This was a linear socially distanced walk. Six of us set out from Sainsbury’s car park (South Woodham Ferrers) – a slight change from our usual parking spots (pub, garden centre etc). The weather was kind – not too hot not too cold and no rain. On leaving the car park we had to cross the busy B1012 road and then walk down a road which passed the Whalebone pub and a minute building which turned out to be a barber’s shop. Having turned into a greener wooded area we found ourselves confronted by quite a deep ditch – no water in it thankfully. The more agile amongst us leapt across with (apparently) no difficulty. Those with shorter legs walked down into the ditch and then had some difficulty in climbing back up the steep bank. Socially distanced assistance was available where it was needed.
We soon crossed the railway line and found we had come to Woodham Fen, a lovely area of rough grassland. I don’t think any of us had been there before. The path was lined with blackberry (bramble) bushes in flower and by purple thistles. Colonies of hedge brown butterflies were flying around the bramble bushes. Judging by the number of flowers there will be a good crop of blackberries this year. Thistle flowers were proving an attraction for various insects. A marbled white butterfly was also spotted in this area.
We then came to an area of saltmarsh and our path took us beside a creek which was to eventually lead into the River Crouch. It was low tide so there was rather a lot of mud exposed. The snowy white plumage of a little egret contrasted with the mud. It was pointed out that there was samphire growing by the creek.
Amongst the green hedges and bushes, two or three skeleton trees stood out starkly. This was considered to provide a good photo opportunity, not quite as straightforward as it may sound to take a socially distanced photo on a fairly narrow path! We found we were walking behind houses many of which had gates at the bottom of their gardens giving instant access to the footpath and the creek. Our attention was caught by a tree with a small brick construction at its base. We spent a moment or two discussing the possible purpose of the bricks but we came up with no really plausible answer. A little further along stood a brick pillar, we decided that it was once a gatepost (there appeared to be the remains of a hinge attached) but there was no sign of the other gatepost.
We eventually spotted a group of houses ahead, one of our group suggested that it might be Hullbridge. Sure enough, the creek shortly led into the river Crouch when we could see that the houses were indeed on the opposite of the river. South Woodham Sailing Club came into view. We took advantage of the benches on the bank to sit and take a socially distanced break and some refreshment whilst admiring the resident swans, it was interesting to see that a black swan had joined the large group.
It was time to return so we walked past the entrance to Marsh Farm and roughly retraced our steps, there were one or two minor deviations one of which avoided the need to cross the ditch! We returned to our cars having had a thoroughly enjoyable morning.