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