Friday, April 18, 2003

Walk 61 -- Barling Marsh to Rochford

Ages: Colin was 60 years and 345 days. Rosemary was 58 years and 122 days.
Weather: Fine and sunny, but the cold east wind was still with us.
Location: Barling to Rochford.
Distance: 8 miles.
Total distance: 404 miles.
Terrain: Almost entirely grass river banks.
Tide: In.
Rivers to cross: No.16, the River Roach at Rochford.
Ferries: None.
Piers: None.
Kissing gates: No.62 at the very beginning of the walk.
Pubs: ‘Golden Lion’ in Rochford where I enjoyed Cheddar Valley cider once again, and Colin tried Boggart Hole Clough and Drummer Street stout which were much more to his liking than yesterday’s beer.
‘English Heritage’ properties: None.
Ferris wheels: None.
Diversions: None, in fact we took a short cut because we stayed on the river bank almost to Rochford, long after the public footpath had diverted to a longer route.
How we got there and back: We drove – with bikes on the back of the car – from Isleham to Rochford where we parked just beyond the footbridge across the river, east of the town. We cycled into Rochford to go to the pub, then back to Barling where we chained the bikes to a fence at the end of the creek.
At the end we had two cups of tea and ate our filled baguettes, then we drove to Barling to pick up the bikes. We then drove back to Isleham in Cambridgeshire where we were staying with Paul & Caroline.

Once again we had digressed to the ‘real ale’ pub on the cycle ride while setting up the walk because we ‘almost’ passed it, and knew it would involve an unwelcome diversion if we tried to incorporate it in the actual walk. We called at the ‘Golden Lion’ in Rochford where the building was not nearly so historical as yesterday but the ale and cider was much more to our taste!
Most of today’s walk was along riverbanks – far away from the sea and BORING! Despite it being hot and sunny, the wind was bitter. It was gone lunchtime by the time we started, so we very soon got ourselves under a bush by the river to eat our sarnies. It was really quite warm down there out of the wind, and the tide was in making it somewhat scenic.
As soon as we stood up we froze, so we put our kags over our fleeces, and by walking quickly it was almost tolerable. The wind whistled up the river from the east –
“When the wind is in the east # ‘Tis neither good for man nor beast!”
– so we went into ‘route march’ mode. It was the only way to keep warm, and there was very little wildlife to see anyway. Colin saw a lizard at one point, which excited him no end because he is reptile-mad – but it soon disappeared. We saw a couple of oystercatchers flying along, and a heron at a distance – but nothing out of the ordinary. Colin got a long way ahead of me because his ‘route-marching’ is much quicker than mine. Every so often he had to wait in a sheltered place for me to catch up.
The path was open and clear at first, and we met several groups of people, some out walking their dogs – after all, it is Good Friday and most people are off work. However, as soon as a footpath linking a ‘loop’ back to Barling turned off, we were on our own and the path was a lot more overgrown.
We seemed to reach the River Roach quite quickly, and there we turned sharp left to walk westwards all the way to Rochford in order to find the first bridging point. It seemed to be a long way, perhaps we were getting tired. We knew we were supposed to turn off before a place called Mucking Hall because the public footpath does not continue along the river bank (according to the map), and our route would involve a mile and a half of road walking. We were not looking forward to that – but suddenly we realised we were well past Mucking Hall! We had missed the turning, even though we were looking out for it, and the riverbank continued to be quite walkable. We were delighted to miss out all that road, it had been fairly busy when we had cycled along it earlier.
We got almost to Rochford, but there was a tidal creek to negotiate first. This is where our footpath deteriorated, and seemed to lead off the riverbank into a coppice. It was a delightful few yards through trees with bright spring flowers – primroses and cowslips – at our feet. It was easily the best bit of today’s walk! We came out into a field where the path disappeared, so we made for a pair of houses by the road (the one we had been hoping to avoid), skirted round the buildings and, yes, the road was busy!
Almost immediately, a car stopped and the occupants asked us if we knew the way to the ‘showground’. Isn’t it odd that we never seem to get asked directions when we are in home territory, but always when we are strangers to the area ourselves? Of course, we hadn’t a clue – but when they said they had been told it was near Southend Airport, we were able to send them off in that direction because that was marked on our map.
We passed the end of the tidal creek, and immediately turned into an industrial estate! I know we made an additional rule that we didn’t have to walk through industrial estates, but this one was actually a short cut. Being Good Friday, all the units were shut with CCTV cameras everywhere. It was tricky finding our way through, especially with all those cameras watching us, and eventually we thought we had come to a dead end and would have to go back. Looking very carefully at the map, the path should go out of that corner of the compound. So we walked over there, and sure enough there it was – a narrow path between two tall fences. The sun was very low in the sky, and it had been a trick of the light along with a myriad of vertical metal posts that had hidden it from us. Once we knew where it was, we couldn’t understand why it had taken us so long to find it!
Behind the estate, we crossed over the river on a footbridge, skirted some more industrial units and came out on the road where our car was parked.

That ended Walk no.61, we shall pick up Walk no.62 next time on the road leading down to the industrial units north of the river, just east of Rochford. We had tea and filled baguettes as our evening meal, then we drove back to Barling to pick up the bikes. We returned to Isleham in Cambridgeshire where we were staying with Paul & Caroline.

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