What a lovely surprise – 25 walkers, a record for our group; the previous highest being 20 in January last year when 12 new members turned out to give their New Year’s resolution a kick start and others had been encouraged by Mo & Robert’s enthusiasm after a successful Open Day.
With so many a steady pace had to be kept up and as a consequence the group stretched out across the countryside and for the slower ones at the rear, when reaching the front runners who frequently waited, there was no pausing.
It was almost spring-like and as we went south from the New Times PH at Tiptree a watery sun glimmered through. After a short spell along a minor road we came to the static vans on the site for International Workers at the Tiptree Farms. Close by stand the now empty and uncovered poly tunnels, where the famous strawberries are grown. In past times the plants were grown directly in the fields but now they are grown in containers which are on stands about waist high (for easy picking) and watered via a watering system and undercover in poly-tunnels. In a more advanced growing tunnel there is an oscillating bed system, which can increase the strawberry yield from 50 tonnes to 125 tonnes and where the workers access the plants by raising alternate rows. Through the polythene we could see strawberries still hanging on the plants.
It is not just strawberries that are grown on the ‘Tiptree’ farms but also morello cherries, which we passed later, blackberries, greengages and plums. There are also 150-year old mulberry trees, medlars and quinces. Farming began at Tiptree almost 300-years ago and by 1885 it was producing so much fruit that A C Wilkin began making jam.
Over fields and through woods we climbed to a water tower giving us views over the River Blackwater and the Dengie beyond that. Further on, in Tolleshunt Knights, we reached the bridge crossing the former railway line that ran to Tollesbury and which was affectionately known as the Crab & Winkle Line. Although the line was opened in 1904 it wasn’t until six years later that a station was built at Tolleshunt Knights.
Hidden footpaths, fields with horses, a recreation ground with a grand new Village Hall, a large field with a stile isolated in its centre and a boring road stretch along Strawberry Lane, brought us back to the orchards. We climbed slightly here passing Wilkins new reservoir partly funded by the European Union – it was only partially filled and wildlife had yet to find it.
We were all ready for our lunch and the New Times looked after us well; the food was served promptly and enjoyed by all.
[Please note that any irreverent comments under the images have been made by DG not Diane!]
Next walk – Tuesday 28th November meet 10.00 at the Old Ship, Heybridge Basin (park in Daisy Meadow Car Park) approx 5 miles/8 kms