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Walks Around Upminster & Cranham

Some ideas for walks in the Essex countryside around Upminster and Cranham as coronavirus limits our travel opportunities.

Updated 26/4/20 –

I’m glad that so many people are enjoying walks in the countryside around Upminster. Sadly a minority are not behaving appropriately and I have been asked to give some more guidelines with my walks. Actually they should be more than guidelines as they really must be followed.

Stick to footpaths. If the path is too narrow to pass within social distancing rules, wait for people coming the other way, or walk back to a passing point but don’t trample crops.

Do not approach horses and do not feed them anything. Horses can die from colic if they are fed unsuitable food.

Do not pick or trample wild flowers (many bluebells have been trampled).

Do not cycle on footpaths unless you know the landowner permits this.

Do not walk or congregate in private fields.

Please use common sense and think of others.

Upminster Walk 1 – Cranham Marsh

A circular walk across farmland and beside woods, passing All Saints Church & Cranham Marsh Nature Reserve. Approx 2 miles.

 

Upminster Walk 2 – Brickfields & Franks Wood

A circular walk across fields and through a wood notable for its displays of bluebells. 1 – 2 miles.

 

Upminster Walk 3 – Pike Pond

A circular walk across farmland, passing All Saints Church and Pike Pond. Approx 2 miles.

 

Upminster Walk 4 – Pot Kilns & Tomkyns

A varied walk on footpaths and roads, passing the hamlet of Pot Kilns and the historic Great Tomkyns. 3 – 4 miles.

 

Upminster Walk 5 – River Ingrebourne

A circular walk on footpaths through woods, beside the River Ingrebourne and around fields. Approx 2 miles.

 

Upminster Walk 6 – Brickfields, Franks Wood & M25

A circular walk across fields, through a wood notable for its displays of bluebells and with a little-seen view of the M25. This is an extension of Walk 2. Approx 2 miles.

 

Upminster Walk 7 – Pike Pond & Thames Chase Forest

A circular walk across farmland and through woods. Short and longer options. 3 / 4 miles.

 

Upminster Walk 8 – Parklands, Bonnets Wood & Berwick Glades

A circular walk crossing farmland, through woods, parts of Thames Chase and passing the historic Parklands Lake. Approx 4 miles.

 

Upminster Walks

A few years ago I considered writing a short book describing walks around my home town of Upminster in Essex but it was thought that the market was too small. I often walk the footpaths in this Essex countryside and until recently rarely saw more than one or two other people.

Now things have changed, coronavirus lockdown means that we can only walk locally and it has been good to see lots of people enjoying country walks. I’m often being asked where we can walk and there seems to be lots of interest in routes and the places they pass, so I’m writing up a number of walks, all starting in Upminster and Cranham. These will be posted in this blog over the next few days.

Each walk will have route instructions, a bit of information about points of interest, a few photos and a map. The routes are drawn on Ordnance Survey maps but for copyright reasons these will only be shown for the period of the coronavirus restrictions. The OS Explorer map covering Upminster can be bought from their website https://www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/shop/maps/explorer-map-southend-on-sea-basildon.html

Obviously in the current climate we must follow government advice and use common sense.

Only walk with members of your household and keep two metres from other people. Most of the paths are wide enough for this, or allow you to wait in a safe spot for others to pass, however please try to avoid stepping on farmers’ crops.

Try to not touch any surfaces that others may also touch. Most gates are small and wooden and easily opened with a knee. I will note any points of concern at the start of each walk – for example stiles that not everyone will be able to negotiate without touching the hand rail.

The paths for most walks can be accessed from several points and I have shown these in the walk descriptions. Current advice is not to drive to our exercise, so it will be necessary to walk to the starting points. Depending on where you live this will of course add to the length of the walks.

Take care but enjoy our lovely Essex countryside.

