Day 319: Kirby-le-Soken to Brightlingsea

Distance: 28.91 miles

Ascent: 1435 feet

Weather: Misty & Damp

Accommodation: The Bloor’s House (kindly offered)


After a lovely breakfast prepared by Charlie and Monica I was on my way a bit before 8. Fortunately, they had pointed out that one of the embankments near the beginning of the day had been breached meaning the route I was proposing wasn’t possible so I headed up to the road instead and followed the pavement towards Walton. After passing the Aldi a little track took me down towards an industrial area and then through a narrow gap I was able to get up onto the sea wall.

It was so damp this morning, more mist than actual rain but my hair was already dripping wet. It was slightly unexpected, so I put my camera inside the bag and had put my rucksack cover on almost immediately. It was damp enough that I didn’t risk many photos with my phone either at this beginning point. The embankment took me around The Naze and on the eastern side I passed Naze Tower a quite impressive structure which I assume was some form of navigational aid and appears at the moment to be a sort of art gallery.

I joined the promenade at Walton-on-the-Naze and would actually be on this in one form or another for the next 10/11 miles. I came to the New Walton Pier which I can’t say was overly aesthetically pleasing with it’s giant red and yellow box at the front and then passed the numerous beach buts along the promenade, Essex does seem to be a fan of the beach hut.

Walton merged into Frinton and then I was up on the seawall passing Frinton Golf Course, I actually saw someone waving frantically on the course and then noticed it was Charlie who I had been staying with last night and he shouted ‘Good luck’ across the course. It was not long after this that I reached Clacton on Sea and the conditions were still the same very damp.

They appeared to be having issues with the upper promenade in Clacton as major works were going on and it appeared a couple of places had collapsed due to erosion. Once again I wasn’t over enamoured by the pier but this one did at least have a certain amount of charm. I stopped at the Wetherspoons opposite the pier just to have a break from the dampness and get an unlimited tea.

On leaving Clacton I got to Jaywick, and this has the unfortunate title of the most deprived area in England. It’s history is quite fascinating as it started in the early 20th century as part of the plotlands craze when city folk bought cheap strips of agricultural land where they were allowed to build temporary chalets essentially used for holidays. Its issues started in the war when bombed out East Enders moved into the chalets permanently but being theoretically temporary and by design dodging planning regs the council provided no roads, electricity of drainage for the several thousand now permanent residents. Rather than sort the issues it appears over the recent decades that the local council has several times tried to get permission to demolish parts of the town (without compensating the residents due to the fact in their book they are illegal) rather than just sort out the issues. It is quite an amazing place to see, and surreal that it is still essentially the way it is but most of the people in the houses that are still lived in have made an effort to make their homes look homely even in the quite decrepit surroundings. The edges of it have now started to be developed and my guess is within 20 years the area will no longer be recognisable and may well end up smarter than its nearby neighbours of Clacton & Frinton.

After Jaywick I was up onto the sea embankment and walking across salt marsh areas, turning the corner at Lee-over-Sands with some interesting buildings before heading up towards Point Clear. The public footpath didn’t quite follow the embankment all the way to Pont Clear, but I decided to try and follow the embankment into Point Clear anyway. It got me right to the edge of the village but then some houses had claimed the embankment in their garden so I dropped down onto the edge of the saltmarsh and was just about to get into the town via a slightly wiggly route.

Yesterday evening I had decided I may take the boat from Point Clear to Brightlingsea as it crosses a river that runs into a river and thus not coastal and their website made it seem it wasn’t a seasonal ferry (call up outside summer) so abides by my ‘rules’. I was 30 minutes or so from the landing point so I rang up the harbour master (they hadn’t responded to my emails) and was told they don’t run a service outside summer and couldn’t help, so I rang the yacht club just in case they could help and unfortunately due to the weather there was no one around who could get a rib across. I had half expected there may be an issue with the boat and fortunately due to the ease of walking today had made great time and so it was only 3pm when I arrived in Point Clear. Walking around the river would add about 6 miles on (2 hours) so would be arriving about 5pm in Brightlingsea, 30 minutes or so after dark but I had a kind offer of a bed so I set off.

I got up onto the river embankment and then followed this firstly for a mile or so up a creek to a boat builders yard and then through a nature reserve until I joined the B1027 near a couple of holiday parks. With it now being quite dark and the road quite busy (I suppose everyone was just leaving work) I was glad that there was a pavement for a bit and then just when I though I would have to squeeze onto the narrow verge there was a ‘country’ park which I could follow the edge of till just shy of where I would rejoin a footpath.

It was pretty much pitch black by the time I joined this footpath with a little moonlight. Weirdly I didn’t put my head torch on (thought pointless taking bag and waterproof cover off with just 20 minutes to go) and just carried on along the path just about being able to make out the route I was going. But I got a bloomin fright near Marsh Farm when a dog started barking manically and it was getting quickly closer but I couldn’t see the dog in the dark and just hoped it was behind a fence, which fortunately I think it was.

Finally just after 5pm I arrived in Brightlingsea, and Nola and Chris (friends of Charlie where I stayed last night) who were very kindly putting me up tonight were there to welcome me in. I had a bath and then their daughter had cooked a lovely vegan pie. To my surprise the little laptop had whirred just about back into life allowing me to catch up on a few diaries and hoping I can nurse it through the last 15 days. After chatting for a while I went to bed fairly early once again.

A long day starting before 8am, finishing after 5pm, but a strangely satisfying day.

NB - with camera away and damp conditions not great photos today.

charles compton