Beating the Bounds 1: North Fambridge to BoC

An afternoon bracer: off the train at North Fambridge at 15.10 then south down at Fambridge Road. At the turn to The Avenue I instead took the footpath (PROW 256_10) along Blue House Farm Chase towards Blue House Farm. Instead of proceeding directly to the sea wall by the continuing public footpath (PROW 256_13) I took the permissive path east across Blue House Farm land. This initially dragged me north easterly along a raised bund, higher than the wet fields and fleets.

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Blue House Farm is an Essex Wildlife Trust site consisting of coastal grazing marsh, ‘with ancient creeks and hollows betraying its salt marsh origins’ – it’s not quite managed retreat but the landscape is wilder than local fields and much more biodiverse. It’s an interesting intermediate space between agriculture and reserve. There are sheep grazing here currently with young lambs in tow, and a visiting population of Canadian Geese and Brent Geese. Around 2,000 Brent Geese come to the area during the winter. I took a short rest at the second hide. All I saw in my brief stay there was a mute swan and a bald coot but the hide logbook evidenced more seen recently.
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I joined the public footpath (PROW 257_50) along the sea wall at the junction by Cuckoo Marsh. Somewhere opposite Bridgemarsh Island this track merges seamlessly into PROW 250_18 and proceeds generally eastwards along the sea wall. At Bridgemarsh Creek the footpath crosses another parish border and becomes PROW 239_11. To the east of Bridgemarsh Creek there’s a scruffy area of plotland type development with several PRIVATE signs warning you off coming down from the embankment to join Bridgemarsh Lane.

In the latest Althorne Village News (March 2018) an anonymous ‘concerned parishioner’ warns of a forthcoming disruption to the unspoilt views from the next strip of public footpath with the planned mooring of a 140ft boat The Bruce Stone on the adjacent riverside. The boat is variously described in the article as a ‘derelict… tanker’, a ‘wreck’,’a derelict old hulk’, a ‘derelict vessel’, ‘a floating scrap heap’ and one of nine or ten ‘derelict barges, tankers and makeshift boathouses’ being cleared out from Barking Creek by Barking Council. I took some wry amusement, having a few years back lived on one those makeshift boathouses and been there when The Bruce Stone turned up, an old Thames oil tanker indeed, but one that had been expensively adapted to house multiple apartments aimed at young urban professionals and fitted out in a manner somewhat different to the surrounding Dutch barges and fishing boats.

I was running late for a rendezvous with Claire the other side of Althorne, so no time to stop for a pint at ‘HMS Nautico’ the secret pub at Bridgemarsh Marina. At the inlet opposite the eastern end of Bridgemarsh Island the path turns north becoming PROW 239_7 which I followed until it split at the reach of the inlet following the easterly spur (PROW 239_12) along the sea wall. I met Claire on this stretch and we continued east together past Creeksea Cliffs and over the parish border continuing on PROW 242_7 meeting Ferry Road in Creeksea on the Tideways corner.

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A coastal route would now mean travelling south easterly on Ferry Road to join the footpath (PROW 242_11) at Creeksea riverside – or to explore the 69 metres of Bridleway (PROW 242_29) stretching out into the Crouch that represents part of the lost Creeksea Ferry route.

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Instead we went north up Ferry Road, took the easterly turn before the railway bridge towards Creeksea Palace, passed the Parlour Cafe and on to PROW 242_12. We then went off-footpath across Cherry Gardens field to join PROW 242_11 at Burnham Yacht Harbour. This took at past the Riverside Park on to The Quay and in to our favoured hostelry Ye Olde White Harte. Claire had a Merlot and I went for my usual: Brewer’s Gold (Crouch Vale Brewery, abv 4.0%,Brewed with 100% extra-pale English barley malt and flavoured with heaps of choicest Brewers Gold hops, sourced with care from small-scale growers in the Hallertau).
Footpaths used:
North Fambridge Parish Path #10 (PROW 256_10)
North Fambridge Parish Path #13 (PROW 256_13)
Purleigh Parish Path #50 (PROW 257_50)
Latchingdon Parish Path #18 (PROW 250_18)
Althorne Parish Path #11 (PROW 239_11)
Althorne Parish Path #7 (PROW 239_7)
Althorne Parish Path #12 (PROW 239_12)
Burnham-on-Crouch Parish Path #7 (PROW 242_7)
Burnham-on-Crouch Parish Path #11 (PROW 242_11)
Burnham-on-Crouch Parish Path #29 (PROW 242_29)
Burnham-on-Crouch Parish Path #12 (PROW 242_12)

Maps used:
OS Explorer #176 (Blackwater Estuary)
Blue House Farm Trail Guide
Open Street Map

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