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Sunday, 6 March 2011

Walk 24 Maylandsea to Maldon and Goldhanger (Essex)

Walk 24  Maylandsea to Maldon and Goldhanger (Essex)

(First leg of English coastal walk – Broadstairs in Kent to Berwick at the border with Scotland).

Map: L/R 168
Distance: about 12 miles
Difficulty: easy, flat
Terrain: roads and paths some of which can be muddy
Access: Parking at both ends
Public transport: Buses D1/D2 go every hour from Maylandsea starting/returning to Maldon. Maldon to Goldhanger buses now seem to go just on Saturdays - four journeys each way every 2 hours.

The walk starts at Maylandsea following north along the marshy Lawling Creek before turning west towards Maldon. The flat expanse of Northey Island, owned by the National Trust, is soon visible. A causeway connects the island to the river side and is covered by the tides twice a day. It is mainly salt marsh and tidal creeks and is very popular with bird watchers. There are two houses on the island, one in the form of a tower can be rented for holidays and the other belongs to the caretaker of the house!

Soon after Limbourne Creek is the site of the Battle of Maldon which took place in 991. Further along you come to statue of a soldier brandishing a sword to mark this event. The epic battle involved the Anglo-Saxons defending the town against a Viking invasion. The Vikings won but the soldiers of the town fought to the last man. Their deaths and heroism were celebrated in a poem of the time and in modern times in a short play written in verse by JRR Tolkein.

Maldon is an old, picturesque well-cared for town that is well worth a stroll around. The Moot Hall has guided tours on Saturdays. This old tower has had many uses including as a prison and town hall. The family owned Maldon Salt Works were established in 1882 and is now the only business in England manufacturing crystal salt from seawater. Around New Years Day the Maldon Mud Race takes place to raise money for charity. Competitors run across the River Blackwater at low tide, run down the bank and run through the water again to get back.  Edward Bright, a grocer, known as the fat man of Maldon, was reputed to be the fattest man in England in the 18th century. He was 47.5 stone – a case of eating the stock maybe! Maldon is also reputed to be the driest place in the UK with just 50 cm. of rain a year.

A bit of road walking is required to get to the other bank. The path winds its way past Heybridge Basin and Mill Beach then meets up with a path into Goldhanger. This part of the river provides a winter home to huge numbers of Dark Bellied Brent Geese. About one quarter of the world’s population come here or other parts of the Essex coast after breeding in the Arctic and Siberia.

Goldhanger is a pleasant village with a 14th century pub (The Chequers) should you fancy a pint!

Snaps show: Maylandsea; Maldon river frontage; the statue for the Battle of Maldon.

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