Today, Thursday, is the BIG one. I plan to do an eight mile walk from Tollesbury to Salcott-cum-Virley along the edge, and through, some of the Essex salt marsh.

It wasn't practical for me to drive to Tollesbury as I wasn't reurning there so I planned to go by bus but Amanda immediately volunteered to drive me to Tollesbury. So was it her altruistic nature showing through? Well, no it wasn't, it was because I was planning to have lunch, when I got to Tollesbury, in a little tea room that we discovered recently and which neither of us had tried and she certainly wasn't going to be left out of that.

So we parked the car and headed down towards Tollesbury Waterside. This tea room is called 'The Loft' because it is in one of the old sail lofts which I have mentioned before.

We arrived at around 12:30 to find plenty of vacant tables, chose one and settled ourselves down and you can see Amanda avidly studying the menu. We didn't have long to wait for our order to be taken and my coffee and Amanda's tea arrived very soon after. It wasn't very long after that that our lunches arrived so the service was certainly good. I was having Mediterranean vegetable soup which turned out to be very tasty and the bread, from the local bakers, was excellent. Amanda had a free range chicken, homemade sausage meat stuffing and cranberry sauce sandwich which she thoroughly enjoyed. The food served here is all local produce and they also have some very tempting cakes which, I believe, are also homemade. Although it was quiet when we arrived by the time we left it was very busy. An obviously popular place.

Having sampled the fare I was very tempted to suggest that we spend the afternoon sitting here drinking coffee and eating cake but decided that it wouldn't make a particularly interesting blog post. So it was time for Amanda to go back home and for me to start my walk the beginning of which was virtually next to the tea room.

My route, produced on my GPS as I walked, is shown on this map with the start at the bottom.

There are waypoints marked at 1 hour, 2 hours and 3 hours into the walk with the final waypoint at the end.

This is the start of my journey into the unknown (I haven't done this before) so up onto the sea wall and out into the wilderness. This next view is only a few hundred yards, if that, from the start of the path shown above with the salt marsh stretching off into the distance past the houseboat.

It wasn't long after I started that I saw a Little Egret standing in the marsh and I was hoping to get a photograph with the telephoto when I was near enough but it flew off long before that.

I suppose it would have been about 30 minutes into the walk when I took this next photograph.

The habitation on the horizon is West Mersea on Mersea Island on the other side of Salcott Channel. By the time I get to waypoint 'B' I shall be a lot nearer but that won't be for some time yet.

Not long after taking the above photograph I turned round and looked the other way. This picture was taken at that point with the sun and Tollesbury just out of the picture to the right. I'm probably looking towards Shinglehead Point (see map).

After about 40 minutes I reach Old Hall Farm which, as you can see on the map, is at the end of a little lane which comes in to the marshes and stops at the farm.

A little further on at the 1 hour mark I saw this next view looking across the marsh to Tollesbury. A little to the left of centre, on the horizon, is the Tollesbury Lightship and you can just about see the tower on the lightship sticking up above the horizon in the larger picture. It looks a long way away now.

Not long past the last view I reach a junction where I have to decide to branch left and take a shorter route or carry on round the edge the long way with no chance of changing my mind. I ask myself 'Are you a man or a wimp?' and my legs quickly answer 'A wimp, a wimp' but I decide to ignore them and go the long way anyway. I may regret that later and my legs certainly will.

Further along the wall I found that I had to wade through a lot of Norfolk Reed. It's certainly unusual to find it on the top of the wall as it normally grows on the edge of water. You can see the wall curving gently to the left with the River Blackwater on the outer edge of the marsh to the right.

Occasionally I hear the cry of a Curlew but don't actually see any. I am now heading along the sea wall on the northern edge of North Channel which runs between me and Great Cob Island. If I turn and look inland I'm looking across Old Hall Marshes towards Peldon (off the top of the map). The water in the foreground will be fresh water because it's on the inside of the sea wall.

A little further on I met this group of local ladies having a chat on the wall.

They didn't seem particularly pleased to see me and went off in a huff. I think that they were envious of the fact that I could navigate the stile and they couldn't. The buildings visible beyond are part of West Mersea on Mersea Island and are a lot nearer now than when I mentioned them earlier.

It was pretty breezy out here and there were a number of sailing vessels on the water including these small sailing boats which appeared to be in a race of some sort.

I then come across a small shell bank (bottom right of next picture) with Mersea Island in the distance. You may be able to see that the sea wall runs straight ahead towards Mersea and then turns abruptly left. That turn should be around my 2 hour mark. You can also see that parts of the marsh are now almost submerged as the tide is coming in.

I finally reach my two hour point, waypoint 'B', and I'm as near to Mersea as I'm going to get. Doesn't look very far away does it? The sun seems to have taken a break though.

Looking inland over Old Hall Marshes, at this same point, I can see Pennyhole Fleet.

Pennyhole Fleet is the area of fresh water in the foreground. A 'fleet' is an old channel that has since been blocked at both ends. Whilst I'm looking at this view I hear a lot of distant honking and then seen a flock of geese flying in from the right and they curve round towards me and land on the far side of the marsh. They are too far to see once they've landed but they are probably Brent Geese coming from more northern climes to overwinter in this country.

A little later I took this photograph, again of Old Hall Marshes, because I rather liked the look of the back lighting when looking directly into the sun.

Surely I must be getting near the end by this point? Well the bad news is that I still have an hour to go and I am beginning to get tired. My legs are trying to mutiny but I'm in charge and they do as they're told. So there!

I'm now at Quince's Corner, just short of the three hour 'C' waypoint.

Quince's Corner is a small bay in Salcott Channel. You can probably see the curved shape in the picture with Mersea over to the far left and the path I've been following along the top of the wall and it can't be far to the three hour mark surely? Well no it isn't far and I reach it shortly after (waypoint 'C'). I pause to telephone Amanda to get her to come to Salcott to pick me up and then continue towards salcott. A little after this I hear a Curlew and see it land on the opposite edge of the channel.

Those buildings in the trees on the horizon must be Salcott. I wish they didn't look quite so far away.

I finally get to the point where I have to leave the wall and cross a field to get into Salcott and there, at the end, is Amanda waiting for me at the end of the lane (waypoint 'D').

That turned out to be 8.5 miles in 3 hours 30 minutes. Whew!  :cool:

It was, however, a lovely day to be out on the marshes although a lighter breeze would have been a bonus and I suppose I'll do it again – sometime. :mrgreen: