The easy start continued when I returned as I made porridge and tea and sat quietly against a fence enjoying the sun on my face and watching the ground sheet dry (makes a change from watching paint!). When Lance and Babs surfaced I strolled over and spent some time chatting with them, taking their photograph and saying goodbye. Finally, with the groundsheet dried off I was able to finish the packing and take to the road.
Where there are seawalls, there are also what are called the 'borrow dykes'. When making seawalls the soil along the sides of the sea or river are dug out and the soil used to make the seawall. The resulting ditch is the borrow dyke. The dykes fill with either fresh water from underground or above ground sources or seawater that filters through the seawall. Generally long, thin stretches of water form behind the seawall, establishing a wonderful habitat for species such as newts, frogs, toads, damsel and dragonflies, as well a range of wild flowers, reeds and grasses on their banks. Here at Tollesbury the borrow dyke runs for almost the full length of the seawall as it goes down the South Channel and turns along the River Blackwater. Running west from Tollesbury, it continues almost non-stop to just below the town of Maldon, with only occasional breaks to allow access to the seawall.
Looking directly across the River Blackwell to the opposite penisula, I could see clearly the Bradwell Nuclear Power Station and below it Bradwell Waterside, both places I would pass through tomorrow and which dominated the southern horizon for most of the day. At Shinglehead Point at the bottom of the nature reserve, I could look east back across the Virley Channel to see a different perspective than the one I had yesterday of Mersea Island . Further east, I could make out the coastline around Point Clear and Brightlingsea and beyond to where I was walking a couple of days ago.
The good weather stayed with me for most of the day and I enjoyed the heat of the sun on my face after my experiences with the cold of the rain over the last couple of nights. The coastline meandered in and out, offering different perspectives on the sea and landscapes, breaking up any temptation to monotony. The walking was good on top of the seawall, if at times the grass was long and the weeds thick. As the coastline weaved in and out it was easy to see why the walk ended up measuring sixteen miles. This conference presentation gives a good overview of the contribution of seawalls to conservation efforts
The mounds include broke coarse pottery vessels used in making salt, ash and soil that has been reddened by the heat of ancient furnaces. Beneath this there can be the remains of the hearths used in the salt-making process, as well as the salt settling tanks. Such locations would have been common across Essex during the Iron Age and the period of Roman occupation when it was a major industry in the county. I'm sure many of you will have used or still be using Maldon salt from the local area in your cooking. The Maldon Crystal Salt Company have been in business since the C19th (1892).
It is reckoned that by the time the Domesday Book was written in 1086 there were something like 45 salt pans operating in the Maldon area alone. The evidence for this can be seen all along this coastal route where the red hills have been retained, protected from development by farmers. The importance of salt to the area can be seen by the many villages that refer to it in their place names, including Salcott, which I passed through yesterday.
Currently owned by Nigel Frieda (brother of John Frieda, hairdresser), a music producer, it has a fully equipped recording studio installed in the main house, previously housing the clinic.
At 13.75 miles long, the navigation runs from the lock at Heybridge to the Springfield Basin at Chelmsford. Six bridges cross the canal over its length and it drops a total of seventy five-feet, utilising 12 locks to do so. The maximum boat length it can accept is sixty feet and sixteen feet in beam.
Established in 1797 as a private company, it retained this status until the early 2000's when the company ran in to financial difficulty. While still owned by the original company, it is now the subject of a maintenance and operating agreement with the Inland Waterways Association and run under the auspices of Essex Waterways Ltd. There is little, if any commercial traffic on the canal now and its primary use is by leisure craft. I enoyed walking up the canal where there are different kinds of houseboats and other sailing vessels tied up there. Many of them colourful and very personal in their style of decor. Maldon is also famous for the collection of old Thames barges that are tied up here at the Hythe Quay. Many of the barges have been restored and some of them are used for leisure cruises. Competetive racing in the barges remains a feature of the area.
To make it worse, I had walked too far and had to backtrack to head up through the town for my accommodation. I had what seemed like a long, dreary walk up a hill to my B & B and I was fairly done in by the time I arrived; perhaps that should be 'distressed' by the time I arrived! However, I soon cheered up when I saw the quality of my accommodation and after a shower and a wee rest I was able to go back down to the town where I had a nice fish tea with mushy peas in a local cafe. Nothing cheers me up better than a good fish supper. Afterwards, it was back up the weary hill and before too long off to the land of Nod!