313. Rosehearty to St. Fergus

Today would be the day when I eventually start walking southwards again, as the last 6 or 7 walks have been eastwards. I had no concerns about today’s walk other than a few possible river crossing which may have required a slight inland diversion. It would be a very early departure from my hotel room, because I had to catch the first of two buses to get to my start point. This meant driving to the shore car park about a mile from St. Fergus and walking back into St. Fergus to catch the 5:53 #69 bus to Fraserburgh. As I drove to the car park I passed the large St. Fergus gas terminal, with its thousands of lights lighting up the early morning sky. There was little traffic about at that time of the morning and I passed a Police car in a lay-by. About 400m later I turned down the single track road to the beach. As I got out of the car and started getting my stuff ready, another car appeared. It was the police, or should I say Ministry of Defence Police, the equivalent of the Civil Nuclear Constabulary who I had come across before. There were obviously checking me out as the car park is about 1km from the huge gas plant. They soon disappeared back up the road without stopping.

After catching the bus into Fraserburgh, I then caught the 06:55 #74 to Rosehearty. It was still drizzling with rain when I got off the bus and because it was only 07:05, still very dark. I had checked beforehand though and I knew there was a good footpath all the way back into Fraserburgh. As I walked out of Rosehearty and through Sandhaven, the rain ceased and it gradually began to get light. By the time I had reached Fraserburgh I was able to remove my hi-vis vest and turn my head torch off. I passed a bakery and popped in to get a bacon bap, it was really nice and perked me up as the drizzle began to slowly return.

I walked through Fraserburgh and out past the harbours full of boats, mainly to do with the fishing industry. I transferred down onto a lovely beach that swept around Fraserburgh Bay. About half way along the beach I spoke to a chap who was exercising, I asked him about crossing the burn further up the beach. He confirmed my suspicions that I would have to divert inland due to the high tide which was now underway. I cut across the golf course to the B9023 road. I crossed over the Water of Philorth via a road bridge and continued along the main road for another mile before continuing down a minor road into Inverallochy. As I left Inverallochy, the sun came out and it stopped raining. I walked alongside another golf course and into the village of St. Combs.

Fraserburgh High Street early in the morning
Faithlie Harbour Fraserburgh
Heading around Fraserburgh Bay
The Water of Philorth

I got speaking to a local dog walker who advised me of the two bridges I needed to cross a couple of miles further up. I already knew about the bridges, but it was still reassuring to know they were still there. I now entered a dune system that would be with me to the end of the walk. The dunes were covered in Marram Grass and difficult to walk through. I picked up a couple tracks that ultimately led me to the two wooden bridges I needed to cross. One of the bridges was over the outfall from Loch Strathbeg, Britain’s largest dune loch and an important winter feeding site for many birds.

I could now see the towers from the large St. Fergus gas terminal. Composed of three plants, each having three offshore pipelines coming ashore, the site receives 25% of the country’s gas supply. I decided to cross over the dune system again and drop down to the beach. This took a while as the dune system here had two ridges which took some effort getting over. The beach was beautiful with amazing surf causing a fine mist to form. The sand, however, was a bit of a pig to walk along though. Try as I did, I could not find a “sweet spot” to walk along without sinking into the sand. I decided to cut back into the dunes as the effort of walking over the beach sand was sapping my energy. I cut back through the dunes and walked along the dune fringe. I could now see the lighthouse at Rattray Head which I was heading for. I passed the Lighthouse cottages, which was a bit of a misnomer, as the “cottages” appeared to be a large and well-built house.

Crossing the outflow from Loch Strathbeg
Looking back over the dunes to St. Combs
Heading down onto the beach
On the beach with the surf causing a fine mist
Heading towards Rattray Head
The Lighthouse “cottage” at Rattray Head
Looking back at the lighthouse at Rattray Head

I got back onto the beach and stuck with it until I reached the Gas Terminal. I knew at some point I would have to cut through the dunes again and follow the fence line of the gas terminal, because of a water course at the far end of the site. After walking along fence line past the multiple signs warning me that armed police patrol the site 24hours a day, I arrived at the old ruined Annachie bridge that got me over the last water obstacle of the day. The last kilometre was along a dog walker’s path past the dunes to the car park and my car.

