Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Walk 75 -- Clacton-on-Sea, via Frinton, to Walton-on-the-Naze

Ages: Colin was 61 years and 97 days. Rosemary was 58 years and 239 days.
Weather: Very hot and muggy.
Location: Clacton-on-Sea Pier to Walton-on-the-Naze.
Distance: 10 miles.
Total distance: 536 miles.
Terrain: Nearly all concrete prom, wooden boards on the piers.
Tide: In, going out later.
Rivers to cross: None.
Ferries: None.
Piers: No.14 at Clacton and no.15 at Walton-on-the-Naze – two in one day!
Kissing gates: None.
Pubs: We visited the ‘White Hart’ at Weely Heath on our way back to collect the bikes. We drank Real Lager and Ridley’s IPA.
‘English Heritage’ properties: None.
Ferris wheels: None – the small one (indoors!) on Walton Pier was for children only, so it didn’t count.
Diversions: None.
How we got there and back: We camped the night before at Elmstead Market. We drove, with bikes on the back of the car, through Walton to the northernmost point we could get to in a car, and parked at ‘The Naze’ car park. Then we cycled – mostly downhill and on cycle lanes – to Clacton Pier where we chained our bikes to some railings.
At the end, we drank tea and ate our chocolate which we had mistakenly left in the cool box. We then drove to the hamlet of Weely Heath to sample some ‘real ale’, and after that to Clacton Pier to pick up the bikes. There were so many people about on this hot summer’s evening that we had difficulty getting out of Clacton. However, it wasn’t far back to our camp at Elmstead Market.

Whew! It’s hot! Three days ago the temperature beat all records – 101°F was recorded in Gravesend, Kent. That is the highest temperature ever recorded in Britain since records began 130 years ago! We put off our Walks for a couple of days because of the heat, and the weather forecasters promised us it would be ‘fresher’ from Wednesday – they were wrong! But if we don’t keep to schedule we won’t be in Norfolk by the time we go to stay with Kate at the nether end of September, so we gritted our teeth and came.
At least the family are more settled.
Mark and Annalise had a wonderful honeymoon in the Dominican Republic, and returned very much calmer. Meanwhile, Jamie and Kelly didn’t know how to amuse themselves for the first week of their school holidays whilst they were staying with us – at twelve and fourteen they are of the age when everything is ‘boring’! Paul and Caroline came down for the weekend in the middle of their stay which helped break it up. Now the children are in Mallorca with their Dad – but they might just as well be in Clacton because it is hotter here! Colin spent four days in London, serving behind the bar at the Great British Beer Festival at Olympia – he hates crowds, noise and the heat but he goes back every year for more ‘punishment’! His digs were in my old college at Digby Stuart! While he was away, Cecilia and I went down to Lymington to stay with Maria and Steve, intending to do some walking on the Isle of Wight and in the New Forest. It was so hot we did very little walking, but we did drive over to Poole to meet up with a couple of old friends from Bognor Comp. (We are thinking of calling ourselves ‘The BRCC Up-Yours Society’! – all of us hated working there, and felt we were ‘used’.)
UPDATE: We ended up calling ourselves the much more polite 'Ladies who Lunch'.

