Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Maldon,Heybridge Basin and Osea Circular 2nd November 2015

On the 2nd November 2015 I left home and caught the train to Chelmsford where I met Dan before catching a 31X bus to Maldon. We got off by All Saints Church. The fog had lifted a bit but still a misty damp day.

 The precise date of the building of All Saints’ Church is not recorded, but that it existed in 1180, the date of the foundation of Beeleigh Abbey, is practically certain, for a Charter of Richard 1st in December 1189 exists reciting and confirming “certain grants to Beeleigh Abbey, including the Church of Blessed Peter in Maldon and the Church of All Saints’ in the same town.”

 We walked through the graveyard and back out onto Silver Street and then down Cromwell Hill, where I stopped for a picture with the waterpump. Dan was eager to get a few more caches today. Had we checked there was one right here at the pump!

 In 1587, Thomas Crammock put up the money to give Maldon its first serviceable water supply. This ran from Crammocks well in Beeleigh Road to this pump on Cromwell Hill. Along with the pump (Not Original sadly) the cistern that feeds it still survives in a private garden. The current pump dates from 1805.
 We pass over Fullbridge over the River Chelmer.
Fullbridge sits at the bottom of Market Hill at the crossing over the river Chelmer.
It is home to the wharf of Green's flour mills and, further along the river, the now empty wharves of Sadds Timber await development.
On the opposite bank there are several boatbuilders yards where you can often see a sailing barge being repaired or restored.
Fullbridge Wharf is also home to the old brewery built for the Shrimp Brand beer in 1924. Currently an industrial unit, this building may be demolished to make way for a housing development. The brewery also owned the White Lion pub at the bottom of Market Hill.
The large building by the roundabout is part of the old Maldon Ironworks Company. Among the products manufactured by this firm were many of the cast iron signposts still to be seen at the roadside.
We walk on along a busy B1018 the Causeway before turning right onto The Street. Where we pass St Andrews Church in Heybridge.
 The church building was completed in the 12th century. Somewhere around 1450 flooding caused the tower to collapse and the 'ruins' were restored to more or less the present form later in the 15th century.

 We now cross a bridge over The Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation. Its here we take a footpath on our right that runs alongside it.

 The Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation is the canalisation of the Rivers Chelmer and Blackwater in Essex, in the east of England. The navigation runs for 13.75 miles (22.13 km) from Springfield Basin in Chelmsford to the sea lock.

Dan checking for Geocahes.

 We stopped off at a bench for a rest as my sprained ankle that I manage to injure a week before was still hurting a bit.
Here there are some benches beside a cafe that was closed and where you can get a boat trip or hire a rowing boat. This was also closed. I imagine its very busy in summer months.

 We walk a little further on ,we now meet the sea at the Sea Lock and Heybridge Basin.
The basin at Heybridge was dug out at the sea end of the navigation to allow lighters to enter the canal via the sea lock for the unloading of their cargos for transportation inland. The stretch of canal between the Basin and Beeleigh was cut out by hand to bypass Maldon because the town opposed the building of the canal fearing loss of trade in the port
In 1796 the first ship entered the basin with a cargo of coal for Chelmsford. Read the story of the navigation by John Marriage here
 Today, Heybridge Basin is a haven for pleasure craft of all ages and sizes as well as being the starting point for walks along the sea wall to Maldon and beyond. 

 The two pubs that once served to quench the thirst of the basin workers and visiting sailors now cater for the tourists visiting this picturesque area. There is also a tea room and art and craft gallery on the sea wall.

The Sea Lock

 We opted for a drink in The Jolly Sailor out of the two pubs.

 Dan opted for a pint of Maldon Gold, whilst I had a pint of Hobgoblin. Any excuse to rest my ankle!

 We now continue on along the seawall along The River Blackwater.

Across from Heybridge Basin you can see Northey Island.
A remote island in the Blackwater Estuary and cut off at high tide, visiting Northey's a unique pleasure.
Northey was to become the oldest recorded battlefield in Britain when Viking raiders used the island as a base during the Battle of Maldon in AD991, an encounter also mentioned in England's earliest known poem.

One of a few Thames barges in the area.

On the seawall passing the Blackwater Sailing club.

A new housing development.

 We reach Osea Leisure Park. Home to static caravans, beach huts to buy or where you can camp or bring a tourer!

 Beach Huts are rather special; recreating the halcyon days of the Blackwater Estuary and seaside family holidays all with a modern twist. Osea's Beach Huts are much more than garden sheds on stilts, they are engineered and constructed to resist the continual rigors of coastal weather and are low maintenance. Their unique location is absolutely stunning sitting above the water with panoramic views over the Estuary.

 After a longish walk, we reach The Causeway that leads to Osea Island. Unfortunately the tide was on the way in and much of the causeway was covered.
In the new hammer film of the book " The Woman In Black" Osea's causeway took a starring role alongside Daniel Radcliffe. The production company spent two weeks on the island filming it as the tides rose and fell.
 See clip below............

