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Category: Essex



Six weeks ago to the day we were going to do this very trip but I had a heart attack instead so it had to be cancelled. However no heart attack this time so we left home to do the short drive (10 miles) to East Mersea. You have probably not heard of East Mersea which is not surprising as it is in the middle of nowhere and there is very little there except Salt Marsh, sand and water.

So why are we bothering? Well we don't intend to spend the day at East Mersea as we are going to call the foot ferry which will take us across the water to Brightlingsea. You've probably not heard of Brightlingsea either but never mind.

We parked our car and walked down the footpath to the river wall and this is the view from that river wall.

Across the other side of the River Colne is Brightlingsea. We need to get onto that sandy spit this side because that is where the foot ferry lands. We had, by this time, telephoned  from my mobile phone for the ferry to come over from Brightlingsea to pick us up. The ferry runs a scheduled service from the middle of July to the end of August but outside of those times there is a scheduled service at weekends and bank holidays but during the week it has to be requested by telephone. It's rather novel really and something we have not done before so we had to give it a try.

We reached the beach easily enough although some of it was hard work in the very soft dry sand. One step forwards, half a step back, but we got there. Having reached the pick-up point we could see, in the distance, the ferry making its way toward us.

As it got nearer we could see that there were passengers on board who were obviously coming to East Mersea.

The bow of the ferry grounds on the beach and a small ramp is lowered to afford easy access. That funny woman in the red coat is apparently keen to get on board.

Well she did get on board and so did I and off we set. Warm, sunny and calm – just right. On the way across the boatman and I were discussing our heart attacks, as you do, and in a fairly short time we were nearing Brightlingsea Harbour.

It wasn't long before we were moored at the end of the harbour pontoon and we set off along the pontoon to reach land.

The first rather obvious building we noticed is this one. It used to be the Anchor Hotel but has now been converted to appartments. Dating from around 1901 it is a listed building although only just over a hundred years old. A very attractive building.

A little further along the street is this Cinque Ports Wreck House built around 1811. Interestingly there is another building in Sydney Street in Brightlingsea which is labelled "Cinque Ports Wreck Warehouse". I haven't been able to discover why there are two similarly named buildings.

Having walked from the harbour area into the centre of the town we found Jacobes Hall, reputedly the oldest timber-framed building in England, built during the fourteenth century. The people that lived in this house paid for the church to be built so they must have been pretty wealthy.

 A little further along the same road was another timber-framed hall house.

We wanted to visit the parish church next but it was on the outer edge of the town, about 1.5 miles from the centre, so we decided to go by bus. Built around 1250 this church is not easily missed with a tower not far short of 100 feet high and most of the building covered in flushwork which is extraordinary. In the recent blog post "Following the Stones" I mentioned the flushwork on Hall Place but this church puts it to shame. We have not seen so much flushwork on one building.

There is an unusual feature inside the church in the form of memorial tiles in a strip all round the church. There is one for each parishioner who lost their life at sea – 213 in all.

At this point we realised that we were only about half a mile from the Thorrington Tide Mill, built around 1831, so we decided to walk there. We followed the footpath on the side of the road and soon found the mill entrance. The public have access to the mill only in the afternoon of the last Sunday of each month and also bank holidays so we weren't able to go inside but we did have a good look around the outside.

A tide mill works from a large mill pond, shown in the first of the two pictures above, which is filled at high tide then closed off. After the tide level has dropped the sluice can be opened to let the water back out via the water wheel, shown in the second photograph above, which then drives the mill. Clever eh? We would like to see inside so perhaps we'll have to try and arrange a re-visit when it's open.

We now crossed the road to the bus stop and got the bus back to Brightlingsea but got off one stop before the town centre. This takes us a little closer to Bateman's Tower which we were planning to see next and after a short walk there it was.

That sandy point across the water is where we started this trip from.

Built in 1883 by John Bateman the tower was used as a folly for his daughter to recuperate from consumption; however it may have been intended as a lighthouse as part of a failed plan to expand the port.

You may notice that the horizon in the picture is level but that the tower is leaning so it's not the photographer's fault. It is said that its foundations were laid on bundles of faggots (brushwood) so the fact that it leans shouldn't come as a surprise.

We walked back, on the little promenade, to the harbour where we asked to be taken back to East Mersey on the ferry and thence home.


