With the current pandemic going on, it’s understandable if you’re less about crowded spaces and more about nature. I’ve always been a fan of natural spaces but I crave them more than ever now. They’re perfect for a pandemic – open air, fewer people, and a place where you can disconnect from society and instead appreciate whatever is around you. There are several Essex walking routes that are perfect for this.
We’re very lucky in Walton-on-the-Naze where I live to have the Naze Nature Reserve. It’s a lovely place and features a great walk along the backwaters that truly feels far away from everything. If you’re looking for some time outside then it’s a lovely way to spend an afternoon!
The Walton Backwaters walk can start either at the Naze Nature Reserve or Hall Lane. I always start at the Naze – there’s no specific reason why, but it works for me. It’s also a good option if you’ve driven to Walton as this is where you’ll find a parking space.
Before you’ve even started the walk you’ll get to take in gorgeous views of the Naze Tower and the crumbling cliffs overlooking the North Sea. On a good day you’ll be able to clearly see the Principality of Sealand!
If the tide is out I’d always recommend starting your walk on the beach. This part of the beach is far less crowded than in town, and is the perfect location for fossil and sharks’ teeth hunting. The cliffs, although eroded, are beautiful, and the remains of pillboxes are easily visible. The walk along the beach leads to a much more secluded area, just across the water from Felixstowe.
Should the tide be in then you can easily get to the same point by walking through the nature reserve. It’s fairly open at the start, before becoming woodland, and offers a whole different set of stunning landscape views. I particularly like the cliff viewpoints on this walk (though I wouldn’t recommend going right up to the edge as they will crumble without warning).
Once you can clearly see Felixstowe then the walk becomes very simple. It follows a path along the edge of the water, with the John Weston Nature Reserve and farmland on your left and the ocean and eventually Walton Channel on your right. It’s such a quiet area of Walton-on-the-Naze, away from the tourist attractions, and the views on a sunny day are quite breathtaking. You’ll be able to see Cormorant Creek, Pennyhole Bay, and Stone Creek from the path (you can’t travel into these areas though as they are largely mud flats).
Towards the end of the walk the Titchmarsh Marina comes into view, and this area is perfect for boat lovers. People often sail down this way, and there are some gorgeous scenes of abandoned boats as you complete your walk.
The walk finishes on Hall Lane, where you end up at SJ’s Fish & Chips. To get back to the Naze Nature Reserve, just follow the road up the hill. If you want to hang at the beach before you go then this is easily done, plus there is also a small park and green space in the area which is great for kids.
One of the things I love about the Walton Backwaters walk is the abundance of wildlife – more so than other Essex walking routes. There are so many birds to be seen, such as curlews, herons, spoonbills, and cormorants, and I’ve witnessed displays from Canada geese and other migratory birds at the right time of year. You might even see seals if you’re lucky! They are sometimes seen swimming by the mudflats or even on the beach. If you don’t see them on your walk then there are seal watching boat tours available from both Walton-on-the-Naze and Harwich, which take you out to the small islands where they live.
You might also spot some reptiles on your walk – adders and lizards are known to live in the tall grasses. I’ve found some interesting bugs too, including the vibrant (yet harmless) wasp spider below, and some less common bee species.
If you’re interested in the animals and plants that you’ll see on your walk then there are several handy signs along the way. These explain more about what you might see and where. Binoculars are recommended!
Food & Drink Options
You won’t find any food or drink options on your walk, so I’d advise to either bring a picnic or buy something at the start or end. The Naze Tower offer food, as do the Naze Centre and Naze Links Café. We absolutely love the Naze Tower, however if it’s not open (usually the case in winter) then we like the Naze Centre as they have an indoor space plus a great gift shop.
If you’re happy to wait until afterward then you can visit SJ’s Fish & Chips and the Naze Café. Alternatively, you can stroll down to the beach and eat at one of a couple of lovely beach cafés (we recommend Hipkins Café, below the kid’s play park, for it’s lovely seating area views).
What You Need To Know
Parking is available at the Naze Nature Reserve for the following prices:
1 Hour – £1.20
Up to 2 Hours – £2.20
4 Hours – £4.00
All Day – £5.00
Overnight – £1.00 (after 6pm)
The only toilets available are at the start by the Naze Links Café (or in the Naze Centre). Bear this in mind and make use of them before you set off!
The walk itself is accessible for those on foot but not recommended for wheelchairs or pushchairs due to uneven ground. It’s not maintained much so sometimes the path will be overgrown. I’d recommend wearing enclosed shoes and covering your legs if this is the case to avoid ticks. Not something I’ve encountered yet, but it’s better to be safe than sorry! If it’s a warm day then a bottle of water and some snacks are a must, plus of course sunscreen and a hat. Once you’re out of the reserve area then there isn’t really any shade until you get back onto Hall Lane. It takes around two to two and a half hours to complete the full walk.
I’d also recommend this walk for dogs. It’s a popular dog-walking route and is the perfect length for canines who love a long stroll. Dogs are allowed on the Naze beach at all times of year but bear in mind that this isn’t the case for other parts of the beach. Take note of the signs if you plan on including the beach in your walk.
Out of the many Essex walking routes I’ve done, I’ve found just you can’t beat the Walton Backwaters for its wildlife and scenery. It’s not an overused walk, meaning that it’s usually fairly quiet, and it offers some lesser-seen views of the area that won’t disappoint. If you need to get away for a bit then the Walton Backwaters route is the perfect walk.
What Essex walking routes have you been on here before? Let me know in the comments, and don’t forget to like and pin! You can read some of my other hiking posts here: