Arriving in Heybridge Basin’s car park a few dark clouds threatened to spoil our morning’s walk but armed with Alan’s umbrella, our insurance policy against rain, we set off to the Old Ship to order our lunch. Forecasters had predicted a cold day and sensibly everyone had come prepared with hats, gloves and scarves, which turned out to be quite unnecessary and we were soon shedding them and Alan’s umbrella kept the rain at bay.
The last, and first, time we walked from Heybridge Basin was in January 2016 and almost two years later we enjoyed similar weather with bright winter sun – a big difference though, was that in 2016 we battled against a stiff south-westerley wind along the exposed stretch of seawall heading towards Maldon, but today it was just a light breeze. . Birdwatchers present could enjoy the sight of waders, ducks and geese, especially the brent geese flying over.
From the Basin we made our way along the seawall towards Maldon. It was fairly muddy after recent rain but firm enough for us to maintain a fair pace. Views of Maldon and the Thames Barges across the river were as always pleasing to the eye and the bright light of the morning made it more so.
Leaving the seawall we had a section through Heybridge but we soon left the traffic behind and gained the footpath south running beside the Chelmer & Blackwater Navigation (the formal name of the Chelmsford – Heybridge Basin Canal), which we followed to a point where it runs close to the River Blackwater and turns west. A short way on we veered off towards a lake that I personally find very attractive with its wildlife - and I think the group appreciated it too – it is always hard to tell, as there is so much chatter and laughter.
Crossing a field we joined the former Witham to Maldon Branch Line (now part of the Blackwater Rail Trail) and turned here to return to Heybridge Basin, firstly via a network of footpaths and bridleways that led back to the canal. It’s an interesting section of the canal with factories, bridges, a cemetery and then a quiet section before reaching the moored boats in the Basin.
11 of the 16 walkers stayed for lunch and enjoyed the warmth of the Old Ship where the food was good and service prompt, and as always we all enjoyed the cheerfulness and conviviality of the group.
9.4 kms/5.9 miles