Essex Coast Walk
Reprinted & Updated 2016
When Peter Caton set out to walk the Essex coast he had no idea of the beauty, wildlife and stories that he would find on the way. He takes the reader up and down the many creeks and estuaries of the longest coastline of any English county, through nature reserves, seaside resorts, unspoilt villages, sailing centres and alongside industry past and present. On the way we read of tales of witchcraft, ghosts, smuggling, bigamy and incest. We learn of the county’s varied history – stories of battles with Vikings, of invading Romans bringing elephants, a fort where the only casualty occurred in a cricket match, burning Zeppelins and of Jack the Ripper.
Whilst a narrative, not a guidebook, Essex Coast Walk contains a wealth of information, including many little-known facts and stories. With gentle humour to match the coastline’s gentle beauty, and illustrated with photographs and maps, the book makes for easy reading.
It tells of the solitude of the most remote coastal areas in England and of the huge range of wildlife to be found here. In contrast we read of the docks and industry of the Thames, but find that even here there is beauty for those willing to look.
The book highlights how climate change may alter our coast and looks at new methods of coping with rising sea levels. It tells us how tiny settlements grew into large holiday resorts and how other villages have remained as unspoilt and isolated communities.
Travelling to and from each walk by public transport gave Peter an insight into the county’s rural buses and trains, and allowed him to meet more of its interesting people on the way. He aimed to show that environmentally friendly travel to such sparsely populated areas is still possible and his experiences make enlightening reading.
The author’s thought provoking final reflections consider how the coast has changed over the centuries and what its future may be.
ISBN – 978-1848761-162
Publisher – Matador (Troubador)
363 Pages £9.99
A contribution from the sale of each book is made to Essex Wildlife Trust.
An initial donation of £150 was made to the Trust towards the Thurrock Thameside Nature Park, which was opened by Sir David Attenborough in 2013, on the site of the Mucking landfill site.
A further donation of £150 has been made towards the Ingrebourne Valley Visitor Centre at Hornchurch Country Park.
The following reviews have appeared in media or been sent unsolicited to the author:
I have just read Peter Caton’s Essex Coast Walk and hope that you will forward this email to Mr Caton.
What a superb book it is and what a delight to follow in the author’s footsteps. I have walked much of Essex’s coast, but not in the systematic way described so well in this book.
I loved the feeling of being there and the author’s well expressed thoughts on barbed wire, private frontages and wildlife echo my own. I am full of admiration for the author’s determination to start and end sections of the walk by only using public transport. I don’t believe that I would have had the confidence to rely on local buses – and I would have been wrong.
Essex Coast Walk is my “Book of the Year”.
NB. Peter Herring has an excellent selection of Essex photos on his website which can be seen here
Just a few lines to say thank you for writing your book Essex Coast Walk I have read after buying it at Waterstones in Southend last week.
There are several books that deal with walking the Essex coast and yours is probably the best as it was an enjoyable read, especially since I have been to a lot of those areas myself. I am a retired photographer and spend a lot of time around Essex mostly taking pictures for myself. Back in the late nineties I spent many years exploring the area around the River Blackwater photographically with an exhibition in Maldon Library at the end of it. I do eventually want to do that walk from Bradwell to Burnham on Crouch via the Dengie peninsular.
What is nice about your journey is that you don’t mind giving an opinion on many diverse things along the way, most of which I find I agree with your common sense. Also, the gentle humour that you just naturally allow to come through. Although I do drive, I make a lot of journeys by train and bus (now with a bus pass) and it was good to see that you made the effort to get to places by train and bus. I was annoyed at that stupid man in Wolverhampton who suggested that you did not go to see him by bus again!
I do agree with what you said about Tollesbury and Maldon in particular. The first time I went to Tollesbury for my photo project I was really surprised by it and annoyed at myself for not venturing there before. If you have not been there yet, Mersea Island is worth at least one visit, I’ve been there many times over the years. I think I could easily live there or Maldon as you say.
