Hythe Colchester to The Strood Mersea Island Essex
Also at King Edward Quay sits the TS Colne Light ship. This iconic red ship is home to the Colchester Sea Cadets. Today it's also used as a hire venue for weddings, corporate functions and private parties, all aimed at helping to inject new money into supporting the work the cadets do. They look after young people and to improve their training in order to give the cadets the best start in life. As an ex sea cadet myself I know the valuable work they do both within communities and for our future forces. The ship itself is Trinity House Light vessel Number 16, (T.S. COLNE LIGHT), a steel lightship built by Philip & Son Ltd., of Dartmouth in 1954. She was commissioned by Trinity House in January 1953 and was launched in July 1954. On 6 December 1960, she was damaged whilst at South Goodwin Station, however, she remained in service until being decommissioned in 1988. She was then sold for use as a sea cadet training ship headquarters the T.S. Colne. It is said that the river is now too shallow for her to leave, but every effort to maintain her continues.
Walking beside the Roman River, a tributary of the river Colne. Not in the pictured here, due to my camera blurring the picture, is the 18th century Fingringhoe tide mill built to grind grain. Next to it is a 19th century steam mill and the remains of a timber jetty can be found just to the east. Both buildings are now residential and beautifully maintained.
A short detour down the Ferry Road Fingringhoe to see Wivenhoe basking in the winter sun. The place name Wivenhoe is Saxon in origin deriving from the personal name Wifa's or Wife's spur or promontory (hoe). Usually pronounced 'Wivvenho', but the Essex accent would traditionally have rendered it as 'Wivvenhoo'. According to folk etymology, the name derived from "Wyvernhoe", originating from the mythical beast called a wyvern a type of dragon. The town's football team, Wivenhoe Town FC, is nicknamed 'The Wyverns'. Interestingly, in 1884 the town suffered significant damage when it lay close to the epicentre of one of the most destructive UK earthquakes of all time, the "1884 Colchester Earthquake" also known as the "Great English Earthquake"
Since after the second World War there had been a ferry service operating at this spot between Fingringhoe and Wivenhoe, along with another operating between Wivenhoe to Rowhedge. However sadly the ferry here ceased in 1953 and the one to Rowhedge in 1961, but today a group of enthusiasts and volunteers have come together to again operate a ferry service between Rowhedge and Wivenhoe, if the tides are right and requested, it will also land at Fingringhoe.
Jon is a hard bloke to pin down for a walk, but eventually when we do get him out for a stroll he's like a dog with two tails and it suits him. Although writing this almost two years after walking this route and hopefully coming out of "Lockdown", we have seen more of him already this year and it's always a real pleasure.
These old abandoned conveyors are the remnants of a brickworks that flourished here near Frog Hall, Fingringhoe from the 1790's until the 1930's. Flooded glacial sand and gravel pits which where used in the brick manufacture process can also be seen. Brick House Farm on maps also points to this industry, but Frog Hall and other associated pits on early maps have now long gone with no sign of them on later aerial maps.
After skirting a few fields we soon arrive at the entrance to Fingringhoe Wick Nature Reserve run by the Essex Wildlife Trust. The reserve here opened in 1961 and was the first nature reserve opened by the Essex Wildlife Trust. It has a spectacular position over looking the River Colne and the habitat includes the estuary marshland, heathland and Scrub land. Its a delightful place and I would recommend a visit for a small stroll, if in the area.
Brent geese flock to the Colne Estuary, arriving here in early October they are a pleasant noisy visitor, feeding on eelgrass and the crops of adjoining fields. There are two distinct races of brent geese, dark-bellied and pale-bellied. The dark-bellied migrate between southern & eastern England to Siberia via the Baltic and the pale-bellied to Canada via Iceland. When they do migrate they do so in family groups, being a social bird. Interestingly they rarely fly in a V formation preferring a wavering lines (pictured), so if you see geese in a V, they won't be brent geese.
