u3a

Burnham on Crouch

Walking

Status:Active, open to new members
Leader:
Diane Caulkett Tel: 01621 783786
Group email: Walking group
When: Monthly on Tuesday mornings
4th Tuesday of month at 10:00am

This is a very friendly, chatty, happy group. The monthly walks are open to all U3A members. Walks are in different locations and are around 8km / 5 miles in length; we walk at a steady pace. No experience of walking is necessary but appropriate footwear and clothing is essential. Participants should have a sufficient level of fitness to cope with the distance, climbing over stiles and coping with differing terrains. After the walk lunch can be enjoyed by those who wish at a convenient pub or café.

March 2024

Bluebell Walk (7.5km)

When I reconnoitred this walk the sun shone and it was a glorious day. Unfortunately, on the day of the walk that was not the case. However, it didn’t deter 16 walkers who met at The Rodney in Little Baddow. We were lucky though and the light drizzle soon stopped and returned just at the end of our walk.
Food ordered and we were off on a footpath directly opposite the pub. It climbed gently through paddocks and then reached Scrub Wood, where we climbed some more. There were bluebells here but not the best. Further on a green lane led us uphill in an avenue of bluebells, such a good sight. Bluebells were not the only flowers as wood anemones, celandines and stitchwort adorned the banks.

A slight wrong turn through the woods was a good move as it turned out, as a huge swathe of bluebells spread out through the woodland; but the best were to come later. We meandered through woods and lanes eventually reaching Ling Wood where deep bluebells lined a track, not our track but it was a good photo opportunity. The climax came in Blakes Wood where the flowers never disappoint and today was no exception – they were magnificent. Further into the wood were more, equally stunning.
Having climbed throughout the first part of the walk it was now a long descent back to the pub where we all enjoyed lunch.
- Diane Caulkett

March 2024

Mundon Circuit (7.5km)

It was a glorious morning when 13 of us met for our March walk. With our lunches pre- ordered at the Bistro, Maylandsea, we set off along the seawall heading west following the route of the St Peter’s Way. The tide was low, but flooding, the wind light and the birds sang to us (not that most noticed them with all the chatter going on).

The first stretch of the seawall is single file and we all stepped aside to let a dog walker pass

– typical dog, gets in front and then decides to have a comfort break, so we all filed past him. The rest of the walk had wider paths and we didn’t meet anyone at all. Leaving the seawall and the St Peter’s Way, and by way of sturdy bridges, we crossed drainage dykes reaching a meadow. The watercourses had recently been cleared of reeds but where they hadn’t been cleared, the reeds grew densely. For no apparent reason the footpath does a dog leg in this meadow causing us to walk two sides of a triangle, equilateral I would say, the third side followed the fence and we couldn’t really see the reason why the path cut across the meadow but, being a leader, I stick to the marked paths. Crossing another bridge brought us to a field where we headed north and once again rejoined the St Peter’s Way.

Four people opting for a shorter walk chose to leave us at this point and make their way back via this Long-Distance Footpath.

The rest of us made our way to the Mundon Oaks, now enclosed in a wire fence and protected by security devices – in his keenness to get a good photo one member got too close and set the security alarm ringing!! These majestic, dead trees (sometimes referred to as fossilised) have been aged at about 800-900 years old and most likely died several centuries ago, probably as a result of saltwater incursion from the river Blackwater.

Personally, I think they look best on a dull day as they give off a mysterious air but today backed by blue sky, they still have an awe about them. We didn’t quite replicate their twisted branches but had a jolly good try (next page!).

Next stop was the delightful St Mary’s Church, recently restored by the Friends of Friendless Churches. I read that the earliest part of the church dates from the 14th century and it has had various additions after that; it has hardly been touched since the 19th century and is now Grade 1 listed. We were able to visit the interior, peaceful and well kept. For anyone who has not visited this small church I would advise you to go, it is a gem.

Leaving the St Peter’s Way at this point we headed east along a long stretch of green lane, turned right crossing a field and headed back along the seawall to Mundon. The water by now had risen and gave a completely different look to the coastal landscape.

