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17 Aug: Ride to Heybridge Basin

posted 20 Aug 2014, 04:00 by South Herts   [ updated 8 Jan 2017, 21:34 ]
I think we had about 18 out on Sunday's ride from Norton Heath to the Essex Coast at Heybridge Basin, although cyclists rarely stay still long enough to be counted, so I might have missed a few.  I hadn't expected quite so many so it was a pleasant surprise, although we were still outnumbered by the leather clad m/c club riders at the cafe.  It was a joint ride with Havering CTC and some local CTC members joined in too, so well worth the 30 mile drive over from Hatfield or North London for us.

Click photo to view slideshow
Route navigation was quite easy as I followed NCR 1 to and through the middle of Chelmsford.  Emerging at Sandford Mill we crossed the river on a narrow footbridge with no edges - just wide enough for Judy's Trice, but too scary for her to ride it and quite tricky to carry it across.  We then took the concrete track under the A12 to Rumbold's Farm.  We then left NCR 1, which follows Grace's Walk on it's way to Little Baddow, as that can be muddy.  I also avoided the next turning, as last time the footbridge over the ford had lots of planks missing, so we turned up Church Road and Colam Lane to climb over the 100 metre high hill near Danbury.  At the top we rejoined NCR 1 following some lovely lanes, including Cut a Thwart Lane, to Maldon.  The heavens opened, so we sheltered briefly under trees next to the cop shop, hoping the rain would go away before we had to head back into the strong westerly wind.
Stony lane
Cut-a-Thwart Lane hasn't changed
 much in 30 years.  Photo: Rod Scott

We carried on down Market Hill, then turned off behind Tesco's onto a tarmac cycle path to Heybridge.  We were following the left bank of the Chelmer & Blackwater Navigation, but from here the path was a bit overgrown so a few took to the road while most followed the well surfaced path all the way. With such a large group, inevitably there were a few delays along the way, but we still managed to reach the lunch destination at 1:15 pm.

The Chelmer and the lower reaches of the Blackwater were canalised in 1797, with the canal reaching inland as far as Chelmsford. Maldon opposed the building of the canal, presumably because it would lose trade to Chelmsford, but it was bypassed, leading to the development of Heybridge Basin where the canal meets the sea at Collier's Reach.  Unfortunately, the sea lock is only operated around high tide, so we missed seeing that.  Instead, a vast expanse of mud met our eyes.  Withies sticking out of the mud marked the navigation channel out to sea where a Thames Barge could be seen in the channel between us and Northey Island.  The mud looked disgusting. Hard to think it can produce the highly regarded Maldon oysters and it must be quite a challenge for the competitors in the annual Maldon Mud Race, which takes place late May Bank Holiday weekend.  Most of us stuck to our sandwiches and a coffee from Wilkin's Cafe, although there were also two pubs available and they weren't as crowded as the seafront pubs in Maldon.

Luckily the rain had stopped, and we pressed on anxious to get to our tea stop before closing time.  We followed roads into town then rejoined NCR1 heading east along the Maldon docks and waterfront, passing the Marine Lake and the paddling pool, then along a tree-lined path and out of Maldon.  It was now a tough ride against the wind and up a few unexpected hills to reach Bicknacre.  It was now 3:45 pm and I was racing to get to BHN Pot Plants, knowing we probably wouldn't make it and I would have a bunch of disgruntled cyclists to appease.  Much to my relief our luck was in as we passed another garden centre in Bicknacre and it had a good coffee shop.  That worked well as the Havering crew peeled off soon after this and I could take a more direct route back to Norton Heath.

Jon 17/08/2014