, albeit for the start of the route. Looking at the layout of the minor roads I had my suspicions that the course of the Black Isle railway must have passed very close to where I intended to walk. So I headed towards Ord Hill (not the Ord Hill close to the Kessock Bridge). Sure enough I managed to pick up the old rail track and from Ord Hill I could see the raised embankment running alongside the main road all the way into Munlochy. I walked through the village and then entered fields full of stubble as the road section here was treacherous with sharp bends and no verge on a busy road. I returned briefly to the road at Littlemill Bridge to cross over a small burn.

Looking NE up the Moray Firth from Rosemarkie
Looking across to Fort George from Chanonry Point
Looking towards Inverness from Chanonry Point
Heading towards Fortrose
The ruins of Fortrose Cathedral
On the route of the Balck Isle railway at Fortrose
Heading towards Wood Hill along Avoch Bay
Heading towards Munlochy on the route of the old Black Isle Railway
Approaching Munlochy on the old railway line route

At this point I cut my second section out of the route where I had planned to walk around Drumderfit Hill and then onto Craigiehowe Mains; instead I kept to a minor road through to Drumsmittal and then onto Ord Hill. Ord Hill is a popular walking and cycling hill to the active people of Inverness. I now started to pick up the constant roar of  traffic that told me I was getting close to the busy A9. Examining my OS map and Streetview carefully I could see that a footpath dropped down through the trees to the A9 at the approach to the Kessock Bridge. I emerged alongside the A9 and I knew that I had to cross over the dual carriageway to the southern side of the bridge, as the footpath on the northern side disappears at the first roundabout after the bridge. I easily managed to cross the carriageway during gaps in traffic.

The Kessock Bridge was another of those iconic bridges which I had driven over many times and wishing that I could have a “proper look” at the views. The late afternoon stroll over the bridge did not disappoint despite the incessant noise from the four lanes of traffic. I continued on a footpath alongside the very busy A9 which soon dropped down a slip road to a roundabout below the A9. Here I joined the A96. My final destination was the out of town Inverness Retail Park, where I knew had many services heading back into the centre of Inverness. With the light fading fast I caught a #10 bus back into Inverness.

I later found out that the #424 Bus from D&E coaches which had not turned up at the start of the day only ran on school days. Although today was still part of the term, it was the first of two “In-service days”, Inset or Baker days that had caught me unaware.

Looking back to Moray Firth over Munlochy Bay
Looking towards Beauly Firth from Ord Hill
Dropping down to the A9 and The Kessock Bridge
Emerging on the A9
The Kessock Bridge

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

http://www.scottishhills.com/html/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=24762

Distance today = 18 miles
Total distance = 5,471 miles

 

299. Balblair to Rosemarkie

It was time to get back to the far north east of Scotland and continue with my walk around the Black Isle. I gave myself three days of walking in which I would walk over the Kessock Bridge and go some way to completing the coastal part of the Highland Region. I knew that most of the walking would be predominantly along roads, with some farm tracks and footpaths, perhaps even the possibility of some beach walking!

I drove up the day before to my very cheap B&B in Inverness. The following day I drove to and parked in Rosemarkie on the Black Isle. I caught the 07:00 #26A bus to Cromarty. I was rather annoyed because the bus arrived 10 minutes early and departed straight away! Nice, but tough luck if you arrived 9 minutes before the bus was due to depart. At Cromarty I caught the 07:25 #21 bus to Balblair.

At this time of the year the light disappears very quickly, so it is always a balancing game trying to arrive just as it begins to get light and also safe to walk. Making the best use of the available light is key at this time of the year. It was still dark when I arrived at Balblair, I walked down a quiet lane towards the Cromarty Firth.

I headed past Newhall Point and continued along the single track road to the ancient burial ground at Kirkmichael where the lane joined the main road – the B9163. The old kirk, now fully restored was a fascinating place to visit and I was able to gain access to chapel. Amazing gravestones were on display both outside and inside the chapel, spanning some 800 years. The site reminded me of my visit, a few years ago, to Kilmun, just north of Dunoon which also had a varied and interesting selection of stones on show. It would have been nice to explore the site more closely if time had allowed.

I continued along the road with my head torch flashing a red strobe. The traffic was also quite light and I was able to hop up onto the verge when any traffic approached. I called into a large RSPB hide at the roadside just before  the intriguingly named village of Jemimaville, taking its name from the wife of a former laird. I continued on towards the village of Cromarty, again it would have been nice to explore this charming little village. I passed by the small cottage of Cromarty’s famous son, Hugh Miller, stonemason and self-taught Geologist, where there is a good collection of the fossils that Miller collected during his lifetime. I headed out of the village towards the wooded hill forming The South Sutor. I noted a hand written piece of cardboard attached to the finger post, saying “Shooting in progress”. Unsure of the context of the message I ignored it. The climb up to South Sutor was a steep one, but I was rewarded with excellent views across Cromarty Firth and across to Nigg Ferry.

