Mudflats and marshes

If you like solitude – this walk is for you. A couple of bird watchers I met, described it as the most beautiful walk in the county.

Being the coastal path it is fairly free from tricky obstacles and it enables walkers to take in the wide, open spaces of land and water. Salcott and Virley are a union of two church parishes, as well as part of five villages forming the Winstred Hundred Parish within the Colchester Borough.

Start from the church by walking to the end of the street in Salcott and passing through the kissing gate. The footpath runs across an arable field towards the seawall; climb up the few steps and turn right for this circular journey around the Old Hall Marshes. You soon arrive at a stile bringing you into the RSPB Reserve; an information board gives details of the varied benefits and uses of the area.

The journey is broken up into regular segments marked by fences and stiles or gates to pass through. One is made aware of the power of the natural elements by the need for repairs to the fortification between the tidal waters of the estuary and the landmasses beyond. Walkers are directed off the wall onto the lower tracks at those places, where repair machinery and materials are located.

It is a pleasure to see large numbers of sheep and cows contentedly grazing or resting peacefully. To appreciate the creatures of the skies use your binoculars. To the right of the seawall you may notice gates marked as entrances to the conservation areas and a couple of viewpoints for closer observations. At another point along the path, walkers are actually requested to use the inland, sheltered track below the seawall to minimise disturbances to wildfowl inhabiting the mudflats.

After approximately 9km you come to Joyce’s Head Sluice & the fleet named after her; a good spot to rest awhile and look across to Tollesbury Marina. A large variety of boats can be seen in the numerous watercourses, including a redundant lightship and different marine activities can be observed.

From the sluice it is another mile to the turn-off by Old Hall Farm across the marsh to the northern end of the seawall. As the tops of buildings and cars come into view, look out for steps leading down to the right and way markers directing walkers to a small car park owned by the RSPB. Take note of the information board at the entrance. Proceed to the far end of the car park and follow the way markers to the grounds of Old Hall Marsh Farm.

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Another fingerpost guides you around and over a cattle grid, back to the opposite entrance of this large reserve. Once back on the coastal path, walk to the left as far as the steps where you joined the path at the start of your journey. Descend to the footpath leading across the field and emerging on Salcott Street. Make for the church and your vehicle.

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