For our May walk we had a glorious warm and sunny day. We met at The Bell PH, Purleigh that stands on a high point in the village adjacent to the 14th century church.
Our modest 3.75mile/6kms walk was more challenging than the distance indicated as the terrain was undulating and we had about a dozen stiles to cross, risking life and limb as many of the steps and posts wobbled precariously.
Descending from the church we reached New Hall Vineyards and passed alongside rows of vines and then beside the barns containing vats, and from the open doors wafted pleasant aromas. Shortly after we came upon one of the several hazards encountered on this walk. This came in the form of swarming bees, to which we gave a wide berth; later we came upon another swarm, slightly smaller in size, but just as alarming. Those who were not comfortable walking through fields of horses remained stalwart and braved several fields where the horses grazed. One Shetland pony looked at us mournfully and seemed not to like wearing his black and white striped blanket that gave him zebra-like qualities.
Later came a field of young cows that caused alarm to half of the group who gained protection from the other, braver half.
There were pleasant highlights and the first was Hazeleigh Hall, a timber framed 16th century house said to incorporate part of an even earlier house. The footpath took us through the grounds of the Hall where the gardeners had done a splendid job with well-tended lawns and flowerbeds full of spring colour. Close to the Hall, in a small woodland, stand some headstones on what is, so I read, the former site of St Nicholas church, demolished in 1923. Both the Hall and the church were surrounded by a moat; today parts of the moat exist and we took a short detour to admire a section of it.
From Spar Hill we got views of Maldon and the River Blackwater down to Bradwell-on-Sea: we could pick out Northey and Osea Islands and the views extended both north and south of the river. We spent some time admiring the views on each of our climbs; wildflower meadows were also abundant on this walk and in one we came across white buttercups. Thinking about the children’s game of ‘do you like butter?’ we made up all sorts of buttery things for the white buttercup ranging from ‘do you like Lurpak butter’ to ‘hydrogenated fat’ – how silly can you get?
On a pond was a pair of Canada geese with tiny goslings and we heard cuckoos and skylarks. Then there was a footpath where the cow parsley grew so high it came almost above our heads. Lastly we passed a group of tumbledown buildings called Purleigh Herd on the map and, according to the BBC website Domesday Reloaded is so called because there was once a herd of pigs kept there.
Lunching in The Bell we read on the ‘educational placemats’, that have an alphabetical selection of facts, that ‘M is for Murder’ and relates to the murder of Acting Police Sergeant Adam Eves in 1891. Apparently his body was found in a ditch near to Hazeleigh Hall Farm and his gravestone is still to be seen in Purleigh Churchyard.
Next walk (4th Tuesday monthly)
Tuesday 23rd June Meet 10.00 at the Prince of Wales PH, Stow Maries, length 7.5kms/4.5miles. A shorter, much easier option of 3.2.kms/2miles meeting the group part way round is available – for more details contact Group Leader.