Since moving to Walton-on-the-Naze I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve visited the Naze Nature Reserve – it’s such a wonderful space with lots to offer. We go there a lot in the summer, either for a walk along the beach or just to escape for a bit, but it’s also a nice place to visit in winter as well (providing it’s not raining, of course!).
The Naze Nature Reserve is different to some other local reserves in that it’s not only a large open space for wildlife to thrive, but it’s also surrounded by a beach which is considered part of it. The main space consists of grassy fields with clear footpaths leading several different ways. The starting point is very open and the highest point of the reserve, looking out towards the sea (you’ll be able to sea the Principality of Sealand on a good day) but as you follow the footpaths it becomes a lot more rural, featuring small groves of trees and some natural spaces enclosed by fences which are accessible to the public.
Following one of the right-hand paths will eventually lead you to Stone Point, a small and secluded beach area facing towards Felixstowe. When the tide is out you can see the remains of Old Walton, lost many years ago to coastal erosion and now succumbed to the seaweed. If you carry on left from here you’ll be able to walk along the backwaters which eventually takes you back to the more built-up area of the Naze – it’s a long walk but really lovely and worth doing on a sunny day if you have the time! It also makes a good running route, however the grass isn’t cut frequently so be sure to time it right to ensure the path is fully accessible.
The Naze Nature Reserve is an excellent choice for both animal and coastline lovers. Plenty of nature can be observed if you know where to go – on my multitude of walks I’ve witnessed a beautiful range of insects (especially moths), rabbits and other small rodents, and even a couple of muntjac deer. In the summer months bats are very common, and there are special walks set up after dark specifically to locate and view them. The area is great for bird watchers as many waders and other interesting species can be witnessed at the backwaters, including herons, curlews, redshanks, and reed warblers which all nest by the mud flats. The location is important for migrating birds so visit in the correct season and you’ll be quite amazing at the variety of birds you can witness. Back inland you may be lucky enough to spot a barn owl or other bird of prey.
The Naze is also brilliant for ocean life – my personal favourite are the seals that can be seen swimming in the water every so often, and can be experienced closer up by taking a boat trip out to the small islands in the backwaters where they reside. Down on the beach you’ll find countless examples of marine creatures from crabs to molluscs, and I’ve witnessed starfish, jellyfish, and sea gooseberries on certain occasions. If you’ve got a keen eye you may even spot some sharks’ teeth in the sand!
If you’re more into the geological side of nature then the Naze is the perfect location for that – there’s a reason it’s subject to so many school geography trips! If you visit when the tide is out and walk up to Stone Point via the beach you’ll be able to admire Walton’s famous cliffs, which are eroding at a fast rate due to the sea. The base of the cliffs are made of London clay, overlaid with Red Crag, and are around 54 million years old. Their erosion has lead to some of the paths up top becoming inaccessible and you can no longer walk up them like I could as a child, but they offer some beautiful scenery plus you’ll also be able to witness several pillboxes from the 1940s which are now in the sea.
Food & Drink Options
Walton itself is home to lots of different food establishments and the Naze Nature Reserve offers three different places to eat. Our favourite is the Naze Tower where we go for coffee on a regular basis – they offer sandwiches, hot food such as jacket potatoes and toasties, and homemade cakes and biscuits. They’re very good value and you can either eat outside (windbreakers provided as it gets very gusty!) or inside the tower. If you pay a small fee you also go further up the tower, enabling you to see the local art on display plus the fantastic view from right at the top.
When the Naze Tower is closed (it’s only open during the summer months) we go to the Naze Centre instead, an Essex Wildlife Trust building that holds loads of events and natural artifacts as well as a café. They serve similar food and drinks and you can eat inside or out. I absolutely love their shop, where you can buy garden ornaments, home decor, and fossils/crystals among other things, and they provide really good entertainment for kids during the school holidays.
The third and final option is Naze Links Café, which is much closer to the car park. Again you can buy a wide variety of food and drink here and they sell some beachy items as well. All places offer ice cream which is a must when visiting the Naze in the summer! There’s also always the option of a picnic which we love to do, with loads of open grassy spaces to set down your blanket and hamper.
WHat You Need To Know
Parking is available at the Naze Nature Reserve for the following prices:
1 Hour – £1.20
Up to 2 Hours – £2.20
4 Hours – £4.00
All Day – £5.00
Overnight – £1.00 (after 6pm)
Although it’s very rural, toilets are accessible by the Naze Links Café, and you can find more toilets down on the beaches that head back into town. There’s lots of seating available, particularly up on the cliffs, so it’s also accessible for those who perhaps can’t stand or walk as much. Dogs are very welcome, as are children and large groups! One thing to note is that the area by the cafés contains lots of hidden rabbit holes so be careful where you walk and where sensible shoes to avoid any injury (this is coming from someone who has twisted their ankle multiple times up there – perhaps I should heed my own advice).
I know I live right by it so I could be seen as biased but I really do love the Naze Nature Reserve – I’ve had so many wonderful trips out there (many before I moved to Walton) and it’s one of those places that people of all ages can find joy in. It’s a budget-friendly, peaceful trip for those who perhaps need a break and whatever side of nature you find interesting, you’re sure to find something you like.
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