Staycation with a Bicycle… back up north

The glorious Dengie peninsula

August 2021

Christine and David Knight look back on two special walks

Apart from a couple of outings locally, the bikes didn’t clock up many miles in July as we spent more time walking some of the many Essex footpaths.
Two of the walks were quite memorable. The first was a walk along the coast starting at St Peter’s Chapel at Bradwell-on-Sea and walking south overlooking the Dengie nature reserve and the second was walking part of the Essex Way starting in Coggeshall.
However, the bikes came out again in August on two beautiful summer days. It’s amazing that day to day we don’t notice the subtle change in the seasons but now, instead of the sights and sounds of spring and early summer, our rides were accompanied by the sights, smells and sounds of harvest, with blackberries and other fruits in the hedgerows.
The first outing was a return trip to the Dengie peninsula to explore it further. We parked the car at Ramsey Island, then made our way to St Lawrence and admired the wonderfully panoramic view from the church.

The wide skies of north Essex…

From there we followed the road to Asheldham, passing a waymarker for St Peter’s Way. This is a 45-mile footpath between St Peter’s Chapel at Bradwell-on-Sea (although only part of the original building remains, a church has stood here since 654 after St Cedd’s voyage from Lindisfarne to bring Christianity to the area) and what remains of the motte-and-bailey castle in Chipping Ongar.
We continued through beautiful countryside, with the flowers of late summer in the verges and ditches… flowers such as fleabane (Pulicaria dystenterica) with its bright yellow daisy-like flowers (supposedly a flea repellent); meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria), which was said to be the favourite strewing herb of Queen Elizabeth I and scattered on the floor to perfume the room (or maybe more accurately to cover not-so-pleasant odours); and the last few lilac flowers of field scabious (Knautia arvensis), beloved by bees and butterflies.

Tillingham: what a lovely spot!

Following the road through the scattering of houses that are Dengie, we arrived in the village of Tillingham. What a lovely spot! The Fox and Hounds pub on the village green was too good to pass by, so we stopped for a coffee before taking the time to look around the village church, where we had the pleasure of chatting to a couple working in the churchyard.
From Tillingham it was a relatively easy ride back to St Lawrence Church and back to Ramsey Island, where we spent some time in the afternoon sunshine admiring the boats on the River Blackwater.

Sails on the Blackwater

Our second August outing was another return visit, this time to north-west Essex and the village of Belchamp St Paul, where we parked the car. Although the sun was shining when we left home, in good British tradition by the time we reached Belchamp St Paul the skies had clouded over and as we set off on our bikes it started to rain. However, after sheltering under a tree on the village green for a few minutes the rain stopped and the sun started to shine.
We were off! Firstly whizzing downhill towards Knowl Green, then up to a turning on the left where we followed the road to Little Yeldham: another lovely small Essex village, with its church overlooking the grassy triangle at the road junction. As we have found on many occasions, the village church is often an ideal place to stop for a few minutes, take stock of the area and have our refreshments.
Back on the road we followed the signs for North End and found a lovely village with its village pump housed below a thatched roof at its heart. We cycled on, turning left towards Belchamp Otten.

The pump at North End sits beneath a thatched roof

It was along this road that we came across another waymarker for a named footpath – this time it was the nine-mile Magna Carta Walk between the Norman fortresses at Castle Hedingham and Clare, homes of Robert de Vere and Richard de Clare respectively, both signatories of Magna Carta.
The walk was established in 2015 to mark 800 years since the issue of Magna Carta. Who knew Essex had so many named walks?

The Magna Carta Walk snakes between the Norman fortresses at Castle Hedingham and Clare

Continuing to Belchamp Otten, we passed a glorious selection of vegetables for sale at the side of the road and another lovely church. It was then that the sky started to darken and we quickened our pace, just making it back to the car before it started to rain again.
The wonderful thing about cycling along the lanes of Essex is that it’s a marvellous opportunity to visit places we would not normally visit, to be able to stop as and when we wish and find out more about the history of the places we see along the way.
Hopefully, there will be more sunny days before the onset of winter and we will be able to see a bit more of the wonderful Essex countryside in the coming months.

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