The Essex Way: Part 5 – Mistley to Harwich

…or strictly speaking Harwich to Mistley, as for logistical reasons I decided to do this last section in reverse. In any case, I’d already experienced the walk into the end at Harwich on the Secret Archipelago Expedition last March, so even if I had opted for the big climax by the sea, it wouldn’t have been much of a surprise. Ultimately, doing it east to west meant I could squeeze in a last camp, and moreover a camp in a marginally more inspiring place than the corner of a farmer’s field or the middle of a wood.

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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). Continue reading “The Secret Achipelago Expedition”

The Essex Way: Part 3 – White Notley to West Bergholt

It has been a month, and high time I ventured out to knock off the next section. Luckily the forecast was for two days of bright weather, little or no rain and wind and reasonable temperatures. It would have been wrong not to go for it.

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The Essex Way: Part 2 – A1060 to White Notley

A little over a week later from my first section of the Essex Way, I was back and ready for more. This time the plan was to pick up where I left off, conveniently at a bus stop, and walk to White Notley where there’s a station. My mapping software, into which I’d imported a GPX of the route, told me it would be about 27km – but I knew it would be more as I could see the supplied route had cut a few corners. So I didn’t expect to polish it off in one day, and so planned for a camp out. Continue reading “The Essex Way: Part 2 – A1060 to White Notley”

The Essex Way: Part 1 – Epping to the A1060

The Essex Way is a long distance route of 130km (81 miles) stretching from Epping in the West to Harwich in the East. It was created as a result of a competition organised by the CPRE in 1972, and some of the original CPRE-branded waymarks can still be seen on the route (although now largely replaced by Essex County Council waymarks). The route is described as “… lovely, taking you through ancient woodland, open farmland, tree-lined river valleys and leafy green lanes, with plenty of picturesque and historic villages along the way.” So it seemed like a decent candidate for a mini-project. Continue reading “The Essex Way: Part 1 – Epping to the A1060”

Cambrian Way #9: Bryn y Fedwen to Mallwyd (Days 20-21)

The euphoria of knocking off 15 miles and nearly 1000m of ascent on a day when I was feeling sluggish soon wore off. The wind picked up in the night and was really pressing on the tent. Again I had bits of cheap Chinese inner in my face. I was glad to get up, but boy was it cold. I set off wearing 4 layers. Continue reading “Cambrian Way #9: Bryn y Fedwen to Mallwyd (Days 20-21)”

A Different Coast to Coast – Devon

I’ve already told the story of the actual walk, but also wanted to wrap up some comments on the planning for the trip and some general thoughts on the walk and route themselves. So here goes… Continue reading “A Different Coast to Coast – Devon”

A Different Coast to Coast – Part 4: The Bottom Bit

Ivybridge to Wembury: 15 miles, 1 day

The half day did us both good in topping up the tanks ready for the final stretch of the walk. I don’t think either of us had particularly high hopes for this final day’s walk, but personally I can pretty much steel myself for anything with the knowledge that a single day walk lies between me and the finish line. All we were really concerned with was how long it would take and what time we’d get our curry back in Okehampton. Continue reading “A Different Coast to Coast – Part 4: The Bottom Bit”

A Different Coast to Coast – Part 3: Dartmoor

Drewsteignton to Ivybridge – 38 miles, 2½ days

Paul’s feet seemed to have got a second wind, and he was back in the lead as we climbed up out of Drewsteignton onto the Castle Drogo estate. Familiar territory now, and I’d visited all of these tors earlier in the year, so it wasn’t a long visit. We dropped down onto the path that runs by Sharp Tor, spent a few moments there and then carried on to Hunter’s Tor. We had brief notions of a detour to the cafe for breakfast, but the few metres ascent in the wrong direction lost out to the idea of seeking sustenance in Chagford instead. And so we continued. Continue reading “A Different Coast to Coast – Part 3: Dartmoor”

A Different Coast to Coast – Part 2: The Middle Bit

Knowstone to Drewsteignton, 29 miles, 2 days

As is always the case on a long distance walk, a night spent in a proper bed and the body filled with a proper breakfast gives you a bit of a spring in your step. And so it was as we started out for day 3, tempered only by the knowledge that the next bit of the DC2C is generally considered to be “the boring bit”, not worth doing and even suggested in some quarters to be worthy of skipping altogether. But that would remove completely any element of challenge in the project. And so we ploughed on, minds refreshed to give us the best chance of getting through a couple of days of underwhelming walking. It came with a few surprises though… Continue reading “A Different Coast to Coast – Part 2: The Middle Bit”

A Different Coast to Coast – Part 1: Exmoor

Lynmouth to Knowstone – 27 miles, 2 days

The rain started just as we got to Lynmouth, banishing the hopes that had arisen that the forecast didn’t seem to be playing out. We stepped onto the beach to take the obligatory start photo and then turned our faces southward and into the rain. Before we got going in earnest I popped into a shop that had what seemed like the only cash machine in Lynmouth, needing to top up after the unexpected expense of a taxi from Barnstaple. With no more cash machines forecast for several days, lack of cash was a serious risk to the pub crawl. I asked the machine for £100, it gave me £80 and then promptly shut up shop. Yes I’d cleared the whole village out of cash, and I left hastily before the woman waiting to use the machine realised this. Continue reading “A Different Coast to Coast – Part 1: Exmoor”

Cambrian Way #7: Strata Florida to Ponterwyd (Days 16-17)

Ice cream and tea consumed I got on my way, leaving sleepy Strata Florida behind and heading along a lane that would take me to the Teifi Pools. Climbing up gently over grass, I gained a trackway and soon saw the first of the lakes – Llyn Egnant. Continue reading “Cambrian Way #7: Strata Florida to Ponterwyd (Days 16-17)”

Cambrian Way #6: Llandovery to Strata Florida (Days 14-15)

It probably wasn’t a great idea to begin a 4 day backpack through remote mid Wales with a night of virtually no sleep. Even less a good idea to do so with a newly hurt knee obtained in an ill-advised game of garden volleyball at a gathering with the in-laws a few hours before. And it’s probably best not to mention the recovering ankle that caused me to allow more days for this walk and to adopt full-on boots rather than my usual trail shoes. Anyway that’s the hand that I somehow dealt myself, and so it had to be played out…

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