On this walk I’m heading around the southern side of the Blackwater Estuary to the closest crossing point of the estuary at a place called Maldon.
I started this walk by driving from home to Maldon. The journey is mostly OK other than some queuing traffic as I reach Maldon. I drove along the main street of Maldon and found a car park signed just off the main street.
I didn’t know much about Maldon, in fact until a few weeks ago I didn’t even know it existed. The only place with that name I knew of was New Malden, which I passed through on the train on the way to work in London. It also looked a fairly bland suburb of London. Maldon in Essex though was very different – it looked a beautiful place, packed with interesting old buildings and a High Street that seemed full of life.
I had about 20 minutes before a was due to Steeple so I decided to have a quick look around Maldon before taking the bus to Steeple to begin the walk. This is because the bus was only hourly at the time (it is less frequent now) so I didn’t want to be left with a potentially long wait at the end of the walk.
I liked Maldon a lot and enjoyed my wander around the town.
I found the bus stop on the High Street and the bus arrived on time to take me back to Steeple. I got off the bus just after the junction of Canney Road, which is where I had joined the road at Steeple last time. I was amused to note a traction engine parked beside the garage of one of the houses.
I followed the road back past Hall Farm to the banks of Steeple Creek where I left last time. This time the tide was high so I was seeing water rather than mud.
Here I turned left and followed the footpath along the raised bank beside the creek.
As is often the case, the path was almost a causeway with water both in front of and behind it at times.
Spring is well and truly here now with the blackthorn hedges (I think they are, anyway…) beside the path adding a lovely splash of white with their pretty flowers. The creek now begins to narrow and soon I have reached the most inland point of the creek, near to Mayland. I round the back of the creek and continue on the path at the other side of the creek.
At one point, trees mean the path is almost a wooded tunnel and it’s lovely, with the fresh green leaves on the trees.
Soon the trees end and the path continues now lined with the blackthorn bushes and their lovely white flowers.
Soon the blackthorn comes to an end, but it has been an unexpectedly pretty stretch of the walk.
On my right there is a derelict old wodden jetty. Presumably boats once moored up here but I very much doubt they do any longer.
The path on the west side of the creek is again on the raised bank and on my left are a number of lakes. I suspect the remnants of gravel or salt extraction, they are now being used by fisherman who are clearly, like me, keen to take advantage of the fine spring weather.
The creek is beginning to widen again as I head back nearer (slightly) the sea.
It is lovely and peaceful, until a noisy jet ski comes racing along the creek.
A less welcome visitor of spring – I’m surprised they are allowed down this shallow muddy creek at all (or perhaps they are not, and ignoring the rules). Fortunately they only come down once and head back to the estuary, leaving a smell of petrol in their wake.
I continue alongside the marshes, eventually turning the corner back towards the Blackwater estuary, but I don’t get as far as that, as this creek just emerges onto another, Lawling Creek. The path though is right next to the waters edge now, rather than having a stretch of marsh between me and the water, as I have had up to this point.
It is clear the water lapping at the edge of this sea wall has taken it’s toll as the sea wall has crumbled away, eroding a section of the path away, though there is a well worn path along the back of the eroded area I followed instead.
Rounding the corner I’m now heading up the next creek, Lawling Creek which stretches for a little over a mile. I soon pass an Environment Agency sign warning that “We plan to carry out improvement works to this sea wall”. Well it is certainly in need of it – but I’m glad I’ve got through before they start and inevitably close the path for a time.
The creek is quite wide here with a number of boats moored up, but the tide has gone out now and they are marooned on the mud.
I pass an old metal sign “Essex Rivers Board” warning that tampering with any of the groynes or sluices is liable to a £50 fine. I wonder how old the sign is – I suspect the fine would be higher now.
I’ve now reached the edge of Maylandsea. The first part of the town I come to is a sailing club, with most of the boats still under wraps on the grass behind the path. Sailing is certainly popular in this part of Essex.
Just past the sailing club is another narrow muddy creek.
I follow the path behind this and just as the marsh ends I come to another boat yard, this time Blackwater Marina. There are larger boats here, moored up with wooden decks to reach them, but because the tide has gone out all the boats are marooned on the mud.
Mixed in amongst the modern boats I came across what I found out was a Thames Sailing barge. I find this boats very pretty and I’d be seeing a lot more of them as the day wore on.
