2 circular walks on either side of the Colne estuary. **check ferry times in advance**
||14.8km (9.2 miles), 4 hours 15 minutes. For the whole outing, including trains, sights, meals and ferries, allow at least 9 hours 30 minutes.
||2 out of 10
||Explorer 184 or Landranger 168. Wivenhoe, map reference TM 036 217, is in Essex, 5km south-east of Colchester.
This walk is made up of two loops, one on the Wivenhoe side of the river Colne and one on the Rowhedge side. However, there is no bridge - you need to take a ferry. This means the full walk is only possible at weekends and on bank holiday Mondays between Easter and the middle of October when the ferry at Wivenhoe is working (although you might be lucky enough to thumb a lift across from a boat at other times). You also need to get there at a time to suit the tides (see the travel details below). But it is well worth making the extra effort to fit in this unusual walk. Both parts of the walk are about 7km, so allow 2 hours for each.
Wivenhoe, perhaps because of its proximity to the University of Essex, is a remarkable village bursting with community spirit, with volunteers out there constantly manning the ferry, re-roofing the boat house or washing down the slipways. There are always half a dozen dinghies being made by amateurs in the riverside’s Nottage Maritime Institute. From the church and town, the morning’s walk is along the mudflats of the River Colne past zones of former dereliction (now in the course of regeneration through new housing), past a £14.5 million flood surge barrier, and past sand-extraction works and lakes created in old extraction craters. Returning to Wivenhoe, catch the ferry over to the village of Rowhedge.
Rowhedge must be the only village in the UK where swans frequently block the main high street. But having circumvented this fearsome obstacle, you go via the church into a wood controlled by the Ministry of Defence and used on occasions as a firing range. The last part of the return journey is, for some, the highlight of the day: passing the lovely Norman Church of St Andrew in Fingringhoe, with its chequerboard design of banded flint, to the former Fingringhoe Mill and on along the John Brunning Walk – mudflats and saltmarshes beside Roman River and a haven for heron, redshank, lapwing, shelduck, kestrels and barn owls.
||Both in the morning and the afternoon, shorten the walk or retrace your steps as necessary to ensure that you do not miss the ferry. A short cut for the morning walk is given in the walk directions (see the asterisk [*] below). It is also possible to do just the first or just the second half of the walk. Buses from Head Street in Rowhedge leave for Colchester every 15 minutes or so.
In the fifteenth century, the twelfth Earl of Oxford was Lord of the Manor at Wivenhoe. He and his comrade-in-arms Viscount Beaumont held out in the last castle to surrender to the Lancastrians. They were imprisoned for over a decade. Beaumont later went insane, was looked after by Oxford and died. Oxford then married Beaumont's young wife Elizabeth. The fine brasses to Elizabeth and Beaumont lie in the chancel of the parish church.
In the 1750s there was a health spa at Wivenhoe, with fashionable folk taking seawater baths at a fee of one guinea for the season.
An earthquake on April 22nd 1884 damaged over 200 buildings, with nearly two tons of brickwork crashing through the roof of Wivenhoe Hall.
The Nottage Maritime Institute (tel 01206 823 029) in Wivenhoe was founded in 1896 by Captain Charles Nottage to 'improve navigation skills'. It has information on the area's maritime heritage, and welcomes visitors from 11am to 4.30pm daily from late April until mid-September (or by arrangement at other times).
The flood surge barrier was completed in 1993 and is designed to resist the highest tide likely to be seen in a thousand years. Sluices ensure the tidal flow is unchanged except when the barrier is closed.
The north wall of the Church of St Andrew at Fingringhoe dates from 1100. The church originally belonged to a French priory in Mersey and was dedicated to their St Ouen, who was Archbishop of Rouen. St Ouen has since been corrupted to St Andrew. Items hidden within the church at the time of the Reformation have recently been uncovered, including a Trinity crucifix.
Fingringhoe Mill closed in the early 1990s. It was a tidal mill in the sixteenth century, with a wheel underneath, but was converted to steam in the 1800s.
The timing for this walk is complicated because of the need to fit in with the varying tide times on the River Colne. To work out the right train to catch, consult the timetable - then see the Travel section below.
Wivenhoe to Rowhendge Ferry timetable : £1 each way, dogs free, runs most weekends from April to October for 3.5 hours around high tide.
Catch the latest train from Liverpool Street Station to Wivenhoe that will arrive at least two hours before the official timetable start of the ferry operating period. This will allow you to do the Wivenhoe leg of the walk first before catching the ferry. However, if this would mean catching a train that leaves Liverpool Street before 8.45am, then catch the latest train that will get to Wivenhoe at least 5 minutes before the start of the ferry operating period and catch the ferry straightaway on arrival: do the Rowhedge leg first, on the far side of the river, and the Wivenhoe leg later.
The fare per passenger (2018) is £1.00 from Wivenhoe to Rowhedge and £ 1.00 for the return; £ 2.00 each way for bicycles, dogs and children under 5 free. As the fares do not cover the running costs of this volunteer run ferry, the Wivenhoe Fingringhoe Rowhedge Ferry Trust relies on donations to keep it going. For the past ten years and more the SWC has sent a donation to the Trust on behalf of its walkers who enjoy this walk with a difference.
Allow at least two hours for the Rowhedge leg and leave plenty of time to get back to the ferry before the last crossing back to Wivenhoe. If you miss the ferry back, you could catch a bus or a taxi into Colchester.
Note that on some weekends there is no ferry service due to tide times so it will not be possible to do the full walk..
The train journey takes about 1 hour 9 minutes.
On the Wivenhoe side
The suggested lunch place is the Rose & Crown pub (tel. 01206-826371) on The Quay, serving food midday to 2 pm daily, and from midday to 7 pm at weekends.
On the Rowhedge side
The suggested lunch place is The Anchor pub (tel. 01206-728382 on the High Street (80 metres from the ferry’s jetty), serving food from midday to 2 pm, and 6.15 pm to 9 pm, Monday to Saturday, and from midday to 8.30 pm on Sunday.
Ye Olde Albion pub (tel. 01206-728972) at Rowhedge Quay does not serve food but welcomes walkers and allows them to eat sandwiches inside or outside – but do please buy a drink. This Free House is a watering hole for lovers of real ale and has won CAMRA pub of the year in earlier years.
You have several options for tea back on the Wivenhoe side of the river:
The Rose & Crown pub.
The Greyhound pub (tel. 01206-825573) on the High Street, near the start of the walk, now open on Sundays, and serves “Black Sheep” beer.
The Black Buoy pub (tel. 01206-822425) on East Street.
The Station pub (tel. 01206-822991) next to Wivenhoe railway station.
The Nottage Maritime Institute sometimes serves tea and cakes in the afternoon, up to 5 pm.
If you have time for tea on the Rowhedge side, your options are The Anchor pub or Ye Olde Albion pub. There is also a refreshment hut on the green by the ferry's jetty serving tea and coffee, soft drinks and a selection of home made cakes - ideal if you have a short wait for the arrival of the ferry to take you back across the river.
No Major changes. [Pre 2011 editions] . The route through the new Cook's Shipyard housing developmemnt has been reinstated. Minor changes elsewhere - this Edition and Update May 2017.