Clacton-on-Sea to Brighlingsea Essex
It's Tuesday 28th August 18, myself and Darran Terry are heading by train to the seaside town of Clacton-On-Sea,Essex. This will be my first section of Essex coastline walked and today's walk will take us to Brightlingsea for our overnight stop before we continue onto Hythe Colchester via the river Colne on the 29th.
Clacton-On-Sea is the largest town on the Tendring Peninsula. An area of land that extends from the River Stour in the north to the River Colne in the south.
Clacton was first founded by the Celts in c100 BC, but the name Clacton dates from around c500 AD when the area was settled by the Saxons. The Original name Claccingaton means "the village of Clacc's people". It is also recorded in the Doomsday Book of 1086 under the reign of William the Conqueror as Clachintuna. It has an early history dating back to the Lower Palaeolithic period and being known as an area for flint tool manufacture. Interestingly, in 1911, a wooden yew spear was found that dated back to 450,000 years ago. It is the oldest such spear to have been found in Britain.
Modern day Clacton was founded by Peter Bruff, the Essex Railway engineer and developer, in 1871 with the aim to develop a seaside resort. The Pier and facilities were constructed to utilise trade from The Woolwich Steam Packet Company which at the time operated between London and Ipswich. The town was well suited as a seaside resort positioned between Southend-on-Sea and Great Yarmouth. It averages 1,682 hours of sunshine and only 20 inches of rainfall per annum. In the 1930’s Clacton had grown into a town with a population of over 15,000. Billy Butlin opened his second Holiday Camp at West Clacton in 1938. The camp was opened to coincide with the Holidays With Pay Act being passed by Parliament. This guaranteed all industrial workers at least one week's paid holiday per year. The cost of a week's holiday at Clacton was equivalent to the average industrial wage at the time - £3.10s. The holiday camp was an instant success being fully booked almost all season. The camp closed in 1983 due to package holidays and changing tastes.
Making our way from the train station down to the front and it's pier, you can clearly see that the town continues to rely on entertainment, day trippers and a large retired population to help it prosper. However I thought the area lovely, clean and welcoming and I hope it continues in that vain. Well worth a day trip or short break.
Gunfleet Sands offshore wind farm no.1 & 2 commissioned in 2010. Located 7km south-east of Clacton in water depths of 2 to 15 meters these wind turbines can clearly be seen from the beach.
The Essex coast has always been vulnerable to attack from the seaward side and the Napoleonic period was no exception. A line of defensive fortresses known as Martello Towers were built to defend the coastal towns from Napoleon's forces. Some of these can still be seen along the east coast today, and some have been adapted for more peaceful uses such as the Jaywick Martello Tower which is now a community art centre.
103 Martello Towers were built between 1804 - 1812 and the name Martello is derived from Torre della Mortella, a circular fortress in Corsica which held out to British attack for several days until it was eventually captured. The attackers were so impressed by its defensive capabilities that it's design was adopted and adapted. The east coast towers were lettered A - Z and three more known as AA, BB and CC. Today we pass Martello tower A, C, D, E & F on our walk, but sadly tower B was demolished at point clear St Osyth in 1967 for a housing development.
Now, you know when you tell someone something because you feel you should, but instantly regret it and you know it's not going to go down too well.... well today is going to be one of those days, because poor Darran has a fear of crossing water and lately this has turned into worrying about mud too. The problem started some years ago whilst walking across Dartmoor and we noticed every time Darran tried to cross a small stream or brook he falls in. It's a sight to behold, like when you see a cat trying to tread water when they accidentally fall into a bath of water. The sheer panic as they thrash about trying to get out as quick as possible, sadly that's Darran. Many times this has happened now and already on my Gillingham Pier to Otterham Quay Rainham section Darran has fallen into the mud to his waist, he just seems to be unlucky near anything wet or gooey. To be fair, he now suffers with a back problem which means he doesn't want to slip and aggravate it any further. Well, on tomorrow's section at Alresford Creek, there's a bridleway that at low water can be crossed on foot if not too muddy, saving you a three mile walk round the creek. In its day it was used regularly and they have even taken Land Rovers and other four by four vehicles across on occasion. For the life of me I wonder what I was thinking mentioning it so early into the trip and I only said that we could just have a look and see if it was possible to cross. Well, I should have known better and he hasn't stopped talking about it for most of the morning. So Darran being a true sport is seen here by this very apt sign. Don't worry mate we are just going to have a look, you'll be fine. :) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3-UXHj5ZVEo
As previously mentioned the Jaywick Martello Tower C is now an arts, heritage and community space hosting a varied programme of exhibitions and events.