Dawn – looking down the Cromarty Firth towards North and South Sutor
Medieval gravestones at Kirkmichael
The Grants of Ardoch Mausoleum, Kirkmichael
Entering Jemimaville
Approaching Cromarty
Hugh Miller’s cottage Cromarty
Looking towards North Sutor from South Sutor

I headed across an unnamed hill and continued onto Gallow Hill (154m) where I had a superb viewpoint across the Moray Firth and also down Cromarty Firth. I descended the hill to join a single track road and head south westwards. I past another of the shooting signs, just as I spotted a chap firing, what appeared to be  a high velocity rifle. The farm track I was now on joined up with a quiet lane and I continued onto  Eathie Mains.

Just further on from Eathie Mains I had intended to walk about a kilometre and then descend down onto the beach to an old salmon fishing station. From there I would continue along the beach all the way back to Rosemarkie. The problem with this route was that it was tidal. I knew the route was passable at low tide, but I did not know what margin I had. I checked my watch and could see that the tide had been “flowing” for almost an hour. By the time I had walked down to the beach and then some three miles along the beach to where the tidal “pinch-point” was, the tide would have been flowing for three hours. Escaping up the steep-sided cliffs through gorse or back-tracking was not an option. I decided not to risk it. I continued along the empty road along the spine of the wooded Black Isle hills.

The minor road eventually led me out onto the busy A832, with no verge or path for the remaining two miles into Rosemarkie. However, I was now able to drop down into The Fairy Glen, descending into the wooded gorge of the Rosemarkie Burn, where a great footpath lead past a series of waterfalls all the way into Rosemarkie. This was a great way to end the walk after the disappointment of not being able to walk along the coast.

Looking over Cromarty village and Cromarty Firth – a haven for stacked oil drilling rigs
Looking SW down the Moray Firth towards Eathie Hill from Gallow Hill
Looking across a murky Moray Firth towards Whiteness Head and the Carse of Delnies
In the Fairy Glen near Rosemarkie
Waterfall in the Fairy Glen

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

http://www.scottishhills.com/html/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=24761

Distance today = 20 miles
Total distance = 5,453 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

 

 

 

294. Alness to Balblair

Today would be another day of walking along roads, although in actual fact I would not be walking on the roads themselves, but on footpaths and wide verges away from the roads.

My end point for the day was to reach the small hamlet of Balblair on the Black Isle. I parked at a small car park at Newhall Point which provides an excellent view across Udale Bay, part of Cromarty Firth, to the Fearn Peninsular. I had a number of public transport options in getting back to Alness and I chose to catch the 07:38 #21 bus to Duncanston crossroads on the A9 and then pick up the 08:08 #25x bus to Alness. I must admit I was rather apprehensive not only about picking up a bus from a layby on the A9, but only have 8 minutes between buses. In the end it all worked out well.

I set off from Alness on pavements and footpaths which roughly followed the B817, which broadly followed the A9 a few hundred meters away. The footpath was also the NCN1 cycle route and provided a relaxed and stress-free route. I passed out of Alness and into and through the neighbouring town of Evanton. Inevitably, I knew I would have to join the A9 some time or later. The ironical thing about walking along the A9 is that although the road is very busy and has fast flowing traffic, but it is probably safer than some of the minor roads, due to its wide and well mown verge.

I soon arrived at the Storehouse of Foulis, now a visitor attraction and housing a restaurant, exhibition and gift shops etc. The centrepiece of the site is the fully restored 18th century Grade A listed Girnal or Rent House used to store grain in days gone by. The Girnal also houses a museum dedicated to the Clan Munro.

The Cromarty Bridge came into view and it was not long before I was crossing it and stepping onto the Black Isle. I opted to stay on the road all the way to Balblair, as the rocky foreshore is very slippy underfoot.
I must admit even though I enjoyed this walk, I could not find a great deal to write about even though the scenery from the elevated road on The Black Isle was outstanding. I think it was just a case of putting the miles in and ensuring I get over The Kessock Bridge on my next trip up north.

Early morning in Alness High Street
Following the NCN 1 cycleway
I think this is a means to harvest Beech Nuts
Alongside the A9
The Girnal at Storehouse of Foulis
Looking across the Cromarty Bridge
The view eastwards from the Cromarty Bridge
Looking down on the Cromarty Bridge
The view across Udale Bay towards Nigg

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

http://www.scottishhills.com/html/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=24728

 

Distance today = 18 miles
Total distance = 5,360 miles