Essex estuaries … and getting to know Charlie

Thursday 20th February 2020

Getting ready to set out this morning, it was a damp, drizzly grey day … we could so easily have talked ourselves out of walking. But oh no, we Roses are intrepid explorers and there is more Essex coastline for us to conquer!

To be honest, it’s not the easiest part of the UK coastline to master, in terms of planning. Fairly easy walking due to its flatness but a nightmare to get your head around the numerous estuaries that break up any straightforward path. Steve (the main planner) has had his work cut out for him this week. And to be honest, estuary walking isn’t exactly scintillating, it’s a tad sameish! But we can’t pick and choose if we want to complete our project of walking the UK coastline … we have to join up all the dots. Today’s plan therefore was to walk from Beaumont Quay back to Walton-on-the-Naze where we had ended yesterday.

We managed to get a train as far as Thorpe-le-Soken and from there, due to lack of buses, we had to walk 2 miles to our start point. And this included walking on a non-pavement national speed limit road – not my favourite!

Finally got to turn off onto a farm track to take us down to the disused quay of Beaumont Quay.

Finally got to the start point of Beaumont Quay

And this is clearly a disused quay (and has been since the 1930s) and we started off eagerly to find our path along the estuary to Walton-on-the-Naze. The raised path which acts as a flood defence in these wet areas provides a clear vista of the extended area but also sets you up to the elements. And as the path meanders (this word always reminds me of my Geography teacher Mrs Sawyer) the wind changes direction as the path turns each corner, you either find yourself facing the wind head on, sweeping you to the side or pushing you along from behind. I know this sounds exaggerated because I’m not exactly lightweight but I felt I was being picked up by the wind at times!

Probably the last surviving boat in the quay

The path continues along the same vein for the next five miles, winding in and out along the same sort of terrain with similar views. The only thing that varied was the amount of wet ground and mud underfoot – it was SO horrendously muddy in places. And yes we had a few slips and trips – no serious injuries or breaks, just muddy bottoms and temporary loss of pride!

Occasionally we came across a few remote properties that set the country scene and we could envy that tucked away style of life.

But mostly it was just about placing one foot in front of another to get the walk done because it really wasn’t very interesting. It’s on walking days like this that I do loads of thinking … and I love that. I’m always thinking about what I’m going to include in my blog. I also conjure up ideas for books which I will write one day …. and poetry … I get all creative! And when the day hasn’t been wonderfully scenic, varied and interesting, at least it’s been a few hours of fresh air and exercise.

After 5 miles of wending our way through these raised estuary paths we came to a point where it was fenced off and we were therefore forced to take a country lane up to the main road. For once we welcomed the change, despite walking with cars, because we were sick to death of estuary paths. And so we walked our way into Walton-on-the-Naze.


Friday 21st February 2020

No walking today. A leisurely morning and ventured into Colchester in the afternoon. Went to a fabulous Curzon cinema to see ‘Parasite’ – amazing must-see film.

This is our last full day in Wivenhoe. In the morning we will be doing the local Parkrun and then packing up to head home. We’ve enjoyed getting to know this part of the country. Part of our retirement plan is enjoying the experience of living in different parts of the UK and this hasn’t disappointed.

We’ve loved getting to know Charlie too. He was a little wary of us to begin with but the last few days we’ve had a more play and cuddling up time … and now it will be sad to say goodbye.

Bye-bye Charlie 💕

From windswept walking to blue sky sunshine ….

How different can two days be?

Tuesday 18th February 2020

Today we had to get to Point Clear to start our walk. Having finished in Brightlingsea yesterday, this was the nearest place on the other side of the estuary and, in the absence of a ferry at this time of year, this involved two bus rides and a mile’s walk to just get to our starting point.

Starting off … Brightlingsea in the background

Funnily enough, on the bus ride there, we couldn’t help but admire the houses – all detached, sizeable properties, individual designs with large gardens … not a terrace or semi in sight.