A really enjoyable morning culminating in our food arriving promptly and speaking for myself, it was delicious.
- Diane Caulkett

January 2024

Bicknacre (8kms)
The forecast for our first walk of the year was not good; wind and rain were promised – we were lucky, neither was too bad, and on the bright side, it was warm. Everyone had come prepared. They had also been promised mud and weren’t disappointed!
Thirteen of us met at the White Elm Garden Centre, Bicknacre where the tearoom took our orders and on return, served our meals promptly – we were well looked after. The first part of the walk, although short, is beside the busy road and it was a relief to gain access to the wide footpath/green lane heading southwest. It’s a delightful track and almost a kilometre long. Plenty of space to walk in pairs or threes, to chat and catch up after the Christmas break. Cutting through a hedge we walked beside a field and soon joined the St Peter’s Way going east. This is where the serious mud started. There was no escape from it so we walked cheerfully on with our boots getting heavier and heavier as we went. Circuiting Wickham’s Farm gave us some respite and time was spent cleaning boots – to no avail, more mud was to come. It always strikes me as odd that people tiptoe round the muddy patches when they are muddy already. Nobody fell over in the mud but one member,
whilst on his mini-detour avoiding the mud, got his foot entangled in a straggling, bramble bush that caused him to trip. No harm done.
At Corporation Bridge we did a 45-degree turn. There is a small layby here popular with dog walkers who had placed boards over a particularly muddy patch – this to me was more hazardous than sploshing through the mud but most walked the planks. We were now
heading into the breeze but underfoot was good so we were able to keep a good pace. Near Prentice’s Farm I was sure we had to cut across a field diagonally but crops were growing, the finger post had fallen over and was no help, so we decided to walk on a track on the other two sides of the triangle and join the path later.
Turning northwest we got to our muddiest field of the day that also had a slight incline. On reaching Thrift Wood, a welcome change to walking across fields, the mud lessened and we shortly rejoined the green lane back to the Garden Centre.
Two others joined us for lunch and judging by the empty plates, all seemed to enjoy their meals and, of course, the company is always good.
- Diane Caulkett

November 2023

Fifteen of us met at the Star Inn, Steeple, to pre-order lunch. We then drove to St. Lawrence Church on the hill to commence the walk, which we would have started from Tillingham but neither of the pubs there are open for lunch on a Tuesday. The weather was cool but hardly noticeable due to very light winds and constant sunshine. We started walking down the road towards Tillingham and then turned off to pick up St. Peter's Way. The fairly wide grassy paths were a bit soft but not overly muddy. We arrived in Tillingham and walked past the Fox and Hounds. We then turned right at the Cap and Feathers and followed the road to a big farm where we continued to walk along a tarmacked farm track. Crossing over Reddings Lane we walked along the side of fields until we reached the Southminster Road. It was tarmac all the way back to the church from there with fine views over the River Blackwater. Once at the church we drove back to the Star Inn for lunch.
- Ian Parrott

August 2023

Mayland Circuit (8kms)
This was not a strenuous walk but the long grass made progress slow. Everyone trod carefully avoiding unseen holes, brambles and who knows what. They were all very stoic about it and I said if I got five complaints, I would cease being group leader, that silenced them!!

Fifteen of us met at the Mayland Bistro where Keith was almost ready to take our orders for lunch. Three others who could not walk came along later and joined us to eat. It was perfect weather for a seawall walk with bright sunshine making the colours glow especially the bright green weed covering the mud. The marina itself is interesting where boats in all stages of restoration or fitting out are on display; a Thames Barge added extra interest. For the birdwatchers there was plenty to see and for the photographers, endless opportunities.
Sometimes I feel the walk takes second or third place but that’s great, it suits all.

So, we set off bright and happy following the St Peter’s Way eastwards. We jauntily walked through a tree-lined alley and bravely crossed the horse field. We had a delay at the stile on the far side of this field as men were wielding electric saws and cutting back foliage. All safely over and then the long grass. However, the views were magnificent and the lakes to the left pretty with purple and yellow flowers growing around them.

