Sunday, April 27, 2003

Walk 67 -- Maldon to Heybridge Basin

Ages: Colin was 60 years and 354 days. Rosemary was 58 years and 131 days.
Weather: Windy, but warm with lots of sun.
Location: Maldon to Heybridge Basin.
Distance: 3½ miles.
Total distance: 457½ miles.
Terrain: Promenade, streets and a wide gravel path on the river bank.
Tide: Going out.
Rivers to cross: No.18, the River Blackwater at Maldon.
Ferries: None.
Piers: None.
Kissing gates: None.
Pubs: The Queen’s Head at Maldon where we drank ‘Maldon Gold’.
‘English Heritage’ properties: None.
Ferris wheels: None.
Diversions: None.
How we got there and back: We packed up our things and said our ‘Goodbyes and Thank Yous’ to Paul and Caroline. Then we drove – with bikes on the back of the car – from Isleham to Goldhanger where we found it impossible to park less than half a mile from the river due to yellow lines, etc. Since we were running late and were both very tired after so many successful days walking, we decided on PLAN B. This involved halving the distance of the walk, so we drove to Heybridge Basin where – to our delight – we found a car park near the river bank and it was FREE! We cycled to Maldon along the canal towpath which was pleasant, if a little scarey! We chained our bikes to a fence by the pub (which we visited first), then walked along the promenade to the spot where we finished the walk yesterday to sit on a bench and eat our lunch.
At the end, we drank tea and ate a further snack in the free car park, and drove to Maldon where we loaded up the bikes for the last time for a while. We then drove straight home to Bognor.

Maldon looked very pretty from the bench where we sat to eat our lunch. There were swans on the river, and magnificent Thames barges in the distance moored by the quay. There were a lot of people about enjoying the Spring sunshine, not surprising as it was a Sunday. We used the loo with the glorious mural on its back wall, and then commenced our walk.
Just next to the ‘Promenade Park’ was a large area of sludge that looked a bit of a mess. It used to be a marine pool which was dug out in the 19th century to encourage sea-bathing, but it has been allowed to silt up over recent years and was devoid of water when we passed it. It seems so sad when these things are left to rot. There was a chestnut-paling fence around the area with notices telling you it was ‘closed’, but we were amused to see some NO DIVING notices were still in place! The ‘beach’ area – an expanse of sand – was ‘open’ according to the notices, but since it was situated the other side of the sludge and well away from the river, no children were playing there.
The Thames barges were a magnificent sight – five of them moored on the riverside.
They made an excellent backdrop to a group of Morris dancers who whooped it up with their bells and sticks on the quay. We stopped to watch them for a while – it is lovely that these old traditions are still very much alive in this modern day and age. We carried on past the ‘Queen’s Head’ pub where we had partaken of a tipple earlier, and continued through the town.

We tried to stay as near to the river as possible, but there was a labyrinth of narrow streets with houses old and new. It was actually a terrace of brand new houses that foxed us – there seemed to be a pavement passing in front of them, but it came to a dead end and we had to backtrack and skip through an entrance, which was probably private, in order to get out. It was all very confusing. We emerged by the river bridge, and were annoyed to discover that we could have cycled that way on the flat when we were setting up this walk, but we had bombed on up a steep hill instead. Oh well, you can’t win ’em all!
We reached the bridge and crossed the River Blackwater. We had walked fifteen miles from the sea to do so, and will need to walk a further sixty-five miles to get back to the real seashore again!! The Essex marshes are certainly a tough challenge! We then carried on up the road, ignoring the industrial area to our right in accordance with additional rule no.3, until we came to the third roundabout. Just before it, we turned sharp right across a rather derelict patch, and discovered that the footpath marked on our map did exist albeit a little overgrown.
Over a fence to our right we could see a number of buses parked impossibly close together in a compound, and idly wondered whether we had now come across a home for retired buses, like the trains at Shoebury!
We followed a ditch, and a bit further on we were able to cross it to a much better path which led us along a high bank with the river to our right and disused gravel pits to our left. We could look back and see the town of Maldon, and the gorse was flowering profusely which made it all very pleasant. Colin got very excited when he saw a pair of geese with their goslings on the gravel pit lake, and he went off down the bank to try to photograph them. I walked on, and heard a sudden cheer from the other river bank – someone had obviously scored a goal in a football match. I couldn’t see anything, but I was almost opposite the spot where we started today’s walk and a football ground is marked on the map just behind there.
We were both feeling tired and glad that today’s walk was only a short one – after all we had walked over a hundred miles in the last sixteen days, and cycled more than sixty! A lot of it had been hard going, and not of riveting interest. We were both rather fed up and wanted to go home. We rounded a bend in the river, and came to the end of the canal that we had cycled up earlier. We crossed over the lock gates to where a lot of people were sitting outside a pub at Heybridge Basin.

That ended Walk no.67, we shall pick up Walk no.68 next time at ‘The Old Ship’ at Heybridge Basin. We walked a few yards along the towpath to the car park where we had left our car. We drank tea and ate a further snack, then drove to Maldon where we loaded up the bikes for the last time for a while. We drove home to Bognor over the Dartford Bridge – traffic was light so it only took us a couple of hours. We discovered that Esme, our cat of almost nineteen years, had been missing for over a week. She was very thin when we left two weeks ago, and not very active although she was still eating well. We think her kidneys had gone, and she slunk away somewhere to die as old cats do. We shall miss her – we only have Lucy left now, and she is well past her eighteenth birthday!

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