Past the boat yard and I had a mixture of open water and mud flats to my right. At this state of the tide the land and water seemed to merge because where there was water, it was extremely shallow.
I continued further up the creek as the water was replaced with mud flats and finally reached the most inland point of the creek, where it looked to me as if an old sea wall might have been breached here.
Thankfully the path continued right along the sea wall around the north side of the creek.
To my right was a mixture of mud flats and marsh land. Soon I had reached the mouth of the creek, at Mundon Stone Point.
Again I could see that the sea wall below the path had been eroded as the concrete squares it seemed to be made from was all broken apart, but this time it had not yet taken the path with it.
Now I was back alongside the Blackwater again having rounded all of Lawling Creek, with Osea Island just visible ahead.
Zooming in on it, I could make out the large house on this side of the island.
My time along the banks of the Blackwater was short lived though as after about 200 metres I was turning away again to head around another creek, Coopers Creek, this one now mostly silted up and marsh.
This one though was shorter and it was less than a mile to get around it where the path then returned to the banks of the Blackwater.
Only a short distance after I had got around this then to my right it was another creek, Southey Creek. This time it I don’t have to go all the way around it, as it is more a water channel than a creek. Out in the estuary is another marshy island, Northey Island.
The main channel of the river Blackwater flows north of the island whilst to the south, where I am is a tidal creek, Southey Creek.
As the creek narrows I pass another fishing lake on the left and beyond that a field of rape seed, already showing the pretty yellow flowers. There is, yet another, creek to get around ahead. This one is Limbourne Creek. The path goes all around the creek inland, but in fact it seems a newer sea wall has been built along the mouth of the creek. It is not marked as a right of way, but there is a well worn path over it, so I follow that, pleased to have been able to take a slight shortcut.
A short distance ahead of this I come to Northey Island. This is a tidal island so at low tide the water in Southey Creek empties out and then you can reach the island on foot (or even, by car).
There is a causeway going out to the island. Northey Island is owned by the National Trust meaning it is possible – with some effort – to visit it. This is because signs warn you must not cross the causeway unless you have made an appointment to visit the island with the warden that lives on the island (and given 24 hours notice). I’d like to visit the island, but I haven’t made an appointment so for now I have to stick to the sea wall.
Beyond the causeway much of the land to the left is now fenced off behind a chain-link fence. The creek seems to be a bit of a boat graveyard with several ruined boats abandoned on the mud.
Soon I reach the edge of Maldon where, characteristically the first thing I come across is a sailing club.
Beyond this is Promenade Park, which was created in Victorian times. This is a large park on the south bank of the river Chelmer (after which Chelmsford, further inland, is named). It is a very popular place.
The promenade is wide more or road really. There is a dead-end route to my right out to the end of a jetty.
Originally I hadn’t planned to follow it, but there are a few people at the end and an interesting looking statue, so I decided to head along it to take a look. The statue turns out to be of Byrhtnoth, the Ealdorman of Essex who died in a battle against the Vikings in the Battle of Maldon in 991. This really brings it home to me how old the town of Maldon is – it has been here at least more than 1000 years.
Heading back I can follow this good, though busy, promenade. I have a fine view of Maldon ahead, though looking into the sun it has come out rather lacking in contrast in my photo.
It was a beautiful sight though, the pretty church tower and several more of those very pretty Thames sailing barges. As I’m stopping to enjoy the view and taking a few photos a local man comments that “it looks like a film set doesn’t it?”. I can’t help but agree – it looks like a view that has been unchanged for 100 years or more.
The promenade park is busy and it seems like half the population of Maldon is here. It does seem to be a town where the people seem happy and enjoying their surroundings.
The park is very pleasant, now with a lake and fountain to my left and a well kept shelter on my right.
As I near the centre of the town I can look ahead to the masts of all the various different boats moored up on the quay.
I’m not sure if there is any commercial traffic left here, but there is certainly a lot of leisure traffic and I like the view of all the different boats.
As I get closer I realise why there are so many of those lovely Thames sailing barges here. It turns out I have reached the Thames Sailing Barge heritage centre. These barges were originally built here. Now a company called Top Sail Charters owns the yard. Here they still repair these beautiful boats and have their own fleet for hire and for public cruises. Sadly none are operating on the day I was here but it sounds like a nice trip.
I enjoy looking around this area though, as there are information boards about many of the boats, telling you when they were built, what they were used for and what they are used for now. It is a lovely little museum.
