Thursday, April 24, 2003

Walk 65 -- St Lawrence Bay to Maylandsea

Ages: Colin was 60 years and 351 days. Rosemary was 58 years and 128 days.
Weather: Overcast, and we did get a shower of rain which lasted just long enough for us to don all our wet weather gear – then the sun came out!
Location: St Lawrence Bay to Maylandsea.
Distance: 8½miles.
Total distance: 446 miles.
Terrain: Grass-topped sea wall/river bank.
Tide: Out.
Rivers to cross: None.
Ferries: None.
Piers: None.
Kissing gates: No.68 at the end of Mayland Creek.
Pubs: None – and Colin didn’t make a fuss!
‘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 Maylandsea where we were able to park in a road outside the sailing club. We cycled back to St Lawrence Bay and left our bikes chained to a fence by a shelter at ‘The Stone’.
At the end, we moved the car down the road to a piece of open land. There we drank tea and ate our filled baguettes. Then we drove back to St Lawrence Bay to load up the bikes and drive back to Isleham in Cambridgeshire where we were staying with Paul & Caroline.

Today’s walk was so boring, my first photograph was of a bunch of dandelions – all this walking must be getting to me! Actually, dandelions are very showy flowers and I do quite like them – so long as they are not growing in my garden. Our walk led us up the creek and back again, on the sea wall for miles and miles (yawn!)
We left St Lawrence with some relief because we hadn’t much liked the place, and soon came to a boatyard at a place called Stansgate Abbey Farm. At the further end, there was a notice on a stile telling us it was private land and we had no right of way. I looked at the map more closely, and sure enough there was no green line along the next bit of sea wall – instead it led across the boatyard and along a lane for about a mile.
We were a bit miffed because we could see there was a perfectly good sea wall, grass-topped, which we could have walked along without harming anybody – yet we were forced to walk along a tarmac lane between hedges where there was no view, and we got ‘buzzed’ several times by cars whizzing by too fast. Where we turned off the lane, we met up with the sea wall again and followed it all the way to Maylandsea. The gate leading off the ‘private’ bit had barbed wire wrapped around the top bar so you couldn’t climb over it without serious injury – nice!
Subsequently, we heard from two different sources that this land belongs to Tony Benn, the famous Labour politician. How dare he! If I’d known that before, I would have walked the sea wall anyway – and carefully unwrapped the barbed wire as someone before us had already started to do.
Soon after that we met a man walking the other way. Lovely to pass the time of day with, but he turned round in order to carry on nattering as he walked alongside us. That was not what we wanted – to feel we had to make conversation with a complete stranger as we walked along, and this chap could talk the hind leg off a donkey! It seemed he was looking for a place to fish, but since it was all mud and marsh where we were, he was disappointed. He did impart two rather interesting pieces of information – he was the first of the two people to tell us that the land belonged to Tony Benn. He also told us that Osea Island, which we could see out in the middle of the river and is only accessible by boat or by causeway at very low tide, was for sale for six and a half million quid! He reckoned that David Beckham was interested in buying it, but how true that bit of speculation was is anybody’s guess.
Suddenly our new friend marched on, and we breathed a sigh of relief.
But then he stopped to chat to a birdwatcher who had a telescope set up on the bank, so we caught him up. “Would you like to see a very rare sight?” asked the twitcher, excitedly as we approached. I looked through his telescope, and could just make out a very dull-looking brown bird in the distance. “What is it?” I asked. “It’s a dotterel! It’s a very rare summer visitor!” I couldn’t help myself, I just blurted out, “But it’s so plain! Isn’t it strange how a rarity like this is so dull?” Well, that remark went down like a lead balloon, so we diplomatically made a hasty retreat! The two men carried on discussing their exciting find as we scurried away round the next bend. Then it started to rain, so we donned our wet weather gear. By that time our chattering friend had caught us up, but he had no coat so he hurried past us with a friendly wave, and turned into a nearby caravan site. We didn’t see him again.
Then it stopped raining, so it was off with all the gear because it was too hot and stuffy to wear it. We dared it to start raining again, and it didn’t. We had an awful lot of muddy creeks to walk around before we hit Maylandsea, and they all looked the same. We did have one or two wildlife experiences – we saw a little tern and heard it plopping in the water, we saw golden plovers and heard cuckoos (must be Spring!) We saw avocets looking graceful, we saw and heard skylarks, Colin saw a ruddy duck – about which there is much controversy – and we saw swallows (must be Summer!) We also heard the Army guns again – just to remind us we are in the real world.
At last we came to Maylandsea Marina, where we met a number of people out walking their dogs or jogging after work. We turned through the sailing club (where the route of the public footpath is marked out in white lines) to our car, and were pleased to note that it was only 5.15pm – really early for us!

That ended Walk no.65, we shall pick up Walk no.66 next time at Maylandsea Marina. We moved the car along the road a short distance to an open piece of land where we felt more comfortable drinking tea and eating our food. Then we collected our bikes and headed for Isleham. Since it was still light I navigated a different route on quiet roads, passing through some stunningly beautiful villages with thatched and beamed cottages, village greens and loads of blossom. We also saw a barn owl momentarily – and later that evening we heard an owl calling in the trees opposite Paul’s cottage.

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