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Tollesbury Wick

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Tollesbury Wick
Author: Steve Hallam, Published: 24 Mar 2017 Walk Rating:star1 Tollesbury Wick Walking Guide star1 Tollesbury Wick Walking Guide star1 Tollesbury Wick Walking Guide star1 Tollesbury Wick Walking Guide star0 Tollesbury Wick Walking Guide
Essex, Tollesbury
Walk Type: Coastal
Tollesbury Wick
Length: 6 miles,  Difficulty: boot Tollesbury Wick Walking Guide
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This circular six mile walk is situated ten miles south south east of Colchester, in Essex. It goes round Tollesbury Wick, an extensive area of coastal grazing marsh at the mouth of the Blackwater estuary, an Essex Wildlife Trust reserve, and a Site of Special Scientific Interest. It lies at the heart of an internationally important complex of sites for birds and wildlife. If there is a walk in Essex that better combines accessibility, attractive scenery, extensive views, big skies, all year round high quality birdwatching and spectacular remoteness, I have yet to find it. A short section of the walk runs through the varied and quirky back roads of Tollesbury village.

The walk starts in a public car park, with toilets, and is entirely flat. It should take 2-3 hours, depending on how much bird watching and view admiring you do. There are some sections that can get muddy after rain, so boots are required in wet conditions. This is a good walk for dogs that are happy to trot along the path in front of you. But dogs that love to race manically around are likely to disturb feeding and ground nesting birds. Grazing sheep are likely to be encountered. There are two small stiles, otherwise the walk uses gates.

The start car park is at CM9 8RY, on the road from the centre of Tollesbury village to the quay. Hedingham bus route 91 runs from Witham to Tollesbury, 92 runs from Colchester to Tollesbury, and 95 runs from Maldon to Tollesbury. The buses stop in the centre of the village.

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Walk Sections

Start to Gate at Lane End
Start to Gate at Lane End

Start point: 51.7599 lat, 0.8437 long
End point: 51.7518 lat, 0.8407 long

From the car park turn left on to the road, to head down towards the quay and marina. Follow the road through a small industrial area until, at a triangular road sign that says 'Road liable to flood', take a footpath that forks right along a flood bank. This passes a row of flats on the right, and a large, natural children's paddling pool on the left.

Cross straight over a concrete road and follow the fenced path as it passes in front of The Harbour View restaurant (a recently converted yacht clubhouse). At the end of the restaurant car park keep straight on, following the footpath sign by a gap in a wooden fence. After a few yards, and by a wooden bench that sits raised on a mound on your right, you come to a wooden footpath sign pointing to the right. Turn right by this sign to follow a path that runs between two high hedges.

Follow the path as it runs into the edge of housing, turns into a track, and then into a tarmac road. Keep straight on along this road. Just after passing the end of Darnet Road on your right, you will see a green metal footpath sign pointing left. Take this path and follow it to a T-junction with a tarmac road. Turn left on to the road, and then follow it as it turns right. You may wish to note some of the varied and eclectic houses on these roads.

Where this road comes to a hedge, turn right on to another footpath (ignore the private road that goes off to your left). Follow this path along the field boundary until it meets another tarmac road. Turn left on to this road and follow it to a pair of wooden gates (which are normally closed across the lane) with a sign saying 'Mell Farm' on them.

Gate at Lane End to Tollesbury Pier (as was)
Gate at Lane End to Tollesbury Pier (as was)

Start point: 51.7518 lat, 0.8407 long
End point: 51.7443 lat, 0.8548 long

Go through the small wooden gate on the left side of the road, to access a footpath with fences on both sides. Follow this path to a farm, on your left, and cross over a muddy farm track to carry straight on down a track. This part of the walk can get very muddy after rain.

This track has a wet grass field on the left, and a large Hawthorn hedge on the right. At the end of this hedge, turn sharp right to follow a narrow path between a hedge and a wire fence. (This right turn is quite easy to miss, as the main track draws you on as it forks left. But from this point the track is private.)

