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Wivenhoe and the Colne Estuary

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Wivenhoe and the Colne Estuary
Author: Steve Hallam, Published: 18 Apr 2017 Walk Rating:star1 Wivenhoe and the Colne Estuary Walking Guide star1 Wivenhoe and the Colne Estuary Walking Guide star1 Wivenhoe and the Colne Estuary Walking Guide star1 Wivenhoe and the Colne Estuary Walking Guide star1 Wivenhoe and the Colne Estuary Walking Guide
Essex, Colchester
Walk Type: Coastal
Wivenhoe and the Colne Estuary
Length: 6 miles,  Difficulty: boot Wivenhoe and the Colne Estuary Walking Guide boot Wivenhoe and the Colne Estuary Walking Guide
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This 6 mile circular walk in Essex is for lovers of estuary scenery and for birdwatchers. It starts at Wivenhoe, four miles to the south east of Colchester. The outbound leg runs through varied countryside, some attractive, some OK, and just one or two short stretches that are a bit 'industrial'. However the return leg runs along the water's edge of Alresford Creek and the Colne estuary, providing lovely scenery and excellent birdwatching opportunities. The river frontage of Wivenhoe is well worth a visit, with its superb collection of old cottages and houseboats, sympathetically extended by imaginative and attractive new housing.

All of the walk is along well defined tracks and paths, and is easy going. There are three stiles, and one foot crossing of an operational railway line. Grazing livestock are unlikely to be encountered. All was dry when I walked it, but doubtless some sections will get wet and muddy after heavy rain. The walk should take about three hours, plus birdwatching, boat-spotting and view-gazing time.

The walk starts from Cooks Shipyard car park, CO7 9WS. This is a Pay and Display car park, with charges of 50p per hour (correct Apr 2017). The car park is in two small sections, with some houses in between. I used the one next to the Environment Agency flood control barrier office. Getting through Wivenhoe to this car park can be 'challenging'. The direct route is to drive all the way down High Street to the end, and then turn left into East Street. But East Street is very narrow - I have never met a car coming the other way, and have no idea what I would do when this happens. A less nerve wracking route, is to turn left off High Street into Belle Vue Road, immediately after having passed a Co-Op Daily food store. From here the route is well-marked by road signs to Cook's Shipyard. From Belle Vue Road you quickly turn right into Park Road, and then left into Valley Road. Follow Valley Road when it turns right. Follow the road left where it becomes Queens Road, and then right into Anglesea Road. The tarmac is replaced here by gravel and a few bumps, but keep going. Tarmac reappears where Anglesea Road becomes Brook Street. After just a few yards turn left by Wivenhoe Business Park (which is on the right). This road snakes though new-build housing and quickly brings you to the first of the two parts of the car park. Wivenhoe is served by trains running between Colchester and Clacton or Walton. The station is 500 metres from the start of the walk. Wivenhoe also has a frequent bus service from Colchester - First Bus routes 61, 62 and 62A.

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Walk Sections

Start to Alresford Quarry Access Road
Start to Alresford Quarry Access Road

Start point: 51.8532 lat, 0.9635 long
End point: 51.8533 lat, 0.9797 long

From the car park, walk down Walter Radcliffe Road. Just before the road bends to the right, take a pedestrian walkway running off on the right side. It goes between two rows of new residential buildings, along the side of a pretty little stream. It is block-paved and has a road sign barring cars and motor cycles at its start. Follow this walkway to where it comes out at the bottom of the untarmaced Anglesea Road (the walkway becomes less smart as you go).

Walk up Anglesea Road, crossing over the railway. At the point where the road turns sharp left and goes down a steep slope, you go straight on, entering an untarmaced track that has houses and gardens on both sides. Ignore the 'Private Road' sign - this applies to vehicles. Follow this track - it twists to the right, and appears to be entering a private car park. But do not be deceived - the track swings back left and carries on. It then runs along the back of gardens on your left, with a grass field on the right. A second track forks off to the right, protected by a metal gate and a wooden pedestrian barrier (it does not warrant the status of 'stile'). Go through the barrier and follow the track, with a wire and post fence on your right. There is an excellent view down the estuary from this point. At the far side of this grass field (probably the only place on the walk where you could encounter grazing livestock) go through the metal kissing gate and cross the road to go down a wide track.

Pass by a small light industrial unit on the right, and then a farm on your left. The track carries on into a wooded area and dips down to come to a small stream. At this point, take the signposted footpath that goes off to the right, alongside the stream. Follow this path along the left side of the stream through this wood, which is an Essex Wildlife Trust nature reserve. At the end of the wood the path becomes fenced in, swings to the left, and then back to the right. It would be a good idea to put any dogs on the lead here, as you are about to encounter a railway foot crossing. This is guarded by a stile on each side. Cross the railway, taking care to look and listen carefully for trains before you do so. On the other side of the railway crossing the path is fenced in, as it runs between horse paddocks.

