Wivenhoe to West Mersea or Clacton-on-Sea walk

Tidal river Colne to Brightlingsea. Then short ferry for coast walk to Clacton (long) or West Mersea (bus)

Length 11 miles (via ferry) to West Mersea. 15 miles (via ferry) to Clacton-on-Sea. 6 miles just to Brightlingsea.
Toughness 2/10, flat

The walk follows the picturesque Colne river estuary (saltings, creeks, mud flats), then Alresford Creek, to the sea and Brightlingsea's harbour. Here, you take a short ferry ride to either Mersea Island (to follow its coast path west), or Point Clear (to follow the coast path east to St Osyth beach, Jaywick and Clacton on Sea).

This walk starts in the lovely tidal river side town of Wivenhoe. It follows the River Colne path towards the sea (3.7 km), first along the river path, then the riverside track bed of a closed railway line, with pretty views across the river estuary to saltings, creeks, and mud-flats on the opposite bank throughout.

The riverside path is blocked at Afresford Creek. Temptingly you can see the riverside path continue on the opposite bank. Unfortunately, the ford across the creek marked on OS maps is not useable, even at low tide, and hasn't been for over 40 years! The river is silted up as it is no longer dredged, and is dangerous due to mud, hence the detour.

The detour follows the creek side path inland to a road bridge. (Note: there is no creek side path back to the Colne on the opposite bank.) Follow the busy road for 500m. The pavement's marked as a mixed use walk/cycle path.

The short surburbia option : When the shared path leaves the road, cross the road to join a footpath on the left hand side. In 50m, turn right to cut across fields to the outskirts of Brightlingsea. After 1.5km of Brightlingsea's suburbs, you reach its harbour and rejoin the River Colne as it meets the sea.

The long pretty option : (OS map required) Continue to a church, when you can head back towards the river. Follow it to Brightlingsea harbour.

After having a beer by the harbour, you have 4 options.

A) Finish the walk in Brightlingsea

While not quite as picturesque as its name, its a nice place to spend some time. Attractions include:

  • a short ferry ride across the harbour mouth to Point Clear (the Ferry Boat Inn, cafe, beach, headland viewpoint)
  • a ferry ride across the river Colne to West Mersea and Cudmore Grove County Park)
  • an out-and-back walk along Colne river path to Westmarsh point and Bateman's Tower (cafe). Turn right, and walk along the seafront, about 1km, passing a community lido (outdoor pool) on the way.

To return, catch a bus #87 back to Alresford station (1 stop after Wivenhoe station) or slightly further, to Wivenhoe itself, with nice riverside pubs to wait in.

B) Walk back to Wivenhoe

Walk back to Wivenhoe (also worth a beer by the river). Map required.

Follow the Colne riverside path as above. Continue west past Bateman's Tower. When you reach the blocked ford at Alfresford Creek, head inland along a footpath, then a lane to Brightlingsea Hall (church). From there, follow the mixed use walk/cycle path north back to the road bridge, and rejoin your outwards route. Longer, but much nicer than your outbound route.

C) Take a short ferry to Mersea Island, and walk along the coast

Take the ferry ride (1 km)to East Mersea, and follow the coast path south west through Cudmore Grove County Park all the way to West Mersea. About half way along is the Boathouse Cafe / Bar.

Simply follow the beach or sea wall, however, there are 2 access issues to the coast path, so an OS map is recommended.

  • The first is a caravan park just after the county park, with unfriendly signs, that denies access along the cliff top (only needed at high tide). At low or mid tide, you can simply follow the coast / beach path. At high tide there is an inland detour.
  • The second is further on around a collapsed section of sea wall (there are no plans to repair it) and an Essex Council youth camp (more unfriendly signs). There is a another inland option here. The beach path looks passable not at high tide. Seek local advice.
There was a seawall collapse here in early 2020 (i.e. after this walk was last checked). The Council has applied to close 2km of the coastal footpath (Coopers Beach Caravan Park - Essex Outdoors Centre - Waldegraves Caravan Park), leaving only the above inland detour (included in the GPS files, and shown on the OS map page). Seek local advise if the low tide beach route is still possible. Local feedback appreciated!