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A rather fowl walk

A rather fowl walk

Some friends of ours (yes we have friends) visited us yesterday and it was a lovely sunny day so we went off for a walk.

We parked a car at the proposed end of our walk and drove off towards our intended starting point. We went via an Indian Restaurant first for lunch in a nearby village and very nice it was too.

After lunch we drove to the start of our walk and parked, changed into walking boots, and off we went to some Essex Salt Marshes  via the river wall. We saw and heard some Curlew with their distinct bubbly call and I stopped to take my first picture using my smartphone.

How's that for the middle of nowhere?

As we progressed we saw more and more water fowl including Teal, Widgeon, Pin-tail duck, various types of geese who come from more northerly climes to overwinter here and, at one point, we saw a flock of Golden Plovers wheeling around the sky which was quite a sight as there were thousands of them. They made quite a spectacular display. We also saw a Great Crested Grebe and, briefly, a Marsh Harrier.

When we were nearly at the end of our walk I took one more picture.

The sun was very low now, being only just above the horizon, so I photographed the brush-like heads of these rushes which were lit by the sun.

We did make it back to the other car and went off to collect our previous car then went home. A rather nice day.

A Rampart surprise

A Rampart surprise

Some time ago (March 2012) I did a little walk which involved passing an ancient earthwork called the Rampart (See this post).

I did the same walk this morning and, to my great surprise, I found the Rampart ditch was full of water. Admittedly the water couldn't be seen because it was covered in Duckweed but it was there all the same.

It is very dry here at the moment so I suppose that the water is left over from all the rain we had last winter.

For those that don't know Duckweed is a small, floating, aquatic plant that has a small root hanging in the water below and 2 or 3 leaves and it propagates very quickly hence the total cover.

It was a nice walk with no other surprises. smilies


Today I met a Saxon earl.

Today I met a Saxon earl.

It was a lovely sunny morning today, we don't have many of those at the moment, so I thought I'd buy some socks, as you do, which means a journey to Maldon.

Whilst I was there I decided to go and see my old friend Byrhtnoth – a Saxon earl who lives in the middle of the River Blackwater some distance from the town centre. It was, however, a very pleasant walk through Promenade Park although the air temperature was cool enough to make ones fingers cold when walking along but there was significant heat in the sun. I have to say, though, he didn't appear to be in a good mood as all he did was wave his sword at me.

I know how he feels.

Walking back through Promenade Park presented a nice view of the quayside in Maldon.

Instead of continuing through Promenade Park I elected to go along the quayside where a number of the old sailing barges are moored and this is Thistle and Hydrogen with one of Hydrogen's sails being given an airing.

Then it was back to more mundane things i.e. sock buying and thence back home.


A journey in reverse.

A journey in reverse.

No, I don't mean that I was walking (or driving) backwards but that a walk I have done before from Tollesbury to Salcott I was going to do the other way round and there's a reason for that.

Earlier today there was a jumble sale in Salcott, a village near us, which Amanda wanted to visit. So we both went to Salcott in her car and she went off in one direction to the village hall and I went in the other direction towards the marshes. She was going to drive to Tollesbury when she had finished with the jumble sale.

We parked outside the church and Amanda went off behind the camera and I headed further along the lane. It may be worth mentioning that I didn't have my camera with me and I was going to use my 'phone instead. This is where I started.

It's not a long walk to the end of the lane and I was soon at the edge of the field looking across a sea of mud to the sea wall. At least the mud didn't extend across the whole of the field. The sea wall is the darker band on the horizon.

You may notice that there is some sun which is nice but it's forecast not to last. I reached the far side of the field and climbed up onto the sea wall and looked out over the salt marshes.

I set off on the wall to the right and soon came to the first bend and the first gate. The gates are not to hinder people but to prevent cattle movement. They can't work out how to open gates you know (the cattle not the people).

That stuff under the gate has the consistency of thick porridge but it isn't porridge, oh no, it's mud. Well it is November. I squelch onwards.

The main channel swings over towards the wall and joins me which makes a nice change of scenery together with numerous water fowl.

A little further on the channel starts to move away again. Is it trying to tell me something?

Oi! Wait a minute. Where's the sun gone? It was shining from over my right shoulder a minute ago now it's gone. When I look over said shoulder I see a large bank of dark grey cloud moving across the sun. I think that's a bit poor.