The path ends at a public road, which you access over a stile. Turn right to walk along the roadside verge for 200 metres, to where the road swings right and a road signed for Alresford Quarry goes off on the left-hand side. Cross the road to head for this.

Alresford Quarry Access Road to Bungalow
Alresford Quarry Access Road to Bungalow

Start point: 51.8533 lat, 0.9797 long
End point: 51.8418 lat, 0.9959 long

As you cross the public road towards the Alresford Quarry access road, you will see a second (smaller) road, with a Public Bridleway fingerpost, that runs along the far side of the quarry access road. Walk down this track, straight on, for the next mile. You pass through a gap by a white metal gate before long. The first part of this section is wooded. It then opens out, and finishes running between worked-out gravel pits. Throughout, glimpses can be gained across the estuary away to your right.

It is worth keeping your eyes peeled on this section. The gravel pits attract a wide variety of birds - water fowl, waders, song birds in the scrub, and perhaps breeding Little Ringed Plovers in the summer.

The track ends by a bungalow at a public road. Do not follow the quarry road as it swings to the right - keep straight on to access the public road.

Bungalow to Alresford Creek
Bungalow to Alresford Creek

Start point: 51.8418 lat, 0.9959 long
End point: 51.8338 lat, 1.0069 long

Turn right to walk down this quiet public lane for 300 metres. Much of this is alongside the main works for the gravel pits, I'm afraid. It is less than aesthetic, but it is over quickly - and at least you are going downhill! Opposite a row of extended quarry cottages on your right, a public footpath goes off on the left, by a metal five bar gate.

Follow this path, it is narrow and fenced in. In summer, this section will likely badly nettle the legs of anyone wearing shorts. The path is fenced all the way past a large worked-out gravel pit, and then a wood, both on the left-hand side. On the right are nice views over fields towards Alresford Creek. The path ends at a T-junction with a track, where you turn right (easy choice - there are big metal gates to the the left).

Follow this track until it swings to the left, and another track comes in from the right at an acute angle. Turn right to go down this second track. After about 50 yards take a track that goes off on the left, with a yellow public footpath arrow on a post showing the way (there are two arrows on this post, with the other pointing straight on. Ignore this one.)

After 130 metres, you will see a wooden five bar gate in front of you, and a yellow footpath arrow on a post pointing right, where a grassy path climbs up on to the flood bank. Take this path and you will see Alresford Creek in front of you. The impressive tower on the hill on the other side of the creek is Brightingsea church. A check on a map will show how far away from Brightlingsea this is!

Alresford Creek to Concrete Posts and Bench
Alresford Creek to Concrete Posts and Bench

Start point: 51.8338 lat, 1.0069 long
End point: 51.8397 lat, 0.9868 long

From here the navigational task simplifies somewhat: follow the flood bank. This winds down the side of the creek to the attractive house at Alresford Ford, where the road you recently walked down reaches the creek. A public footpath sign shows where the path continues to follow the flood bank on the far side of the roadway. Here you will see the industrial archaeological remains of a cableway that was once used to fill barges with gravel from the works.

The path becomes fenced, until you reach two large concrete posts, between which a gate presumably hung once.

Concrete Posts and Bench to End
Concrete Posts and Bench to End

Start point: 51.8397 lat, 0.9868 long
End point: 51.8533 lat, 0.9632 long

These two posts are actually another, different, type of industrial archaeological remains. One might speculate as to what such posts are doing here. The answer, not immediately apparent, is that they marked the boundary of an old railway, that once ran down the side of the estuary from Wivenhoe to Brightlingsea. Our route back to Wivenhoe largely follows the trackbed of this old railway.

This is also a good place to take advantage of the metal bench, to enjoy the view across the estuary. Bear right to follow the route of the old railway, running through a very attractive wooded area, right next to the tide line. At the end of the wood the path leaves the railway trackbed to run along the flood bank. With the river on one side, grazing meadows on the other, and the skyline of Wivenhoe in the distance, this is an attractive spot (which is why, on a summer weekend afternoon, you are unlikely to be alone).

This section is likely to be best for birdwatching. The river holds large numbers of waders and ducks in winter, with divers and grebes drifting in on the tide. Harriers are present all year, while in the summer the trees and scrub are full of breeding songbirds. On the other bank of the river is Essex Wildlife Trust's Fingringhoe Wick reserve. In Spring it has over forty singing Nightingales, so you stand a chance of their song drifting over the water.

The path passes the yacht club to reach the flood barrier. The car park is just beyond this, where the walk began. A short extension to explore the river frontage of Wivenhoe is highly recommended.

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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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