Essex’s Sunshine Coast abounds with opportunities for ice cream, but walking it takes in a landscape that transforms from the formidable sea defences of Clacton-on-Sea to the gentle, sandy beaches of Walton-on-the-Naze.
Leave Clacton station, cross the small park and then the road. Continue down Carnarvon Road. The resort of Clacton effectively owes its existence to the Victorian entrepreneur Peter Bruff. In 1870, Bruff produced a plan for the town that included pleasure grounds and tourist accommodation; a year later, Clacton’s pier was opened. Billy Butlin later gave the town a boost with his holiday camps, and Clacton remained popular throughout the 50s and 60s.
Cross Marine Parade, pausing to enjoy Clacton’s impressive late Edwardian Seafront Gardens. Descend the steps to the sea wall, turn left, and continue walking. Look far out to sea and you can spot the 48 Gunfleet Sands wind turbines.
At the radio mast, ascend to the upper promenade, where the coastal grazing marshes of Holland Haven Country Park open out. A Site of Special Scientific Interest, it’s a hotspot for migrating birds and wintering wildfowl. This month you’ll find warblers, lapwings, redshanks and even avocets.
Keep walking along the sea wall. At the beach huts on stilts, steps provide access to the beach. You can now complete the walk either by following the upper promenade or by continuing along the sand.
The word ‘naze’ comes from the Old English næss, meaning ness, promontory or headland. Walton-on-the-Naze’s pier was also Bruff’s work – following several extensions, it is currently Britain’s third longest. Bruff also brought the railway here in 1867, and with the influx of visitors came hotels, guidebooks and attractions.
Walton’s popularity continued long after the Victorian era – in 1937, Kelly’s Directory of Essex proclaimed the sea air as “salubrious and bracing”. At the pier, head up the approach then double back on to The Parade, following it around to the station, from where you can return to the start.