As I approach the next bend and the next gate I see a small flock of geese flying in my direction just as I reach the bend I see them land in a field then I notice why. The field is covered in geese from end to end. All those little black spots are Brent geese.

I continue past the field of geese cackling away (the geese not me) and eventually I see a gate ahead where my path leaves the wall and goes off to the right across the marsh.

I go through the small gate, down the side of the wall to the large gate at the lower level then over the stile next to the large gate to continue on the path beyond. It has taken me a half hour so far.

The walk across the marshes is uneventful and I soon arrive at the sea wall on the far side.

Up onto that wall, through the gate and off to the right.

Those strange structures across the channel I suspect are there to calm the water. I set off as I've a way to go yet and Amanda is driving to Tollesbury after the Jumble Sale, parking in Tollesbury and setting off to meet me from the opposite end.

I spot Old Hall Farm in the distance which slowly gets nearer and I've been going just over an hour now.

Not long after passing Old Hall Farm I meet up with Amanda and the sun comes out again. Perhaps it's just that being with Amanda makes everything seem brighter. We still have some distance to go and it seems even more when the path stretches in front, seemingly, for ever.

The view to our right looked rather atmospheric especially as the sun was quite low in the sky by this time.

After a while we rounded a bend and saw the red lightship in Tollesbury some way ahead.

It wasn't far from there to the car and to the end of my/our walk. It had been a pleasant walk with a very light breeze and I had sun at the beginning and at the end. Can't have everything I suppose.

Why am I writing this? Who wants to look at boring pictures of an Essex marsh anyway? Is there anyone out there? Hello! Hello! I thought not – nobody there. It makes me feel like Marvin in the Hitchhikers Guide to the galaxy. smilies


Time and Tide

Time and Tide

Friday was Amanda's birthday and it was forecast to be a nice day so we thought we'd have a short trip to Tollesbury. We walked along the sea wall until we spotted some Sea Lavender and went down onto the marshes to have a look.

The salt marshes are riddled with channels which form quite a maze.

There is a large channel running along the outside of the wall which the lavender was next to but just a short way on we could see a narrow land bridge across this channel. We walked across it and a little further on there was a crude wooden bridge although we have no idea who would have constructed it. However it looked quite substantial, and it was, so we walked across onto the next bit of marshland. The next wooden bridge didn't look so well constructed so we gave that one a miss.

We carried on a little way with channels on both sides until we could see that there was no way on and turned round and headed back. We got back to the sea wall and then saw some other people starting to do what we did. They decided to risk the ricketty bridge.

You can see the other bidge that we used to the right of those people who did get across safely. We went back to look at the lightship because we were now about two hours to high tide and the path out to the ship can be covered at high tide. We could see that the water level now was only about 5 inches below the path and still rising.

It was now time for lunch so we went on the 'The Loft', where we had been before, and had a pleasant unhurried lunch. Afterwards we went back to the sea wall to see how the tide was progressing and it was progressing very well thank you.

The picture above is looking along the route that we had walked just an hour ago. If you look at the previous picture showing some people on the ricketty bridge you should be able to see, to the right, a wooden post with a white top near the other bridge. That same post is visible a short way in from the right edge of the picture.

We walked back to 'The Loft' and this is what we saw.

The Loft is the farthest one of the old sail lofts.

You can't say you weren't warned.

This view of The Loft was at high tide with the water not quite reaching it. However on some tides the water does reach The Loft.

We went home after an enjoyable little trip.

Our trip is at an end.

Our trip is at an end.

… and to be more precise it's at Audley End. As you all probably know (Who am I kidding?) 'end' is the Saxon word for 'home' and this was Thomas Audley's home.

Not a bad home eh? These Jacobean piles are two a penny around here (Essex and Suffolk) and this one is on the outskirts of Saffron Walden in Essex about a 70 minute drive from us.

There are also a number of other 'ends' around here. I remember coming past Cole End on the way; there is Sparrows End a little south of here near Wendens Ambo (of which more later) and there is a Duck End in Finchingfield.

Audley End was originally the site of a Benedictine monastery (Walden Abbey), granted to the Lord Chancellor Sir Thomas Audley in 1538 by Henry VIII but was later converted to a domestic house for him, known as Audley Inn. That dwelling was later demolished by his grandson, Thomas Howard (the first Earl of Suffolk and Lord Treasurer), and a much grander mansion was built, primarily for entertaining King James I.