 

Heading along the beach towards the St. Fergus gas terminal
Walking along the fenceline at St. Fergus
The Annachie bridge at St. Fergus

NB: I also publish all my Scottish Blog entries on the excellent Scottish Hills website, I use the same narrative, but larger photos and a few extra ones. They can be found here:

http://www.scottishhills.com/html/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=24806

Distance today =20 miles
Total distance = 5,728 miles

 

 

 

 

312. Rosehearty to Banff

 

I had a really fitful night’s sleep, it had taken me 8.5hrs to do yesterday’s walk mostly over established footpaths and tracks, but today’s walk would a similar distance, I would be starting almost an hour later and it was over ground that had large amounts of ascent and descent with few footpaths. I knew I had to alter my route slightly, taking in more road walking in order that I would finish before it got dark. I examined and re-examined my public transport options. Using public transport to get to the start of the walk in Banff was a non-starter as I would be starting my walk at 11:00! The only option was to drive to Banff again and park up there. I then looked at the option of setting out straight away in the dark towards Rosehearty and getting the only bus back at 16:18, this was a bit of gamble so I opted to take two buses to get me to Rosehearty to start walking at 09:00.

I caught the 07:35 #271 to Fraserburgh, then a short journey on the 08:42 #74 to Rosehearty. I set off down the B9031 on a still, warm morning where the overnight rain had ceased and the sun was just up. I was on the B9031, which was very quiet, for only mile before I turned off down a single track road. The single track road just served the odd farm and with the odd intermittent vehicle. After 30 minutes I passed a farm and the farmer was just about to jump into his tractor and do some muck-spreading. Then what started with a simple query as to how far I was walking turned into a 20 minute conversation! He was from Bath originally and had been farming here for over 30 years. We talked about his cattle and he kindly showed me some that were in his barn. We could have chatted for an hour, but he had work to do and I needed to get going myself.

The views ahead were superb with the high cliffs of Stranhangles Point and the high ground of Troup Head dominating the view across Aberdour Bay. Although I had intended to walk along the cliff-line, I had decided to stick to the lane, which was 300 – 400m away and had more commanding views. The road descended down to the River Dour where I continued across the river and began the long steep climb up a farm track. The track led to much higher ground and after passing through Bankhead farm, it continued straight ahead as a footpath. I picked some signs indicating that this was a recognised route to Pennan, where I was heading. I had decided that although I would be staying on the roads for most of the walk, but there were three places I wanted to visit and Pennan was one of them. I followed a footpath and track past the ruins of Pennan Farm and dropped steeply into the tiny old fishing village of Pennan, famed for being the location of the film “Local Hero”. Its K6 telephone box featured in a number of the scenes of the film and is still there today. However, I later discovered that the  K6 used in the film was a prop! The actual and working K6 box is stuck behind a small building 50 metres away. I remember watching the film at the time…..crikey how the years have flown by!

The Square in Rosehearty
The view ahead with Strahangles Point (l) and Troup Head (r)
Looking back at The Doocot near Craigiefold
The intriguing name of Egypt Farm
The view ahead with Strahangles Point (c) and Troup Head (r)

The bad news about descending down to Pennan was that I had to re-ascend up from the village again, which was very steep. I re-joined the B9031 for two miles; the road was still quiet, but the weathered had begun to turn, with cloud and drizzle coming in. I took a minor lane which serviced a few isolated farms which I could see would give me access to the second and third destinations that I wanted to visit, namely Crovie and Gardenstown. I dropped down steep ground towards a ravine, which was clad in gorse. Frustratingly, the road I needed to get on was only 150m away, but there was no way I was getting down through the gorse and across the ravine. I back-tracked back up the slope and field. Some 30 minutes later I dropped down to the tiny old fishing village of Crovie. Like Pennan it sits at the base of the large sandstone and conglomerate cliffs and is hemmed in by the sea. I continued on along the beach to Gardenstown, which was just around a small headland. The good news was there was a well-established path which had steps around the headland, however the weather had closed in big time and More Head, which rose above Gardenstown, was cloaked in fog almost down to the sea, while the drizzle continued.