Just past this though I have to leave the river bank as it is now blocked by a pub and it’s garden, The Queens Head. Just past this the road turns left so I can turn right. I turned onto North Street which turned out to be a (short) dead-end but the next road inland, Downs Road soon brings me back to the waters edge where I pass an area called Watership Down.
Soon buildings line the banks of the river to my right again so I can’t see the river any more. The next view I get is obviously an old dock on the other side, now converted to flats.
Now I am along the quay still lined with boats of various sizes. This side is still quite pretty, but the other side is a bit industrial, but mixed in with some older mills. I am not sure if they are still used, they look run down and one seems to be clad in asbestos!
Soon I reach the bridge which marks the lowest crossing point on foot of the Blackwater estuary. Rather than cross it, I continued just ahead for a view further up the river.
This is the river Chelmer which heads to Chelmsford, the next town inland, though it is a little over 10 miles further inland from Maldon. The Chelmer provided the main transport links to Chelmsford and as a result a navigable canal was created, the Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation which provided an easily navigable route that connected Chelmsford with the sea at all states of the tide. These days like most canals it is used exclusively be leisure craft, but the tow path is still intact and you can follow it all the way to Chelmsford.
I’m not going to Chelmsford today though but instead heading back to the car park. Maldon has another little surprise for me. It is hilly!
The road up to the High Street is really quite steep as you can see from these buildings that line it. Essex has a reputation for being flat, but this bit isn’t!
The road continues, seeming to get steeper but it is lined with attractive buildings, now mostly houses I think I suspect they were once commercial and all painted in pleasant pastel shades.
Maldon is quieter now than when I was here earlier, it seems most of the shoppers have gone home (as it’s nearly 5pm) and it is nice to wander the now peaceful streets, admiring the many beautiful old buildings.
Maldon had turned out to be a wonderful town. It is nice to discover places like this having come not knowing what to expect and finding such a beautiful town.
From the High Street I headed back to the car park. Here Maldon had one further surprise for me. As I approached my car I could see all was not quite well, it looked like the car parked next to mine had parked incredibly close.
As I got closer I realised it wasn’t the case that the owner had parked their car so badly. Instead, someone had crashed into it with such force, they had pushed the car almost to 45 degrees in the space, denting the front wing and dislodging part of the front bumper and leaving it about an inch from the back of my ageing Peugeot 106 parked next to it.
At the time I was working in London and so travelling there by train each day. So I only really used my car for trips at the weekend to go walking or to visit family and friends, so there was no point in spending a lot of money on new, large or expensive car for it to sit idle most of the week. So although it was about 12 years old by this point I would still rather it not be damaged so was glad to see that my car at least was unscathed, even if it did make it a bit tricky to get out of the space. However it did make me wonder how on earth it had happened. I could only assume either someone reversing out of another space had pressed the accelerator rather than the brake by mistake or someone was racing around the car park showing off and lost control, but they must have been going at a good speed to push the car that far sideways! They would have had to jump the curb, too. It did at least look as if whoever did it left their details under the windscreen wiper, but I was glad I had not parked in that space, or it would have been my car that had been damaged.
Although this had been another walk of marshes, creeks and mud I had still enjoyed it a lot. It was helped by the lovely weather, plenty of flowers about, brightening up the path, and plenty of interest to see, such as Northey Island and the beautiful Thames Sailing barges. All the paths were in good condition and other than in Maldon itself all the walk had been on paths rather than roads which made it more enjoyable. Maldon too had been a lovely town to explore and it was nice to come across such a beautiful town as I hadn’t known what to expect, it seems to be a rather undiscovered place.
Here are details of the public transport needed for this walk:-
On Monday – Saturday Hedingham bus routes D1 and D2 can be used : Maldon – Purleigh – Cold Norton – Latchingdon – Maylandsea – Mayland – Steeple. At Steeple the two routes diverge, with bus D1 runing to St Lawrence and Bradwell-on-Sea whilst route D2 runs to Southminster, also serving the rail station. Between them, there are 9 busses per day between Maldon and Steeple and it takes around 35 minutes to make the journey.
On Sundays First Essex route 33 can be used : Chelmsford – Great Baddow – Danbury – West Mortimer – Maldon – Latchingdon – Maylandsea – Mayland – Steeple – Southminster – Southminster Station. There are 7 busses per day (roughly once every 2 hours).