Route details, maps, pubs, features, local history and folklore for a wide variety of walks focusing primarily on Norfolk and Suffolk

Monday, 13 September 2010

The Essex Coast - Manningtree to Great Oakley

The Stour Estuary from the Essex Way

The first stage of a weeks walking along the Essex Coast between Manningtree and Maldon. This first stage followed The Essex Way which pretty much follows the Stour estuary and would be the most convenient way to negotiate this section of coastal estuary. Although the footpath does not hug the coast throughout its route, it gives some good views of the estuary as well as pleasant woodland and field walking. It is well marked and well trod.

Date of Walk:2010-09-05

Start point: Manningtree

End Point: Great Oakley

Start Time: 08:30

End time: 15:30

Distance: 13 miles

Walkers: Griffmonster, Kat

Weather conditions: Lovely warm and sunny day

Path taken: Followed the Essex Way to just East of Ramsey, then took footpaths through to Little Oakley and Great Oakley. The path actually goes through the EDME factory yard at Mistley but is well signposted. Caution alongside the waterfront at Wrabness is advised as some of this is pretty boggy and resulted in one soggy Kat boot. There was one occasion where the route was unclear, mainly due to the recent ploughing. This was just beyond Mistley Heath, but with consultation of the OS map and with a lady walking her dog we was soon pointed in the correct direction.

Walk difficulty: Easy

  • The Castle Inn, Ramsey:  an excellent and well refreshing pint of Elgoods Cambridge Bitter was had here along with a ploughman's lunch. The pub is famous for a siege in the early 80's in which Paul Howe, an 18 year old, held a man hostage in the pub. He tried to run and was shot dead by the Police. The story was the basis for an Angelic Upstarts song Never 'Ad Nothin' - and is documented as framed newspaper articles and the vinyl single on the walls of the pub.
  • Ye Olde Cherry Tree Little Oakley: Small pub on main road through to Harwich. Four ales were on when we visited and we opted for the Brentwood Bitter which was refreshing.

Walk Features:
  • Mistley Towers: twin neoclassical towers of the now demolished Church of St. Mary the Virgin at Mistley. A curious structure in the centre of Mistley 
  • Wrabness Nature Reserve: on the banks of the river Stour estuary, this site is a former mine depot established in 1921 by the Ministry of Defence. It was closed in 1963. The reserve is an important wildlife site for owls, yellowhammers, whitethroats, turtle dove, song thrush, nightingales and bullfinches. There are also many wild plants such as corn mint, hairy buttercup, sea aster and ox-eye daisy.
On the left, Ramsey windmill. On the right, The shores of the Stour at Wrabness

Notes: Once we got to Ramsey we had a choice of route as the Essex Way branches in two directions, one route runs to Parkeston and the other runs south of Harwich and then up the coast into Harwich. Originally we intended to take the route into Parkeston and then road walk into Harwich. However on reaching Ramsey we debated the issue over a pint and lunch at the Castle Inn. Neither of us was enthralled with the prospect of walking the streets of Harwich so would it be 'cheating' to take the southern path and then walk into Great Oakley missing out Harwich altogether? It is well known that the coast path is blocked by an explosive factory just south of Harwich and the walker has to come inland to Oakley anyway. So we had a choice of keeping to recognised footpaths or traipsing into Harwich for the sheer purpose of sticking to the coast.  As there is no official Essex Coastal footpath, we considered that there is no way we can cheat as we are making the walk up ourselves. Of the coastal walks that others have done no two are the same and each walker sets their own critera of what the walk entails. We summed up how we had approached walking the Norfolk and Suffolk coast and this gave us some kind of definition as to our walk criteria:
  • The aim of our walk is primarily enjoyment and to generally follow the coastline 
  • We try to avoid built up areas (In retrospect I think we would have omitted walking through Felixstowe had we known there was several miles walking through the ports industrial areas when there was an alternative footpath inland of the town that linked back onto the Orwell Estuary), 
  • Where there are recognised trails or footpaths, we use them regardless of how close they are to the actual coast. 
  • We had started walking the estuaries as we felt we were missing out on some good views and walking. We still need to walk the Deben estuary haven initially taken the Felixstowe Ferry but this walk has been planned and will be done.
So that is the basic criteria but no doubt we would break these rules because, as I stated, the walk is ultimately about enjoyment.

Equipment: Day pack

Accommodation: Grange Farm Camp Site, Thorpe-le-Soken - an excellent and recommended site with basic facilities and friendly staff. It is close to the railway station and has a resident owl!

Transport: Train from Thorpe-le-Soken to Manningtree. Return from Great Oakley on number 3 bus operated by First Group. Be aware that at certain times there is no ticket staff and one has to use the ticket machine. This would be easy for single fares but for return fares it offers a multitude of return options and merely tells you that conditions apply to them yet refuses to enlighten you as to what the conditions are. Consequently we opted for single fares and return by bus!


View essex way Manningtree to Great Oakley in a larger map

Last Updated: 2014-01-02Z


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