Stonebridge – Rochford
Thursday May 31st 2018
The final couple of days of the half term break seemed like a good time to go walking so we set off mid-morning for Rochford once again
This time we changed trains at Stratford, which was a new experience. It is a very impressive station with many options for interchanging between transport types. It also has useful shops to buy sandwiches and coffee which we did before seeking out the Southend Victoria train. We had arranged to leave our bags at The Rochford Hotel so we headed straight there and, having sorted out a small daypack each, tucked the big ones away in their office. We found a park next to the river to eat our sandwiches before heading back to the station to find a taxi. The driver we approached knew exactly where we wanted to go and drove us there with no fuss and no need for directions which was brilliant. He dropped us by the bus shelter in the middle of nowhere which has morphed since last summer from an old wooden structure to a new glass and metal one
The first footpath led from behind the bus stop straight across a wheat field then into a field of newly sown vegetables of some kind.
We were very pleased to see that both paths had been obviously cleared and were easy to find. At the end of the second path was a small lake, with a couple of fishermen on the other side.
Once past the lake another clear path led through a copse of trees and over a footbridge which had been installed, according to the sign, by the Friends of the Flitch Way. The Flitch Way is a path on the other side of Essex and the volunteers there also help out with tasks further afield. This was one of them and a very good bridge it was too!
Soon we emerged onto a quiet road, more of a track really, at a hamlet called Slated Row and we stopped to look at the map. A lady was just opening her garage and chatted for a while. We mentioned the good paths and she told us that the landowner was very conscientious and did it deliberately to help walkers. What a lovely man!
Soon we came to a road junction and had to choose between walking along the road for a mile or so or turning left and then right to take a path running parallel with the road. Given that there was a lot of traffic and it was all travelling very fast, we took the latter option. Just an aside here about traffic in these country lanes around Rochford. There is a huge amount of it and everyone seems to be in a tearing hurry. As the roads only go to isolated villages, we could not work out why it was so busy everywhere.
On the map the next section appeared to be straight over two more fields. The first one was again well cut and obvious but as we entered the other the way was blocked by crops. A good path though curved round to the edge of the field, so we followed it as it continued round so it looked as though the farmer had rerouted it but as it was good wide path that was fine by us. Suddenly though we were startled to spot some railway tracks running alongside the path.
They were just small ones; we guessed big enough to run a sit-on railway train. As we walked along we could see that they went through a gate into a house and the path was signed across the tracks and down the side of the house.
When I got home I did some research and found that this is The Sutton Hall Miniature railway; a 10 inch gauge line open to the public once a month. A real hidden gem.
We came out onto the road and could see the next path almost opposite. But again crossing the road was a real challenge as the cars were racing along and there were so many of them. We did cross eventually and although the first part of the path was a bit overgrown it soon widened out and meandered through a field of wild flowers. We had noticed lots of poppies everywhere but here were many varieties, not all of which I knew, but thistles and daisies and campion and scabious and knapweed were there in abundance.
We could see the industrial site on the edge of Rochford here and the path ended at a stream, whose footbridge led onto a path running along the backs of houses.
Once out onto the main road again, we should have taken another path almost opposite. However, having taken several minutes to find a break in the traffic, we were disappointed to find it overgrown with nettles and brambles and impassable.
The alternative was to walk along the pavement into town, which is what we did. It is not as pleasant as paths but at least we couldn’t get lost and there were plenty of beautiful gardens to enjoy as we wandered along.
Another half hour and we arrived back at the Rochford Hotel, checked in properly and went up to our rooms to regroup. We then caught the train to Southend where we walked right down the High Street to the seafront.
The weather all day had been humid and damp, though warm enough to walk without coats or jumpers. By the time we got to the sea, the pier had disappeared into the mist and it was cooling down. It was time to find an evening meal before heading back to Rochford for the night.