We're big fans of little ferries that take bikes; the Thames has a few out west (at Twickenham and Shepperton, for example).
But we were pleased to discover this one that runs between Mersea Island and Brightlingsea. It's not far from Colchester, but a long way from spray-tans and white stilettos, in Essex's marshy southern flatlands.
Mersea Island itself - pronounced 'Mersey', though this ferry was never celebrated by a 1960s pop combo with an irritatingly overplayed song - has interesting bustling-harboury stuff to the west, seafood stalls and all.
Finding the ferry, which runs from the easternmost point of the island, is quite an adventure, and involves asking locals for directions down unmarked tracks and across unsigned shingle beaches. Luckily we speak a related language and could make ourselves understood.
It runs a scheduled service until 5 September (11am, 1.30pm, 4pm from Brightlingsea, returning 15 mins later from Mersea), and also runs on demand in this period with a phone call (07981 450169). It then runs until 31 October by phone appointment (01206 302200). Fares are a couple of quid plus a quid for a bike - for which price you can also get yourself a credit-crunch special fish and chips from the cafe in Brightlingsea.
From Brightlingsea to Colchester you can go largely along the river, through pleasant places such as Wivenhoe (right). With its wide traffic-free riverside path, nautical feel, and trim wooden-board houses, at times it feels like a smart suburb of Copenhagen. Then you get to Colchester.