Day 54: English Coastal Path


Saturday 18th September 2021

Today miles: 19.7 Total miles: 846.4

As ordered I had a decent nights sleep. I had set my alarm for thirty minutes before sunrise as I wanted to sit making my coffee and porridge whilst watching the lights flickering on Felixstowe docks. Despite still being dark it was already fairly warm and I anticipated it being a hot and sunny day. I was packed up, on my way and walking well before 7am, heading for Shotley Gate which is only three miles away. The excellent path continued all the way to the Shotley Marina where I decided to sit (again) for a few minutes and continue to obsess over the container ships at Felixstowe dock.

After Shotley Gate there’s the mouth of the River Stour. I can also see Harwich, where I’m hoping to be tomorrow afternoon. The next few hours is a combination of either walking on a decent path on the edge of a farmers field or struggling through 6ft high brambles being snagged every few steps. On one occasion I was walking along the edge of the river bank and I noted that I needed to make my way a little further inland, keeping on the Stour and Orwell Walk. There’s a barbed wire fence standing between me and the route and it’s impenetrable until I notice a section which is partially collapsed. I’ve probably jumped over hundreds of various types of fences in the last twenty years, usually without any problems. I put my left foot onto the lowest strand of barbed wire and then flung my right leg over the top as I’d done many times before. For some reason (probably a heavy backpack) I lost my balance and ended up on the ground with my left leg trapped between two strands of the wire and unable to move. A few of the sharp barbs had managed to rip through my trousers and scratch my leg, I fortunately escaped any serious injury. I lay down in the dirt for a while recomposing myself before finally setting myself free. To make it worse a further 50metres along the route I notice there’s a nice gap in the fence.

After passing in front of the Royal Hospital School near Holbrook I make my way to Stutton. There’s a small community shop on the Western end of the village and I’m informed that it closes in 15 minutes. I follow several fast paced locals heading to the shop and manage to pick up some snacks and a few cold drinks before closing time. After chilling in the village for an hour I rejoined the Stour and Orwell Walk at Stutton Ness. The next three miles are pleasant enough and uneventful until I arrived in Cattawade where I experience some navigational confusion, I’m blaming the heat. Before crossing the sluice at the head of the River Stour I popped into the The Crown public house for a cold drink. There’s already a few colourful characters inside enjoying the same facilities.

I’ve about two hours of daylight left today so I continued, first through Manningtree then Mistley until I arrived on the Southern edge of the Stour at Jacques Bay. I’m surprised to see several large tents already pitched in a field near to Bradfield. I continued walking for another 10 minutes until I found a flat area on the edge of the river (more on that subject tomorrow). As I’m setting up in the approaching darkness a friendly local passes by walking his two dogs. We chat for a while and he tells me the land owner, who’s land I’m currently pitched on, has a bad reputation for being aggressive and he’s been known to chase people off his land with a shotgun. It’s almost dark and I’m prepared to risk the wrath of the landowner confident that I could deal with any conflict if required.

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