Tuesday 13 March 2012

Essex – day 3: Tollesbury

Beneath overcast skies, we set off for Tollesbury Wick Marshes, 9 miles east of Maldon. Our aim was to walk out to see Great and Little Cob Islands but, almost by accident, we discovered an eccentric little village in its own right. The bakery window caught my eye, so a swift change of plan had us parking up in Tollesbury’s main square behind a greengrocer’s van doing a steady trade with the locals. The bakery had almost too many types of bread to choose from, traditional in style but all looking and smelling fantastic. The cakes didn’t tempt us quite so much, but we can safely vouch for the hot cross buns.

As you get closer to the water, this serene English village evolves into a typically chaotic working harbour littered with collapsing sheds, leftover boat parts and stray rope. In resplendent contrast to the murky sky and dishevelled surroundings, four old sail lofts have been painted up and straightened-out into offices, businesses and a fantastic little cafe called The Loft.

Woodup Pool
Just past the sail lofts and opposite a bank of white flats is Woodup Pool – a saltwater lido that fills and empties with the tide. It even has its own sandy beach.

Tollesbury marina

With the tide out, the numerous creeks dry up, leaving boats beached upon the mud. Rough gangways extend across the firmer banks to provide access to the vessels.

Just as I can never resist a bakery, T is always drawn to a peeling boat hull.

We followed the sea wall footpath surrounding Tollesbury Wick Marshes. Geese honked on the flat fields, or when disturbed, in noisy aerial displays.

Great Cob and Little Cob islands

Our prize of Great Cob Island didn't look that spectacular from Tollesbury Wick Marshes but then again, not all islands are spectacular.

Great Cob and Little Cob islands

As for Little Cob Island, I'm surprised it's even named on the OS map.

Shinglehead Point offered some variety, with a low sweep of shingle replacing the omnipresent mud, and a decent view over to Mersea Island.  A smiley face on a pillbox seemed to add some cheer to a grey day.

You can't avoid the sight of Bradwell Power Station as you walk along the south eastern shoreline.

Having looped back to Tollesbury Village we came across Fred's Stores and its notice board of photos. Each picture is of someone with their Fred's Stores carrier bag held aloft in a far flung place. "How far will our bag travel?" poses the question at the centre of the board. These are the things that make Britain great.

Of course we returned to The Loft for some well earned, and long yearned for cake. We were only just in time as they were shutting at 3:00pm. Completely unexpectedly, The Loft is the type of cafe you come up with in a daydream. The cakes are home baked, there is an extensive tea list, the interior vintage design is imaginative and welcoming, little arts and crafts pieces are for sale, and the girl behind the counter (and business I assume) is friendly, stylish and a super cook. Two coffees and a slice of rhubarb and custard cake later and all is right with the world.

As it was still too early to return to Osea we whizzed over to Mersea Island. We parked up down a lane, near Fishponds, in East Mersea.

Another sea wall beside another flat patch of green carried us along the Pyefleet Channel and a good view over to Pewit Island.

Abandoned boats and a tin shed are the landmarks of Pewit Island. Behind it wave the red flags of Fingringhoe military ranges.


Anonymous said...

Living in Tollesbury has been a wonderous discovery - England as is it in your dreams!

Stu Ayris said...

What a lovely article! Wonderful pictures too. I live in Tollesbury and love it so much I wrote a novel set there!!

Keep up the great work - happy adventuring!