Continue on, passing the Seaview cafe and the 2 Sugars Cafe, to West Mersea.

At Monkey Beach, head inland along the High Street to catch a bus back to Colchester. Its a 60 min trip.

Before you do, continue on along the coast a little, 'around the corner' of the island, to 3 pubs - The Victory, West Mersea Oyster Bar (terrace), The Coast Inn, and a little further, to the seafood foodie Company Shed (BYOB + bread!). You have to walk back for the bus.

D) Take the ferry to Point Clear, and continue to Clacton-on-Sea.

This walk is long and has some dreary and run down (Jaywick) sections. It is only recommended for coast path 'completists'

Take a very short (200m) ferry ride to Point Clear (St Osyth Stone Point on OS maps), and follow the coast to Clacton-on-Sea. This is a long walk, but it is flat.

Turn right, and walk round the point, passing the pub and cafe. Now heading south east, follow the coast along Point Clear Bay (in front of a caravan park).

After 1km, the way ahead is blocked by 'The Heights', which causes a 1km long gap in the coast path. To go around, leave the coast, and walk inland (uphill at first) on Point Clear road (400m). Turn right on Beacon Way. After 25m, right again on Dumont Avenue. Its bends round in a semi circle. Take the lane at the end (it looks private but isn't). As you come out on to open land, head south to the coast wall.

Follow the coast wall to Lee-over-Sands (3km) along a permissive path. Expect to get bits of grass in your shoes.

Just past Lee-over-Sands, the footpath is about 300m inland until it reaches St Osyth beach caravan park. You can head down to the coast, and walk along the beach instead. Note that this area is used by naturists, and there have been reports of it being a bit seedy.

From St Osyth beach, its concrete sea wall promenade past St Osyth beach (caravan park), The Village pub, a cafe, fish and chips), then another caravan park (The Sailor Boy pub), and Jaywick Martello Tower,

Next is Jaywick (which features in 'Life on the Dole by the Sea' reality TV programs), a nice sandy beach and the Never Say Die Jaywick pub.

There a gap of unspoilt coast with another Martello Tower before the outskirts of Clacton-on-Sea. There's another Martello Tower and a Toby Carvery (pub).

When you get to the pier, and Moon and Stars pub (Wetherspoons), head inland on Pier Avenue, and veer right on Station Road (1km total) to Clacton's Station


Finish in West Mersea or Clacton-on-Sea : These walks require a short ferry ride at Brightlingsea. Check the ferry is running!

Finish in West Mersea : Time the walk to avoid high tide, so you can walk along the beach path, rather than inland detours.

Walk Options

Clacton-on-Sea to ferry to Point Clear to West Mersea

14 miles. This combines the 2 legs of this walk. Catch the train to Clacton-on-Sea. Walk to Point Clear. Catch the ferry to East Mersea. Walk to West Mersea. Catch the bus to Colchester, from where you Clacton train ticket is valid.

Isle of Mersea Coast Path

The England Coast Path route is actually a circuit around the entire island from the mainland causeway. This walk is already possible using the sea wall on the north side of the island. Due to the long bus ride to Mersea Island, best for drivers or bird watchers only.

England Coast Path

Alresford Creek

Report due Winter 2020

Its a real shame the former rail bridge over the creek is gone, and that the ford is no longer in use, as there's already a lovely riverside path along the Colne, and the inland detour has a dreary ending through Brightlingsea's suburbs. There is a local initiative to create a new bridge, but it recently lost a Sustrans funding competition, though it did make the reserve list. The England Coast Path (ECP) report is is unlikely to include a new bridge due to the cost.

Clacton Option

Report due Winter 2020

There is a 1km long gap in the coast path at 'The Heights' development (see above), and then a much longer section with only a permissive path along the sea wall to Lee-on-Sands. Hopefully these 2 issues will be addressed.

Mersea Option

Report already out. (ECP : Mersea Island). Status: planned, not yet implemented. This formalises the sea wall route, with same 2 exceptions as above:

1) Near the start, just after Cudmore county park, there will be 2 routes. A 0.5km long coastal route through a caravan park, and a 1km inland alternative around both the caravan park and a sensitive creek the coast route crosses. This is the caravan park that blocks access now.