Peter Caton  15/4/20

 

Mrs Patience’s House – A Bit of Social History

In the mid – late 1970s, when I was still at school, every Saturday morning I used to visit an elderly lady called Mrs Patience. She lived in a cottage in the countryside a couple of miles away from my Upminster home (Essex). There was no mains sewage and the only water supply came from a standpipe by the front gate.

I used to tidy the garden, get her water and help her make her bed. Payment was a pound, plus a bar of Galaxy chocolate. Sometimes I’d go on a Sunday too and take her lunch. She loved vegetables and Mum would put as many as we could manage into little Tupperware pots. She wasn’t so bothered about meat.

Her side of the cottage had just two rooms, plus a sort of lean-to where she kept the Elsan toilet. There was a small range in the living room and a bedroom with just room for her bed. It was dark and even in the 1970s seemed to be from a bygone age.

Sometimes I used to be sent to another cottage down the road to see a lady called Daisy who kept bantams. She would give me eggs for Mrs Patience and occasionally a couple for me, which I had to take home on my bike.

Today, on one of my local Coronavirus exercise walks, I went past the cottage in Tomkyns Lane. There was a chap in the garden and we had a long chat.

His name was Eric and he told me that the cottage was built in the early 1800s for local farm workers. He used to work in a farm up the road, knew Mrs Patience and bought the house after she died in 1978. With the help of a builder he brought it up to modern standards.

There was much debate with the council over making the lean-to into a proper third room – he told me some of the walls were made of fish boxes. He won in the end because he could show it was already in place in 1947, so didn’t need permission to make it permanent.

It was nostalgic looking at the cottage and I think the story makes a little piece of social history that is well worth recording.

Pike Pond & Childhood Fishing Memories

Today’s coronavirus lockdown permitted exercise took me past Pike Pond, a small pond in the countryside that surrounds Upminster. I walk past here every so often and it always brings back memories of childhood fishing trips.

From the mid 1960s to early 1970s my father used to take us here, initially using a rod and reel that belonged to our Great Great Uncle Henry who died in 1917, so must have been in the region of 70 years old. The end section has been lost but Dad made a replacement with a bamboo cane.

For a long time we didn’t catch a thing, then found that worms were no longer the fishes’ choice of snack but that they loved a paste that another fisherman had introduced us to – a mixture of flour, custard powder, sugar and milk that was carefully blended to the right consistency before each trip. Soon we were catching fish, mostly crucian carp, plus a few perch and the occasional trench.

Catches improved when we found that maggots could be purchased from Wards Sports in Upminster, our attempts to cultivate them in the garden by leaving out rotting bread being entirely unsuccessful. A little misunderstanding in the shop meant that our first purchases was far too large. Dad asked for 20, thinking that would be about the number of maggots required, but we were given 20 pence worth in a big pot. Now knowing that the chap in the shop didn’t count out a set number of wriggling maggots, ten pence worth proved ample for future trips.

Before long I was given my own rod for Christmas. It was only about six foot long but had a fixed spool reel, so tangles permitting, I could cast into the centre of the pond. Dad also bought a new rod and we were adequately equipped for fishing in our local pool.

Often we went early in the morning, arriving hours before anyone else. My sister and I would get up ridiculously early and try and persuade Dad to get out of bed far sooner than he’d planned. On one occasion I awoke even earlier and on investigating noises from my room, Mum and Dad found me getting dressed before they’d even gone to bed the night before!

Sometimes we’d take a little spirit stove and cook breakfast, Mum bringing our younger brother to join my sister, Dad and I. It was often a Sunday and we’d hear the bells from nearby All Saint’s Church and watch  trains on the Upminster to Grays line passing every half hour.

Inevitably there where was a famous occasion when I fell in. Short wooden piers had been constructed around the pool and in my efforts to achieve a long cast I followed the line into the water. My boot had to be checked to see if it had caught a fish and my sister had to donate some of her clothes to keep me warm. I was cross that other people around the pond laughed at me and that we had to go home.