I won’t say we got through the long grass section quickly, because we didn’t, but everyone emerged unscathed and unscratched. After the obligatory group photo (next page), the group spread out somewhat. I may be leader but spent most of my time at the rear and the five of us in that group had a brief chat with a lone man unsuccessfully searching for fossilised shark’s teeth. They are hard to find but once you get your eye in you usually find several – he said he had found some fossilised lobster shell. Apart from a few dog walkers near to the marina, he was the only person we met.

Lunch was served quickly and was delicious. It is really nice that conversation never ceases and for me especially to have a group where everyone gets on so well.
Next month Sue and Tony, in my absence, have kindly offered to lead the walk and plan to walk from Steeple – details will be sent to group members.
- Diane Caulkett

July 2023

Althorne (7.5km)

This was a local walk starting at the Huntsman & Hounds, Althorne. Work was underway on the thatch roof and the skilled workers had thatched a fox running on the ridge; the job is only half done and I wonder if a pair of hounds will be on the other end. The landlord was
waiting for us, 19 group members arrived on time, placed their lunch orders and we split into two parties. Normally we walk as one group but there was a slight variation today as the walk had eleven stiles; ten of these could be avoided by driving a short way on and joining
us on a grass verge beside the Althorne Playing Fields (six took this option).

Stiles vary enormously and we had a fair selection today; low ones, high ones, narrow ones and rickety ones. One in particular was really rickety especially the first step up. We found if someone crossed the stile they could pounce on the lower step and catapult the others
over. Health and safety would have had something to say about that, and I do try and lead my group safely, so (boringly) the lower step was just steadied. I’m not sure why but today the walkers were like gazelles and even with so many climbing over the stiles we were making good time.

Arriving at the meeting point the six others were nowhere to be seen instead they were lounging on a park bench facing away from us just enjoying the day – that’s fine but we have a walk to do! A track led us to a footpath and another stile that led into a field with some cows. When I walked through a short while back, they were in the middle of the field and took little notice of me but today they were plumb on the footpath, by a fence, and had a tiny calf with them. I thought it best not to go through the field but the consensus was that the cows were docile. Now I know cows with calves can be unpredictable, so first rule, don’t get between cows and calf - we didn’t. Second rule, don’t alarm them and keep a wide berth, we did. Third rule, keep together so that you appear big, obviously no-one heard me because they set off in a long straggly line to the middle of the field – shouting to them was not an option; I mentally abandoned all responsibility for them. However, we all
arrived safely to the exit gates and the cows just idly watched.

Flattened by the recent rain, long grass slowed our progress over the next field that climbed gently; from the ridge we could see both the Rivers Crouch and Blackwater - then a short, sharp shower fell. Waterproofs on, waterproofs off. Descending from the ridge we walked on a footpath beside the road down to Althorne Station, crossed the rail line, and continued on to the seawall. It was so pretty by the river. The sun shone, waders called and bountiful butterflies danced around us. The lack of rain was highlighted by a string of Canada geese waddling across the cracked mud of a dried-out pond to our left.

A long climb over farm fields took us back to the ridge. Down a track behind the houses, I took the group to the St Andrews church. This church has served the community for 700 years but today access is forbidden and it is surrounded by a fence; visibly a huge crack can be seen in the stonework.

Back at the pub, the whole group reunited and enjoyed a lunch served promptly and with the added pleasure of an after eight mint given to each of us at the end of the meal.
- Diane Caulkett

June 2023

Bunsay Downs (7km)

