137ac/55ha SSSI (part)
Grid ref: TM 264 235 (click for o/s map)
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The Naze is from the Old English naes, meaning a nose. It is a headland roughly three miles long and one mile wide, stretching northwards from the town of Walton-on-the-Naze. Behind it is Hamford Water, which it shelters from the North Sea. At its southern end is a hill that is being eroded, with the result that 70 foot high cliffs rise directly from the beach – unique on the Essex coastline.
Originally the Naze was farmland, then a golf course, then was requisitioned at the beginning of World War II. In the late 1950s permission was sought to develop the area but, following a public enquiry in 1961, it was decided that the Naze should become a public regional open space. Tendring Council owns it now.
In summer the cliffs provide secure sites for the nesting holes of sand martins. The large gorse bushes and elder scrub on top of the cliff provide cover for small birds such as linnets and goldfinches, as do the taller plants growing on the fallen cliff material at its foot. Waders, gulls and terns can be seen along the shore.
During migration periods it is a prime birdwatching site. Curlew sandpipers are regularly seen along the beach, with gannets and arctic skuas passing offshore. With east winds blowing, small birds such as firecrest and black redstart may be found sheltering in the bushes on the clifftop.
A mile-long shingle beach stretches forwards from the tip of the Naze, ending at Stone Point. This is an important nesting site for little terns and other shorebirds like oystercatchers and ringed plovers. (It is cordoned off in the breeding season to prevent disturbance.)
Head northwards along the coast road in Walton with the sea on your right. By the Eastcliffe Hotel take the left fork and follow Hall Lane and Naze Park Road for about a mile. This will bring you to the public car park on the cliff top.
Regular buses run from Clacton and Frinton via Walton station (train link to Colchester) and from the bus station on the front.
Accessible at all times.
April–June for early flowers and birdsong; spring and autumn for migrating birds.
A waymarked nature trail about 2 km long runs around the Naze Open Space, starting from the tower.