This should have been a fairly straightforward walk back along the southern shore of the River Crouch, unfortunately, it did not turn out as planned, although I got the job done in the end!
I drove very early from my Southend hotel to Maldon and parked up in Heybridge, where I had found free parking a few weeks earlier. I was catching the 7:34 #31X to Southminster, but was able to go into the local Greggs, which opened at 07:00 for a coffee and bacon/sausage bap. I got off the bus in Southminster High Street – this is where my travel plans began to go awry. Two days previously I had booked a seat using the Dart Service which would take me from Southminster to Bradwell Waterside, where I would walk back along the sea wall to Maldon. I had given my name and the place I would like to be picked up from and time which was 08:37. I waited with 3 other passengers (who incidentally were not catching my bus). About 11 minutes before my ‘bus’ was due I caught out of the corner of my eye a minibus fly past at speed with a taxi firm number emblazoned on the back. “No, that could not be the ‘bus’….could it?” I had given my name and place to be picked up, “surely the driver knew he had a fare to pick up?” I waited a further 10 minutes, then called number I had booked my seat on. A chap answered the phone and said he would just check with the driver. The chap came back and said that the driver was in Burnham with a flat tyre and was getting it replaced. Phew!! I thought, thank goodness for that at least I did not miss the bus. The chap said he would be with me as soon as he could. I waited another 90 minutes and called the number again for an update. It was a lady this time, who said she was unaware of any puncture. She then came back to me and said the driver would be with me straightaway. Fifteen minutes later the minibus that had come haring past me 2 hours ago stopped. From the front it was very difficult to see it was a minibus and not just another white van. I could see no bus markings at the front of the vehicle, just at the side. The driver immediately said he needed to have a compulsory one hour rest and was that ok? I said that I was walking back to Maldon and any further delay would mean I would be walking in the dark! I knew I was right on the edge with getting back to Maldon in the daylight. Annoyed he agreed to take me. I decided I would not argue with him, I needed the lift and I was not paying for it now. I asked the driver if he had got his puncture fixed. Grinning he said there was no puncture! I asked a few other questions and I gleaned he would not stop unless you put your arm out, he did not have a passenger manifest so would not know who’s being picked up where and when and he also told me I did not have to book – contrary to the official timetable. I finally asked him what Dart stood for. He didn’t know, but said they were just a taxi firm who took over the routes because other firms did not want them. Everything began to make sense now, a taxi company trying (and failing) to deliver a bus service and lying to its customers. The bad news is that I will need to get to Bradwell again in the next few weeks. I will have to re-think this as this taxi-firm operates a monopoly in this area – I may have to make use of the bike.
I got dropped off at the Bradwell Waterside and already I was playing catch-up. Although the sun was shining brightly I knew I would end up walking in the twilight. I started to examine my intended route to see if I could shave anything off it, as I set off at pace along the sea bank. I was heading for the small village of St Lawrence, composed mainly of holiday homes. I managed to walk along the foreshore around St Lawrence where I got talking to a dog walker. Forever conscious of the time I did not linger and set off at a brisk pace through the nearby marina. I then came to Stansgate Abbey Farm, this was/is the home of the Benn family, in particular Tony Benn. I’m not too sure if it remains in the family, but they don’t want you walking along the sea wall by their property so I had to revert to the beach or what there was of it!
I re-joined the sea wall some distance past Stansgate farm. Soon afterwards I made the first of my route corrections, to try and shave some distance of my intended route. I followed a footpath into the small village of Steeple with its attractive church. I stayed on the road for about a kilometre before joining the St Peters Way trail as it entered the twin villages of Mayland and Maylandsea. I mainly followed the muddy back lanes behind the houses and was soon heading out of the villages. St Peters way continued west, but I continued to follow the Sea bank as it snaked its way north back towards the Blackwater. As I re-joined the River Blackwater, my feet began to hurt. I had been wearing my walking boots, which I had not done for a while, but the amount of mud I was walking through meant I had made the correct decision to wear them.
The sun was just dipping below the horizon and the light was fading fast. I passed the tidal road that led out to the small island of Northey. The lights of Maldon were on now and as the footpaths became increasingly thick with mud I entered Promenade Park on the outskirts of Maldon. The park was very busy even though the street lights were now on. I struggled past the moored Smacks alongside The Hythe, with aching feet and onto my parked car in Heybridge. My various attempts at cutting some bits of my intended walk had failed as I still ended up walking over 20 miles. And that was it for 2019.
Distance today =20.5 miles
Total distance = 5,629 miles