Ahead Parts of St Osyth Marsh are over 4000 years old and owe their preservation to the protective effects of both emergent Saltmarsh and marsh edge beaches. Today the site is managed by the Essex Wildlife trust. Sadly on the night of Saturday 31st January and Sunday 1st February 1953 this area along with others down the east coast found itself in a very bad situation when an unprecedented high tide driven by a gale with exceptional power hit over 1.000 miles of the coastline. The combination of high water and storm surge burst through in many places along the sea defences from Lincolnshire all the way to the outskirts of London. The water covered 200,000 acres, 32,000 people had to be evacuated, 100 miles of road & 200 miles of railway line were impassable, 46,000 head of cattle were lost and over 300 people were killed. It was estimated that the damage cost £50m in 1953, which today would equate to billions. This event left the nation stunned and in these low lying areas it is still remembered and poignant today due to the continued threat of flooding. This same combination could happen again at anytime and efforts to maintain the sea defences are an ongoing commitment.
Starlings here and other birds arrange themselves with very consistent spacing on wire in a pre-roost when they are not feeding. With all the space on the wires it is believed that they will sit closer together for protection with enough gap to allow them to preen and stretch. As it gets colder this gap reduces and as one wire fills they may start on another. Also the spacing is such that it can help them avoid a bill jab from another bird during a squabble. A more dominant bird will probably be within the middle of the line, which is always the safest position.
At Lee-Over-Sands at Colne Point there is a community of 34 properties situated within the Essex Wildlife Trust Nature Reserve. Many of the houses on Beach Road are often underwater on higher tides and as such some structures have been raised on stilts. In the foreground is Redshanks Artist's Studio a cork clad cabin on stilts inspired by Oil rigs, Maunsell forts and wading birds. It was developed by British architect Lisa Shell for the artist Marcus Taylor who wanted a peaceful place to retreat to and concentrate on his work. https://www.dezeen.com/2017/12/15/lisa-shell-redshank-artist-studio-cork...
Colne Point at the entrance to the Colne Estuary is where we start to turn inland toward Point Clear and Brightlingsea Creek.
Martello Tower "A" now used by the East Essex Aviation Society as the East Essex Aviation Museum. The Society was formed in 1985 when interest grew locally in the recovery of a crashed American P51 Mustang of the U.S. 479th Fighter Group that was forced to ditch into the sea off the coast of Clacton on the 13th January 1945, when the pilot Raymond E. King, died after being rescued from the sea.
The Tower was an ideal place to store and preserve the wreckage after it was retrieved from the sea. The remains of this aircraft now takes pride of place along with a memorial display to the pilot, but in addition to this the Museum also houses a large collection of displays covering the major conflicts of this century. On top of the museum is the Martello Tower Group an amateur radio group which was originally formed in the late 1980s under the name ClackPak.
At Point clear it is possible to see the town of Brightlingsea on the opposite bank over the Brightlingsea Creek and Mersea Island over the River Colne. Point clear first appeared on a map in 1880 and today is made up of elderly bungalows and chalets, normally used as holiday homes. Although located so close to the coast there is no boating tradition associated with it, but there is a foot ferry that operates from March to September between Brightlingsea, Point Clear, Mersea Island and Wivenhoe. file:///C:/Users/Shaun/Downloads/HAR016_DL_Timetable_2019_V05.pdf
The skeletal remains of a boat on the marsh at St Osyth Creek.
Moored at St Osyth Boatyard the historic HMS ML357 Fairmile B launch of Iroko double diagonal construction built by the Anglo-American Nile Tourist Company in Cairo, Egypt in 1943. She served in the Aegean during the Second World War and was said to have sunk a sub and picked up secret agents during her service. She is now known as the Jamaican Moon after being converted for use as a houseboat in 1961. Later she was used by hippies as a commune and in the 70s as a Buddhist shrine.