Descending into Pennan
Pennan
Not the actual K6 in Pennan
Descending into Crovie
Crovie
The steps around the headland to Gardenstown

I decided I needed to get a move on and I also had to climb up from the shoreline in Gardenstown back onto the main road. It was one hell of a steep climb and it took a lot out of me. Back on the main the visibility in the fog was down to 80-100m. I put my hi-vis vest and my head torch on. The road was now much busier than earlier. Fortunately, the available verges, were good, although there were a couple of tight bends where I had to scurry through. Sometimes I managed to get into the adjacent field and walk alongside the road. I must admit this was the first time I had encountered dense fog on a walk. I was on the B9031 for about 6 miles before it joined up with the A98 just on the outskirts of Macduff.  As I walked along the welcome pavements into Macduff, the light had begun to fade. I was pleased that I had managed to visit at least three places on my original intended route. I made it back to the car at 04:00, just as the fog was beginning to clear.

Even though todays walk had been slightly further than yesterdays and I had completed it in a faster time, which is not surprising as there was more road walking, but I was surprised to find that my total ascent was 955m – which is a reasonably sized Munro!

On the ascent out of Gardenstown looking down at the harbour in the rain
Small fishing vessel in for repairs in Macduff shipyard
Looking across Banff Bay to a very murky Banff
The bridge over the River Deveron

NB: I also publish all my Scottish Blog entries on the excellent Scottish Hills website, I use the same narrative, but larger photos and a few extra ones. They can be found here:

http://www.scottishhills.com/html/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=24805

 

Distance today =22 miles
Total distance = 5,708 miles

 

 

 

 

 

 

311. Findochty to Banff

I could see a three day weather window that would be perfect for a trip to the NE tip of Aberdeenshire. I booked myself into Saltoun Inn in Fraserburgh. The Saltoun is actually a Weatherspoon’s hotel which I booked a large family room at a very good rate.

It was forecast to be dry for all three days of my walks, but today had the added bonus of having the stiff breeze with me as well as being a sunny day with blue skies all around. The daylight hours were still short so I needed to make an early start, this meant driving the 25 miles to Banff, where I parked up. I caught the 06:45 # 35 bus to Findochty. The bus was quite busy with most people going to work. It was still dark when I got off the bus in Findochty, although the sky to the east was quite bright.

I set off along an excellent track that was the Moray Coast Trail. The coast here is very rugged, with the rocks steeply dipping into the Moray Firth. I caught an occasional flash of the Tarbat Ness lighthouse fast receding into the distance. After 2 miles I entered another sleepy old fishing village – Portknockie. Portknockie is famous for the close proximity of the geomorphological feature called the Bow & Fiddle, which is basically a sea stack with an attached sea arch resembling a fiddler’s bow. The path dropped down from the surrounding cliffs to a shoreline and passed a number of caves, now seated above the shoreline on a raised beach. I passed Jenny’s Well, not to sure who Jenny was, but the well was spouting a nice flow of water. The sun was now up but remained low in the sky for most of my walk, which meant I could have really done with a peaked cap to shade the blinding sun. In Portknockie I had spoken to a local resident, a retired gamekeeper from England, he advised me of the footpath situation for the next couple of miles.

Early morning looking back at Findochty, the lights in the far distance are Lossiemouth
Looking down on the harbour at Portknockie
The Bow and Fiddle near Portknockie
Looking eastwards towards Troup Head in the far distance
Heading down to the shoreline near Cullen
Jenny’s Well

My next village was Cullen, famed for its Cullen Skink – a traditional Scottish soup made with Haddock, potatoes and onions. I tried it once but I was not that impressed. Although mid-morning there were few people about. The entrance to Cullen was marked by a large railway viaduct, now disused this used to carry a branch line of the Great North of Scotland line, but closed in 1968. As the excellent shore path passed out of Cullen I came across a pet cemetery on the beach, it was a very sad place to be, especially with all the names of the animals and their photos, toys leads etc..
The path rounded Logie Head and I again dropped down to the shoreline. The path was certainly becoming much fainter now and less trodden. By chance I came across a sign with information about Charlie’s Cave, I thought “here we go again, some cave that Bonnie Prince Charlie dossed down in blah…blah”. But no, this was about a Frenchman, Charles Marioni who jumped ship in Plymouth in 1904 and made his way to North East Aberdeenshire and set up a home against a small niche in the rock. His full story, written by Andrew Saunders, is contained in a photo I took.