Near the Fingringhoe nature reserve entrance sits this Ordinance Survey (OS) triangulation pillar, also known as a trigonometrical station, trigonometrical point, trig station, trig beacon, trig point or informally as a trig. This one is called Jaggers Trig Point. These pillars were used to re-triangulate maps of Great Britain on the 18th April 1936 by Brigadier Martin Hotine. Triangulation works by determining the location of a point by measuring angles to it from known points at either end of a fixed baseline and in this case, those known points were the 6,500 + trig pillars erected across the country. In practice, a theodolite would have been secured to the top mounting plate and made level to take measurements, this led to the excellent OS "National Grid" maps we all use today . Brigadier Hotine was born in 1898 in Wandsworth, London, Hotine became head of the Trigonometrical and Levelling Division at OS. The Brigadier was responsible for the design, planning and implementation of re-triangulation and he designed the iconic trig pillar, which is sometimes called the "Hotine Pillars".
A short walk on the road after the Hotine Pillar our footpath should have taken us around the parameter of Fingringhoe and Middlewick military range, however disappointingly before we even got to the parameter at the top of the trackway leading to the footpath was a red warning flag. This red flag is warning to us that you are now entering the area of the range and firing could be taking place at anytime, so we should stay clear. However the confusion was whether the footpath was still in fact open being that it skirts the parameter of the range. So continuing on to the end of a trackway at South Green, we are soon stopped in our tracks with a sign that states that we can not join the footpath and should turn back when the flags are flying. Now we are not moaning, we support of troops in every way, but it would have been handy if this sign was displayed at the top of the trackway with the flag rather than closer to the range, saving us a walk and u-turn. The only reason for our minor disappointment was this diversion would now mean we would have to walk the roads dodging traffic toward the village of Langenhoe and it's further away from the shoreline.
However this rest bite was short lived because eventually we had to return to the busier B1025 road which is the main traffic artery onto Mersea Island. There's no path beside the road and I had been looking at aerial photographs for weeks trying to find an alternative route to walking this known busy road. In the end I had explained this to Jon and we had little choice but to just walk on it in the end, hoping that the traffic was good and our common sense would keep us safe. Little scares Jon or members of the Wall family, so I knew he would take it all in his stride, but his safety was paramount to me. How would I explain to his family if anything happened to him on this road, however in the end again the traffic was great, all drivers going to and from the island seemed very considerate and the half a mile went quickly without issue. Walking the coast will mean this issue will be a constant worry for me, especially when walking with dear friends and it's something I do not take lightly. Reading other coasters blogs, I understand their fears regarding this problem. With our footpath found we soon find the safety of the raised grassed bank of the Pyefleet channel marsh sea defences.
Nearing the bridge we soon set eyes on something unexpected out on the marsh. Enhanced by the fading light and setting sun, we spot these life size cut outs of soldiers which have obviously been placed here to remind us of the centenary of the end of World War 1. For us it made the ending of the walk that much more poignant and had us reflecting on the ultimate sacrifice our service personnel have made for us.
This Causeway or bridge is known as "The Strood" but locally it is called the "Causy". Originally it started life as a reinforced trackway across the marsh, but as the sea level rose the causeway was progressively raised. In 1978 during excavation a number of timber posts were found near the end of the Strood. These were sealed below ground under eight layers of surfacing with the top layer being the modern road surface. Analysed using tree-ring dating and carbon-dating they gave an age range from AD 694 to 702 making them Saxon. Interestingly the archaeological data gathered here was of national importance, being the first site of this period to be absolutely dated in England. Before this discovery the earliest timber dates only went back to the Tudor period and this information would go on to be used as the dating framework for other Saxon sites around Britain.
After crossing the bridge, more life size cut outs became evident. The brainwave of local Duncan Pittock, there are 51 steel soldiers and sailors representing those who lost their lives in World War 1 who were either from the island or who had connections to the island, but never returned. Later they were sold or used in auctions to raise money for local charities and I have to say we salute Duncan and his team on a job well done.