What a splendid place Walton-on-the-Naze is to spend time on a fine day outside the high season. The train conductor on the second train thought it should be fine for me to come home later so I am hoping that confidence is borne out when someone comes to check the tickets.
There’s not a lot doing by the station at Thorpe-le-Soken and I didn’t have enough time to explore, but there was evidence of decayed grandeur and Google informed me that Eduardo Paolozzi lived there. Google also informed me that beautiful properties for the price of my London flat are available.
Having spilt my snack down my front, I followed up by dropping avocado onto my jumper. Fortunately the sun was shining brightly when I reached WotN so I stuffed said jumper in my bag and presented a clean shirt to the world.
Out of the station and a walk beside a sparkling sea. I’m guessing most of the people I saw walking their dogs, or pushing young children in pushchairs are locals. The schools are back, many of the ice cream sellers and chip shops seemed to have shut up, maybe to allow staff to go on their own holidays. Leaving the town behind me I made for the nature trail and encountered students of all ages engaged in field trips. They were sketching, photographing, measuring and looking intently. I wondered if they had any data on the beach huts. East Anglia does pretty well for beach huts, but I have never seen anything like the number at Walton-on-the-Naze. They are terraced and spread out above the beach like a miniature housing estate. Astonishing.
At the tower, built by Trinity House in 1720 as a landmark for mariners, there were three cafês. One was the Essex Wildlife Centre. I went in for information and came out with a scarf and a doorstop. I already had a leaflet with a vague map but I was starting to realise that just keeping the sea on my right might not be enough. The Second World War trail was very clearly way marked but nature lovers were left with the choice of several paths. I asked some of the dog walkers – there are lots of dogs on WotN – but no one knew. I went on thinking that it was unlikely I’d get lost even with my track record in navigation.
And so it proved. Although I never saw information board number one, number two confirmed I was in the right place and after that it was a breeze. I saw swans, ducks, cormorants, a kestrel hovered over a field then another flew straight in front of me. Chaffinches flitted across the path, but I looked in vain for seals. Common or grey, I wasn’t fussy. No joy. Boats at their buoys in Walton Channel made a pretty sight and information board three told me this was Arthur Ransome territory. The next stretch was supposed to yield sightings of slow worms, lizards and grass snakes. It didn’t. Not that I am complaining. I was very happy; feeling myself blessed to be there, to be walking in sunshine, to be relatively fit and generally healthy.
All too soon I reached the end of the trail and was back on pavements by houses, and a not terribly attractive building with a blue plaque saying it had been a foundry established in 1874. In the First World War women worked there producing armour-piercing shells.
Residential streets gave way too o commerce. A mixed bag of shops suggesting a WotN more diverse than it appears at first glance.
Sunshine, sea, a day trip all add up to a bag of chips on the beach. So that was the last thing on the itinerary before heading to the station. Sanderlings walked close by me. Gulls watched from a distance, people in equal holiday mood walked by eating ice creams.
Yes, a very good day out.