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RambAle 3: Pier to Pee'r

The day finally arrived. I arrived at the designated assembly pub, the Old Lifeboat House, not really knowing how many people would turn up. I was guessing perhaps 10 based on the names I'd remembered to write down, and on the previous two walks that we had done in 2012.

I say "finally" as the planning for the day had begun some months in advance. Perhaps a year in advance, if you base it on when someone (I forget who) made the (bad) pun during our first walk which led me to gradually developing the route. For those that don't know the Tendring district of Essex, both Clacton-on-Sea and Walton-on-the-Naze have piers and there are regular charity sponsored walks from "pier to pier" (the top Google result, and perhaps the biggest, being St Helena Hospice's walk in March). By October last year I had a draft route printed ready to discuss during our second walk, and it was late February before I got around to walking the route to check distances, timings, and that pubs were happy to take part.

But back to this year. We weren't the only ones who were meeting at the Old Lifeboat House that day. The Leading Lights Morris and the Rising Larks had decided to start there for a day travelling from pub to pub by coach to dance and sample the beer, so we brought forward our meeting time to have time to watch them dance before setting off to walk.

Which brings me back to the testing of the route. The original route was supposed to start in Walton and finish in Clacton. Timings were all based on when buses and/or trains arrived in Walton to allow us to meet up, have a drink, and set off. I also wasn't 100% certain which pubs were going to feature on the route. So I started at the Victory, one of my personal favourite pubs, and also tried the Royal Marine (which had Growler GB Pride) and the Walton Tavern (where I had Doombar) on the way to the pier. There was never really much doubt where I was going to stop in Frinton, with the Lock and Barrel being the only pub (at least inside the gates). (Slight aside - part of checking the route is the availability of public toilets of which there are a fair number along the sea front; but not along the long section from Frinton to Holland-on-Sea, and there are even fewer in January when the ones by Frinton Golf Club are closed for winter. Arriving at the open ones near Clacton-on-Sea sailing club was a great relief).

The original plan after Frinton was the Kingscliff Hotel in Holland-on-Sea. This has been undergoing some refurbishment recently, and it wasn't clear what state the place would be in in April but fortunately the Flamingo opposite was still open, and better still also had some Growler IPA available. It was that I had been lucky to find them open (as they normally close at 3pm on Saturday) that made me decide to reverse the route and visit them instead, which turned out to be fortunate as we then got to watch the morris dancing.

In the end there were 18 of us that set off from the Old Lifeboat House, and 18 that arrived at the Victory (although not the same 18 - we lost 1 walker and gained another). The weather forecasts had threatened worse than we got; I think the worst weather that we saw was the shower that drove the morris dancers inside before we set off.

By Ed Loach