Osea Island in the mist

Osea island has a rich and diverse history having been occupied for over 5000 years. There are remains of neolithic villages and later evidence of viking burial grounds from the famous battle of Maldon.
The Romans were here in force. They built the causeway and the salt works, a pottery and grew arable crops. With the departure of the Romans, the island passed through the hands of many powerful and titles families, emphasising its importance through to Tudor times.
The battle of Maldon (991AD) took place on the shores of the river Blackwater in Essex. There was a heroic stand by the Anglo-Saxons against the Viking invasion, which ended in utter defeat for Brithnoth and his men.
The battle's progress is related in a famous Anglo-Saxon poem, only part of which survives. Brithnoth has summoned his forces together to stand against against the invasion, and the first order he gives is for the men to drive away their horses, thus effectively making retreat impossible.
There is to be no flight from here: the thanes can only stand or die. And so (for the most part) they do. Brithnoth himself is almost a caricature of British heroism: a man who snatched defeat from the jaws of victory by playing the game of war as if it were cricket. His permitting the norsemen to cross the causeway is comparable to opening the castle gates to admit the enemy. But with what glorious enthusiasm he does it!-" Come swiftly to us, warriors to war".
With the fall of Brithnoth, the battle of Maldon is lost. But this is the point at which folly transcends failure and becomes heroism on a grand scale. The battle of Maldon deserves it's place not only in the annals of English literature, but also in our country's history. It records an instance of astonishing heroism comparable to such celebrated events as the Charge of the Light Brigade, the Seige of Lucknow, or in the Zulu War, the Battle of Rorke's Drift.
According to the doomsday book, at the time of Edward The Confessor in 1066, The Island, then called 'Uvesia' had become the property of a local lord called Turbet/Thorbet, who in turn lost to the Normans.
After the Norman Conquest, William the Conqueror presented Osea as a gift to his nephew. This tradition continued over the centuries with the island passing into the ownership of crusaders and noblemen who had pleased the royal family. They included the Earls of Essex, Sussex, Gloucester and March.

In 1903 Osea was purchased by Frederick Charrignton who created what was probably the worlds first temperance society. His reasons for buying the island involved quite a story. He was a director of the family business of Charrington, the Mile End brewers. The tale goes that one Saturday night he saw a drunken husband repel his wife's appeal to come home to the family, as he struck her across the face before lurching into the bar and slamming the door. Charrington saw that on the signboard hanging above the inn, The Rising Sun Pub, Cambridge Heath Road, Bethnal Green was the name of the proprietor, Charrington. he paused in horror, the experience smote his conscience, and he determined to come out of the business and use his considerable wealth in an endeavour to offset the evil effects of alcoholism.
He purchased the island with a vision of temperance, where alcoholics and people with addiction problems could retreat and seek help. A considerable of East End unemployed were brought from London and housed in wooden huts while they worked on the island, carrying out alterations. Roads were constructed, houses were built and a village store was opened.
Some attempt was even made to give the island an exotic appearance. Palms and fuschias were planted, a large ornamental seal pond was created and wallabies were actually imported from Australia to roam free about the island.
Charrington also bought a small steam ship named HMS Annie to run trips for the public between Maldon and the island. A quite elaborate little pier was built on the islands South Side giving access to the vessel, which was liscensed to carry 151 passengers.
The advent of the steamer Annie in Maldon waters caused quite a sensation in the town. The agents used to prepare a timetable of trips, which was posted on hoardings throughout the district.
Occasionally at the period of the full moon they even ran moonlight trips with lanterns hung in the aft awning, and on fire nights they presented an idyllic picture and were much appreciated and patronised by the local young couples.
Charrington was one of the last great Victorian philanthropists. he was well known for his work in the East End including the building of the great assembly hall in the Mile End Road, a mission feeding the homeless, capable of holding 5,000 people. There is documentation showing that the mission provided over 850 families with Christmas dinner in 1910. He passed away in 1936.
He had fed the hungry, fought against the exploitation of women and backed workers in their struggle against social injustice but sadly with the outbreak of the First World War, Charrington's ambitious plans came to a halt.
In 1917 The Island was requisitioned by the admiralty for use as a top-secret naval abse, denomiated S.S. Osea (the ship that never sails). So secret was its mission that people on the mainland had no idea of its existence until well after the war was over, despite having over 1000 sailors billeted on The Island.
S.S. Osea was a base for motor torpedo boats, often referred to as 'submarine chasers' or 'scimmers'. Some of the missions were extremely dangerous and one of the lieutenants received the Victoria Cross for his bravery – an account of which can be found in Captain Agar's autobiography 'Baltic Episode'.
With the onset of World War II, things were not quite as eventful as in the naval days, but were still not entirely without incident. A V2 rocket falling short of its target in London hit Osea instead. It's remains can still be seen today together with two heavily reinforced 'pill boxes' or bunkers at the furthest East and West points of the island designed to ward off invaders.
After the war Osea went into the ownership of Cambridge University. It was declared a site of special scientific interest because of its unique ecology, rare plants, birds and marine life, before returning to private ownership in the 1950's.
Today, the district has also become a centre for classic sailing boats, such as the Blackwater Barges taking part in the Osea Island Regatta.

Looking across to Osea island

 We will return to try and reach the island, although its private property we will try our luck!

 Walking back down Osea Road and out onto Goldhangar Road. We walked on along the busy road, my ankle was really staring to hurt now. So after a long we got the 95 bus back into Maldon, where we then caught the 31X back to Chelmsford and the train home.

A lovely walk of 6 miles.

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