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Sep 2020

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Two return tickets to Walton, please...
Erm,
Wallton?...
It's all right,
I've got this... Walton-on-the-Naze?

That's saved you a few bob because the driver's just kicked you off his bus. Three strikes and you're out on this part of the coast in North Essex. It's pronounced more 'Wauw-un', like what how Danny Dyer might say it, Cockney  glottal stop and all.

That comes as no surprise, Walton was once a popular destination for those from London's East End but only when the slightly closer Clacton was fully booked, perhaps?

It's a promising enough start, peeping through what might well be a pergola for a peer at Walton's  pier. There's not much more to say about it other than it looks like this from the front.

Oh! Except this is the 3rd[1] longest pier in the UK, which really means the world, really. It suffered the inevitable fire in 1945 and no, you can't still catch a mini choo-choo to the end of it.

It would normally be worth a wander along but the views aren't expected to be that rewarding since today is more like Walton-on-the-Haze, eh?

[1] Southend and Southport since you ask.

It's a no-nonsense affair on and around the front with all your old-skool favourites represented.

That extends to the local cuisine with a good ol'  pie and mash shop, swimming with English eels of the jellied and stewed varieties.

The war might long be over in Wauw-un but they're still serving up braised stuffed lambs hearts,  brilliant, although the Quorn™ looks to be a modern accommodation.

As, by the looks of it, are these lodgings for those looking to self-cater in some comfort come summer.

The high street has a bit of bustle about it, even during the lifting of restrictions during you-know-what, but that's not the real reason to be here today.

No, what's with this 'Naze' of which they speak?

It's just a headland, a 'ness', from the Old Norse, of course, and when it's said 'just', this naze has a big ol' tower to help you find it.

Not for folly this one, as first thought, it served a useful purpose looking out for Napoleon and then watching the waves through World War I.

Primarily an aid to navigation, it also did some blinding work before they invented electricity and you can get up the privately owned pinnacle for a  few pounds or at least you will when normal service is resumed.

Here marks the start of the Essex Wildlife Trust-run  Naze Nature Reserve, a 45-hectare area, whatever that means[1], and the clifftop meadow leads to heath and woodland where the wildlife runs, well, wild, they say.

The cliffs are eroding at around two metres a year, threatening the very nature of the Naze, and there's not that much they can do to defend against it.

[1] Over 100 acres so about 60 football pitches with room for throw-ins and corners.

The woods lead down and while they can't do much about the cliffs, they can protect against tidal surges overwhelming the salt marsh that's now largely on your left.

The raised bank runs for a couple of miles before the path loops back inland to the tower and that part will take you longer than you might have liked.

  John Weston Nature Reserve

Small area of shrubbery and ponds just as the seawall is reached. It's named after a local wildlife legend who was warden of the larger reserve and the seawall prevents it being breached.

It's a beguiling landscape passing what might just pass for a beach and it's hard to see where the land ends and the sea, of sorts, starts.

How people access their boats isn't known, neither, and what's that you say? Another boat? Fair point but how do they get the other one back and what's that you say? Just leave the smaller boat in the same spot and use it when the bigger boat returns?

Fair point but what if they need to carry a fox, a chicken and some grain but they can only transport one item at a time? Go  Figure that out, smartypants!

The John Weston Reserve is a clue to this being a haven for wildlife of the flying variety, when in season. Wildfowl and waders in particular with twitching-types seen jerking furiously here from September onwards.

It's unlikely they'll get as excited as this pair were. Good god! A godwit! Black-tailed, naturally. Unless it's a greenshank.

Returning by the gentle slope up Naze Park Road, the broad, leafy avenue is home to some of Walton's fancier dwellings. It's also home to more feathered fauna, starlings in their hundreds, who are likely to be part of a massive murmuration later, maybe?

There's competition on the food front, though, although it's not known how keen this lot are on braised stuffed lambs hearts.

Wauw-un is, after all, now known to already be chock-a-block full of me old Cockney sparrows, eh?