In the past I have lost three people in the woods, but not four in a 200m stretch across a bushy field – until today; so we started our walk with 26 and ended with 22! (What does U3A insurance say about that, Russ?).
What a glorious spring morning it was. We met at Madison Heights, Maldon, ordered our lunch at Henri’s and set off beside a housing estate to the peace and tranquillity of paths and farm lanes that led to the River Blackwater opposite Northey Island. There was some discussion amongst us as to the correct location of the Battle of Maldon as the information board indicates it close to where we stood, but now the thought is that it took place somewhere near Heybridge – never mind it was a long while ago, and we lost!
Turning up river we walked through the Promenade Park and along the front passing the quay with its usual complement of Thames barges. It was one of those picture postcard scenes that one sees so often of Maldon. Continuing on we passed the salt works and arrived at Fullbridge, crossed the road and took a footpath that led past the smokehouse, which is hidden at the end of Cromwell Lane and has yet to be tried by any of us.
Crossing our only stile, waiting for all to climb over successfully and counting them as they came (full complement) – with Mo, coming last, giving her flamboyant ‘I’ve made it over’ gestures, we continued on across a sloping field. This field is notorious for being muddy but today just one patch remained and after the mud we have encountered on recent walks, hardly counts as mud at all. It was on this 200m stretch that the ‘four’ got lost but no one had realised until we reached Beeleigh Abbey, at least 500m away. With the double gates wide open it was a good opportunity to have a good look at the Abbey. Interestingly in the local paper, April 4th edition, historian Stephen Nunn wrote an article about the Abbey and the Beeleigh Oaks, which are said to date back to 1491.
Realising we were four missing I started to retrace our route when the ‘phone rang and the news that the breakaway group were on their way to Maldon High Street – how did that happen? – even one of their husbands had not noticed that his wife had gone AWOL.
So, with a depleted group, we continued on to the Beeleigh Falls, an attraction that never fails to impress. Two other walkers came along and demanded ‘who is your leader?’ or more like ‘take me to your leader!’ – it doesn’t take much to make me quake but as I thought I had done something seriously wrong, I did; they seemed quite pleased in telling me that they had in some way been instrumental in sending the ‘four’ the wrong way.
The stroll back alongside the golf course, through the quayside and park, was uneventful.
It did create a lot of fun working out how to keep the group together, both practical and silly suggestions, but the general consensus was that the two people to blame today for failing to do so (apart from myself, of course), were Tim & David. Now David is usually at the rear taking pictures and Tim, such a gentleman, takes care of the ladies – but neither had come today, so in fact the back markers were those who got lost!
Not all stayed for lunch but the 24 who did were served quickly and efficiently and enjoyed their meals. It was good to see that new friends were made.
5.4 miles/8.6 kms