I soon came to the ruins of Findlatter Castle, not a great deal to see as the erosion by wind and water over the centuries have left their mark. I then arrived at Sandend Bay and what a beautiful beach it was!

The Three Kings at Cullen
The Pet Cemetary at Cullen
The ups and downs of the coastal path at Logie Head
Info board for Charlies Cave (zoom in to read)
The niche where Charlie built his sea-shore shack
Climbing back up the cliffs
Looking down on the ruins of Findlatters castle
Looking back to Logie Head
Looking back to Sandend across the beautiful beach

I picked up the coast path at the far end of the beach and climbed up the cliffs again. The path continued around another promontory – Redhythe Point. I was now only a mile from another fishing village – Portsoy. Again this was a very quiet place, either the inhabitants were at work or the place was full of holiday lets. I walked past the harbour and around Links Bay. I could see handmade signs to the coastguard lookout tower. When I reached the “Coastguard Tower?” It was simply four posts knocked into the ground with some tape and a sign advising that this was the site of a former coastguard tower. I was slightly underwhelmed. The bad news was that I was virtually surrounded by thick gorse with no way of beating my way through. I managed to backtrack slightly and drop down to the beach again, where I picked up a feint path which soon fizzled out. I knew from reading other accounts that a working quarry lay ahead and that I needed to make an inland diversion to get around it as well as getting over the River Boyne.
I cut inland for about a kilometre and joined a quiet road where I crossed the River Boyne. As I passed the access road to the quarry I could see that it was still working. I soon got off the road and headed across some freshly ploughed fields back towards the coast.

Back on the coast there was little or no footpath of any sort. The ground was reasonably flat and offered a number of small sandy beaches to walk along. After a couple of miles I entered Whitehills, another small old fishing village. I rounded a headland near the harbour called the Knock. I could now see both Banff and Macduff some three miles away. I set off along the track bed of the old railway route and met a lot more people, nearly all dog walkers. By this time fatigue was beginning to set-in with my feet and legs. It seemed to take an age to cover the last mile and I was really relieved to get back to the car.

This had been a fabulous days walking, which despite the one diversion, I had been able to stick close to the coast. With beautiful scenery, good walking conditions and a bright sunny day, this had been one of the best walking days I had had for some time.

One of the harbours at Portsoy
Looking eastwards Whitehills and in the far distance Banff and Macduff
One of the many isolated beaches I passed over at Bears Head
Looking across Boyndie Bay to Banff and Macduff
Late afternoon looking across to Macduff from Banff

NB: I also publish all my Scottish Blog entries on the excellent Scottish Hills website, I use the same narrative, but larger photos and a few extra ones. They can be found here:

http://www.scottishhills.com/html/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=24804

Distance today =21 miles
Total distance = 5,686 miles

 

 

310. Bradwell to Burnham-on-Crouch

I was looking forward to today’s walk mainly because it involved no road walking. I should say that I don’t mind road walking per se, walking along even busy roads with wide verges or quiet backroads can be quite appealing. The real danger is the B-roads which are generally straighter, busier,  faster and with few, if any, verge or refuge areas, particularly in this part of the country.

Today I would actually be filling a gap in my progress around the Essex coastline, or to be more precise the Dengie peninsular, which is one of three peninsula’s running east-west and bounded by rivers north and south. The Dengie peninsular has  the River Blackwater to the north and tothe south the River Crouch. At its eastern boundary is the North Sea and with the  sea wall running its entire length it is probably one of the most isolated parts of Essex.

