Description & Map
This walk takes you along the picturesque waterfront of Wivenhoe, alongside the quay festooned with fishing boats, and out into the broad open skies alongside the River Colne. It passes over the marshland, now grazed by cattle, traverses the old Wivenhoe to Brightlingsea railway line, and returns via an avenue of trees with wonderful views of the estuary from higher up. Listen to the birdsong in the well-established woodland bordering Arlesford Grange, before returning along the sea wall to relax outside the quayside Rose and Crown. Definitely an excursion to enjoy during the height of summer.
A. Turn left out of Wivenhoe Rail Station ( ) along Station Road. At the end of the road, turn right down Wivenhoe High Street, continuing through Anchor Hill to The Quay.
B. Turn left along the Quay, passing the Nottage Maritime Institute and Rose and Crown pub ( ) Follow the footpath signs east along The Folly, and past Cook's Shipyard (1) to meet Walter Radcliffe Way. You are aiming for the footpath by the Colne Barrier (2) .
C. Immediately after the Colne Barrier you will find Wivenhoe Sailing Club. 170 yards further along the gravel riverside path, there is a fork in the path to the left over marshland (3).
D. This path (4) takes you up and over the dismantled railway, then climbs up an avenue of trees to a kissing gate onto Arlesford Road (5). Cross over the road outside a house called 'The Chase' and turn right along the raised roadside grass.
E. After 150 yards you will see a lane entrance over on the right on the corner of the main road, signed 'Arlesford Quarry'.
Do not take the private quarry road – you need the bridleway which runs parallel to it on the right (6).
F. Carry straight on past Marsh Farm and Arlesford Grange (7).
G. 500 yards past the Arlesford Grange entrance, there is a footpath leaving the bridleway on the right, although this is easily missed when the trees are in leaf (8).
H. Follow the dogleg of the path keeping the hedge immediately on the right. It can give the illusion that you have turned 180° back on yourself but the path diverges away from the bridleway you've just walked and steadily goes downhill (9).
I. Further on, by a bench, the landowner has kindly provided an alternative route through the woods. Keeping to the field edge is the official line of the footpath (10).
J. At the bottom corner of the field, turn right into the woods and follow the steep trail downhill (11).
K. At the bottom, you will see the River Colne in front of you. Turn right along the tree-lined path back towards Wivenhoe.
The enclosed path emerges onto the open seawall path after 400 yards (12).
J. The walk back is uncomplicated giving you a chance to enjoy the wonderful views along the river (13), and again enjoy the pleasant tranquillity of this village.
Wivenhoe is a quaint estuary fishing village with narrow winding streets, old half-timbered houses and pleasant walkways in front of the cottages and converted wharf buildings which line the Quayside.
Large merchant ships were unable to navigate the shallow waters of the Colne upstream to the Hythe port at Colchester, so Wivenhoe acted as the stopping off point for smaller vessels to ferry goods to and from Colchester. In 1713 two Colchester packet boats went weekly from Wivenhoe to London with cloth and returned with wool for the Colchester cloth industry. Ships sailed to London and Hull at least weekly in 1832. A steam ship sailed twice a week from Wivenhoe to London from 1837. Wivenhoe had its own viable fishing industry with catches of sprats and oysters being packed in Wivenhoe and send on to London via the railway which opened in 1863. In 1866 a line from Wivenhoe to Brightlingsea was opened but this was closed in 1964 by Beeching, and is the dismantled railway that you cross over in this walk.
One of the earliest records of Wivenhoe boat-building is in 1575. A Richard Quykeskey rented a shipyard upstream of The Quay which for the next four-and-a-half centuries was central to Wivenhoe's economy. With its dry-dock, craft including fishing smacks, sail and steam yachts, tramp steamers of 1000 tons and gunboats for Lord Kitchener and General Gordon were built at Wivenhoe Shipyard. WW1 and WW2 minesweepers were also built and serviced, and so too were sections of the D-Day artificial Mulberry Harbour constructed here in secret. In 1961 the upstream shipyard finally closed and the site became a wharf where timber was unloaded, and then other cargoes, including coal. This was known as Wivenhoe Port Ltd.
