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Exploring the Walton Backwaters 

RYA guide to the Walton Backwaters

The Walton Backwaters were one of Arthur Ransome’s favourite places to visit on his yacht, ‘Nancy Blackett’ and are famously depicted in his 1930’s book ‘Secret Water’, the sequel to ‘We didn’t mean to go to sea’. Unlike Ransome’s earlier Swallows and Amazons adventure stories; these two books are based on actual places. The map inside ‘Secret Waters’ is very similar to the 1930’s chart of the Walton Backwaters and is still fairly recognisable today.

According to the Arthur Ransome Society; on one visit to the Walton Backwaters, Ransome met the Busk family who were camping on Horsey Island. They were engaged in map-making and it would seem they gave him the inspiration behind the story line for ‘Secret Water’ which sees the Walker children aka ‘the Swallows’ deposited on the Island with instructions from their father to chart the area before he returns from his duties with the Admiralty.

Secret Water is dedicated to the Busk family and referenced their yacht, Lapwing, within the story.

Today Walton Backwaters is a wildlife haven and a great place to explore and unwind. Drop the hook, pick up a mooring or visit the marina then young or old, you too can be a Swallow or Amazon and go exploring in the dinghy around the many islands and chart your own adventure.

Walton Channel

As you venture into the Walton Backwaters, Island Point North Cardinal marks a split in the channel; heading South West is Hamford Water and off to the South is the Walton Channel. The cluster of red cans, nos 10, 12 & 14 and green no 9 buoy keep you off the shallows as you start you passage along the Walton Channel.

Passing the channel markers at the start of the Walton Channel (chart point 1)

To the East of the channel lies Stone Creek and Stone Point, a popular anchorage. Stone Point is managed by the Walton and Frinton Yacht Club, visitors are reminded that the area is an S.S.S.I. and should take care not to do anything that either disturbs the wildlife or destroys plants and vegetation.

Stone Point anchorage and drying area... (chart point 2)

Continuing South, the channel is best marked by the plethora of moorings, stick to the middle with moorings keeps you in the deepest water. Low speed and minimal wash is essential to maintain the peace and harmony amongst the gentle bustle of the channel.

Moorings in the Walton Channel running into Twizzle creek (chart point 3)

The Walton Channel splits at the Spit North Cardinal, forming Foundry Reach or Twizzle Creek. Foundry Reach runs South and leads to the Walton Yacht Basin and the Walton & Frinton. The Yacht Club and basin have now laid buoys marking the channel to make it easier to navigate the creek up to the yacht basin.

From the Spit N Cardinal, Twizzle Creek heads West then North West towards Titchmarsh Marina.

Spit North Cardinal at the entrance to Foundry Reach (chart point 4)

Entrance Titchmarsh Marina (chart point 5)

The majority of boats rarely venture beyond the Walton Channel and Titchamarsh Marina, however at high water the Walton Backwaters become a vast playing field, one which is a delight to explore but with a careful eye on the time and depth. The flat landscape, seascape and mudflats seemingly merge with the sky.

Hamford Water

Hamford water opens up before you with a rising tide. (chart point 6)

Back at Island Point North Cardinal, Hamford Water stretches out to the South West and the deep water channel is marked with a green buoy to the North and Horsey Island to the South. Exchem East Cardinal marks the entrance to Oakley Creek heading towards Bramble Island and is the next clue to the whereabouts of the starboard side of the channel. Horsey Island is better known as Swallow Island to Arthur Ransome fans.

The Exchem East Cardinal (chart point 7)

Kirby Creek

The Hamford water spilts just past the yellow buoy, continuing WSW in to the unsurveyed Landermere Creek or South in to Kirby Creek.

Approching Kirby Creek (chart point 8)

Anchoring in Kirby Creek itself is prohibited due to the oyster beds, the narrow channel is marked with withies as you pass between Skipper Island to the West and Horsey Island to the East. Honey Island is at the Southern end of the Creek.

Kirby Creek channel marked with withies (chart point 9)

Towards the end of Kirby Creek on the Western edge of Horsey Island is a landing platform, just across from here to the South West is Honey Island.

Landing platform on Horsey Island (chart point 10)

Deep water continues as you pass Honey Island to the East, a handful of boats make use of the deeper water for mooring.Honey Island was known as Bridget Island in Secret Waters.

Passing Honey Island to the East (chart point 11)

It is possible to circumnavigate Honey Island and with sufficient water continue to the South of Horsey Island, over the causeway linking Horsey Island to the mainland; until you reach the deeper water to the North of Tichmarsh Marina.

Channel between Honey Island and the mainland (chart point 11)

The Walton Backwaters are perfect for exploring creeks and Island hopping with a bit of caution, a sense of adventure, in a dinghy or shallow draft boat and without doubt a copy of Secret Water to really get in to the spirit and mystique of this special place.

Fact file

Titchmarsh Marina
Harbour Lights Carvery
Harwich Haven Authority
Walton & Frinton Yacht Club
Secret Water map

Titchmarsh Marina Ch 80 or phone 01255 672185
Walton Yacht Basin (Bedwells)
01255 675873


Walton on the Naze Range Heights
3.8m MHWS 4.2 MLWS 0.4
Neap 2.3m MHWN 3.4
MLWN 1.1


Stone Point
Hamford Water
Anchoring on the oyster beds is prohibited.


Imray Y16  

Chart Y16 is reproduced with the kind permission of Imray.

Chart copyright UKHO.

By Simon & Vicky Jinks, Instructors at SeaRegs Training

© Crown Copyright and/or database rights. Reproduced by permission of the Controller of Her Majesty’s Stationery Office and the UK Hydrographic Office (

This material is not for resale, redistribution or copying.
Not to be used for navigation.

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