2) Half way along the island, a 1km long inland diversion around a section of collapsed sea wall and Essex (council) Youth Camp. This diversion remains - there is no beach alternative.


Catch a train from Liverpool Street to Wivenhoe. Buy a return to Alresford (option A), Wivenhoe (B, C) or Clacton-on-Sea (D), which are all on the same branch line from Colchester.

Return trains from Clacton, Alresford and Wivenhoe are 2/hour. From Colchester they are frequent.

Brightlingsea Ferry : www.brightlingseaharbour.org

The ferry runs from April to November (Sat-Sun, Mon-Fri during summer school holidays: at xx:00 from 10:00 to 16:00. Other times 'dial a ferry' on Harbour Office: 01206 302200, Ferry mobile: 07981 450169). Cost is £2 to Point Clear, £3.50 to East Mersea. Dogs free. Check times especially for Point Clear, which are tide-dependant. There are also tide-dependant day trip ferries up-river back to Wivenhoe (return price includes a pub lunch).

Brightlingsea: Bus #87 takes you back to Alresford (or Wivenhoe or even Colchester)

West Mersea: Buses #67 from the High Street (about 10 mins walk back along the coast road from where the pubs are) to Colchester Station (not Colchester Town station which you pass first - its on the Wivenhoe branch line with only 2 trains/hour). 1 to 3 buses per hour. Takes 45 mins to 1 hour. Runs 'till late. A change in Colchester town centre might be required. £4.30 single. Takes contactless. On about 4 days a month, when there are exceptionally high tides, the causeway to West Mersea is closed for about 1 hour. check here

Drivers can park in Wivenhoe, which is on the Clacton rail line. In theory, you could get the West Mersea bus back to Rowhendge, then get the foot ferry across the river back to Wivenhoe, but in practise it would be better to do the Isle of Mersea coastpath as a seperate walk.


Wivenhoe - The Station Hotel, or the Rose and Crown on the river.

Brightlingsea harbour (more pubs inland on the high street)

  • No. 1 Harbour Square - cafe / bar.
  • Yachtsman's Arms, CO7 0AZ, 01206 302342 - pub

Point Clear

  • Ferry Boat Inn CO16 8NG 01255 820366 - where the ferry drops you!

West Mersea seafront (before Monkey beach / High Street)

West Mesea seafront (after Monkey beach / High Street )

  • The Coast Inn, CO5 8NA, 01206 383568
  • Victory, CO5 8LS, 01206 382907
  • The Company Shed, a little further along is a foodie (think Rick Stein) seafood shack - crabs, cockles and oysters. Bring your own alcohol (optional, they sell it) and bread! (they don't). Plates from £6, platters £20. Book summer and weekends. Drivers Only: Mehalahs, CO5 8TQ, a sister cafe. On the main road to the east of the island (Wed-Sun, 10-4), 500m inland from the second inland detour.
Credit Thanks to Derek (Lee over Sands blog) for his help with the Lee to Pont Clear section.
19-May : low: 04:16 high: 10:20 low: 16:41 high: 22:32
20-May : low: 05:08 high: 11:08 low: 17:31 high: 23:18
21-May : low: 05:52 high: 11:48 low: 18:15
22-May : high: 00:00 low: 06:32 high: 12:26 low: 18:56
23-May : high: 00:39 low: 07:07 high: 13:04 low: 19:28
24-May : high: 01:19 low: 07:35 high: 13:41 low: 19:59
25-May : high: 01:55 low: 08:03 high: 14:17 low: 20:33
Times for West Mersea. Corrected for BST if appropriate. Contains ADMIRALTY® tidal data: © Crown Copyright and database right.
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Start CO7 9DJ Map Directions

Finish West Mersea, Essex, CO5 8QD Map Directions


National Rail: 03457 48 49 50 • Traveline (bus times): 0871 200 22 33 (12p/min) • TFL (London) : 0343 222 1234


Apr-24 Andrew

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