Walk: Walk along the River Blackwater
Difficulty: Easy, but can be muddy.
Accessibility: Flat footpath running alongside the River.
Parking: Heybridge Basin. Grid reference 870069.
Okay, I can hear you cry. This is not North West England! And you’re right – it’s South East England, in the county of Essex. I did warn you that I would go further afield occasionally and this week I’m visiting relatives.
I am based in the county town of Braintree today and headed out to Heybridge, an estuary town on the River Blackwater for a wander.
It was a dreadfully murky day, with a big grey blanket of cloud hanging over us and gloomy too. So taking photos was a bit of a challenge. We parked up and as it was lunchtime, had a pleasant lunch at the Jolly Sailor pub. (What a brilliant name). Afterwards, we got onto the sea wall and followed the path – we went one way first, but quickly turned back as it looked quite unexciting. We followed the path with the Blackwater to our left and the marshes on our right.
The weather was so dull, misty and damp that any long distance photos would be, well dull and boring and very grey. This part of Essex is quite flat and a lot of it is reclaimed from the sea. There’s miles of marshes and the River Blackwater, when the tide is out, reveals its muddy bottom and sticky gloop. Deep navigation channels cut deep through the mud and less fortunate craft lie forlornly on their sides, slowly dying and rusting away, never to return to the sea again. It’s one of those places that at first glance, looks very uninteresting, but dig only slightly under its surface and there’s a wealth of history, nature and hidden treasures to found. A truly fascinating place to discover.
The raised path giving us views across the mud flats (tide was out) and the reeds and marshes on the other side.
At the beginning of the walk, we came across this little lock and canal area.
And it’s little information board.
There seemed to be a lot of abandoned boats sliding into disrepair and demanding more than a little TLC.
And this is my kind of boat…………
The marshlands around this area are full of all sorts of birds – waders, gulls, geese and many more. The weather was very overcast and dull, but springtime in the bird’s world was in full swing as they did their crazy courting dances, wooing their prospective partners with a cacophony of chirping and calling. The seagulls had gathered on a reed infested island and squawking very loudly with each other, the noise quite piercing.
We followed the path in a loop and on the opposite bank was the town of Maldon.
Initially we thought it might a be a linear walk – there and back, but my walking buddy thought it might be a circular walk. Thank God for Google Maps on phones as we ascertained that there was indeed a loop. We veered off the path through a modern housing estate (and I could practise my second favourite hobby of staring into people’s houses) and we came across a bridge that linked us to another path. Think this is the canal that leads to the lock in the photo above.
A whole line of boats moored along the edge – barges, narrow boats, little cruisers, smart boats, knackered boats. A real eclectic mix.
My parents and parents in law always managed to hire the most knackered holiday rental going – be it a caravan, cottage or boat. I’m sure I’ve holidayed on this type of sagging vessel in previous trips……
Interesting read. This area of Essex is steeped in history. There are stories of the heavy salt industry in this area, where salt was farmed from the sea water by a laborious method of boiling the sea water and scooping the salt off the surface. People were paid in salt and that’s where the word salary comes from – the Latin word for salt. Full of useless information, me.
We returned back to where we had parked the car and celebrated by enjoying a hot warm cuppa and a toasted teacake in a little cafe overlooking the river. This photo took my fancy.
The cafe turned out to be associated with the Tiptree company who seem to dominate the world with their little glass jars of jams and preserves. The waitress asked if I wanted jam with my teacake and then preceded to list a staggering choice of preserves that she had to pause to gather breath. I was exhausted and with my mental capacity stretched, I feebly ordered apricot, thinking it’s like being in America with too many choices. I only wanted a snack. Usually you just get the teacake, a little wrapped blob of butter and a mini jar of strawberry jam regardless. Its standard. No questions asked. That’s what you’re getting. Period. I was quite bamboozled.
And here’s the offending little glass jar of apricot jam……
A couple of pictures of our walk we abandoned – this building caught my eye as it looked like a refurnished oast house, though I don’t think it is. Can’t find any history on it, but maybe something to do with the salt industry. Answers on a postcard please.
These buildings on the other side of the tidal estuary, built out into the river on stilts. Not sure if they’re homes or holidays lets, but been there for a while. Love to know why they were built and their purpose. Possibly fisherman huts?
So, full of toasted teacake, we wandered back to the car and drove back to Braintree. Despite the weather and our intention of doing a little stroll, it turned out to be very interesting and unusual. My first visit of this area and very enjoyable, which would be even better with a bit of warm sunshine. Enjoy.