The initial response to the minor self-surgery on my foot appears to be good and I do not have the acute pain I had yesterday. Rising about 6.00am, I had breakfasted with just cereal bars, broke camp and was on the seawall for just after 7.00am. The planned mileage for today, had I made my target yesterday, was to be about fifteen miles. I now need to add missed mileage from yesterday, which means I could be walking up to twenty miles today. The weather forecast for the day is bright sunshine, which probably means the same kind of heat conditions I walked in yesterday. In the early morning it is still cloudy but with a pearl-like translucence to the sky and with low tide, there is an eerie stillness over the river.
Moving down on to the path that runs behind the seawall the walking is better but still damp. While I have views across the Essex countryside I have no view on the river. I love walking the seawall. The views up and down the river, the changing conditions and habitats, the birds and wildlife are an inherent part of the enjoyment of the walk for me and it is intensely frustrating to have it blocked. Over the next four or five kilometres I go back up the seawall at intervals to check out if the path is any better and to have a wee fix of seascape. More often than not I am soon convinced to drop back down again because the walking is uncomfortable.
The route takes a sharp turn to the right here, heading approximately south east but still on the river. With the river on my left, Lion Creek and Lower Raypits Nature Reserve is on my right. Established in 1986, the reserve is built around the location of an old creek, that was cut off from the river when they built a new seawall. The area is known for the number of scarce plants that can be found in the various habitats of saltmarsh, pasture land, seawall, which support a wide range of waders and wildfowl.In the fields beyond the seawall I watch a large brown hare enjoying a bit of May Madness.
About five kilometres from my starting point I leave the River Crouch behind me as I walk up Lion Creek. Looking across the creek I can see Wallasea Island which is bounded on the north by the River Crouch; south and east by the River Roach and by Paglesham Creek and Pool to the west. To the south east and separated from Wallasea by the River Roach, is Foulness Island, which I will walk parallel to tomorrow.
The earliest mention of Wallasea Island is from about 13C when some land records make reference to buildings on the island. Much of the land is now owned by the RSPB who in 2012 began the Wallasea Island Wild Coast Project which will entail breaching much of the remaining seawall on the island to create a wetland bird reserve that will include mudflats and saltmarsh, lagoons and pasture. The scheduled finish date for the project is 2025 but you can still visit the island to view progress on the scheme and to observe the changes in the landscape as the project moves on. A ferry service that runs six days a week links Wallasea with Brunham-on-Crouch, with the crossing taking ten minutes.
As I look across to Wallasea I can see the Riverside Village Holiday Park, which lies close to the road that links to the mainland. I had tried to book in here for one night's camping and they were happy to let me until they realised it was a Bank Holiday weekend, then they insisted a minimum stay of three nights. At £25 per night, I think not. Read here about the Devil's House on the island.
This first public footpath is to Paglesham Churchend, with an option to take a left and go on to the seawall that runs beside Paglesham Creek. I would have taken this route yesterday had I made my mileage. Now, to make up for lost time, I stay on the public footpath, crossing over very flat, arable land to come to the village of Paglesham Churchend from the west. The parish of Paglesham consists of the two main villages, Churchend and Eastend, separated by some miles. Surrounded by the creeks and channels around Foulness Island the area had a reputation for smuggling, with the main culprit, known as 'Hard Apple', thought to be the local parsh councillor and policeman, William Blyth. It is somewhat ironic that the local church (parts of which are 11C), is called after St Peter, who was also known as 'the fisherman'.
Although it is still reasonably early, about 11.30am, I am ready for a meal and stop for an early lunch in the Punch Bowl (which is where William Blyth used to drink and apparently eat the glasses afterwards), where I enjoyed a very nice meal and some chat with the staff. The Punch Bowl is a blast from the past; a very traditional (and rare) Olde English pub with a lovely atmosphere, that serves good food and has nice bar staff. Mine Host was repairing the coffee machine when I arrived and when he had it going treated me to a free cup of very nice coffee. Thank you, Sir! A scholar and a gentleman.
With the village of Rochford visible in the distance I stopped to sit in the shade for a wee while on the north-eastern edge of a WWII machine gun post. On a day with very hot sunshine and not a cloud in the sky I was more than a little shocked to find raindrops falling on me. Slightly puzzled I got up to put on my waterproof jacket only to find that I no longer had it. Given that I had not had to wear it for a couple of days I had trouble remembering when I had last seen it. Eventually, it clicked that it had been on my rucksack as I fought my way the undergrowth coming out of Rettendon and I can only presume it is hanging there still from some bush or bramble. Fortunately, the rain did not come to anything but with the rest of the day to go, a night of wild camping and another day's walking to come before I could replace it, I feared what I would do if heavy rain appeared because I had no fall back.
I managed about another mile or so and found a nice little flat area in some reasonably short grass and decided to pitch up. Although I could see Roper's Farm from where I was I decided it was late enough that nobody would be out and about. I was too tired to cook and made do with cold fare and hot coffee. There was a good chance of a nice sunset, but no chance that I would see it. Within ten minutes of finishing eating I was dead to the world.