All Saints, Walton-on-the-Naze, Essex
It was the 2014 Historic Churches 'Ride and Stride' event. From Thorpe le Soken I had cycled to Kirby le Soken, and then on a mile or so into one of my favourite of all seaside towns, Walton-on-the Naze. When my children were little our favourite seaside resorts were Cromer and Walton, but because Walton was the closest of the two I got to know it well. It is a brash, jolly place, a happy contrast with neighbouring po-faced Frinton and seedy Clacton. I like Walton for some of the reasons I like nearby Harwich - here we are out on the end of Essex, with all the associations of old ports, pirate radio enthusiasts and pubs still living in the 1970s.
Nothing survives in Walton from before about 1800 - the medieval parish church was washed way by the sea. All Saints is the 1870s work of Henry Stone in an entirely medievalist Early English style, shoe-horned into a difficult cramped, sloping site where the roads from Thorpe and Frinton come together. It is a hard church to photograph from the outside, especially in the early morning with the bright light flooding from the sea.
The bike ride welcomers here were utterly charming, and slightly distraught to hear that Thorpe and Kirby were not taking part. I recalled coming into the church about 15 years previously, though I had remembered nothing about it. The narrow nave lifts to a long chancel, and there is a matching narrow south aisle. The church has a warm, friendly feel, and some half decent 20th Century glass. The parish, incidentally, is 'of Walton-le-Soken in the town of Walton on the Naze'. I stood on the seafront for a while, gazing out over the lovely beach. I cycled on past 'the Crescent', a beautifully steep terrace of three-storied pastel-painted houses looking out to sea. I could easily imagine living in one of them. And then sighed, because I would be spending the next couple of hours in the dreary suburbia of Frinton, Holland and Clacton.