Rest Day, 8th November: Harwich
A week of hot baths and comfort was over and it was back into Snickers in an attempt to re-establish the routine I had lost from being pampered by my family. Not that the comfort was unwelcome, far from it, but the increasingly long distance shuttling to and from my start / finish points had added dead-time into my day. With time a precious commodity I had begun to feel like I was hurrying to finish my walking in order to get back to base at a reasonable hour and then rushing to get everything else done before bed. But it was my choice and on reflection I wouldn’t have done anything different.
I said my goodbyes and deepest thanks to Steve, Anita and my mum, who undoubtedly still viewed me as her youngest little boy doing something a little bit silly but who also liked to follow my every step with worry. It was then on for a very big and beautifully presented breakfast at a seaside cafe in Lowestoft before heading down for the long drive to Harwich to meet up with Amanda from the SIA and her boyfriend Moz. Together we picked up my next driver, Paul, from Harwich and we all headed back to Snickers for a cuppa and a natter before Amanda and Moz made their way home and Paul settled into my rather strange little world.
Stage 223, 9th November: Harwich to Clacton-on-Sea
It had rained heavily all night and the morning still had some more to give. Thankfully it was gradually easing. Once I was out of Harwich it was sea-bank again until I reached Irlam’s Beach where I darted inland to navigate around the marshes of Hamford Water Nature Reserve. The trail took me across fields and almost as far inland as Little and Great Oakley. Five miles later, I was back walking the tops of sea-bank again, which gradually grew in height as the coast closed in.
At Kirby-le-Soken I took the road down towards Walton-on-the-Naze and regained, what I had started to recently consider, as a rare sea view and I positively revelled in the ease of a promenade walk. This continued down to Frinton-on-Sea. Not that I could see anything of Frinton. My view inland was endless rows, sometimes four deep, of beach huts. I’m told Frinton is a lovely little town. For me it looked more like a rather cutely painted shanty town perched on the sea’s edge.
The promenade became sea-wall before the wall gave way to more promenade as Holland-on-Sea and Clacton-on-Sea approached. I was beginning to wonder why they had to name all the towns around here as being ‘on something or other’. I thought it might be overstating the obvious.
Stage 224, 10th November: Clacton-on-Sea to Colchester
It was a lovely crisp morning and nearly twenty-four hours of dry weather had certainly helped ease the squelching sogginess under foot. Clacton promenade continued for a good couple of miles before more sea-wall took me to Jaywick. As I approached Jaywick three women overtook me at pace. I was miffed that my statistics for being overtaken had been trashed in one group hit, but as they stopped a few hundred metres further up the path I wasn’t sure whether I should count them as a legitimate overtake (I have). I stopped for a quick chat and their jaws dropped noticeably jaws when Vanessa, Jane and Naomi heard of my little venture. I did wonder how long this trip would have taken me if I had kept up their pace and as they returned for their egg and bacon sandwich, I continued on at my steady 3.2 mph pace.
The sea-wall became sea-bank again as signs warned me of an upcoming Naturist Beach. Considering the chill breeze the beach was understandably and, to my utter relief, empty. Even the thought of letting everything hang loose in this weather was enough to shrink-wrap a polar bear and my bear was very cosy thank you very much.
Sea-bank gave way to muddy farmland for a few miles before I returned to the waterside at Brightlingsea, now a mottled brown colour from the thighs down. I was progressing at speed and was hoping to complete my planned 23 miles before dark. Alas an OS error in marking a ford crossing of Alresford Creek spoilt my plans. The tide was well in and I had a strong doubt that anything other than a mudskipper would even try to ford here when the tide was out. So three more miles via a little bit of unplanned and unavoidable trespassing meant that Wivenhoe could only be seen in the dark. It was a shame as the ancient port looked like it had a very pretty quayside without being overly quaint or contrived. At least the path out of Wivenhoe was fast and even under foot. The only thing to worry about was approaching cyclists making their way home with overly bright 10,000 watt lights shining their way but blinding me and anyone else going towards Colchester.
Stage 225, 11th November: Colchester to Heybridge Basin
Another dry day and my boots could relax in the knowledge that they might get to dry out properly. The first mile out of Colchester was very promising but the next few miles weren’t so great as a heavy dew gave them a hefty drenching as I walked across a few fields to start my inland trek around another military range near Fingringhoe. This inland detour unfortunately gave me few route options other than to stay inland and do some serious road walking for the first time in ages.
The first few lanes were pleasantly empty and easy walking as I strolled through Peldon, Little Wigborough and Great Wigborough. Then I joined the B1026 and I could feel the tension rise in my bones as I walked along a fast and reasonably busy country road with a tiny verge often edged with overhanging bushes and trees pushing me into the oncoming traffic. To make matters worse Essex let itself down as (yes this is true) two Mercedes driven by bleached blonde women, both on their mobile phones, cut things a little finer than I would have liked. I’m sure that booking their next orange skin spray, boob job or tattoo could have waited till they parked, but then again they were probably already late for their manicure. Sorry Essex, but I was angry and ranted to myself that someone should do something to locally to help curb air-headed fakery, it’s a horrible disease that is spreading across the country and I think it might have originated here.
I was mightily relieved to eventually leave the road for a quieter lane at Tolleshunt D’Arcy. It had felt like twenty exhausting miles, even though it was probably only about five or six. I was also almost overjoyed to see the water again as I closed in on the sea-wall at the top of the River Blackwater and Heybridge Basin. The river would be my company for the next day and I was happy at the prospect of soothing companionship.