Such a different story though once we got to the seafront area of Point Clear … and it’s so hard to describe. We walked down a street which could have been named “Clutterville” – the majority of the houses had serious hoarding issues going on, inside and out. Yet mingled in with these Steptoe’s yards were some attractive well maintained properties too …. it was weird. And it was the same once we reached the actual seafront, beach houses incredibly fortunate to have such a location – but most of them incredibly run down with rubbish filled gardens. A little way along there seemed to be an area of beach front properties undergoing modernisation but it all seems to be a work in progress.

Point Clear – all pretty grim. Wouldn’t recommend it as a holiday destination!
Some more attractive properties mingled in …

Today was incredibly blustery with a cold wind blowing in all directions it seemed. It was also grey and cloudy and with the area feeling so desolate it was simply a case of getting the job done …. and getting out of here!

We hadn’t walked far before we had to veer off the promenade and head inland for a while. There’s still no official coastal path on this stretch yet so Steve had planned a route using Ordnance Survey and another walker’s suggestions. We seemed to do a very large loop that took us roadside for a while and then through farmland. This included walking through a farm that had some smart glamping pods as well ‘Private Road’ signs …. if you make yourself look inconspicuous no-one can see you!! The road to the sea continued for some time after this … in fact it seemed to go on for miles. Finally we found a track that brought us onto the sea defence wall and led to the beach at Lee-over-sands.

But absolutely nothing to get excited about. Again the houses looked so ramshackle and there was fly tipping everywhere. We said we had honestly never seen anything like it. From here the path took us through St. Osyth and then Jaywick Sands and, apart from a few examples of smarter properties, this whole stretch of coastline seemed so deprived … almost third world in places. I’m sure they were fabulous back in the day but they are now seriously tired – just couldn’t imagine turning up here for a holiday!

Lee-over-Sands …!!

At Jaywick however at least the beach started to look more attractive, beautifully sandy … hence the name I guess – Jaywick Sands. Steve’s Mum and Dad holidayed in the area in the early fifties and we have some fabulous photos of them at Jaywick Sands.

Steve’s Dad (Dennis) in Jaywick Sands in 1952
Steve in Jaywick Sands in 2020

From here it was a simple promenade walk into Clacton-on-Sea. We passed a new development of affordable looking housing right at the seafront, literally yards from the shore … you don’t see that very often. And so we found ourselves at Clacton Pier where a mug of tea and a toastie revived our spirits (and appetites) after 10 miles of walking. We had a wander through Clacton on the way to the station …. starting off with the Amusement Arcade strip … but to be honest, we didn’t find Clacton as run down as many of the seaside resorts we’ve visited on our walks, despite the negative press it gets. Big up Clacton-on-Sea!!! 😎

Amusements at Clacton-on-Sea

Wednesday 19th February 2020

And today by contrast there was very little wind … the sky was blue and at times you could feel the warmth of the sunshine.

We caught the train to Clacton to start our walk where we had left off yesterday. We even managed to escape the wrath of the ticket inspector – Steve had managed to buy the wrong tickets but she didn’t pick up on it!! Phew!

Clacton Pier starting point

It was an easy 6 and a half mile stroll today, all promenade, with the sound of sea lapping and miles of golden sand. With the sun shining and the beach huts looking so glorious, what more could you ask for. It was fabulous to see so many children out playing on the beach and cycling on the promenade.

Always looking out for good designs … I’m going to get a beach hut one day!

At Frinton-on-Sea, the beach huts became even smarter and there were so many of them, all shapes, sizes, colours and designs. I love looking at the names – ‘Once Upon a Tide’ ‘Go with the Flo’ ‘Sandy Toes and Salty Kisses’… but today’s favourites were ‘Jabah’ and ‘Pizza!’ And the smartness carried on into Walton-on-the-Naze where we ended today’s walk.


Jumped on the train and were back in Wivenhoe by lunchtime …. and treated ourselves to lunch and beers at the local … well, we are on holiday, sort of!! 😘

The only way is Essex … walking it’s coastline

Saturday 15th February – Monday 17th February 2020

On Saturday afternoon we drove down to Wivenhoe, on the Essex coast to take up our week’s house-sitting assignment, looking after a young Maine Coon cat named Charlie. This is a part of the country we have no previous experience of … and of course we’re taking the opportunity to walk along the nearby coastal paths, to add to our ongoing collection.

