We weren’t the only ones meeting at Tesco Car Park in Maldon this Tuesday as it was busy with police vehicles, policemen in uniform, plain-clothes officers, a dog unit, forensics and a mobile incident room. A serious crime had occurred in a nearby open space with much of it sealed off as investigations took place.
We started our walk heading east beside the River Chelmer (lower down at the Hythe, Maldon it becomes the River Blackwater). We crossed the river on the road bridge at the bottom of Market Hill and followed the Chelmer west. It was a beautiful day with bright sun and cold air, but recent rain had made it muddy and slippery underfoot. However with the aid of walking poles and sticks everyone made it safely across the deep muddy patches that frequently occur on the first field of this walk – although two of the poles were not up to the task, as one broke and another lost its end! Reaching firmer ground and passing under the Maldon bypass we climbed slightly and gained access to a canopied green lane bounded by ancient hedgerows. Easy walking through this brought us down to Beeleigh Abbey.
The abbey was founded in 1180 for Canons of the Premonstratensian Order, who also took ownership of a nearby watermill. The abbey was closed in 1536 under the Act of Dissolution. We could only glimpse it through its closed gates. A short way on we passed the site of the watermill, destroyed by fire in 1875 and never rebuilt. Some buildings remain and are said to contain the original Wentworth beam engine and gear and Elephant boiler. It is hoped that one day these will be open as a tourist attraction – apparently resident bats are preventing this from happening at the moment. The Victorian Beeleigh Falls House stands nearby.
Skirting round the perimeter walls we passed through a kissing gate and the rushing sound of water got ever louder. We reached a bridge, which we crossed and stood gazing at the flow.
The layout is complicated here with the River Chelmer flowing south, the River Blackwater coming into the Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation (the canal linking Heybridge Basin and Chelmsford) from the north, crossing it and falling into the Chelmer, while the Navigation calmly continues from west to east with Beeleigh Lock checking its fall. It is a fascinating sight.
Leaving the water we walked north close to the Museum of Power, crossed the road at St Giles’ 12th century church in Langford and entered farmland where there is a large reservoir. Back to the main road near Langford we passed a field containing a crop of onions that seemed mostly to have been left to rot. On the south side of the Langford road we followed paths through nature reserves, crossed the former Maldon to Witham railway line and continued south to the Navigation, which we followed back to the car park.
We were seven again for the walk, including one new member, five of whom remained to lunch in the nearby Sunny Sailor PH
Next walk (4th Tuesday monthly)
February 24th – Meet Tillingham Square in time to catch the 10.02 D4 bus to Bradwell 7.5kms/4.6miles