Sometimes my sister would catch a fish, or at least reel one in that Dad had hooked. ‘Poor little darling’ she said when she saw the first one. I maintained they weren’t actually her catches, an argument which was pressed strongly on the occasion when she caught more than me.

Pike Pond was a day ticket water but the bailiffs rarely came round to sell tickets and check that our yearly Essex River Board Licences were in order. Occasionally we ventured elsewhere, trying Parklands, a lake on an old Upminster estate and Stubbers, another estate with several ponds closer to South Ockendon. Once we took our rods on the train to Manningtree and walked to the River Stour near Flatford Mill, but we never caught anything away from Pike Pond.

Once at senior school I started fishing with a friend Glen. I took him to Pike Pond, which had now been stocked with a large number of tiny rudd and some reasonable sized roach. He took me to South Weald in Brentwood, then for some reason I stopped fishing for a while.

Deciding to take it up again, one evening after school I went on my own to Pike Pond. A plethora of notices now warned that it was private and before I could ignore them the farmer came along and made it clear I must leave. I fished at Parklands and South Weald for another year or so but it was Pike Pond that was my fishing home.

Another Paglesham Walk

Walk 38 from 50 Walks on the Essex Coast today – Paglesham Circular (South).

Starting at the Plough & Sail, the walk soon reaches the River Roach, once busy with fishermen, smugglers and revenue men. HMS Beagle, the ship which took Charles Darwin on his scientific expedition to the Pacific, spent her final years here as a coastguard ship.

It was very quiet on the river today. Lots of birds and two splashes of yellow on a dull day but just me as the sole human.

Mysterious channels are revealed by the falling tide – and a ladder to nowhere.

At Bartonhall Creek the route heads back across fields, passing Stannets Creek Lagoon, once a navigable creek but now dammed and a valuable site for birds.

Yet another balloon thoughtlessly released and now litter and a hazard to wildlife. I tried to retrieve it but had to think again when the most likely outcome appeared to be balloon remaining on bush and walker in ditch.

Back at Paglesham the Georgian red-brick Cupola House is passed. What a wonderful place to live. The turret was constructed not just to look good or provide a pleasant room for a cup of tea, but as a look out allowing residents to keep an eye on the Government excise men on the river and creeks.

All was in order. No changes needed for the forthcoming reprint. And there was an unexpected bonus. I sat down by Stannets Creek Lagoon to eat my apple turnover and on opening the bag found that the bakers had given me one that was covered in a thick layer sticky icing. It’s the little things we have to be grateful for!

Paglesham Walk

50 Walks on the Essex Coast is now down to the last 300 copies so will be reprinted for a second time in the summer. Meanwhile I’m checking the remaining walks to make sure nothing needs to be changed in the reprint. With a work trip to Scotland having been cancelled die to corona virus, today I did Walk 37, Paglesham Circular (North).

Paglesham is a village on the River Roach north of Southend, famed for smuggling and oysters. Actually it’s two tiny villages – Paglesham Eastend and Paglesham Churchend. The walk passes through both.

I started with lunch at the Plough & Sail, a typical Essex weather boarded pub, dating back at least 300 years. Now mainly a restaurant, it was once a haunt of fishermen and smugglers and also a bake house. For the payment of a penny villagers could use the oven to cook their pies or bread.

The walk links the two parts of Paglesham, following footpaths and a typical open Essex lane. At one point the path goes through someone’s garden but it’s signed so I can assure readers that I’m not encouraging them to trespass.

St Peters Church is usually open and worth a visit to view the fine stained glass window which was built by Zachary Pettit in memory of the five or his nine children who died in childhood. I didn’t get close, not wanting to leave mud from my boots on the carpet but the photo shows the simple church of Norman origin, which was restored by Pettit in 1883.

