The Monthly Newsletter of Chelmsford YHA Local Group
From Ice Cream to Barbecue
July was the month we finished the Saffron Trail Ė 72 miles across Essex from Southend in the south east, to Saffron Walden in the north west.
We started on a chilly March Sunday in 2017 up on the cliffs at Southend seafront. The sun was out, which I suppose made it a bit more acceptable to visit the Rossi stand for an icecream to start the journey. This was the least controversial icecream of the walk!
The first leg got us to Hockley and the second to East Hanningfield, via some very nice tearooms at Battlesbridge. Points of interest included bumping into Graham at Hadleigh Castle, the Roman ford at Hullbridge, and an eighteenth century well at Hanningfield where you could historically get free water provided you got there before 10am. We were way too late, as we were when we came back again in September to walk the third leg into Chelmsford. Now I figure I know Chelmsford pretty well, but even I didnít know we laid claim to be the first town in the country to get electric street lighting.
The next leg (Nov 2017) is where we passed the halfway point marching from Chelmsford to Littley Green. This is a lovely walk taking in the deer park in Great Waltham Ė a route we know from our previous walk on the Essex Way.
Now, do you remember the snowy start to 2018? We do, because we planned to do leg five in March but had to postpone due to snow and ice. Not wanting to risk any issues with the re-match, we put it into the programme for July Ė dreaming of the pleasant sunshine and cool breeze of a British summer. Ha! Talk about heatwave! We were walking from Littley Green to Great Easton and by the time we got to Felsted we were melting. Pace was flagging in the heat and we had to keep waiting for the stragglers to catch up. At one path junction we had a particularly long wait, only to find that the reason they were slow was the queue for icecreams in Felstead post office. This was the most controversial icecream of the walk.
Having got thoroughly roasted on this 12 mile hike in burning sunshine, a short diversion into the Flitch of Bacon in Little Dunmow for a drink was a life-saving opportunity. Now something of a gastro-pub, they did look a little surprised to see a throng of sweaty walkers push through the bar into the beer garden. Emotionally scarred, this was the only leg we completed in 2018.
There was a small frisson of trepidation when we scheduled leg six for February 2019, but this year was dry and mild and we had a lovely little walk from Great Easton to Henham. The highlight was probably Tilty Abbey, the last remains of which form the parish church. I recommend a revisit in the summer when they do their flower festival, itís beautiful.
So here we are, up to date and walking from Henham to the grand finale in Saffron Walden. Not a cold day, not a hot day, a nice middling warm day with a bit of cloud cover. We paced ourselves and arrived at the Fleur de Lys in Widdington just as the clock struck midday. We hesitated, not wishing to give the wrong impression, but the landlord spotted us and ran to tear open the front door and welcome our custom. After that we didnít have the heart to disappoint him. This set the tone for the day and we had a lovely stroll into Newport where we sat on the Green for lunch while the local social club celebrated their 100th anniversary. There was cake available, but we wanted to save ourselves for the party at the end. Not wanting to risk dehydration, we naturally called in at The Bell in Wendens Ambo for some life-giving refreshment. This kept us going long enough for our triumphant entry into Saffron Walden. The last few yards were through the grounds of Audley End, accompanied by the distant strains of the warm up for tonightís Audley End picnic concert. Picking up a few sausages on the way through town, we made it back to Dave and Aliís to fire up the barbecue and crack open the champagne.
A Bit More Thames
Everyone loves a riverside walk, so our June trip to Streatley was a perfect opportunity to tick off the Benson to Oxford stretch of the Thames path. We chose a weekend to avoid the turmoil of George Michaelís birthday (itís quite an event locally), but it turned out to be a scorcher. Record June temperatures were recorded in West London, just a few miles away, and even the calming waters of the Thames werenít enough to keep our cool. We made good use of the various pubs along the way, only to discover some conspiracy to steer us towards alcohol. No coffee, no tea? Apparently the advent of the frothy coffee made all kettles redundant.
Weíre planning a trip to Oxford at the end of November to clock up a few more miles on the trail. Not far to go now.
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