Twelve of us met at Bunsay Downs Golf Club and 12 of us finished, one sadly permanently, as it was the last walk for Dave McD due to his leaving the area; I am sure, like me, you will wish him plenty of happy walks in his new locality.
It was a perfect day for walking, not too hot, not too windy and bone dry. It also seemed to be a popular day for golf (well actually I only saw the golf trolleys as their owners were enjoying the huge ‘Hole in One’ breakfasts in the restaurant). Having placed our lunch orders, we set off jauntily from the clubhouse taking the footpath close by. Descending slightly, we reached the Warren Golf Course, crossed it without difficulty, only three golfers on this course, and reached the footpath at the far side. Brambles were our only hazard but with swift action from Phil and Dave, who bent back the offending branches, and me wielding the secateurs, we passed them unscathed.
If anyone had chosen the shorter walk this would have been where we would have parted company, but all were ready for the planned circuit. Thrift Wood is a delight in all seasons and we walked through on a good footpath on its eastern perimeter. Apart from one man and his dog, we saw nobody until almost the end of the walk. Someone has to be at the front of the walk, usually me for obvious reasons, and someone has to be last, a ‘back marker’; we had two today but they were redundant as the group walked at a steady pace and kept in a tight bunch. This proved to be a bonus as when we reached St Michael’s (St Michael the Archangel) Church at Woodham Walter, the doors were open and we had time to visit. At first, when we approached the church, we thought there was a graveside funeral taking place as the vicar was speaking to a small group of people around her; out of respect we shushed each other and the endless chatter ceased instantly. However, it wasn’t a
funeral and seemed to be a talk of some kind and, a bonus for us, the church door was open so, never missing an opportunity, we entered. It is a beautiful church with bright stained glass windows to the east and west. Brass commemorative plaques decorate the organ pipes; everything seemed in good order. The church is said to be the only Elizabethan church in Essex, and only one of 6 in England. Built in 1563, the church is believed to be the first consecrated after the Elizabethan Settlement of 1559. We were lucky to find, not only the vicar, but also a man who knew a lot about the history of the church and was more than willing to share his knowledge with us. He said that although the church was built in 1563 much of the interior, including the font and some pillars, are older and may have come from a previous church. He pointed out some graffiti on the pillars, one in particular, that has been dated between 1450 and 1500. We were having a discussion amongst ourselves as to
whether there were bells in the church as we couldn’t see any bell pulls. The vicar came to the rescue and showed us three thin ropes beside an interior wall that were pulled outwards, rather than downwards, and in doing so each rang a bell – aided by a sheet fixed
to the wall that showed a pattern for pulling the ropes, a tune was produced, as she demonstrated perfectly. A lovely old lady came up to us followed by her husband and excitedly told us that 65 years ago they were married in this church – she was very proud to have received a card from the Queen on her previous special wedding anniversary (perhaps she will receive a 65th from the King).
We left the church feeling as though we had had a special experience.
Crossing a park and following a wide track we once more reached the Warren Golf Club and retraced our steps back to Bunsay Downs. It was an enjoyable lunch with so much chatter and every plate of food was devoured enthusiastically; portions were large. It was also a nice touch to have carafes of water put on the table.
A lovely day – see you all next month.
- Diane Caulkett

23rd May 2023

In the absence of our leader, Tony and I agreed to organise this month’s walk. We decided to keep it simple, taking the train to Althorne and walking back along the cliff-top to the Parlour Café for lunch. The only risk to this was would there be any trains? Fortunately, there wasn’t a strike till the following week so we decided that the 10.20 would be ideal. Having had a few notifications from people who wouldn’t be coming I fully expected a group of about 10. It was a pleasant surprise when 20 people congregated on the platform and attempted to purchase a ticket – their card machine wasn’t working and when we got on the train neither was that of the guard. (British Rail – do you not want to make any money?)
The train was on time and we piled cheerily into the carriage – not sure the one other person on the train appreciated our happy banter! It was a glorious day for this particular walk as it shows the Essex countryside at its best – blue sky, verdant green fields, fluffy clouds and sparkling water. It even has a slight hill! Additionally, there was quite a lot of birdsong. Shelduck and egrets were seen on the river. Several people commented on how lucky we are to have access to such a beautiful environment – too true.
We made good progress as the ground was easy going and had a little stop at Cliff Reach to admire the view and refuel. As we exited the path at Creeksea some took the road to our lunch stop but most extended the walk a little along the river front and then up a field to the Parlour Café. In all 15 stopped for lunch where we were served quickly – the size of the group didn’t faze them. The walk was about 4 miles or less – a little short for us but I’m sure Diane will rectify it next month!
-Sue Bridgman