From the village to Paglesham Creek the path runs beside some of the many channels that drain the low lying land. By one of these I met a chap with a net. We stopped to chat. My guess that he was catching eels was incorrect. Much smaller – shrimps. Sea water shrimps who thrive in the brackish water. He makes a living from selling the shrimps for use in fish food and works the channels of Essex and Suffolk. Occasionally he’ll catch a bass or mullet, some of which he takes home and keeps for a few years in a huge tank, before releasing them into the sea.

The practice is legal and sustainable as he never takes too many from one place and allows the population to grow before returning. This is achieved by placing a stone in the sluice so that shrimps can get into the channels and lay their eggs. The Environment Agency don’t mind and are now starting to put small discs in new gates to let fish in and out. Currently any fish that get into the creeks tend to be stuck there and can grow quite big, but the chap will often put mullet back over the sluice to the sea.

The next three miles are on the sea wall. First beside Paglesham Creek opposite Wallasey Island, then the River Roach. With the tide high it was noticeable how much higher the water was than the farmland behind the sea wall. There were many birds to be seen and I wished I’d taken binoculars.

A couple of WW2 pillboxes are passed and a motley selection of rusting wrecks lie in the Roach.

It’s a fine walk and the only change I need to make is that the Punch Bowl pub at Paglesham Churchend is now sadly closed and has become a private house of the same name. Another country pub lost, but at least this walk has another, passed either part way round, or at the start if like me you can’t wait for lunch.

It’s a remote part of Essex. The only person I met on the walk was the shrimp fisherman but it’s typical Essex coast, countryside and villages and well worth a visit.  More information about Paglesham and colourful tales from its smuggling history can be read in Essex Coast Walk.

 

Dartmoor Book

My next book, a walking guide to visit lesser known places on Dartmoor, is progressing.

It’s taking longer than the Essex coast guide as walking on Dartmoor is often far less straightforward. Many paths are less defined and I will probably need to do each walk about half a dozen times at different times of the year to ensure that I’ve chosen and documented the best route.

There are obviously other walking guides to Dartmoor but I am aiming for this one to be different:

  • It takes the walker to lesser known places of interest.
  • It will have more information on the places seen on the walk than most guides.
  • It will have clearer instructions than many guides, with these separated from background information.

I did a couple of walks between Christmas and New Year, both in misty conditions, which aren’t the best for clear photography but shows the moor in one of her most evocative moods.

The first was from Okehampton, climbing to Black Down Military Railway, a ‘target railway’ used by the army on the moor. Targets were pulled along a track by pulleys powered by static engines.

Return to Okehampton was through the Red-a-ven valley, beside of Dartmoor’s picturesque streams, especially with so much water from recent rain.

The second was from near Buckfastleigh, initially along a lane, passing this George VI post box, which is no longer in use but was decorated for Christmas with a lighted candle inside.

I love the moor gates that lead to freedom on the open moor, the Lud Gate at the end a track enclosed by tall granite walls, being one of my favourites.

Dartmoor has many legends, some more believable than others. This standing stone, ‘Little Man’, is apparently a lone piper who was turned to stone for playing on a Sunday.

Huntingdon Warren is was of the remote warren houses on Dartmoor where rabbits were farmed for fur and meat. Sadly the house was burned down some time ago. The last warreners moved out in 1939 – to the house next door 1½ miles away. My father and I once met the warrener’s daughter here. She had been brought up at the warren and used to ride a pony to school.

The mist cleared as I walked back, allowing a clearer view of the clapper bridge that crosses the Walla Brook below the warren.

A Day Trip to Mallaig

Maybe it wasn’t right to feel a tinge of smugness as I looked down on Euston’s concourse packed with commuters waiting for their delayed trains home. Maybe though it was forgivable, as unlike most this evening, my train was on time and rather than taking tired workers home to a late dinner, it was waiting to deliver passengers to the Scottish Highlands by morning.