Now – to the Walk! By the time we had cycled from Walton and stashed our bikes, it was ‘within the lunchtime window’ as Colin so succinctly puts it! At the shore end of Clacton Pier are two cafés. On the left it was a fish ’n’ chips, but Colin fancied the one on the right which was called ‘Pie & Mash’. I sat down outside in the shade, and he went in to order. Feeling peckish, he asked for two pies for himself, then he was asked if we wanted ‘juice’. “What sort of juice?” he asked. “It’s a kind of parsley sauce with eel juice in it!” he was told. Oh well, try anything once – and this time it definitely will be only once! He brought the plates out, and put mine in front of me. Horrified, I stared at a pallid sunken pie next to what looked like a soggy pile of greying cotton wool covered in vile green liquid that must have come out of someone’s nose!! And the taste? Well, I think a cardboard box would have had more flavour (not that I’ve ever had occasion to eat a cardboard box, you understand!) Insipid is the word that came to mind – we agreed that the whole ‘meal’ was a big mistake!
So we walked along the pier – not very long, but quite jolly with fairground rides for children and the usual machines that go “Zap! Zap! Peeeow!” all the time. No Ferris wheel. We had good views of the Martello towers from the South-West side, and the estate that was built on the site of the old holiday camp. On the North-East side was a lifeboat station with an old-fashioned ramp – don’t often see them like that these days. We weren’t expecting to see any wildlife on today’s Walk, so we were pleasantly surprised to find ‘painted lady’ butterflies fluttering about on Clacton Pier – beautiful insects!
We left the pier and began walking North-East. One of the pleasant things about today’s Walk was that it was all in a straight line – no deviations to get round rivers or inlets. It meant that by walking ten miles, we actually covered ten miles of the British coastline – it was a nice feeling. Another wonderful thing was that there were loads of people about enjoying themselves. Being as it was the middle of the school summer holidays, and the weather was so hot, they were out in their thousands.
And weren’t they FAT? Now, I know that I weigh more than I should, and even Colin is no longer the beanpole he used to be – but so many people these days are repulsively fat! And they don’t seem to realise it half the time because they wear such inappropriate clothes, especially in hot weather. Some of them are so grossly obese they can barely walk – how they can let themselves get into such a state is beyond me! There was a family sitting at a table outside the fish ’n’ chips café by the pier who were enormous! One of them – a young girl in her late teens, and quite pretty – had tucked her ample bosoms into a black sleeveless T-shirt, and she honestly looked as if she had been blown up with a bicycle pump! Her bare arms and legs were rolls and rolls of white flesh – yet there she was, tucking into a plate of chips as if there was no tomorrow! Further on we saw women with gigantic thighs sunning themselves like stranded whales, and men with pot-bellies bursting over their shorts sprawling in reinforced deck-chairs (well, they must have been reinforced – else why didn’t they break?) The saddest sight was all the fat children we saw – they must live on a seamless diet of beefburgers. I think that a grossly overweight child is a neglected child, and they ought to be recognised as such. Apart from all the health problems they are storing up for themselves, they don’t stand a chance of getting out of it because their parents have condoned, and even encouraged, their poor eating habits – it’s a vicious circle for them.
We used to laugh at fat Americans, but now we suffer from the same thing. Our son, Paul, has recently spent a holiday in the States and claims – amongst the wondrous sights of Yellowstone – to have seen ‘people who have turned obesity into an Art form’! Recent statistics record that 33% of adult Americans are clinically obese, and so are 25% of adult Britons! (I think most of them were in Clacton that hot summer’s day!) There has been a sharp increase in diabetes, heart disease and other avoidable illnesses. They are clogging up the National Health system, and shortening their lives. BUT THEY WON’T CUT DOWN ON THEIR EATING!
We were in a good mood, despite our disastrous lunch, because the sun was shining and everybody around us was having such a good time in an old-fashioned way – beside the seaside, beside the sea! Unfortunately the tide was right in, and this meant that the lovely sandy beach was covered. Most people were sitting outside their beach huts on the prom, and many of them were splashing in the waves. As we got nearer to Walton the tide receded, so buckets and spades came out for compulsive digging – it was all a delight to watch! There was a ‘buzz’ of happiness everywhere, along with the excited shrieks of children. So many smiling faces – we loved it!
It was quieter by Holland-on-Sea, and one or two buildings looked a bit derelict. Then we walked for a long way past a Country Park, open fields and a golf course – but always we were on a solid path right by the sea. There was a low seawall which had notices along it banning the lighting of fires (why? who’d want to anyway? and what harm would it do if they did?) Anyway, some wag had altered one of the notices so that it read:
! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !
It was looking forward to visiting Frinton. I wanted to find out if it lived up to its reputation of being a prudish strait-laced resort presided over by formidable ‘blue-rinsed’ ladies of uncertain age. (Clacton had proved to be the loud, brash and brassy type of resort we had been expecting, a bit like Blackpool but on a smaller scale.) We had cycled through Frinton earlier in the day, and it seemed a very ordinary sort of place. As we approached along the seashore, we could see wide open recreational spaces which looked pleasant and inviting. At the top of the rise there were some taller buildings, but again they were nothing special.
We came upon a long row of beach huts on stilts.
They were a bit odd because they had their backs to the sea, and the owners were sunbathing on little ‘balconies’ facing landward! I thought at first there would be steps down to the beach from each hut since they mostly seemed to be of superior quality with more than one room – but no, the sunbathers had to come out of their little gates on to the prom where we were walking and go down steps at the end of the row. Further on there were smaller beach huts on the landward side of the narrow prom, and it was an obstacle course trying to get by deckchairs, blow-up toys, rubber boats, buckets & spades, towels, children, dogs, picnics, limbs, obesity personified and old men snoring under their newspapers.
The English seaside is alive and well!
We found Frinton to be a lovely, old-fashioned, family resort – we really liked it! It hasn’t much of a beach at high water, but at low tide it boasts a beautiful soft sandy shore. Above all, it is SAFE! Frinton merges into Walton-on-the-Naze, and it was there that we came across a full sized drawing on a beach hut door that was decidedly saucy – seaside postcard style – and not at all prudish or strait-laced!Walton-on-the-Naze has a pier – quite a long one – so we walked along our second pier of the day. At the shore end we had to go through an indoor funfair that was mostly for kids. Then I saw a Ferris wheel! But it wasn’t – because it was tiny, not for adults and only rose up as far as the corrugated iron roof! What a disappointment! We emerged from this ‘shed’ at the far end, and walked the full length of the empty pier which widened towards the far end. A ‘Noddy’ train plied its way up and down, but the pier is only about a third of a mile long – nothing like Southend. We retraced our steps, and bought an ice cream when we reached the shore again. We had eaten a couple of snacks on our way along – and drunk lots of water – but we had inadvertently left our chocolate in the car so we weren’t able to heighten our blood sugar levels for the final stint. Still, the ice cream was nice and we could choose our flavours – I had strawberry.
As we continued, people were beginning to pack up for the day and return to their cars. Everyone seemed to have had a wonderful time – it brought back nostalgic memories for both of us of childhood holidays at the seaside, and also holidays we did with our own children when they were little. I cannot believe it was all so long ago! (Maria is already thirty-five years old, and Chris, our youngest, will be thirty next week.) The prom continued for another mile and a quarter all the way to ‘The Naze’ car park which is high on a cliff. We climbed a set of concrete steps and emerged next to ‘The Naze’ tower.That ended Walk no.75, we shall pick up Walk no.76 next time at ‘The Naze’ tower. We returned to our car – no longer in the shade – and retrieved our chocolate! We had completed a ten mile walk by 5.30pm, and we had really enjoyed it so we felt good. After a cup of tea we drove to the hamlet of Weely Heath to sample some ‘real ale’, and after that to Clacton Pier to pick up the bikes. There were so many people about on this hot summer’s evening that we had difficulty getting out of Clacton. However, it wasn’t far back to our camp at Elmstead Market and we were early enough to cook and eat in daylight.

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