The layout reflects the processional route of the King and Queen, each having their own suite of rooms. It is reputed that Thomas Howard told King James he had spent some £200,000 on creating this grand house, and it may be that the King had unwittingly contributed. In 1619, Suffolk and his wife were found guilty of embezzlement (oops!) and sent to the Tower of London. However, a huge fine secured their release, but Suffolk died in disgrace at Audley End in 1626.

Sir John Griffin, later fourth Baron Howard de Walden and first Baron Braybrooke, introduced sweeping changes in 1762, in particular, the commissioning of Capability Brown to landscape the parkland.

The house is now only a third of the size of the original and is in the ownership of English Heritage although the contents are owned by the current Lord Braybrooke.

We arrived about 10:30 in the morning on a fine sunny day. The first thing that we noticed was this astonishing topiary hedge grown from Yew and Box. It's really quite, er, lumpy.

I don't know why it's been trimmed this way but I'm certainly glad that I don't have to maintain it.

As the sun was at the back of the house we decided to start there. Those bright blue flowers are Forget-me-not and, I assume, a cultivated variety rather than the wild one as the wild ones are a paler blue.

On the high ground behind the house is the Temple of Concord built in 1790 in honour of George III.

After coming down off the high ground we went back to the front of the house and beyond into the parkland then down to the River Cam, which runs through the estate, where we saw the Adam Bridge designed by Robert Adam who also remodelled a number of the reception rooms in the house. Ducks? What ducks? Oh, those ducks. They were making their way towards a lady with a pram hoping that she might be a provider of food. They were out of luck. They obviously didn't like the look of me.

At this point we were very close to the Old Stables and yet another bridge.

That person lurking on the very right-hand edge of the picture is Amanda. She does a very good lurk. You may also notice that there is a black swan nibbling grass on the bank.

These are the Old Stables. Quite fancy for stables.

We continued along by the river until we reached the Victorian Kitchen Gardens and they were vast.

That is Amanda disappearing rapidly into the distance being 'pulled' by the attraction of two very large greenhouses.

See, I told you, she couldn't wait to get inside but I managed to get to the larger of the greenhouses first with its pretty amazing display of Schizanthus (the poor man's orchid).

Ater leaving the Kitchen Garden we found ourselves in the Pond Garden.

That figure is Amanda trying to get away from me as usual. Is she trying to tell me something?

There are two rectangular ponds with, in the dark shadows at the end, a large vertical rockery of ferns and shamrocks. There was also a solitary duck in the far pond and the water level was quite low down and we did wonder if the duck would be able to take off and fly as there wasn't much room but we were also sure that the staff would be used to that sort of occurance and would rescue the duck if need be.

After leaving this garden we emerged into the Elysian Garden with a number of very large trees of which this mighty specimen was one. Amanda thought it was an Oriental Plane.

The little building over the stream is the Tea House Bridge designed by Robert Adam.

We had managed to choose a day, unknowingly, when entrance to the house was by guided tour only. They apparently also have what they call 'free flow' entry which means that you can wander round at your own pace but not today. In either case photography in the house is prohibited and, needless to say, that annoyed me greatly.

It will probably annoy many other people as well. We got just 30 minutes for our tour which is not a lot for the entry charge. At one time it was possible to pay to enter the gardens only but that does not now seem to be available so bear in mind that almost half the charge was for the house and you may get only 30 minutes for your money. There is nothing on the English Heritage web site, that I can see, about Audley End that mentions the two types of access to the house.

So once again we have no interior photographs.

After we left Audley End we travelled the few miles to Wendens Ambo. The name originates from the joining of two villages, Great Wenden and Little Wenden to form Wendens Ambo where Ambo means both Wendens. There is a railway station within the village, Audley End, which is the nearest station to Audley End House two miles away and habitation here dates back to Roman times.

This is the view from just inside the churchyard.

and this is the church. A rather cute little church and quite old. It seems to have been built about the time Domesday Book was written (1086 A.D.) with later additions in the 13th, 14th, 15th and 19th centuries.

There was a fragment of a wall painting dating from about 1330 in the Chancel.

The church organ casing dates from the late 1700s

and the Chancel Screen dates from the 15th century.

Amanda, shown on the other side of the screen, does not date from the 15th century.

We went home.