A smaller shipyard downstream was active from 1840, run by James Husk and specialising in fishing smacks, yachts and other boats. During the Second World War, Vosper took over the yard to build Motor Torpedo Boats. After a change in hands, it became known as Cook's Shipyard after WWII. As well as building many yachts, Wivenhoe became nationally known for its yachting events and regattas in the 19th and early 20th centuries attracting people from beyond the county, many arriving by rail. By 1986, Cook's Shipyard was the largest employer in the town, but its owners went into liquidation. Its abandoned buildings remained derelict for 20 years until the new residential development there today was created with the agreement that people may walk all the way along the river bank, on the jetty and elsewhere through the development and for use of the wet dock as a base for local fishermen.
In 1953 the Wivenhoe shipyards and railway lines were swamped and 43 houses were flooded by the North Sea storm surge. To protect Wivenhoe from this sort of event, the Colne Barrier was erected in 1993 between Wivenhoe and Rowhedge. The sheet steel barrier is 8m high and 130m long, with a navigation opening of 30m. Four and a half metre high earth banks, 250m long, constructed on each side of the river, complete the tidal defence line. The Environment Agency operates the barrier using two giant lock gates to manage water levels. Hydraulic cylinders are used to close the gates most of the way, before the pressure of the water takes over and shuts them completely, locking them until the water recedes.
The Environment Agency have long term plans for 'coastal realignment' as part of the Essex Shoreline Management Plan. They plan to maintain the seawall until 2025, but after that the Agency propose to breach the sea wall to allow re-flooding of the marshland that is part of this walk. The deliberately flooded areas will completely reshape the coastline and geography of the area, and will result in the loss of the current sea wall walk that is so valued by the local community and visitors. They have formulated this plan based on the belief that it will be impossible to maintain the existing coastline "as sea level rises* and wave activity increases". (*based on DEFRA 2006 estimates of 8mm/year – total 255mm sea level rise between 2025-2055, despite DEFRA's own revised estimates in 2009 being half that. Interestingly, these 2009 predictions are 3 times higher than real-life observations at PSMSL stations at Southend, Felixstowe and Lowestoft. Are DEFRA Predictions Wrong? ) Given the Environmental Agency's priority of protecting the habitat of birds over humans seen in Somerset recently, serious questions need to be asked about this dangerous mix of poor science and the new enviro-dogma.
Wivenhoe has always had an active community and much of this has involved inns and public houses throughout its history. In 1896 no less than 21 pubs were listed, seven of these remain as licensed premises today. For example, the Falcon (now a private house) with its brewery, and bowling green in the 18th century, accommodated meetings of the vestry, a friendly society, and the Wivenhoe Association against Housebreakers, besides auctions and bankruptcy conferences; the landlord arranged cricket matches and dances, and ran a post chaise service. Eleven different friendly societies meeting at inns were recorded between 1793 and 1855. Between 1855 and 1934 doctors' clubs, self-help organisations collecting money from their members to pay to doctors' practices, met, usually at public houses.
As part of the artistically-bent community, and academic overspill from Essex University, socialising in pubs has been an important part of Wivenhoe life. As a post-grad student at Essex University, I can testify that it was compulsory in those days (the late 70s) to keep up regular appearances in all the watering holes of Wivenhoe. My favourite was the Black Buoy, where you'd often see the painter Francis Bacon in a late-night lock-in. The Black Buoy, listed in 1758, was owned in the early 19th century by the ship-builder Thomas Harvey. A village consortium has recently managed to buy the pub as a Free House, and will re-open its doors to the public at 7.30pm Friday 8th November 2013. Cheers! www.blackbuoy.co.uk