The plan was to meet at the Square in Tillingham and pre-order lunch in the Fox & Hounds, but the ‘best laid plans’ failed when we couldn’t get an answer from the pub. When the 15 of us met it was cloudy and cold but as soon as we set off the sun shone and it turned day into a perfect spring day. There was plenty of birdsong and sightings of many of the common birds including a great-spotted woodpecker: previously we had heard one drumming on a tree near the church; also we thought we had spotted a brown hare but it turned out to be a dog!
Leaving Tillingham and heading west we passed a gravel pit where stands a concrete marker that at first glance looks like a Trig Point but in fact bears a commemorative plaque awarded by SAGA (the Sand and Gravel Pit Association) and marks a ‘Restored Gravel Pit Award’ – they should be proud of the award as it is now a pleasant and peaceful area. There are many gravel pits in the area but this one is the most easily visible and today we saw a pair of swans on the water.
The first part of our route was on firm ground and enabled us to walk at a good pace. Then it got a bit stickier underfoot, but even after rain the day before there were few patches that caused difficulty. On one bridleway someone did need help to free her feet: a gentleman in our group came to her rescue and with hands raised high they emerged from the mud in a manner that would have enthralled the judges of ‘Strictly Come Dancing’.
Our track took us through a farm where the most beautiful donkeys are kept so we spent quite some time admiring them. We were fortunate to meet their owner who told us a bit about them and her plans to show them both as they are but also in pairs pulling an open cart.
No-one opted for the shorter walk (they say it’s the way I look threateningly at them so they dare not say yes) but a short way on whilst crossing a ploughed field, they were wishing they had; but it was ‘well-behaved mud’ – the type that doesn’t stick to the boots. From here we climbed gently to the St Peter’s Way and were almost high enough to glimpse the River Blackwater to the north. We followed a section of this long-distance footpath back into Tillingham crossing over what the locals call ‘the Kissing Bridge’. Unfortunately it has been damaged and although is easy to walk across can be slippery and dangerous in wet weather – the local farmer, who happened to be passing, asked if we would write and complain about its condition, as he and many locals had done over the past year – several of the posts of the handrails had rotted and with the help of ‘the locals’ the rails had been pushed off to either side; we said we would report it to the appropriate authorities.
The pub was open when we returned and those who stayed for lunch enjoyed each other’s company and the ample food. 8.4 kms/5.2 miles
Next Walk – March 22nd meet in The White Horse, Mundon 9.50, in time to order food and catch the 10.20 bus to Maldon, 8 kms/5 miles