At the end of the narrow path, climb up on to the sea wall and turn left. Follow the sea wall through a metal gate and past an Essex Wildlife Trust sign. For most of the rest of this walk, navigation is easy: follow the top of the sea wall! Any deviations will result in wet and/or muddy clothing. This section ends where the sea wall turns sharp left to run along the side of the Blackwater estuary.

Tollesbury Pier (as was) to Shingle Point Pillbox
Tollesbury Pier (as was) to Shingle Point Pillbox

Start point: 51.7443 lat, 0.8548 long
End point: 51.7563 lat, 0.8785 long

As you start this section you will see a slightly raised line of shrubs running across the marsh to your left, and a double row of old wooden stakes continuing on into the mud on your right. Believe it or not, these are the remains of a railway that ran down to a pier on the river. This railway ran from Kelvedon, and was nick-named 'The Crab and Winkle' line. The idea was that it would serve a ferry service to the continent, and stimulate the development of a yacht club. This turned out to be a less than good idea.

As you walk down the sea wall, birdwatchers need the ability to look in two directions at the same time. To your left, the rough grassland is ideal habitat for Marsh harriers, Hen harriers, Short eared owls and Merlin in winter. In summer look out for breeding Marsh harriers and Peregrine falcons, which nest on Bradwell nuclear power station (that delicate and refined looking lump of concrete on the other side of the estuary). To your left, look out for innumerable waders and Brent geese on the mud in winter, with sea ducks, divers and grebes further out.

Non-birdwatchers can simply look at the views and the skies. Doing the walk this way round means that the light is behind you for most of the way (unless you are out at dawn).

This section continues until you reach the second concrete pillbox, at Shingle Point, where the path turns north west and 'heads for home'.

Shingle Point Pillbox to End
Shingle Point Pillbox to End

Start point: 51.7563 lat, 0.8785 long
End point: 51.76 lat, 0.8436 long

At this point the sea wall 'turns inland', to run up the side of Tollesbury Creek. Around high tide, many waders are forced off the mud flats and congregate on narrow islands in the middle of the creek, that remain above the waves. As a result they become jam packed with thousands of birds. Pandemonium ensues when a raptor comes to call!

You may note that the species of waders you see on the sides of the creek are subtly different to those on the main estuary: Turnstones, Oystercatchers and Ringed Plovers tend to be replaced by Godwits, Dunlin and Avocets.

On your left, part way down the creek, look out for where the rough tussocky grass you have been seeing so far changes to short grass, with wide shallow wet depressions. This is no accident. The long grass is managed for the raptors to hunt over for small mammals. The short grass is grazed more intensively, so that it is the ideal height for the thousands of Brent geese and Wigeon that overwinter. The wet depressions are for something else, and are relatively new. They are to encourage threatened waders such as Lapwing, Redshank and Curlew to breed. They provide ideal conditions for the chicks to feed. Also, as you approach the village, note the retired lightship on your right. This is now used for youngsters' adventure holidays.

The path on the sea wall ends when it comes to a metal gate. Once through this, follow the path that bears right, keeping the marina on your right, to pass in front of The Harbour View restaurant. From here to the start of the walk you retrace your steps. Follow the path on the flood bank, past the natural paddling pool, to the tarmac road. Turn left on to the road and follow this back through the industrial area to the car park.

Remember...the best way of following our walking guides is to use the iFootpath App (iOS and Android) where you will have all the information in the palm of your hand and see your exact location on the live map as you travel. You can also add comments, photos, ratings and track your own routes.

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Text and images for this walk are Copyright © 2017 by the author SteveHallam and may not be reproduced without permission.


The information in this guide has been provided in good faith and is intended only as a guide, not a statement of fact. You are advised to check the accuracy of the information provided and should not use this guide for navigational directions nor should you rely on the accuracy of the weather forecast. You are advised to take appropriate clothing, footwear, equipment and navigational materials with you according to the current and possible weather and nature of the terrain. Always follow the country code and follow any additional warnings or instructions that may be available. Some walks may be very strenuous and you are advised to seek medical advice if you have any doubts as to your capability to complete the walk.

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