Little Wakering to Stonebridge
Wednesday August 23rd 2017
Today’s walk was another which did not quite go as planned. We arrived in Essex on Tuesday, checked into the Rochford Hotel in Rochford then headed into Southend for the rest of the day. We enjoyed a train ride down the pier and the walk back and had a lovely meal in Bella Italia.
Wednesday morning saw us up early and raring to go. After breakfast in the hotel, we checked out and left our overnight bags with reception to be collected later. The hotel is very close to the railway station and we headed over there to pick up a taxi out to Little Wakering. The driver dropped us on Little Wakering High Street and we set off to find the path which has brought us out onto the High Street from the creek. Except that we couldn’t find it. A bit of checking up on Google maps revealed the awful truth. The taxi had brought us to Great Wakering High Street!
The two villages adjoin each other and we quickly decided that the only thing to do was walk up to Little Wakering to begin the walk. We found a lane on the map and quickly confirmed with a dog walker that it would eventually take us to Little Wakering, indeed it would come out on the High Street opposite The Castle pub. It was lovely to walk along as, having no way out for traffic the other end, it was very quiet. We were fascinated by the allotments on one side of the lane, which seemed to be growing more flowers than fruit and vegetables. Eventually the lane ended and we emerged in a field. Here was a stile and an obvious route across the field to a stile on the other side. This was repeated for several fields, all of which were homes to horses. Unfortunately the stiles were incredibly high and we had great difficulty clambering up to the lowest cross bar each time and jumping down was somewhat perilous. But eventually we came out by the church and pub in Little Wakering. A lesson for the future – ask taxi drivers for a particular landmark such as a pub or a church and not a vague road.
So about an hour later than intended we set off from Little Wakering. By now my tummy was feeling less than happy and I was definitely out of sorts but we decided to go for it anyway. We walked up the High Street for a while and into Barling. Here was Barling Magna School, which would have been another landmark to have asked the taxi driver for.
Just around the bend was a quiet road turning off to the right lined with some beautiful cottages. Barling is a very old village, parts of the church being Norman, whose origins lie in farming.
Past the church, where we had a brief rest in the sunshine, lay a track which led out to the embankment running beside Barlinghall Creek.
We climbed up some steps and set off along the now familiar embankment path, grassy and quite soft on the feet. It was very quiet up there, with just sea birds for company. There were a few boats pulled up to the creek side, but nothing was moving and it was not actually a particularly interesting view.
We plodded on, both of us finding it very hard work. I was not feeling at all well and the humidity was very high, which always affects Jen badly.
The bank turned sharp left as we left Barlinghall Creek behind and began walking beside another, strangely named The Violet. The Violet ended at Barling Ness where we took a sharp left to pick up the River Roach. Again there was nothing moving anywhere, until a small boat motored past us, heading for Rochford.
After a few miles, we began looking out for the path to take us inland again as the creek path ends soon afterwards and we did not want to miss it and have to walk back. An obvious path appeared running down the embankment and over a stream to a good track beyond. However, as we followed it, it didn’t feel right and we soon established that we had come off the bank too soon. But the road we came out onto was so quiet, it was good to walk along and as it ran parallel with the river bank we were fine.
In fact it worked out very well as we began to look for somewhere to sit down for lunch. An opening in the hedge turned out to be the entrance to Barling Magna Millennium Wildlife Park and just inside the gate was a picnic bench. Perfect.
We had no idea at this point what sort of Wildlife Park this was and wondered whether we would be joined by an elephant or giraffe for lunch, but it turned out to be native wildlife so just the odd spider and wood louse appeared.
We sat for quite a while once we had eaten, debating whether to carry on or not. We were both finding it very hard going for different reasons and neither of us was enjoying the walk at all. So we decided that we would stop. The next thing was to find a way back to Rochford which was not going to be easy as there are no direct bus services, hence the taxi in the morning. We debated calling a taxi but in the end consulted the wonderful bus checker app on my phone. This told us that there was a bus stop about half a mile away on a B road at Stonebridge. We could see the houses of Stonebridge across the fields so it was not too far away.
We set off on a slow amble towards the stop, pausing to chat to a lady who was loading dogs into a van after their walk. She confirmed that there was indeed a bus stop at the end of the lane. When we got there we found a proper wooden bus shelter but no timetable. Another check of the app revealed that a bus was due in five minutes, although we had no idea at that point where it was going or how frequently the service ran. As we were pondering all this, a bus came round the corner so we frantically signalled it to stop and climbed on. It was going to Shoeburyness via Great Wakering and, it turned out only ran every 2 hours, so we were very lucky.
Once aboard we talked to an elderly lady who said that the best way to get to Rochford was to get off with her by Great Wakering church, cross the road and catch the number 8 which would take us all the way to Rochford.
Indeed it did and we were more than happy to sit and watch the landmarks roll by. We travelled down Great Wakering High Street for the second time that day, into the outskirts of Southend and through the huge Asda which also serves as a bus interchange. There was a diversion in Southend and we had to drive along the seafront, which was fine by us. We then went into Southend town centre and out again via the hospital and the airport, finishing in Rochford town centre over an hour later.
From there we collected our bags from the hotel and made our way home. Hopefully next time, when we pick up at Stonebridge we will both be well and the weather will make for a happier walk.
Running total 707.6