So thank you for a most entertaining book and I was surprised at the price of £10 as judging by the thickness of it I expected it to be more like £15
I hope you will forgive the amateur detective work, which I hope has arrived me at the right destination of the author of Essex Coast Walk. If so, may I offer my strong congratulations on such a lovely read as to require to be done at one sitting yesterday. Unputdownable, as they say. And with serious messages, yet lightly delivered. The book very much touched the heart and soul of this Essex Girl who (through force of circumstance actually Hackney-born, and indeed has been resident in London much of her adult-life), and acted to emphasize to me why the Essex coast so stirs me. My only sadness at your book is that I fear it could start an invasion of an area and so cause a change of character. One can only hope that the charms of the Essex Coast are of a type to only attract the few!
PB – London
Brilliant book – I’m thoroughly enjoying it – half way through in 3 days!
Chris – Upminster
As the author observes, the coast of Essex is arguably the longest of any English county but its charm is not always recognised.
This is an excellent read for anyone wanting to walk the coastal paths in their entirety, to visit parts of the coast they do not already know, or simply to learn more about familiar walks.
Mr. Caton writes in an accessible, conversational style, with humour and an obvious love for his county and its “unique appeal”.
This book will be enjoyed by walkers and “armchair walkers” alike. Who knows – it may do for Essex something of what Wainwright did for the Lakeland fells !
Essex Coast Walk is well written and greatly enjoyable to read, and I hope it encourages people to leave their cars behind and go walking the sometimes mysterious, often beautiful coastline of Essex, its rivers and estuaries.
Ken Worpole (Writer & Environmentalist)
Information on Ken’s book ‘350 MIles : An Essex Journey’ can be seen on his website http://warpole.net
While the Essex coast currently has no complete promoted walking route, most of the coast is walkable. Peter Caton, a long-time Essex resident, has provided The Essex Coast Walk, a new book illustrated with maps and photographs, surveying this varied coastline from its remote and little visited stretches with its wide range of wildlife, to the Industries and docks of the Thames estuary. Tracing the history of the coastline, he then looks ahead to the likely Impacts of climate change. The book describes a series of 28 walks over the full length of the Essex coast, from Manningtree to Purfleet. While not a walking guide, it is a narrative describing the walk, wildlife, history, people and places along the way so it would make a good companion to someone walking the county’s coast, or simply an interesting read.
Strider Magazine, December 2009 (Long Distance Walkers Association)
Essex Coast Walk is well researched both by the author walking the paths himself in all seasons and weathers, but interesting historical snippets about the towns and villages, information about wildlife in the various stretches and personal humour are found throughout the book to make it a fascinating and entertaining read.
John Purkis (internet review)
Over a period of some 21 months, Peter walked the 300 plus miles of the Essex coast from Manningtree to Purfleet in 28 stages, and in all kinds of weather.
His account, written from the point of view of a convinced environmentalist, tells the story of the walk and the people and places that he met upon the way. Nothing but public transport is used to reach the start of each section and to return home. Owners of all forms of gas guzzlers and huge fireworks and litterbugs are castigated.
There are stories of ghosts, smugglers, heroes and villains, and Zeppelins and a wealth of historical and anecdotal detail. Many churches, caravan parks, and a remarkable number of wildlife and nature sanctuaries are encountered and details of many species and plants given (I was amazed by the many claimed properties of fenugreek!).
The hazards encountered along the way (apart from the weather) include shotguns, dogs, adders, explosives, belligerent bovines and various opportunities to drown! Peter also gives details of many eating establishments along the way. His assessments vary from enthusiastic to venomous.
Altogether, this is a very good read, well worth the £9.99 cover prices, and with a contribution from sales going to Essex Wildlife Trust, supports a good cause.
Your wonderful book has been greatly enjoyed over the last few days. An excellent read. Much of where you walked is, as a Suffolk lad, already known to me, but not in the depth at which you write.
Andrew Catton, Botesdale, Suffolk
Despite having never been to Essex, not being a walker or a particular fan of reading, I thoroughly enjoyed the book. The description of the history of the area, geographical and architectural, I found fascinating and I’d like to do some, or all, of the walk myself on day.
Mark Longdon, Manchester
I have read your book and really enjoyed it. The Essex coast & shoreline is really something special.