A spare sleeper ticket expiring at Christmas allowed a bonus trip to Scotland and I’d chosen my favourite route, the West Highland Line to Fort William. With en suite toilet and shower, Caledonian Sleeper’s new Mark 5 coaches allow a comfortable journey in their ‘hotel on wheels’.

As usual on the Fort William sleeper I awoke as the train ran above Gare Loch but in mid-winter the deep loch below was invisible in darkness. Loch Lomond and the snow-capped Ben Lomond could just be made out as we travelled north but it was still dark as I made my way to the lounge car. After a little confusion resulting from me giving the wrong berth number (the early hour provided an excuse as opposed to my general forgetfulness), I was seated at a table laid for breakfast. Soon toast and a remarkably well filled bacon roll arrived. It was excellent, putting to shame some of the soggy microwaved offerings served up on some trains.

As dawn rose snow covered mountains were revealed in all directions. Snow lay on the platform at Rannoch where we passed a southbound train. Approaching the station there was an excellent view of the Moor of Rannoch Hotel, where I’d stayed when visiting Rannoch when writing Remote Stations. Once again I vowed to return.

Rannoch Moor was wild as ever. The Victorian engineers floated the line on brushwood to take it across the bogs of this desolate but endearing landscape and the amazing views are never the same. Today a carpet of snow covered the moor and pools were frozen. A small herd of deer watched us pass, magnificent with their antlers and unperturbed by a train crossing what is their home not ours. A young boy at the next table asked if they were Santa’s reindeer. Maybe they were. If much more snow fell this could have been the North Pole.

Two walkers alighted at Corrour, the highest station in the UK. Both carried double packs and looked set for a few days in this wild and remote country. I’d thought of getting off here too, just for a short walk, but with snow on the ground considered myself ill-equipped even for this. As arguably our most lonely railway station I had of course visited Corrour for Remote Stations and will certainly return in better weather for the experience of travelling from London by sleeper to be walking next morning in such a wild yet beautiful place.

The railway soon descends, running above the spectacular Loch Treig before following the River Spean towards Fort William.

Here the sun was shining and I walked along Loche Linnhe with more wonderful views.

The tide was high and An Caol, an island I’d walked to for No Boat Required, only just peeped above the water.

The mighty Ben Nevis was just out of the cloud, a classic view from the River Nevis Bridge.

Soon my walk was thwarted by the high tide, water over-topping a footbridge, either side of which mounting posts enabled riders to dismount and lead their horses across. I thought of paddling but then realised the tide was still flowing in and it may have been more than a paddle to return.

Next was a trip to Mallaig along the Highland Line Extension, which many claim to be the most scenic of all Scotland’s railways. In summers trains are packed and the Jacobite steam services often booked out months in advance, but today passengers were few. Unlike in summer I was the only one to photograph the famous Glenfinnan Viaduct, which isn’t easily done with non-opening train windows, but the view from the bridge to Loch Shiel made an atmospheric winter photo.

Some of the most spectacular views are of Loch Eilt, where to railway passes to the south and the road to the north.

Beasdale, which I’d walked to from Arisaig, was passed without stopping and by Mallaig the sun was shining. The railway was originally constructed to provide access to the rich west coast fishing grounds and the village of Mallaig built at the line’s terminus as a fishing port. The harbour is still busy with both fishing boats and ferries but as a still active port it’s not all picture postcard views.

I found a walk along the valley behind the village, coming out opposite the isolated Knoydart peninsular, where the only links to the outside world are the ferry to Mallaig or a two day walk across wild country. Skye with its snow-topped Cullin Mountains, the steepest in Britain, soon came into view and as I walked back into the village the Small Isles of Rhum and Eigg could be seen.

All of Mallaig’s cafes were shut. The village is busy in summer, especially when the steam train arrives, but with few tourists today (just me?) it was very much a working port for local people. I sat on a cold rock for a while watching dusk fall towards the unmistakable outline of Eigg and the gently sloping Ardnamurchan Peninsular, the most westerly point on the British mainland.

