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Saturday 13th March 2010
My first day trip of the year to


Saturday the 13th of March 2010 was not a very sunny, or warm day, but it was mostly bright despite the clouds, and it was not actually cold. After a long cold winter I was really itching to get out and have a long walk exploring new territory. My chosen destination was Walton-On-The-Naze on the Essex coast. To get there seemed straightforward enough. I would take a bus to Lewisham, and from there get The Docklands Light Railway to Stratford station. It was at Stratford that I encountered the only significant problem of the entire day out. I had misjudged the time it would take to get there, and I missed the only-once-an-hour train by just a few minutes.

 To use up a bit of time I went to look for the local Wetherspoons pub, The Golden Grove. I had a vague idea where to find it, and my vague idea turned out to be correct. It was an approximately 10 minute walk from the station, and by the time I had drunk a pint of beer in there, and walked back I had little time to wait until the next train was due.

 The journey to Walton-On-The-Naze takes 1 hour 24 minutes, and it was, I confess, mostly boring. It was a great relief to finally arrive and have a fag. While I was waiting in Stratford it was mostly sunny, and I passed through a few sunny spells on my way to the coast, but it stayed mostly dull while I was there. I was concerned that it would be very cold near the sea, but although a bit "fresh" it was not too bad, and all the walking I rather unexpectedly did warmed me up to the point where I was actually starting to sweat at times.
Walton-On-The-Naze station logo
 I wasn't sure how much walking I wanted to do. Apart from a few practice walks I felt I was very out of practice and out of shape. My fears were mostly unfounded and I ended up walking 4.15 miles, but probably at a slower pace than usual. I was using my new "toy", my Android mobile phone with the Cardio Trainer application to record my journey, and the entire walk looked like this......
My walk at Walton-On-The-Naze
A very keen eye who knows where to look can just make out green dot marking the start of my walk at the station. The end is marked by the almost hidden red dot, and all the blue dots are where I stopped on the way, usually to take photos.

 My first view of the sea (ignoring a few glimpses from the train) was also my first view of the Pier.
South side of Walton-On-The-Naze pier viewed from near the railway station

The piers length is 2,600ft (793m), the third longest in the UK, and I walked to the very end of it as part of my walk.
Walton-On-The-Naze pier entrance

The landward end of the pier is like a large echoing hangar full of noisy attractions. Even a photo booth seemed to be emitting some loud tuneless music.
Despite all the raucous racket going on inside the motto of the pier would seem to be.......
noisy brats
Personally I subscribe to the Victorian ideal of "children should be seen and not heard !"
Once you go past all the bleeping, blooting, and irritating music samples on continous loops, you come out onto the promenade area.

Pier train and general warning notice
In days gone by there used to be first, an electric tramway, then a battery powered train, then a diesel powered train, but now, if it still exists, there may be one of those hideous trains of carts pulled by a plastic imitation of a loco (probably powered by a small petrol engine).

Walking to and from the end of the pier was a worrying prospect. A lot of the decking had wide gaps between the planks, many of which looked rotten. Looking down at the surging water as you walked on planks that were seemingly rotten and crumbling brings with it a certain trepidation.
Dodgy decking
The area pictured above is not the worst I could have photographed, but it's the best one to show the water below.

Walton-On-The-Naze lifeboat
At the far end of the pier lies the Walton lifeboat.
two birds posing
Also at the end of the pier were these two birds posing for me near some more rotting planks

