Today starts sunny and warm. My husband is joining me. But first he drops me off at Tinkers Lane, where I follow the footpath, meandering through green spaces in Rochford. I am unable to reach the river bank, as it is surrounded by industrial units and there is no public right of way along the bank at this point. But I enjoy this walk. It is amazing to be on these hidden foot paths, surrounded by greenery, in the middle of the busy town.
Then I cross a road and am momentarily confused by the convergence of five different footpaths. Choosing one, I head off across a farmer’s field, hoping I am heading towards Sutton Church.
Searching for a church spire, I finally spot it, short and hidden in trees. Yes, I am on the right path.
I see my husband waiting for me at the end of a long, straight path across harvested corn fields. He stands so still that, from the distance, I think he is a sign post. He gallently offers to carry the rucksack. He has brought nothing, not even water – what an amateur!
Crossing the road, we find the continuation of the footpath and, to our surprise, stumble across a minature railway line. A sign tells us there will be trains running on Saturday 26th September. At the moment, all is quiet and the line looks old and unused.
We walk along a wide grassy footpath, an avenue between lines of trees, with the railway line running on our right. A section of line is not in place and the rails lie on one side. We hope they fix this before the 26th or the train ride will come to a bumpy end. At the end of the grassy avenue we find a road. After turning left and walking along this road for a short time, we pick up a bridleway. This leads us down a track and then through fields, until we end up in a farm yard – Mucking Hall, not an apt name as the yard was very clean and tidy – and we walk down the wide driveway until we reach another road. After a short walk down the quiet road, we find track, taking us past livery stables, to reach the footpath that takes us to the river bank.
We reach the bank and I am happy to be back on the “coastal path”. The tide is in and the Roach river looks deceptively wide and deep. There are no ships sailing. We pass a couple of walkers with their dogs. Across the water I see the route I followed yesterday. Today there are workmen on the bank and a large group of walkers in the distance. Yesterday the route had been empty and lonely.
As we follow the river bank, the tide recedes and mud begins to appear. We pass tumbledown jetties.
This area of the walk is poorly maintained and the grass is long. I worry about snakes. My husband retrieves a couple of sticks from the driftwood at the edge of the river. We walk, beating the ground to scare the snakes. My husband breaks his stick and is reduced to waving the shortened remains ineffectively in the air.
I discover walking with a stick is easier than without, and resolve to buy a walking pole.
Across fields on our right, we see Barling Marsh and we pass a large rubbish tip, with accompanying smells carried towards us on the warm breeze. The fields and skies around the tip are swarming with noisy seagulls. We notice several different species. Every so often they rise up into the air in a huge cloud, whirl around and then settle again – sometimes on water and sometimes on the fields.
We reach Barling Ness and sit on the grass, enjoying the warm sun. Across the water we see the boatyard at Paglesham Eastend. There are boats in the water and the walkers have reached the boatyard and disappear from view. We wonder if they are heading for the same pub as we ate our lunch in yesterday. I have walked so many miles, but am only a stone’s throw from where I was this time yesterday!
Now the bank winds inland along a creek. There is a lot of mud and very little water. We pass a few derelict boats.
At the end of the creek is Little Wakering and we come across a smallholding with goats, hens and ponies. I stow my stick beside the footpath sign, hoping to pick it up again when I resume the walk, but not wanting to carry a hefty looking stick through the village.
We are now in Little Wakering and walk along the road to The Castle Pub. I enjoy a wonderful meal of fish and chips. And a large bottle of cider.
After lunch, I set my husband on his way back along the fields. He is returning to Sutton Church to pick up the car. I head off back along the other side of the creek, disappointed to find that my stick has disappeared and there are remains of it strewn around the path. I blame school boys for this wanton destruction of my precious stick.
Walking along the creek, I meet a lady jogger with a large dalmation. He passes me without problem, but looking back at me, he is not happy when he sees my back pack and comes back to woof at me. I let him lick my hands and all is well. He shakes himself and sprays smelly creek water over my trousers.
Now I am alone on the wall. The path is overgrown in places and I try not to think of snakes.
Across the water is Potton Island, reached by a causeway and a bridge. This is used by the army and is inaccessible to me; this area is marked “danger zone” on the map. I take photographs as the late afternoon sun slants across the fields. I hope the army does not mind me photographing their military structures.
Later, I come across another boatyard with boats in a variety of states of disrepair. And a jetty of small ships, all now marooned in the mud. Beyond this are larger boats, possibly being used as boathouses – so firmly embedded in mud it is hard to imagine them ever moving.
The path is very overgrown and, suddenly, I see a small, thin snake moving across the path. I have stepped over it before I notice it. Turning round, I put down my rucksack to grab my camera and, in a wiggle, it is gone.
The snake was smooth, light brown with a long darker stripe. It did not look like an adder. But I wonder if baby adders have different markings. I am really worried now. I put on my gaiters for protection.
A few steps later and I see a small sign against a farmer’s gate. It is black with one word scrawled in white chalk – “Adders!”.
Despite this, there are people out walking in shorts and sandals, with accompanying dogs.
Further along the wall, I am suddenly attacked by mosquitoes. Luckily I have spray in my rucksack and I annoint myself with insect repellent, but not before I have been bitten by a few of the little pests.
I reach a farm house (Oxenham Farm) and, after checking with my map, come down off the wall, following the public right of way along the farm track heading towards Samuel’s Corner. There I find my husband with the car.
Later, I look on the internet to try and identify the “snake”. I discover there are only 3 species of snakes in the UK – adders, grass snakes and smooth snakes. My snake did not resemble any of these. Then I find a picture that matches. It was a Slow Worm, otherwise known as a legless lizard. These harmless creatures are often mistaken for snakes. Read more about the Slow Worm here.
Vital stats: Miles travelled = 12.5, snakes seen = 0, slow worms = 1.
I also discover the RSPB recommend Barling Tip as a great site for bird watching.