The only real concern I had with today’s walk was getting from Burnham-on-Crouch, where I had parked, to Bradwell Waterside. The only bus service was the Dart 4, which I had issues with when I last tried to use it. My concerns were allayed when I arrived at the Clock Tower in Burnham to see two Dart minibuses waiting at the bus stop. By 09:00 I had been dropped off close to the Sea wall at Bradwell Waterside.

I set off along the sea wall walking towards the Bradwell Nuclear Power Station. Bradwell had been decommissioned back in 2002 and was now shrouded in white cladding giving the appearance of two gigantic storage barns. I was amazed at how small the site was, but dismayed to learn that a new power station was in the design stage for possible commercial operation by 2030.

Walking along the sea wall was very pleasant, with short cropped grass and little if any mud. I gradually bid goodbye to The River Blackwater and with it the view over to West Mersea on Mersea Island. I soon arrived at what appeared to be a large stone barn, which in fact, was the remnants of a monastery built in 654AD by St. Cedd. The building called St. Peters on the Wall Chapel was built on the site of a Roman fort called Othona, with most the fort had been lost to the sea over the centuries.

Bradwell Nuclear Power Station
The hulls of old boats chained together to help prevent coastal erosion off Sales Point
St Peters Chapel
Inside St. Peters Chapel
Inside St. Peters Chapel

The next 10 to 12 miles was quite an isolated stretch of the coastline, with the actual shoreline about 300 metres away over salting’s. The area was quite featureless and flat, with occasional drainage outfalls being  a key indicator of where you were on the wall.  I later came across a book online called The Essex Coastline – then and now by Matthew Faultley & James Garon, now out of print but available free to read online.

https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Hwl1Tefe1q4C&pg=PA5&source=gbs_toc_r&cad=4#v=onepage&q&f=false

I discovered reading the book that this area was used as a bombing range during the Second World War, with little evidence of that today. The book provides a tremendous amount of information on the Essex coastline. As the salting’s gave way to a proper shoreline I continued along a concreted section of the sea wall, wide enough to drive a car along. I was now near Shell Bank, which was true to its name with the shoreline made up entirely of cockle shells. By the time I reached Holliwell Point I had entered the Crouch Estuary and could look across to Foulness Island. Owned by the MOD I could see a series of red flags flying and it was not long before I heard a series of very loud explosions coming from that direction.

By this time the sun was out and the day had a lovely spring feel to it, although the low sun was blinding as I walked into it. I passed a series of Pill boxes from the Second World War that had been built into the sea wall itself. I did wander which came first, the sea wall or the pill boxes, but the “Polderisation” of this land had been going on for centuries. I also found that in true Ministry fashion the hexagon shaped pill boxes had a design classification namely – Fortification & Works (FW3/22).  One of the fortifications was a very strange construction, built on the marsh side of the wall it had to be built high enough to see over the sea wall. Jon Combe, fellow coast walker, described it as resembling a Dalek – I would not disagree.

As I approached Burnham-on-Crouch, I could make out the high rise buildings of Southend -on-Sea, a sign that the Thames estuary lay just beyond. The path also became increasingly muddy, principally from dog-walkers. I walked along the quay into Burnham, with its small collection of cosy pubs and buildings. Perhaps one of the best Essex walks to date.

Crepuscular Rays falling over the Dengie Marsh saltings
Shell Bank
On the sea wall looking out towards the North Sea
Looking south towards the high rises of Southend-on-Sea
Looking along the Crouch estuary
Exterminate!
FW3/22 Pillboxes built into the sea wall
On the quay in Burnham-on-Crouch

Distance today =18 miles
Total distance = 5,665miles

 

 

309. Battlesbridge to Canewdon

My first walk of the new decade! I wanted to make a positive start to 2020, which meant getting some days in on the Essex coast. I’ve decided I’m going to try and do 3 and 3, 3 walks in Scotland and 3 in England in each month. Because  today was a Sunday I needed to work around the public transport issues, this meant making use of my bike.

I drove to and parked in the small village of Canewdon. I took my bike from the back of the car and got all my lights working, both on the bike and on my head! It was 07:00 and still dark, but I only had a 7km to cycle to the nearby town of Rochford. After locking my bike up I took the 07:56 train to Wickford, I then had a  45 minute wait until I caught the 09:06 train to Battlesbridge. I was only on the train to Battlesbridge for 4 minutes, so it was that close!

