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Stage 6. Manningtree to Harwich

Thursday 30th August 2018


Distance Time Elevation in meters

Gain Loss Min Max
24.89 5H25 4H56 133 135 -1 33





Manningtree Station


The Skinners Arms - immediately opposite the bus stop for the Manningtree-Colchester bus

The High Street

On the Quay looking over the Stour Estuary

The Stour

The Crown pub celebrating Thames barges.

  Manningtree, along with Mistley, was a thriving port because of its location at the junction between sea and river traffic. Imports included coal from the North-East and timber from Scandinavia. At Mistley Quay the cargo was transferred to barges to head up the Stour, or onto Thames sailing barges for the sea journey to London. Grain, bricks, chalk and flour, and hay for the London cab horses, were brought down river to be shipped to London. The ports's decline was brought about by the arrival of the railway in the mid 19th century. The Stour was navigable as far as Sudbury, but barges could not compete economically with the railway.  


Stour Sailing Club

Heading for Mistley along the walls


Mistley Walls

Stretching from Manningtree to Mistley Towers, Mistley walls is common land looked after by Mistley Parish Council. The saltings and mud flats are a vital wildlife habitat. Spring and autumn see over a thousand black-tailed godwits gathering here.



The Black-tailed Godwit
(Courtesy of en.wikipedia.org Charles J. Sharp)


Mistley Towers

  Richard Rigby made a fortune in the "South Sea Bubble" and built the now-demolished Mistley Hall and its new village. His son, appointed Paymaster-General by George III, planned to turn Mistley into a seawater spa, but he lost his lucrative job and his fortune before the project was little more than started. Rigby had commissioned architect Robert Adam for his scheme, but of his work only the Swan Fountain and the two Classical towers of the church remain. Richard Rigby opened a shipyard at Mistley in 1753 where giant men-of-war ships were built, such as the "Amphion" which was Lord Nelson's flagship for a time.  



South-west view of the Parish Church at Mistley engraved by Thomas Vivares in 1779

The towers and swans...... Mistley's calling card

Richard Rigby's Swan Fountain



Matthew Hopkins

The activities of the Essex Witchfinders took place between 1645 and 1647. Nationally in this period, 112 people were hanged for witchcraft - 82 coming from Essex. It is likely that Matthew Hopkins and his colleague John Stearne were responsible for most of these.

In 1620, Matthew Hopkins, the son of a local minister, was born in Great Wenham, Suffolk. This was the time of the Puritans and Hopkins was brought up in a household ruled by strict obedience to God's Law and a life-long devotion to Christ.

After a period as a shipping and lawyer's clerk, Hopkins used an inheritance to buy the Thorn Inn at Mistley in 1642. This was at the time of the start of the Civil War when a lack of order in the land meant that the 'godley" felt that their orderly world was being turned upside down. There was much folklore and storytelling about evil witches that were causing catastrophe and death. Local gossip would be directed against those who were a bit "odd" or were suspected of having "cunning powers".

Matthew Hopkins met up with another staunch puritan, John Stearne, who, in March 1645 was commissioned by the local magistrates to "question" a suspected witch, Elizabeth Clarke.

Questioning was carried out with the assistance of female searchers. The task of these women was to physically examine the suspect for signs - the devil's marks. These could be warts, moles or bits of extra skin that were declared to be "teats" to give suckle to imps and familiars. These searchers would sometimes prick the marks to see if the witch felt pain. The "witch" would be interrogated for three days and nights, going without sleep, food or water.

Elizabeth Clarke broke down and named several other women including - Anne Leech, Helen Clarke, Anne West and her daughter Rebecca. The women were detained and taken to the cells in Colchester Castle for questioning. The young girl, Rebecca West, confessed and implicated her mother and others, thus saving herself from hanging.

Hopkins and Stearne continued their work and after a while 33 women were locked in the cells at Colchester Castle. There was some disquiet locally, not only about the cost to the town, but also about the awful conditions in which the accused were being held.

In July 1645, the women from the Colchester cells (four of whom had already died) were tried at the County Assizes in Chelmsford under the jurisdiction of Robert Rich, the 2nd Earl of Warwick and Lord Lieutenant of Essex. With no legal representation and among scenes of of chaos, all but one of the women were found guilty. Elizabeth Clarke and 14 of the others were hanged in Chelmsford but four were taken back to Manningtree and hanged on the village green. Nine were later reprieved.




Having soaked up the fascinating history of the area it was time to get back on the path. The Essex County Council guide suggest that you go through the work yard of EDME (The English Diastatic Malt Extract Company) - a company established in 1881 for extracting malt from barley for breweries in London and Dublin. Mistley is famous for the large numbers of swans that congregate along the "Walls". They are believed to be attracted by the waste from the maltings. The gpx files show the route going through the EDME factory yard, but I went up a road called "The Green" and around the back of the factory to pick up the path.





The back of the EDME factory

Approaching the railway bridge


Leaving Mistley across the meadows

Looking back to the EDME factory


Across a field of sugar beet

St Lawrence Church, Bradfield



The Strangers Home pub, Bradfield

The apt pub-sign at the Stranger's Home depicts a cuckoo, which is renown for
making its home in other birds nests


At Bradfield I made a navigation error which cost me a kilometer! I was using the Essex County Council guide, and the junction at Bradfield fell exactly on the middle of the two pages, and had been cropped out during photo copying! Hence it looked to me as though the road went straight on until a sharp right hand bend, when it went over fields down to the railway line and the River Stour. Also, although I looked long and hard, I could not find markers at this critical junction.



In fact you should turn right immediately opposite the Stranger's Arms and by the side of the Church. The road continues for quite a while, twisting a bit, and you begin to wonder if you have made a mistake, but eventually you come to a marker on the left hand side which leads you across the fields to a railway underpass.



This is clearly shown on the gpx files


Gate leading to the path to the railway underpass


Railway underpass

Along the Stour estuary to Wrabness


Wrabness Church

Wrabness Bell-cage. This quaint structure in the churchyard houses the church bell, the tower
having burnt down a couple of centuries ago


Stour Estuary Nature Reserve



Crossing the railway again en route to Ramsey

The Ramsey windmill

The Castle Inn, Ramsey

Following the sea wall to Harwich

Dovercourt lighthouse


The Harwich High Lighthouse of 1818

The end! Harwich Town Station.