Saturday, April 26, 2003

Walk 66 -- Maylandsea to Maldon

Ages: Colin was 60 years and 353 days. Rosemary was 58 years and 130 days.
Weather: Overcast, but occasionally the sun broke through.
Location: Maylandsea to Maldon.
Distance: 8 miles.
Total distance: 454 miles.
Terrain: Grass-topped sea wall/river bank.
Tide: Out.
Rivers to cross: None.
Ferries: None.
Piers: None.
Kissing gates: Nos.69 & 70 by the causeway to Northey Island, no.71 at the end of the National Trust land.
Pubs: None.
‘English Heritage’ properties: None.
Ferris wheels: None.
Diversions: None.
How we got there and back: We drove – with bikes on the back of the car – from Isleham to Maldon where we parked in the ‘Promenade Park’ at huge expense! We cycled back to Maylandsea and left our bikes chained to a fence by the sailing club.
At the end, we drank tea and ate filled baguettes while still in the expensive car park. Then we drove back to Maylandsea to load up the bikes and drive back to Isleham in Cambridgeshire where we were staying with Paul & Caroline.

We left Maylandsea (with a Thames barge moored in the marina) to the sound of a digger making up the road where Colin wanted to park two days ago until I persuaded him otherwise. It was a dirt road, obviously private, and the noise this morning was intolerable – we were glad to get away. Maylandsea is a pretty place at the end of a creek, and we had to wind our way round on the river bank until we were nearly opposite the village, then walk northwards to return to the River Blackwater.
It had rained continuously from yesterday teatime until the early hours, so I wore gaiters which stopped my trousers getting wet from the long grass. Colin wouldn’t put his on because it was ‘too hot’, so he had to pick his way through. We were finding all this riverbank walking rather tedious, and were both getting tired and tetchy. It was time we went home!
We saw a lot of wildlife today which lifted our flagging spirits. We saw the usual black-headed gulls, oystercatchers, etc. We saw swallows, curlews, a pair of swans which flew off noisily, and a heron whose flight was graceful and silent. We saw a fox, and a field of hares – but our excitement reached its peak when we spotted a short-eared owl! It perched on a fence, near enough for us to see its face through our optical instruments – then it flew across the fields – oh! so elegantly! Magic!
Further on we passed some rectangular pools in the marshes, and conjectured that they were derelict oyster beds. According to the map, the public footpath does a detour round yet another creek near Northey Island, but there is a new bank – not marked as a right of way – which goes straight across the neck of said creek, cutting out about a kilometre of walking. We were much relieved to find that everybody walks the shorter way, and the ‘real’ public footpath has deteriorated almost to nothingness.
We had good views of Osea Island behind us – which is private and apparently for sale (have you got six and a half million pounds to spare?) – and we passed the causeway leading out to Northey Island which belongs to the National Trust. A notice informed us that the latter is a nature reserve and if you want to visit it you must make an appointment with the warden, giving at least twenty-four hours notice. That was enough for us! We chose not to visit, in accordance with additional rule no.5.
Shortly afterwards we came to real civilisation – the pretty little town of Maldon. People were out in their hundreds because it was a fine Saturday in April and there is a pleasant riverside park, which was set out in the 19th century, called ‘Promenade Park’. Those Victorians certainly had style! Maldon has its origins in Saxon times, but they were beaten into submission by the Vikings in AD 991 – we passed the battlefield but it didn’t look different from any other field we had passed. A millennium later we are all a bit of mix and mush and you couldn’t tell a Saxon from a Viking if you tried! I expect that in another thousand years – if the human race survives that long – we won’t be able to tell the difference between an African an Asian or a European. Our own grandchildren have already been stirred in the pot, being one quarter West Indian, which makes them both interesting personalities, in the peak of good health and startlingly good looking!
Getting back to Maldon, we could see swans in the river, Thames barges moored by the quay and a funny little church in the distance. Families were out enjoying themselves, and even the public toilets (near where we parked our car) had a colourful mural, painted by local schoolchildren, depicting a riverside scene. We felt quite uplifted.That ended Walk no.66, we shall pick up Walk no.67 next time at Maldon near the picturesque toilets! We had our tea, then ate filled baguettes which we had bought that morning. We collected our bikes from Maylandsea, and returned to Isleham by the rural route again because we were quite early and it was still daylight.

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