Today’s walk involve some sea wall walking and a large inland diversion. I set off down the road to Hullbridge, but first crossing over the River Crouch, which was now but a small stream at low tide. For the next kilometre I would be walking along a busy road, even for 9’oclock on a Sunday morning. There’s just a lot people that live in this neck of the woods. Even more annoying the road did not have a verge in some places. I was glad to join the Sea wall and continue along the banks of the Crouch. I passed along the river front of Hullbridge and soon sat opposite to the slipway  at South Woodham Ferrers.

Crossing The River Crouch at Battlesbridge
The Crouch at Battlesbridge with sluice and mill visible
At Hullbridge looking across the Crouch to South Woodham Ferrers

I continued along the river, for a short distance before I began the long inland diversion. This was because about a kilometre downriver the sea wall had been breached, living the sea wall footpath high and dry with nowhere to go. So I needed to return towards the main road I had left about 40 minutes ago. However, the amount of road walking I needed to do was about 3.5km and with no verge in many places I needed to head further inland along quiet roads and footpaths. I managed this ok, but it did take me into the town of Hockley and was almost twice as long as if I had walked along the main road. After passing through the village of Ashingdon I had just a short 150 meter section of road to negotiate before I headed off across a footpath towards South Fambridge, but not before some “muppet” pipped his horn at me for god  knows what reason and as I was clinging to what verge there was! Not very pleasant at all walking along these road sections, dangerous with all the Sunday drivers out and about!!

I re-joined the River Crouch again at South Fambridge and it was nearly all sea wall walking for the rest of the walk. I passed a granite memorial to Fambridge Airfield, which no longer exists and was only up and running for less than months in 1909! It was similar memorial to the Tain  memorial I passed by last yaer. Although it was still only 14:00, it was incredibly dull and dingy, but the sea wall was predominantly dry and I made good progress. As I neared Lion Creek the sea wall turned inland a bit. Lion Creek marked roughly the boundary of Wallasea Island, which I was not setting foot on as the footpaths, I had read, are rather ‘sketchy’ and incomplete.

I was now heading back westwards towards Canewdon and to minimise the road walking I found a few footpaths which took me almost back into Canewdon. I was back at the car by 15:00 and all that remained to do was to change my footwear and head back towards Rochford to pick the bike up again.Then onto Southend and my bed for the night.

Not an enjoyable Sunday stroll.

A rare glimpse of sunshine falling on St Peter’s and St Paul’s churrch near Hockley
The Spa, now a pub, was originally built as an hotel to cater for visitors to the nearby Hockley Spa Pump Room, the Spa ceased in 1848
Fambridge Airfield memorial
Looking across the Crouch to North Fambridge
Looking across to the Marina on Wallasea island, Burnham-on-Crouch is just visible on the left
The remnants of Lion Wharf on Wallasea island

Distance today =18 miles
Total distance = 5,647 miles

 

 

 

Progress to Date

I thought it would be a good idea to have a visual representation of my progress to date in walking the coast of Great Britain. This is basically just a Google map of Great Britain with a red line indicating my progress, its rather crude, but does the job.

Just a few pieces of information:-

  1. For scaling reasons I cannot show the “Use of Ferries” sections in Devon/Cornwall/Dorset which I am currently walking when weather further north is not so good.
  2. I’ll up date the map every once in a while

 

 

308. Bradwell to Maldon

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!

Late morning at Bradwell Waterside
Passing through the marina at Bradwell Waterside
Looking back towards the Power Station at Bradwell
Heading towards St. Lawrence along the Blackwater
On the shore at St. Lawrence
looking towards Osea Island from the Marconi Marina

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.

The church of St. Lawrence at Steeple
The boatyard at Maylandsea
Looking across Mundon Creek towards Maldon
Looking back towards Maylandsea
The tidal road out to Northey island
Looking towards Maldon from Promenande Park (It was much darker than these photos show)
Tugs berthed at The Hythe in Maldon

Distance today =20.5 miles
Total distance = 5,629 miles