St Osyth Boatyard is the proud home to the Sailing Barge EDME which was built in 1898 and was originally used to transport cargo. She is one of only three engine-less barges still sailing and is rigged and sailed as she would have been when she was trading. Relaunched in 1992 by a group of shareholders and sailing enthusiasts she still competes in Sailing Barge Matches that take place in various locations around the East Coast throughout the year.
Passing Howlands Marsh near Martins Farm Park this sign warns of Adders(Vipera Berus)on the path, also known by a host of other names including common adder and common viper. Adders have been the subject of much folklore in Britain. However the snake is not aggressive and usually bites only when really provoked, stepped on, or picked up. Bites can be very painful, but are seldom fatal. I was interested to read that it is the rarest reptile found in Essex and over the majority of the county the adder is not recorded. In the North West of the county it is considered absent. There is a significant population on the coast of Essex where a high number of islands adders exist in discrete colonies. Adders are vulnerable to unsympathetic land management, persecution and in recent times land use changes for development. Personally I haven't seen one for over 35 years and it is definitely on my to see list, although I do hope it's not when standing on one.
After a well earned pint in the excellent Social Club at Bentley Country Park which welcomes non-members, it was time to navigate around Flag Creek for the last walking leg into Brightlingsea.
Darran leads the way toward Eastmarsh Point.
Wellwick Wharf, Flag Creek currently closed was originally used for mineral extraction. The area around the river Colne and Brightlingsea creek is known for its glacial sand and gravel deposits, which are still excavated today in a several locations.
The Hard Shelter Brightlingsea was said to have been built in 1898 as a gift to the town by the eccentric American millionaire, Mr. Bayard Brown, of the S.Y. (steam yacht) 'Valfreyia'. Later a clock was erected on the south side paid for by private donations and a small balance from the Coronation Celebration Committee's fund as a permanent memorial of the coronation of H.M. King George V two years earlier. The shelter was renovated back to it's former glory in August 2008 and later the renovation of the clock was carried out to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II in 2012.
A decommissioned British Mark 17 (XVII) contact mine from World War 2 on Brightlingsea Hard now used as a large money box to raise donations for the Shipwrecked Mariners Society. This great charity was founded in 1839 to assist the survivors of shipwreck and to support the widows and orphans of those tragically lost at sea. Today it provides financial help to merchant seafarers, fishermen and their dependants who are in need. It pays an immediate grant to the widow of a serving seafarer who dies, whether death occurs at sea or ashore. Regular grants are paid to former seafarers, their widows and partners, whose circumstances justify ongoing support. Special grants are made to meet particular needs in crisis situations. Practical assistance is given to seafarers of any nationality shipwrecked on the coast of the British Isles, so please make a small donation when you see one.
This mine was a self-contained explosive device placed in the sea to damage or destroy surface ships or submarines. Unlike depth charges, contact mines need to be touched by the target before they detonate, limiting the damage to the direct effects of the explosion and usually affecting only the vessel that triggers them. This mine used 11 switch horns (detonators) and could be laid in waters up to 500 fathoms (915 m) deep. Available charges were 320 lbs. (145 kg), 450 lbs. (204 kg) or 500 lbs. (227 kg). It was the standard British contact mine of World War II.
The Reg White Memorial was unveiled by his daughter in 2011 on Brightlingsea waterfront. Born and bred in Brightlingsea Reginald James White usually (Reg White) was an English boat builder, sailor, Olympic champion and world champion. He won a gold medal in the Tornado class with John Osborn at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal. He became world champion in the tornado class in 1976 and 1979. He was much loved by everyone who knew him and what a fitting tribute to a great man. Reg's memorial signals the end of today's walk and its time to find an evening meal and our accommodation for the night. 20.18 miles. Please remember I am walking the coast in aid of Demelza Children's Hospice and any donation no matter how small would be very much appreciated. Please see the donation link on the top of my home page. Thank You Shaun. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/7830859/Reg-White.