After walking back along the precarious decking of the pier, through the bloody noisey arcade area, and then out onto the road you find a very handy sort of place.
very nice toilets at Walton-On-the-Naze
The toilets in the picture above are extremely good. I would award the 5 gold stars for cleanliness, and facilities. The place looks like a small two storey house, and on my way back to the station I found that the upper floor, or part of it, is given over to the ladies toilets. Downstairs is divided in the gents toilets, toilets for the disabled, and a baby changing room.
sandy beaches
One thing that distinguishes Walton-On-The-Naze from other places I visited last year is that for the most part the beaches are sand instead of shingle or sand mixed with estuarine mud.  This picture was taken with the tide going out, and once the wet sand in the foreground dries out it should match the yellow sand above the high water mark.
Looking north towards The Naze
The place I really wanted to see was beyond this view looking north. Beyond the horizon lies The Naze itself. It is a sort of peninsular that separates the sea from an inland water channel. Much of it is either almost, but not quite, fossilised sand dunes, or salt marsh. The particular feature I wanted to see was some crumbling cliffs that are a good source of fossils. It was a long walk, and one that I was not sure I wanted to do when I first set out, but the going seemed easier than I imagined it would be, and I finally got to see the cliffs, and the warning sign for them...........
warning sign
cliffs at The Naze
I am unsure of the function of the tower that is getting ever closer to the crumbling cliff edge.
It's hard to picture the scale of this picture, but this next one, with fossil hunters on the beach, does give a better idea of how high those cliffs were.
fossil hunters at The Naze
If it wasn't such a reckless thing to do, and apparently against the law, I would like to have got up close and had a small poke around in the exposed cliff face. There is a lot of detail in the fresh face of the cliffs, and the picture below shows some of the stratification (or layers) of the soft crumbly rock.
stratification in the cliffs at The Naze
The slab sticking out is possibly the floor of a building that is now somewhere out to sea.
I did want to go down to the beach to see what was there, but I met someone coming up from the beach to where I was taking photographs, and he was complaining about the cold mud down there. I was already feeling that I had walked as far from the station as I wanted, and his complaints about the conditions down there were all I needed to decide to go no further. Another day, perhaps when it is warmer, and I am in better shape I will explore along the beach there. There are some interesting finds to be found by the diligent searcher. The man I spoke to showed me some fossilised shark teeth he had found.
Fossil hunter at The Naze
The place where I spoke to the fossil hunter was slightly above the sea wall just beyond the left hand side of this picture. Rather than retrace my steps along the beach I decided to walk back to the town along the cliff top paths. It was quite a climb up some steps to where I took this picture of the fossil hunter looking for more fossils on the beach. I took it quite slowly and surprised myself at just how un-totally-knackered I was at the top. Maybe those bloody awful steep stairs at Earlsfield station have kept some parts of my legs in trim.
Cliff top view back toward the pier at Walton-On-The-Naze
There is quite a good view toward the pier from the top of the cliffs. As I walked past the shelter, and across the playing fields, I came across a road that had a name that I found both amusing and rather nice.
Joy Otter Walk
The walk back to the station was easier and quicker than I thought it would be. The quickness was handy because although I hadn't planned it that way, I arrived at the station with just 15 minutes to wait for my train home.Had I just missed it, and had to wait a full hour for the next one, I would have been very annoyed (at least !). The thing that made the going fairly easy was that it was downhill for most of the way, but the last bit was most decidedly uphill, and after the rest of the walking it did leave me feeling exhausted when I reached the station.

 Rather than go straight back to Stratford, I decided to break my journey and got off the train at Shenfield station. This allowed me to have a fag, and I also bought some breakfast before getting the next train back to Stratford. My "breakfast" in this case was a Twix bar. I felt better for eating that and having a fag. The useful thing about Shenfield is that there are trains from many destination that call there on their way back to London. Once I had finished my business outside the station I only had to wait a few minutes for the next train. That train was fast to Stratford, and by fast I don't just mean that it didn't stop at any other stations, which it didn't, but most of the time we were travelling at over 80 mph, and sometimes we were travelling at 90 mph. Compared to the 70 - 75 mph of the journey out from Stratford it was a lot more exciting !

 Having had a fag at Shenfield I didn't bother at Stratford and changed straight onto a Docklands Light Railway train back to Lewisham. IThere was no waiting time for that train. In fact I had to run for it. My good luck continued at Lewisham. I only had time to smoke half a fag before an extremely packed bus came along, and I was soon home feeling rather tired, but also rather pleased with myself.