As the train took me south once more the sun was setting over Eigg, a final amazing view from the magnificent West Highland Line.

After an excellent dinner in Fort William I boarded the Highland Sleeper once again, enjoying my desert in a quiet lounge car. We trundled through the Highlands, stopping at eerily lit little stations to pick up the odd passenger. After Tyndrum I reverted to my berth, comfortable bed and sleep. A knock on the door at 7am woke me, the steward bringing another bacon roll.

The Highland Sleeper and West Highland Line are one of the world’s great railway journeys. It’s a journey that people would travel far to experience yet it’s in our own country. It’s a journey that everyone should try to do at least once in their lifetime.

Peter Caton Dec19

Caledonian Sleeper – Making the Most of Scotland

Since 2002, about four times a year I’ve visited Scotland for work, always travelling at least one way on the wonderful Caledonian Sleeper. At first I’d get a day train home, or spend the evening in Glasgow waiting for the sleeper back to London, but then I realised this was an opportunity to explore more of the country. Now I finish my meetings, leave work behind and jump on a train to enjoy Scotland’s scenery, cities and walking. With so many scenic routes, the train journey is part of the enjoyment.

The first trip took me to Balloch and an evening by Loch Lomond. Maid of the Loch, the paddle steamer on which we’d sailed back in 1970, was moored by the quay. This magnificent vessel is under restoration and hopefully will one day sail across the loch once more.

Another holiday revisited was to Troon where we’d stayed in 1970. Then it was a holiday resort but habits have changed and with people flying to find hotter weather Troon is now a quiet but pleasant seaside town, visited by day trippers and golfers.

Afternoons were spent in the historic cities of Stirling and Perth before a short morning meeting gave me the opportunity to visit Corrour on the West Highland Line to Fort William, arguably Britain’s most remote station. It’s an amazing place on the edge of Rannoch Moor. As the train headed off to Fort William I was on my own in this remote spot amongst lochs and mountains. I was to return here a few years later, choosing Corrour as the first of forty lonely stations visited for Remote Stations.

From Corrour I’d returned to Glasgow but then realised that I could use the Highland Sleeper back to London providing a multitude of options for long evenings in Scotland.

Another ride up the West Highland Line took me to Fort William, a walk by Loch Linnhe and the unforgettable experience of some of Scotland’s best scenery passing by as I enjoyed dinner in the sleeper lounge car. Another time I alighted at Bridge of Orchy and took a walk on the West Highland Way before catching the sleeper home.

I’ve made numerous trips up the Highland Mainline, sometimes all the way to Inverness, once enjoying dinner on the Highland Chieftain before the restaurant cars were sadly scrapped and always taking my favourite city walk along the river and across the Ness islands.

Pitlochry has been my most visited destination. Five times I’ve spent late afternoon and evening here, walking on Ben Vrackie, the 2,759 foot mountain that overlooks the town, before catching the sleeper home just before 11pm. Four times I reached the loch beneath the summit, a steady but easy climb from the town. Finally last summer time and weather permitted me to complete the remaining and steep ascent to the summit. What a view and all a few hours after I’d been sitting in meetings in Glasgow.

The East Coast hasn’t been left out. Aberdeen was visited on a freezing winter afternoon when snow lay on the beach and Stonehaven in rather warmer summer weather. A shorter trip took me to the lovely coastal town of North Berwick, returning home from Edinburgh. A meeting in Dundee gave the opportunity to view the Tay Bridge before travelling north for dinner in the Granite City.

On three occasions I’ve finished work in Glasgow, caught a train to the coast, then a ferry. Once to Dunoon, once to Cumbrae Island and once to the Isle of Bute, when porpoises were spotted from the ferry. Each time I’ve returned to Glasgow in time to catch the sleeper back to London, having turned a routine business trip into a memorable Scottish experience.

