Friday, 12 September 2014

Hockley to Battlesbridge walk via Brandy Hole and Hullbridge 12th September 2014

On the 12th September 2014 I left home and caught the train to Hockley Station. On arriving at Hockley, I left the station and took a longer walk round some houses trying to find the way into the woods only to find out they've closed that entrance up. So back onto Plumberow Road and into Maylandsea Nature Reserve.

 After walking past some football pitches and alongside some farm fields I follow the path and get my first views down to The Crouch estuary.

 I follow the path and down onto Lower Road turning right and long towards Lower Hockley Hall.

 I turn left onto a footpath just past The Salting Diner. This clearly isn't used often and very overgrown.
After trudging through heavy and overgrown grass I get to cross over a muddy dyke via a wobbly plank that doubles as a bridge. Worried I may fall into the gloop.

 I follow the footpath along and can see the Water tower in the distance at Althorne from a previous walk.

 I follow what I think is the footpath through overgrown bushes and long grass. I then come to the end and can go no further clearly gone wrong. This footpath isnt signposted and with no clear path to follow I'm lost on the salt marshes. I double back and cut across farm fields belonging to Cracknells farm after trying a few times to find the path on the marshes.I eventually come out to Brandy Hole and its moorings and I am back on track.

 The name Brandy Hole dates back to 1680 when Smugglers used to bring their contraband up river to a cottage that had secret cellars for storing Brandy etc. If the Local customs were thought to be about the smugglers would dump the goods over the side into a natural hole in the River Crouch just below Hullbridge, for collection when the coast was clear.

 I come across Brandy Hole Oyster Co.

Oysters have been harvested from the River Crouch for over two thousand years.  Romans loved oysters, particularly the ones from the Essex creeks.
It is said the benefactor who first ate an oyster was a slave, who as punishment was forced by an early Roman emperor to eat a dozen or so. The look of ecstasy on the slave's face so intrigued the emperor he partook of that same punishment.
 In the 1800's over 200 boats and 500 workers were working the river, which helped keep the perfect conditions for breeding the Native Oysters (Ostrea edulis). Over 20,000 Bushels were taken to London each season, as well as exported to France & Holland.

 There are currently two types of oyster in the Crouch.  The oysters at Brandy Hole are known commonly as Pacific or Rock Oysters (Crassotrea gigas) these are now the most common oyster in the world. Due to the decline in the Native oyster, Pacifics were introduced to the Essex waters in the 1930's by our Farm Manager's Grandfather; Harry Leslie DSC, RNVR, who owned the Essex Oyster Fisheries Company.

 I leave the mooring and follow the footpath along the sea wall.

 Shortly after the Yacht club my walk along the footpath comes to a halt,footpath closed so I have to walk back to the yacht club and along a road full of beautiful houses.

 After a stretch of walking along the road I walk through Shangri-La Caravan park and back up onto the seawall.

 I stop and chat to this chap below outside The Hullbridge Yacht club who shows me his fully working 100 year boat,he'd restored.

100 yr old boat

Marsh Farm across the river at South Woodham Ferrers

 Now I enter Hullbridge and still following the path, I past The Anchor Pub.

 Hullbridge has two pubs ,The Anchor and The Smugglers Den (members only). Both overlook the river and have external drinking facilities.

 I stop in The Smugglers Den, not knowing it was a members only club. But I got served a IPA and drank this by the water edge. Only found out when I got home its a members club .

 The Smugglers Den was originally a barn, the date of construction uncertain. Prior to the 1930s the barn had been used to store coal transported down by ship from Newcastle then brought up river by Thames barges. In 1927/28 a Mr and Mrs Wallaker bought the barn along with Wharf House next-door. The Wallakers converted the barn into a dance hall which they named the Hullbridge Pavilion, selling teas and confectionery to the village tourists. On Saturday night Old Time dances and concerts were held. Later, presumably under new ownership, it was renamed The Smugglers Den Social Club and licensed to sell alcohol in 1947.

 I continue on my way following the path along the river.

 I have never seen so many Little Egrets in one place as I have here.

 The path eventually finishes and I exit out onto Beeches Road and turn right to walk to Battlesbridge.

First sign of Autumn approaching
 At the end of the road I turn right onto Hawk Road and follow this up into Battlesbridge.

 The bridge over the River Crouch was kept in repair from the earliest days by the Bataille family, hence the name of the hamlet. Today it is home to a number of antiques centres, one of which is a former mill.
The old timber bridge was replaced by an iron structure in 1856, but this was destroyed when it was struck by a large steam traction engine, and the present structure was erected in 1872.

                     I have a look about the Antique centres, this place is full of them in fact about 80!

                                        I now enter Muggeridge Farm full of more antiques.

 Shame the motorcycle museum was closed, this apparently opens on Sunday.

 I walk up the road to The Hawk PH for a Adnams Southwold Bitter before crossing the road to Battlebridge Station.

I arrive at the station only to find out I have a 30 minutes wait, trains here during the week run every 40 minutes. I catch the train to Wickford and have to change again for a train to Shenfield where again I have to change for the final train home. About a 7 mile walk in all.

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