Charlie is only one year old and already has legs about a foot long. He’s going to grow into a big boy as Main Coon cats continue growing until they are about 4 years old.

So, our previous assignment was looking after a huge Bernese Mountain Dog and now it’s a Maine Coon cat – oversized pet sitting could perhaps become our speciality!

Our drive down on Saturday was pretty eventful with Storm Dennis brewing nicely … wind and rain a’plenty. On Sunday it was even worse with the storm in full flight. And so we made the sensible decision to abandon our walking plans for the day and stay put in the safety of our ‘borrowed’ house. We just nipped out in the morning to stock up on the ingredient essentials for a Sunday roast, some decent teabags and the newspapers. Strangely enough there was an England v South Africa T20 cricket match on from lunchtime (might have aided the decision). I indulged in a few hours of snuggly sofa time wading through the Sunday newspaper, supplements, magazines and all … bliss.

Monday 17th February

No excuses today – the storm has passed! Walking boots on and layered up to keep warm, we set off from the house around 10ish. We wandered down through the pretty town of Wivenhoe to the Quayside. There’s a mixture of old and new houses here but it blends perfectly to make a very attractive and interesting place. The quayside, on the banks of the River Colne, was our starting point to walk to the seaside town of Brightlingsea. This meant one of those annoying estuary walks which involves walking miles along one side of the river, crossing over and walking back miles along the other side … distinct lack of bridges and ferries!

Wivenhoe Quayside
Starting off on today’s walk from Wivenhoe to Brightlingsea

The first part of today’s hike was along a sea defence wall – lovely views and quite pleasant underfoot. “We’ll be alright if we stay up this high” says Steve, “shouldn’t be too muddy.”

Of course that didn’t last. The path led us through some pretty woodland area and at first we relished getting away from the wind … it was a beautiful day but still Dennis’ wind was lingering. It was like walking through trip hazard alley though, with the heavily exposed tree roots consuming the path – had to watch our every step. Then the inevitable puddles kicked in and it got muddier and muddier. It was safer just walking through the murky puddles rather than risk slipping in off the muddy sides. The trouble was you just couldn’t gauge how deep they were … ‘Dr. Foster went to Gloucester’ sprang to mind! All good fun.

Sign of a good walk!

In planning the walk, Steve had discovered that you could cross the estuary at low tide (which it was) at a certain part. When we got to that spot it certainly didn’t look very crossable … we took a good look and Steve even attempted one step from the bank … finding himself knee deep in soft mud swiftly indicated that this was not the way forward!

We continued along the path until we found a proper bridge to take us across to the other side, safely. There was a pretty mill house located here as well as a couple of other stylish houses. After that we were diverted inland for a while, which involved walking roadside for a short time until we reached the beautiful church of All Saints on the outskirts of Brightlingsea.

How to cross the river safely
All Saints Church, Brightlingsea

At this point we could see that we could walk into the town of Brightlingsea by continuing along this road. “But it’s not the coastal path.” “But, who would know?” “It’s only yourself you’re cheating!” At times this coastal walking is testing!

We headed down a country lane, passed some quarries and then found a path leading us into more woodland. More boggy woodland!

We’re presuming Storm Dennis had struck this tree yesterday

Eventually found our way back onto the Sea Defence wall, walking back along the river, the other side. And this time, there was a strong oncoming wind to battle against. Have to admit, this stretch seemed eternal at times. And so into the town of Brightlingsea. Our first introduction was it’s promenade … and today it’s prettiness was marred by the devastation of yesterday’s storm. Something we’d never seen before – numerous beach huts had literally been blown off their bases, some had travelled quite far away too (wouldn’t have wanted to have been walking around there yesterday).

Storm Dennis’ devastation

So, there it was – just over 8 miles and today’s walk was done. We had lunch in a local cafe and got the bus back to Wivenhoe … all very straightforward and we’d had a fabulous day out.

Seems like our children are always with us ❤️
And who’s the black sheep of the family … !?
So lovely to be back in the country

We haven’t spotted any orange botoxed Essex celebrities yet – guess you wouldn’t come across them on the coastal path. We’re off to the local in a bit … who knows? 🤣