Sometimes I’ve stopped a night or two extra, usually when writing books. I stayed at the sadly now closed Forsinard Hotel, built by the Duke of Sutherland for his men to use while collecting rents, and enjoyed a walk in the remarkable Flow Country. Nearby Altnabreac on the Far North Line was visited for Remote Stations after a night in Thurso.

Most of my trips to Scottish tidal islands for No Boat Required followed work meetings around Glasgow, using the sleeper to travel north then home again after safely negotiating tides and mud to the islands. Crammond Island in the Firth of Forth, with many relics of military defences and concrete anti-submarine ‘dragon’s teeth’ line the causeway, was just a short bus ride from Edinburgh.

For environmental reasons I would never fly to Scotland but why would I even want to when the Caledonian Sleeper allows me to make the journey as I sleep – effectively in no time at all. With the new trains I can even shower on board and arrive ready for work having enjoyed breakfast in the lounge car, but more importantly explore Scotland once business has been completed.

Those who fly, drive to a meeting, back to the airport and travel straight home are missing so much more that can be achieved by using the sleeper. I’ve said it many times but will say it again, there’s no better way to travel to Scotland than the Caledonian Sleeper.

A Walk by the Crouch

A windy, muddy but most enjoyable walk from South Woodham Ferrers this afternoon.

Commencement was somewhat delayed by a bit of trouble with the train. Just outside Billericay there was a lot of noise and a sudden stop. A tree had fallen onto the third coach and caught fire on the power lines. Fortunately it soon extinguished itself but after a while four firemen appeared having made their way to the track through someone’s garden. What looked like being a long wait and transfer to another train was avoided when we managed to coast free of the tree and the best part of a mile almost to Wickford. Here there was another problem, the train coming to a sudden stop once more, this time because the air reservoirs had emptied and the brakes come on. Having now just reached a powered section the air could soon be replenished and on our way we went.

Fortunately it wasn’t necessary to break into my emergency KitKat but after all the excitement on arrival at South Woodham Ferrers a number three breakfast from the local café (for lunch) seemed to be in order.

I was checking Walk 31 in 50 Walks on the Essex Coast, in case anything has changed prior to the next reprint (probably during 2020.) It’s a pleasant walk, initially along Clementsgreen Creek, where the remains of quays show where sailing barges once called.

Turing left after a mile or so I reached one of my favourite spots on the Essex coast – the remote point where Clementsgreen Creek meets the River Crouch. Today however wasn’t a day to stop and sit. I turned right, heading into the wind up the Crouch. A chap on a mountain bike overtook me – just. It wasn’t the weather for cycling but he was the only other person venturing out onto this wild bit of Essex coast.

There are good views across Marsh Farm Country Park and a large number of birds to see.

The full walk is 7½ miles but with the sun falling I wasn’t going to be able complete it before dusk, so opposite Hullbridge (where a ferry once crossed the Crouch) I turned inland to return to the station by road.

In the book I’ve mentioned Marsh Farm as a possible place for refreshments, so thought I’d pop in for a cake. It’s some years since I last visited and the place is quite different. Gone is the nice little café by the entrance. The café is now further into the farm and you first have to pay to get in. Wanting only a cake and drink I wandered in unchallenged and made my way to the café. It’s in a play barn. What a din! Kids everywhere and families at every table. Not really the place for a middle aged bloke (or does 59 next week make me old) on his own. I made a hasty retreat and sat at a remote picnic bench to eat the emergency KitKat. It wasn’t as far out the way as I’d thought, and while I sat trying not to look like a dodgy man with a rucksack and muddy trousers on his own in a children’s farm, a succession of families came to look at Santa’s sleigh in a shed by the bench. If anyone said anything, which they probably did, it was out of my hearing.

All that needs changing in the book is to take out reference to the farm café. Marsh Farm also need to change their website. It took me 23 minutes fast walking to reach the station., They state 20 minutes – and presumably expect their visitors to be families, not men with rucksacks.

Peter Caton 14.12.19