From Heybridge Basin we pushed into the strong, cold wind coming from a westerly direction. It was a glorious morning to be out and the 22 of us took in the delights of the River Blackwater at low water. Numerous birds fed on the mudflats and keen birders amongst us notched up a count of many species. The sun shone and Maldon looked as picturesque as it does on postcards taken at prime time.
It was a little slippery underfoot after the recent rainfall but we all kept together reaching Heybridge by means of ‘the pretty route’, that is walking behind the industrial estate and emerging through a used car sales forecourt. When we reached the canal bridge four people left the group to do a shorter walk and returned via the canal path. The rest of us were later to do that but at this point extended our walk by passing through a housing estate on footpaths and joining the Blackwater Rail Trail for a short stretch (we plan to walk the whole 8 mile stretch in the future). Between this trail and the canal are fields and several lakes which also had plenty of birdlife on them.
Pausing for a group photo beside the Oak Meadow play area we then joined the canal and walked briskly back to Heybridge Basin.
Lining the eastern section of the path old men sat at intervals, dipping their long fishing rods into the water. Beside them, ghastly red coloured maggots wriggled in tubs of bran (according to a programme I heard recently on the radio I was amazed to learn that we and maggots have similar sensory organs). The fish were not to be seen (or caught) and being a competition was a bit of a disappointment for those taking part. One man had caught one fish and seemed to be the winner so far; another had done the same but his fish wasn’t the right kind for this competition.
The Jolly Sailor sat us in the backroom and very quickly our pre-ordered food arrived and for the first time that day, silence fell.