Town to Sea Trail (and on to Wivenhoe!)

As the photos show Bean and I did this walk on quite a cold, blustery day, but with our current good weather, I would think it would be an even more pleasant experience, so make haste while the sun shines!

You’ll have seen from our last post that Bean and I don’t mind getting a bit muddy, so we were undaunted by the prospect of tackling the 2-mile long Town to Sea Trail from the town centre to the quayside of the River Colne at the Hythe.  In fact, we were enjoying ourselves so much that we carried on to Wivenhoe, another couple of miles down the river bank!

The trail is marked by 15 3.5 metre high galvanised steel markers which highlight the industrial past of the area and the wildlife that inhabits it. Designed by local artists, the themes of the markers were used as the inspiration for a poem by Wivenhoe-based poet Martin Newell, which is reproduced in the excellent Town to Sea Trail leaflet available from the Visitor’s Centre at Hollytrees Museum or online here:

We began on East Hill, just along from the entrance to First Site, as directed. The first marker eluded us, so we popped into First Site itself to ask where it is. The staff there were apologetic but seemed confused by their inclusion in the leaflet as they told us they had not been involved in its production and did not know of any marker. A little disappointed we continued on down the hill.

(Note: Since Bean and I did the trail the first marker has indeed been put up on East Hill, just past the entrance to First Site. I have also confirmed that First Site staff are now aware of the trail and their own participation in it as the starting point! Hopefully the trail will add to the reasons for tourists and locals alike to visit First Site).

After this inauspicious start I must admit we were starting to wonder if the trail really existed, so we were much relieved to find the second marker just before the bridge, showing us where to veer off the beaten track. Bean took her notebook and decided to draw all the markers along the way. She really enjoyed spotting them and studying the designs. They were all really lovely to look at. Our favourites were these:

Also along the route were various wayfinders (some of which have seats, if you’re in need of a short breather before rejoining the trail!) and information boards, detailing Colchester’s historic importance in the engineering, printing, coal and fishing industries, the past glories of the Hythe, and its past transgressions:

The trail took us through some quiet green areas, with a quick double back to St Leonard at the Hythe church, with its Civil War era bullet-hole ridden door, and on to the newly developed Hythe area, full of smart student housing. Bean was intrigued by the big red lightship, the impressive home of the Sea Cadets, and I was struck by how attractive this part of Colchester is - all peeling boat hulls and shiny modern balconies.

We had made it to the end of the trail and proudly noted the last marker. But it seemed churlish to head home when Wivenhoe was just another couple of miles down the river bank, so we headed on, with the University of Essex’s unmistakeable architecture on our left and the River Colne to our immediate right.

The walk is fairly flat and winds through field and woodland. We met lots of friendly dog walkers on the way and saw some birdlife, mostly ducks and oystercatchers, on the mud banks. Starting to flag a little, we were glad to finally reach the dry dock at Wivenhoe and walk the final few hundred yards down the quayside to the Rose & Crown pub, where we gratefully fell into our chairs and ordered ourselves some well-earned refreshments.

After demolishing some spectacular desserts Bean and I decided that walking the whole way home again just wasn’t a realistic prospect, so we asked the ladies behind the bar how to get to Wivenhoe Station. Rather than give us instructions one of them very generously offered to walk us there, saying she needed a breath of fresh air after working in the kitchen, and this, she kindly did, leading us for the short walk to the tiny station! In just a few minutes the train whizzed us back to Colchester Town station, very near our home, and we reflected on our interesting and energetic day.

Another time we plan to tackle the other side of the river bank and make our way to Rowhedge. Has anyone done that walk? Any tips or suggested routes very welcome.

Until next time!


Jade and Bean