‘A peaceful drinking village with a small fishing problem’, is how Wivenhoe was once described to me by a discerning young man serving in the local delicatessen. And I believe the fishing problem may well be small for the few boats pictured below make up the entire fishing fleet of the village. Mind you, these days, Wivenhoe only has five pubs, which might present a drinking problem for a community of 13,000 people.
The weather is cool, but not too cool. We are joined today by Bullet Ted who avid readers will remember from Walking the Suffolk Coast 1(ii). It his first time walking, for he does not like walking. Secret Informant and I are warmly protective towards him, which causes him to become increasingly irritable as the walk progresses.
We are doing a circular walk today, skirting the bounds of the village; leaving from breezy Wivenhoe Quay to where the sea wall beckons us along the upper reaches of the Colne estuary.
Behind us, the Wivenhoe flood barrier and beyond that, the picturesque village of Readymix lie serene in the hazy sunshine.
A little further and the path follows the old trackbed of the Wivenhoe – Brightlingsea railway line.
Built by the Wivenhoe and Brightlingsea Railway company in 1866, the last train that travelled this line in 1964 was driven by Mr H. Blais, who, on that final journey, carried a picture of a coffin in the window of the driver’s cabin. It must have been a beautiful ride on a day like today, with the mud flats at the river’s edge silken and burnished by the early spring sunshine. A group of waders stands at the water’s edge. ‘Are they redshanks?’ I speculate. ‘Mmm. Probably godwits,’ from Secret Informant.
As we climb to the east bank of the Colne heading back toward Wivenhoe, we have a clear view over to Fingringhoe Wick where the sea wall has been breached to create a wetland habitat for birds, and for flood protection.
Across a field where gulls pursue a tractor
A small bird flutters from the lower depths of a hedgerow. ‘A wren?’ I hypothesise. ‘No it’s a goldcrest.’ From Secret Informant.
A larger, green-yellow bird disappears into the hedge. A Green woodpecker? No, it’s a yellowhammer…
Walking can sometimes be a dour experience, and the stretch along the Brightlingsea Road is just that. This is followed by an unexceptional and muddy path through the quarry. Bullet Ted is flagging. In an attempt to lift his spirits Secret Informant points out two buzzards circling overhead. ‘They’ll be circling over my dead body in a minute’ Bullet Ted responds tersely. Fortunately, help is at hand in the shape of a pub that serves very good Old Tory Bastard and his sunny disposition re-emerges from the cloud that walking has cast over it.
Come back soon Ted.
Late news: The Essex Coast is excited to discover a new website devoted to the life and work of John Alec Baker, author of The Peregrine. Try it here.