WIVENHOE TO BRIGHTLINGSEA
 

The Essex branch line from Wivenhoe to Brightlingsea, closed to passengers in June 1964, is open for most of its length as a railway path, although unfortunately the girder bridge over Alresford Creek was demolished for scrap after closure. As a result, walkers normally have to make a diversion of 3 miles around the creek to reach the other side. However, members from the club's Eastern Area noticed that the local Ordnance Survey map (Landranger Sheet 168) shows a public footpath across the creek just over a quarter of a mile east of the missing bridge. Phil Wood takes up the story.

'We walked through the trees with occasional views along the estuary before reaching Alresford Creek, where the bridge had long since disappeared. So we came to the object of the exercise - to cross Alresford Creek at low tide!

'We intrepid three made our way to the slipway which is marked on the OS map as a public footpth crossing the creek. Yes, the water was very low, only a few inches deep, but what about the mud? We donned our wellie boots and, apart from one of our number, made it fairly easily down the slope to the water level. Geoff Forward, in his home made garb, seemed to make fairly good progress to the opposite bank, but David Flood proceeded to get stuck in the mud on the Wivenhoe side. I tried to follow in Geoff's footsteps, but found the going more and more difficult as I sank to top-of-wellie-boot level. Finally, I felt that I was going to topple over into the mud and not be able to get up again.. We must have looked really stupid to any passers-by - three old stick-in-the-muds, if ever there were any!

'With visions of being stuck until high tide, I considered calling out the coastguard on my mobile phone. And time was running out to reach the pub! David was finally making some progress, and I managed to change direction to walk in what I thought to be slightly shallower mud. I gradually began to move very slowly, trying not to leave my wellies in the mud, which threatened to suck them off my feet. I really know now how it must feel to be stuck in a quicksand. Geoff had taken my bag, and I eventually joined him, and then went back to try to assist David. My dog was also having problems, but we all managed finally - covered in mud - to assemble on the Brightlingsea side of the creek.

'After difficulty in cleaning the mud off our clothes, we legged it along the estuary path into a strong wind, stopping to view the creek from the Brightlingsea side of the former bridge, and again at a freshwater lake for the dog to wash off the drying caked mud. We then walked into Brightlingsea to reach The Railway Tavern before closing time (3 p.m.) and sample their superb 'Crab & Winkle' mild, which is named after the former railway. The pub also has some photos of the former station, which was situated opposite.

'We caught the bus from outside the pub back to Wivenhoe, and just made it to the Horse & Groom, the only other mild outlet in the area. From here, we walked back to Wivenhoe station, just as the rains came down. However, mission accomplished, we had crossed Alresford Creek! Don't you wish you had?'

Report by Phil Wood