The Secret Achipelago Expedition

As a kid, I was engrossed by Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons series of books, and must admit to having re-read them as an adult too. The same goes for Cath too, and she’s been trying to get her son into them (I gave up on this with my offspring years ago after being constantly called a “muggle” by them – it was a forlorn hope). Now every time I’ve mentioned to Cath about the walks I’m doing in the top right-hand bit of Essex, she has been reminding me of Secret Water and, basically, pestering me for us to arrange a suitable Expedition.

And so it was, that nearing the end of the Essex Way, and mentioning that it goes within a mile or two of “Secret Water”, a plan was hatched to attempt the audacious combination of a circumnavigation of that area and the completion of the Way. I think she sees herself as a bit of a Nancy Blackett (really ? Peggy maybe, as she’s a bit of a galoot). For this trip, as the local guide, I would take the role of the Mastadon (albeit sans splatchers).

Cath arrived the night before to sample the delights of the local native restaurant, and somehow we were up bright and early for the first leg of the journey to the Archipelago Country. We piled into “Rattletrap” and made for Colchester, abandoning the chariot in the spot I’d found previously on the outskirts of the teeming metropolis. A short walk to the station, at which point we were thwarted by a landslip necessitating the dreaded bus replacement. The bus eventually dropped us in “The Town” and we set off on our circumnavigation.

Appropriately enough, our route out of “The Town” (Walton-on-the-Naze) took us this way

Unable to find a way out to the sea wall from the Town itself, after an abortive foray into the area of the Yacht Club, we found ourselves walking along the Queen’s Highway, before picking up the Island Lane that would take us to the crossing of the “Red Sea”.

First glimpse of Secret Water
Start of “The Wade” across the “Red Sea” to “Swallow Island”

The tide was in, and so there would be no crossing of the Red Sea today, if it had even been allowed due to ground nesting bird restrictions on “Swallow Island”. We continued along the southern shores of the Red Sea.

On the dyke
“Witch’s Quay”

Despite the weather warnings for snow, wind and cold overnight and the next day, it was a beautiful day, and we were soon down to base layers. Very much the weather the Walkers and Blacketts experienced (it never seemed to rain in Swallows and Amazons).

“Speedy Creek”
Lunch stop

Lunch was taken towards the western end of “Speedy Creek”  with a view towards “Mastadon Island” and the “Mango Islands”.

Mud, plenty of it. If only we had “splatchers”
“Mango Islands”
More “Mango Islands”
Near the “native Settlement”

“I say”, said Titty, “It’s the wreck of a ship.”

What the “Speedy” might look like now

We got to the Native Settlement at the western end of Secret Water and here access to the sea wall became more problematic. So we headed inland on the rights of way to Great Oakley for provisions. A half in the Maybush Inn, a bottle of water and a few snacks and we were back on our way, now looking closely at the time and entering the tense “will I find a place to camp before it’s dark” zone.

The lane

After a bit of a gallop along the main road, we turned off on the lane that led back towards the northern reaches of Secret Water – the land beyond Peewitland and the Northeastern Passage. There was still snow in the lane from a couple of weeks ago.

The wastes north of “Peewitland”

The sun was going rapidly by the time we’d found a flat, dry spot sufficiently out of sight of Native Settlements and Kraals. My recently purchased Helm 1 was up in moments, and so I then went to help Cath with pitching Archie who hadn’t been on an outing for such a while, that she’d forgotten how to pitch him. He is a tricky tent to get just right though.

Home for the night, beyond the “Northeast Passage”

We woke to a light dusting of snow, and more coming in the air.

A bit more snow and this could have been a Secret Water/Winter Holiday mashup

Too cold to stand around, we got on our way before 8am, our sole goal being to get to Harwich as quickly as possible – thoughts of doing the Essex Way bit had long been parked due to lack of oomph in the legs. The coastal blizzard we now found ourselves in also didn’t do much to change our minds. Our sole focus now was on a cooked breakfast.

Looking across the arctic wastes to “Flint Island” and the “Ocean”
The end of “Secret Water” – looking down the “out of bounds” line
Snow on the beach

We arrived in Harwich and failed to find a suitable establishment, so picked up the train back to Colchester. Of course if it had been summer, we could have taken the ferry across the Stour and continued the walk to Pin Mill.

Old lighthouse, Harwich

The walk was done, but it leaves me with the last bit of Essex Way still to do. Then it will be onto a new long distance path project.





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