April 2023

Bluebell Walk
The Generals Arms car park was vibrant with walkers – we were not the only group walking that day. Both groups ordered lunch and we were the first to leave. Now, I have, temporarily I must add, lost people in Danbury Woods before but today was a ‘first’ when I lost someone in the car park. In my defence I hadn’t seen him arrive and didn’t know he was coming. It wasn’t until 10 minutes into the walk when we turned up a bridleway that it was brought to my attention that said person was not with us. In spite of a ‘phone call giving instructions as to where we had gone, two group members returning to the pub, and a further call it was agreed that as he had gone off in the wrong direction, he would do his own thing and meet at the pub later.
Meanwhile the group had meandered up the bridleway passing the footpath I had intended to take but it didn’t matter as the timeline for the walk had to be amended as we had lost a bit of time. A little further on two ladies chose to take a shortened walk, so having started with a potential 21, I was now down to 18. I kept count at every turning!!
On the bright side the sun shone and everyone was happy; the bluebells, wood anemones, and celandines were wonderful and the mosses on the fallen logs were verdant. It was commented on that it was surprisingly dry after the recent rain – but I promised them mud later on – ‘oh, goodie’ they replied – they were not disappointed!!
We undulated through Lingwood Common admiring the flowers, climbed up through Ling Wood and worked our way to Blakes Wood. In my opinion this is where the best bluebells grow; their fragrance is outstanding and they seem a deeper blue. Wandering through this wood we climbed on a narrow, muddy path passing more bluebells, and reached the final footpath back to the pub, where the two ladies were waiting but ‘lost man’ only appeared as we were all leaving.
- Diane Caulkett

March 2023

Fourteen of our group attended the walk with twelve staying for lunch. We all started by ordering our lunch at the Blackwater Bistro (where we all met) in Maylandsea.
We set off firstly on the footpath then over two stiles with access across a field with some grazing horses (avoiding the horse muck) then through an avenue of trees with blossom on, spring is evident. The pathway was much drier, (than when I did the recce) which made it more pleasant than expected.
Then we went onto the sea wall at a spot that is known locally as Pigeon Dock, the sea wall was not too boggy but a bit uneven. We followed the sea wall back towards the Bistro, with a few stops on the way. I took a group picture. I was given a lesson on the birds that were sighted of which there were many.
We carried on past Harlow & Blackwater sailing club and finished back at the Bistro after four miles and approx. two hours. We said goodbye to those not staying for lunch. The rest of us enjoyed a lovely lunch and a chat after what I think was an enjoyable walk.
-Dave Rae

January 2023

Heybridge Basin (8km)
It was 15 of us who met at the Jolly Sailor Pub, Heybridge Basin for our January walk - one other joined us part way round. It was a calm day with a chill air and everyone had dressed appropriately. The tide was low with the mud glistening in the wintery light and flocks of birds benefited from the delights they energetically pulled from the mud; the photographers and bird watchers amongst us were well-pleased. Crossing on the narrow footbridge over the lock at the final stage of the Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation Canal, which historically used to transport coal and wood to the inland town of Chelmsford but now supports leisure boats mostly laid up for the winter months, we set off around the seawall that follows the River Blackwater west to Maldon. This seawall is now listed, and signed, as a section of the England Coastal Path. Underfoot it was muddy and caution was necessary meaning that if we wanted to look at something on or across the river, we had to pause.
Leaving the seawall at Heybridge we wandered a short way along pavements until we joined the Canal. Here half of the group opted for the shorter walk, reducing the length by 2kms, and the other half continued on across fields to the Langford Cut, a stretch of water that today was covered with a thin layer of ice. It is an interesting area with small lakes, the nearby Beeleigh Falls and sections of both the Rivers Chelmer and Blackwater and of course, the Canal too. We didn’t see all of that as we turned to head back passing through Oak Meadow and regaining the Canal path, where we were joined by latecomer David, and which we followed all the way back to Heybridge Basin.
We had walked at a steady pace arriving back at the pub before the others who had taken the shorter walk – I feared they had got lost, having boldly told them they couldn’t get lost as all they had to do was follow the canal; fortunately, they weren’t lost but were making
good use of the warmth of the tearooms opposite. Our meals were served promptly and 14 of us lunched at a long table in the pub’s back
room. Empty plates were removed and only one of us had room for a pudding but later declined.
Another successful, happy, healthy day.
- Diane Caulkett