After the soaking I got on my previous outing, I checked Friday’s weather forecast very carefully before deciding on the location of the next walk. The extreme southeast coast of East Anglia looked like it would stay largely dry, so I packed my stuff into a bag (with wet weather gear just in case) and set off in the rain, for sunny Clacton-on-Sea.
The driving rain when I set off from London had petered out by the time the train passed through Colchester and, as we pulled into Clacton, the sun was shining brightly. Looks like MeteoUK had got it right.
The walk to the sea front from the rather impressive railway station takes you through an uninspiring landscape of low-rise streets, lined with low rent shops, many of them empty. You find yourself dodging mobility scooters as you thread your way through pedestrianised areas on your way to the sea. Despite the bright sunshine, it’s a dismal landscape, it’s far cry from the town’s holiday heyday.
When your reach the sea, the first thing you notice is the Gunfleet Sands offshore wind farm – 48 wind turbines performing their co-ordinated callisthenics, 7km from the beach. It’s another disappointing modern development. The beach here is soft golden sand, but you can forget days dozing in your deckchair contemplating the limitless horizon, the problems of the modern world are all too in your face. Another simple pleasure consigned to the nostalgia bin.
On reaching the promenade, I turned west towards Jaywick, I’d initially planned to visit all the Martello towers in this area, but realised the one at Jaywick, was just that bit too far from my starting point, if I wanted to reach them and then walk back up to Walton. So I walked as far as the third tower, Tower E (it’s in the Historic England at Risk Register) and turned around to retrace my steps, heading east back up the coast. The beach and the light here are fantastic, you can easily see why Billy Butlin decided to site his second holiday camp here in the 1930’s.
I’ve walked a fair amount of England’s southeastern coast line recently and I’ve seen a wide variety of coastal landscape, but I wasn’t really prepared for the relentless tedium of this trip. The first part of the walk, back into Clacton was pleasant enough. The sandy beach glowed in the glorious sunshine and the recently renovated gardens atop the promenade (thank you Heritage Lottery Fund) looked pretty nice too.
beach hut heaven
However, as you get into the more buit-up part of town, the lines of beach huts start. There are some interesting ones, initially, including a terrace of bright blue and white painted huts, sporting a curious mix of architectural styles (neo-classical Deco, anyone).
However, once you get past the pier and the first couple of kilometers of boring concrete sea defences and grassy banks, the beach huts start again, with a vengeance. One after the other, in various states of repair and any colour you care to mention, stretching as far as you can see. There were two brief periods of respite. One, a diversion to the cliff top to avoid works to repair the sea defences. Where, once you reach the cliff top, there are lines of bungalows complementing the seaside cliché below. The second time is when you cross the sea defences that border the eastern edge of the Holland Haven Country Park where there’s a view of pastoral scenes inland and, naturally, a golf course. But this is only temporary. As you reach Frinton-on-Sea, the ranks of beach huts start again, sometimes two, three or four rows deep and they go on a long way.
To start with, it’s interesting to note the ingenuity and originality the owners have put into their one-roomed, part-time dwellings. The jazzy colour schemes, cunning customisation and quirky names. But after a while (and I’m counting way past beach hut number 700), even this pastime beings to pall. Walton’s pier looks no closer and all you can see are yet more beach huts, mocking you in the distance. If the tide had been out at this point, I could have walked on the beach, but the sea was up to the wall, so I was stuck to walking on this beach hut-bordered, pink-tarmac topped sea-defences as I wanted to take the quickest route to the station at Walton-on-the-Naze.
When I finally reached Walton, I’d pretty much had enough. I had intended to walk on to the Naze, before returning to photograph Walton’s Martello tower on the way back to the station, but that was 3 or 4 Km too far. By now, it was definitely time to return home, I don’t think I want to see a beach hut again for a while.
At least it had stayed dry.
and the photos…
Naturally, there are plenty of photos of beach huts, but I’ve tried to keep this to a minimum, just enough to provide a favour of today’s walk. The light was pretty varied, thanks to the fast-moving (and often very bright) cloud. Towards the end of the day much of this landscape is in shadow (the joys of being on an east-facing coast in the northern hemisphere), but the Leica’s sensor copes very nicely with it all.
I’m also beginning to feel more comfortable with the 28mm brightlines in the viewfinder, I still can’t see them all in one go, but I’ve got a much better idea, now, of how to place them when composing the shot. All the same, I’m going to pop down to Red Dot Cameras to talk about correction lenses or perhaps a 35mm lens. There are still too many rejects for my liking, but at least having had a lot of practice, there are fewer wonky horizons.
And finally, I unintentionally left the D-Track at home, so there’s no map with this walk.