Brian Dawson, Basildon Natural History Society & Nature Break Wildlife Cruises
Your book has been an excellent companion in walking the Essex Coast. I have so far walked from Manningtree to Malden (though not exactly the same route that you took) and your book has provided the insight, humour and depth that travel guides lack. I hope to continue this walk in the future and have no doubt that your book will accompany me on the next stages.
I bought your book ‘Essex Coast Walk’ this week from Waterstone’s in Chelmsford and haven’t put it down! Superb narrative and so much more interesting than the typical travel guides available today; I’ve really enjoyed reading it, congratulations on a brilliantly researched and written book. Even more delighted to learn the book was written by a fellow Hammer – Come on you Irons!!
Phil Davies, Chelmsford
We have just completed walking the Essex coast – Harwich to Great Oakley our last piece (and you will be pleased to here that Great Oakley now has a bus shelter and seat!). We of course used our trusty OS maps as we have for other sections of the coast -South Devon, Hampshire, Dorset, Sussex and Kent also completed but must just say how helpful and informative your Coast Walk book was for us – we enjoyed reading each section especially as your views and comments made it so much less dry than normal guide books. Thanks a lot.
Happy Walking Bev and Andy from Portsmouth
Just a quick note to say that I am currently reading Essex Coast Walk. This is a fantastic read, a real journey of discovery without any of the usual and unnecessary embelishment found in travel journals. I live in Little Clacton and have walked from Manningtree round to St Osyth in various stages (so the first part of the book has been very relevant to me). I have always longed to walk the Essex Way (in one trip over, say, 4 days) as I have walked a few sections (I need to some closure!!). Until that trip
becomes a reality, I will complete your book and explore some of the fascinating places you visit. Many thanks!
Hi Peter, We met on the Broomway walk with Country-file. I purchased your book ” Essex Coast Walk” from Rainham Bird Reserve and a brilliant read it has been…. enticing my wife & myself to visit the more accessible bits ! Your style of writing is easy reading and with a marvelous touch of humour and a political/ social/environmental view on issues much in keeping with ours.I trust your glue factory survives the proposed Thameside developments…. and that you keep up the good work of trying to make it a better world for our children / grandchildren.
I had been wanting to walk the whole coast of Essex (where there is public access) for some time. Until I received a copy of this book for Xmas 5 years ago, I didn’t know how that could be achieved. This most excellent publication not only showed me how to do it, but even told you of what to expect to see and encounter on each of the walks. Not only that, there are detailed histories of virtually all of the landmarks you are likely to come across.
I had to wait ’till the harsh winter of 2010 was over before I could commence on finishing off the coastline walk in Essex. I had already walked a fair amount of the coast before 2010 (around 70-80 miles) . It was now a case of doing the bits I had hitherto not set foot on. I was to walk the estuaries of 5 rivers. Pass numerous caravan parks, nature reserves, yachting marinas. Rubbish dumps. Snake around creeks, inlets, and backwaters, often in complete solitude. Walk the promenades and seafronts of major and small seaside resorts. Not forgetting industrial ugliness, oil refineries, power stations, and seaports/docks too.
I was also glad that most of the Essex coast is quite well served by public transport (both buses and trains). As I live in Colchester, it was easy for me to return home after completing each walk without having to stay a night away in a hotel.
I set myself a target of finishing the whole of the walkable coast up to the border with Greater London by the time I reached the age of 40. Within months of reaching that landmark age, I had completed the walk and made it to the county boundary at Rainham Marshes on a warm sunny day in June 20–.
People don’t always think of the Essex coastline to be beautiful. Yes, it doesn’t have the tall cliffs and large coves of Pembroke or Cornwall, or the dramatic beauty and solitude of Western Scotland for example, but a unique beauty of it’s own, especially on the estuaries of the rivers Stour, Colne, and Blackwater. And I should know.
This book makes an excellent read, and an inspiration for me too.
In August 2009 Peter Caton went for a walk along the coast at Brightlingsea with the BBC Essex presenter Steve Scruton. A link to the piece which was broadcast on the Afternoon Programme can be heard under Audio Files at the following link: