Leaving Essex became somewhat of an endurance test. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised because, at 350 miles, Essex has the longest coastline of any of England’s counties. Nor did Essex give up without a fight: yet more cold, wet and muddy walking, making conditions underfoot slow and difficult. Road walking proved hazardous too, with a chipping narrowly missing my right eye. In Clacton-on-Sea I was greeted by snow and ice.
But the weather hasn’t broken the Victory Walker’s spirit. Instead, in this week, the 600 mile barrier was broken and I walked through some delightfully named places: Salcot-cum-Virley, Tolleshunt D’Arcy, Kirby-le-Soken and Fingringhoe.
Ferries proved to be out of vogue at this time of year necessitating many extra riverbank miles. Nothing was officially available from the Ha’Penny Pier at Harwich, (to Shotley or Felixstowe); the kind offers of a special Pilot transfer by Harwich Haven Authority were considered, but politely declined.
With weather affecting schedules I was sad at being unable to spend more time in Harwich, a town full of character. This port was extensively used by the Royal Navy in both World Wars, and our overnight stop was close to NavyYard Wharf. We overlooked the Pilot boats’ dock area, and judging by the throbbing engines heard they are kept busy both night and day.
Next morning, I walked past the MN Memorial, the HQ of Trinity House and spied the separate Trinity House storage depot – full of ‘big buoys’! Yet another former Trinity light vessel (LV18) was moored at Harwich’s Ha’Penny Pier. Being the last manned Trinity Light Vessel, she was restored and maintains her original configuration. As well as being a tourist attraction, she has been used to take part in special radio broadcasting events.
In the evenings, we spent time at various Sea Cadet units – the variety of questions raised never cease to amaze! During the day, two more Pier Walks were achieved in chilly conditions at ‘classy’ Clacton and Walton-on-the-Naze. Walking out of Walton towards The Naze headland, I felt a real buzz of excitement as I looked across the bay to see Harwich, in the foreground and Felixstowe Container port in the distance.
I knew that reaching Felixstowe (in Suffolk) would take a good few more miles of walking, but it also indicated I was nearing the end of the Essex coastline. Without doubt, the high point of the week was stumbling up a very muddy River Stour on the Essex Way and crossing a road bridge in the wet evening gloom to read a sign. It said ‘Welcome to Suffolk’.