After a very busy weekend with a personal wedding celebration and brisk Bank Holiday Monday trade, the Blackwater Bar & Bistro were waiting for us, pen poised and ready, to take our lunch orders prior to our walk. Unlike their weekend our walk this month was to be a leisurely affair taken a little slower than usual and slightly shorter.
After a headcount, 23 today, we set off west heading into a brisk, warm breeze. It was a beautiful morning with the sun shining brightly and the river looked glorious. The first short stretch followed the St Peter’s Way and then we veered off crossing fields beside inland water pools. Here wildlife flourished with plenty of reed and sedge warblers singing, skylarks rising, holly blue butterflies flitting about, and we had a bonus of seeing three brown hares. Unfortunately we also saw a sign on a gate saying that hare coursing was illegal, so presumably this is a problem in this area.
The fields here are big and as we walked along the edges of one pushing our way through the long grass, the field on our left was being harvested. The crop was some kind of fresh, green fodder, which was being transported in trailers to the Dengie Crop Driers.
We had two aims this month, the first, as requested by a member, was that we visit the ‘Petrified Oak Forest’. These dead trees never fail to impress – except I did overhear one person say, ‘is this what we’ve come here for, just to see some dead trees?’. When it was explained to her that these weren’t just any ordinary dead trees but were ancient trees mentioned in the Domesday Book she was impressed – the story goes that the trees were due to be chopped down in 1588 to build ships to fight against the Spanish Armada, but the wood was found to be too warped, so they were left to stand.
You can’t visit the oaks without also visiting the nearby delightful church of St Mary, which has been superbly restored by the Friends of Friendless Churches. It has some interesting architectural features; a weather-boarded timber-framed tower, a 16th-century porch and inside a complete set of 18th-century box pews.
Leaving the church we started on our return back to Maylandsea by way of tracks, footpaths and a stretch on the seawall.
We were back on the dot of 12.30 where the food and drinks were served promptly and enjoyed by all.
4.5 miles/7 kms
NOTE – There are 39 members in the Walking Group and in view of the increased number of those walking each month I am sorry to say that anyone wishing to join the Walking Group will now have to join a waiting list.