Archive for November, 2012

Dengie Peninsular

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

Approach to St Peters

St Peter’s Chapel, Bradwell on Sea

The Sea Wall protecting the Dengie Peninsular

Salt Marsh on the Dengie Peninsular

Maldon Mud


The Jolly Sailor Maldon

John on the Sea Wall

Heybridge Basin

The Green Man Bradwell on Sea

Dunlins on the mud

Dunlins Flocking

Dengie Mud

BAe Base Station

John and I set off on the 0855 train from Liverpool Street to Burnham on Crouch and just over an hour later we were tucking into a full breakfast in a little café by the seafront. It is incredible to think that you can walk for 14 miles from here without coming across any houses or shops. This is the Dengie Peninsular which is perhaps the wildest place you can get to in an hour from London.  Apparently it was the inspiration for both H G Wells “War of the Worlds” which features Maldon and for Hitchcock’s “The Birds”. In just a few minutes you have walked past the posh yacht clubs and are on the sea wall with reclaimed land to the left and mud and estuary to the right. Soon the few moored boats disappear into the mist and the mud turns to salt marsh. We had prepared ourselves for a fairly bleak walk and in some respects we weren’t let down. It was flat and grey but surprisingly interesting walking along the wall. A few twitchers strolled by. We were entertained by flocks of thousands of dunlins. Second world war pill boxes were strategically placed and eventually we came across what seems to be a secret radio establishment owned by BAe with strange ariel structures. At this point we turned inland towards Bradwell. We wanted to save visiting St Peters Church until Saturday when we would be joined by Selma and Grit. We would have walked 14 miles and it was quite enough for the first day.
We booked into the Green Man Pub where we had one absolutely massive room and one very much smaller one. There was a roaring log fire and we had a tasty meal. The Apprentice Ale was top notch. Altogether a good place to stay but perhaps a bit expensive for a simple walking holiday (Large double £80, small twin £70).
On Saturday we walked out to St Peter’s Church. It is Britain’s oldest church (654) and was apparently built in Syrian style! It is a simple square building which was once used as a farmers barn. Nearby is a small Christian Community built as a place of peace after the war. Anyone can stay there of any religion or no religion. After a brief stop at the church we carried on to the sea wall. There is a small copse and a sheltered Bird Watching Sanctury with benches overlooking the salt marshes. The salt marshes are gradually eroding and old barges have been sunk to act as wave breaks.
We strolled along the wall as far as the radio ariels, this time approaching from the north. We turned inland along the St Peter’s Way. The area is a Ramsar Site, named after a convention in Iran in 1971 to protect wetlands of international importance. The area is also an SSI, a special protection area, and a special area of conservation. Soon we found ourselves in Tillingham where a pub tempted us for lunch.
We stayed a bit too long and so we needed to keep up a fair pace as far as Maylansea briskly walking across some rolling low hills overlooking the Blackwater Estuary. We had walked for at least 11 miles and it was clear that it would be dark by the time we reach Maldon. Selma decided to sensibly opt for the bus while we plodded on. Instead of following the winding coastal path we decided to carve our own way through the field paths. To our surprise the paths all existed and even in the dark we found our way across ploughed fields to the bridges across the many ditches. The last field was the site of the Battle of Maldon. The Vikings were camped on Northey Island so Brythnoth decided to get an army assembled to defend Maldon from attack. It was easy to defend Maldon because the Vikings could not get across the causeway from the island. The Vikings complained that it wasn’t fair and they should be allowed into the field to have a proper battle and Brythnoth made the poor tactical decision to allow them across. They went on to defeat Brythnoth’s army but were too weakened to attack Maldon. They went on to attack Sheppy. I learnt this tale and lots of others from Peter Caton’s book “Essex Coast Walk”. The book is so entertaining that I intend to read it cover to cover over the winter. Highly recommended to anyone intending to walk around Essex.
Bang on time, we walked into The Jolly Sailor, Maldon to be greeted by Peter and Mara as well as Selma. After two pints of Doom Bar we headed of for a meal at a restaurant called something Italian. The meal was really enjoyable but no thanks to the food. My sardine starter was appalling and Peter complained about his courgette and lobster. The carrots were rock solid and the steak and wine was poor. I was ill afterwards and didn’t fully recover until Sunday evening. However the staff were a laugh and the company was wonderful.
The rooms in the Jolly Sailor were clean and good value. The beds were strangely low with a solid edge. I suspect IKEA has tried to redesign a standard bed to produce a less satisfactory version. Breakfast was great but the Full English for the third day was beginning to be too much of a good thing. We met up with Peter and Mara for coffee and persuaded them to join us for a gentle stroll to Heybridge Basin and along the canal. We decided not to continue to Tollesbury, or Witham, or Colchester as originally planned.
After a gentle four mile circular walk admiring the Thames barges we got a taxi back to Bradwell to pick up Selma’s car. A very pleasant and interesting weekend.

Marlow Half Marathon

Sunday, November 4th, 2012

The Start Line Looks Rather Sad 10 Minutes before Time!

The Sports Hall before the Race

4th November 2012
I had a quick look at the weather forecast on the day before the Sunday run and it said 6°C and 95% chance of heavy rain. And they were spot on! We drove through sodden roads to arrive in Marlow at 8.30. My sister who lives nearby came to wish us well. Actually the rain pretty much stopped as we started running but the roads were badly flooded. At one point we were literally knee deep in water and I am not exagerating. To begin with many runners were trying to keep their feet dry. I’ve learnt that this is a totally pointless exercise and decided to make use of the stream of water down the edge of the road to get clear of a jam of runners.
The route is all on tarmac so I wore my trainers but sadly Nike trainers aren’t designed for running underwater and soon the padding inside became bunched and lumpy. It made patches of the run pretty uncomfortable. The water was quite cold too and it was possibly this combination of fast hill running then cold water that caused Liam’s calf to cease up after about eight miles. This is home territory for Liam and he had been looking forward to the run for a long time. On a good day Liam can run the route in 1hr 35 minutes. It must have been a bitter blow when he realised that he couldn’t run through the pain and would have to retire. St Johns Ambulance looked after him and he got a lift back to base. I can’t understand how I missed him as I ran past but even stranger was that John said he overtook me a couple of times and I overtook him a couple of times too. The fact that I didn’t notice him at all was extraordinary as I was aware of many of the runners around especially those who got past me and there were a lot of them!
The route takes you through lovely undulating Thames countryside. It is more hilly than the Henley Half but none of the hills were real stingers, just a bit of a slog. It made it a slightly slower run than Henley and I think John and I completed it in around 1hr50 minutes with Grit a bit after. I will try to find the results and some better pictures when they are released.
Once we were all assembled back in the sports hall we were kindly invited to Liam and Sarah’s house for a massive lunch and a few beers. Heaven.

Update: Well I now realise why I can’t remember passing John, it was because he got in 7 seconds in front of me! My result was 1hr 53mins and 15 seconds which isn’t too brilliant but the course was really slow because of all the water. Here is a little video from Bucks Free Press from the winner.

Here are the results:

and here is a great Youtube Video with some intersting shots of the flood at about 8minutes in and some interesting shots of certain people walking up the hill around 19 minutes in!