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Essex is not my favorite county. Much of it is very flat, which makes for easy cycling, but there is a feeling of "sameness" where ever you go. For a county that is so near to the money of London I would have expected a much greater attention to keeping the place tidy. Although far away from the fly-tipping of Tilbury, you feel that the area is not loved as it should be. However, this trip did have a few high spots.
This was another early start for a one-day outing, starting at 0620 and the Virgin Pendolino journey to Euston where I arrived efficiently at 0738. The Circle Line was not operating that day, so I opted to cycle to Liverpool Street. At Smithfield market, I bumped into the floats being lined up for the Lord Mayor's Parade. This slowed me up somewhat , but I made it in good time to catch the 0818 to Shenfield. After a wait there, I was on the 0908 and disembarked at Burnham on Crouch (0944).
Burnham on Crouch (1000) is a town of surprises and contrasts. In the middle of a non-decript shopping centre was a very original Art Deco cinema - still complete but in need of repair and a lick of paint. Further on, I came to the waterfront which certainly had received a makeover and contained the sort of restaurants I do not usually eat at (unless someone else is paying)! The exit from Burnham was by way of a dreary ex council estate which had no cohesion of identity.
Back to the station and the road to Southminster (1025) which is dominated by the 15th century pile of St Leonard's Church. There appeared to be nothing else of interest here, so onward to Mayland (1050) which had a much more spacious and cared-for feel. The lovely Mayland Mill was once an inn, but has recently been converted into an Indian restaurant. The weather was fine with little breeze, but the forecast sun was to elude me for the whole trip. I could see the blue sky ahead of me all the time but never caught up with it.
Maldon (1150) looked as though it could benefit from more exploration than I had time for but, on the surface had the air of a bustling town set in an enviable position on the river. Out of Maldon, Heybridge offered very good views of the estuary.
Tolleshunt D'Arcy(1255) is an old village whose most famous resident was the writer Margaret Allingham. Her blue plaque graces a substantial Georgian brick house in the middle of the village.
Layer Breton (1340) is a disappointment except for the painted village sign.
There followed a magical few minutes as I cycled the National Cycle Route Number 1 towards Colchester. The way passed through undulating woodland and over streams. The photos are worth looking at but do not convey the full atmosphere.
Onwards and into busy Colchester along a main road which seemed to go on for ever. Arriving there, I was met with some dilapidation, but the old city centre is a gem. Perhaps the highlight for me was the Playhouse Theatre, now a Weatherspoons pub. Whilst I tucked into my Chilli con Carne and festival ales, I was able to admire the interior complete with stage set and and dummy figures in the boxes. They have done a really good restoration job here.
It was soon time to go to the station to catch the the 1749 into Liverpool Street (1845). It was now dark, so I opted for the Northern Line to Euston where I was in plenty of time to catch the 1943, arriving at Birmingham International at 2100.
This trip just leaves a small stretch of Essex between Walton on the Naze and Felixtowe which I hope to negotiate early in the New Year. I shall then be into Suffolk, the only county I have not yet touched on this project.
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