Wednesday, 27 May 2009

The Wilful Walks of C.J.Duffy part five

* Those bastard Romans * Horses and Eloping Lovers * The Ferry Inn * Of Cormorants and Rodents * The Silence of Village Life *

Not sure what the inhabitants of this idyllic village might say but South Fambridge, to give it its full and proper name, strikes me as the sort of place that couldn’t catch a cold. In fact I don’t think this ancient old village could catch anything as the pace of life seems so laid back. So wonderfully rural and yet only minutes away from suburbia. Personally I blame it all on the Romans, I mean, what did they ever do for us?

“For hundreds of years after the Romans left in about 420AD, England was occupied, divided and ruled by various groups who could be called invaders, settlers or newcomers from neighbouring countries. They included the Saxons and Angles, the two largest early settlers. Then came the Danes and Vikings who mainly settled in the Northeast, the Northwest and in Eastern England. By the 700s to 800s, the East Saxons and the East Angles had been taken over by the Mercians and their kingdoms became part of the Mercians' East Anglia.”

You see the Romans had a bit of get up and go and probably wouldn’t have settled for the life of riley that the current occupants seem to enjoy. We are of course the descendents of these rough necked Northern Europeans although we seldom go in for rape or pillage anymore, preferring to play football, we do, however, often abuse the referee with some fine old Anglo-Saxon words. And, before anyone jumps on me for being so provocative regarding the folks of Fambridge and their seemingly easy going ways, I am positive that my cursory glimpse at South Fambridge would be scoffed at and ridiculed by the people who live there but it does seem beautifully d├ętendu. The new Mews Bar on the other hand, that has pushed its way in like a common lout between two rustic gents, has nothing of any worth to add to the village and would be better left as it once was, a public house. Another bright sparks idea to modernise the place and attract young clients.

“Fambridge village appears in the Domesday Book produced for King William The Conqueror in 1085 and 1086. Other parts of Ashingdon Parish listed as villages or manors were : "Bacheneia" Beckney and "Phenbruge" South Fambridge. Other nearby villages or manors probably owning land in what is now Ashingdon were : "Carenduna" Canewdon, "Hocheleia" Hockley, "Hechuuella" Hawkwell, "Plumberga" Plumberow, "Puteseia" Pudsey and "Stanbruga" Great Stambridge. North Fambridge on the other side of the River Crouch was called "Fanbruge".”

The South Fambridge church is also an oddity with its stunted appearance and avuncular attitude. It is as if some beneficent Baron, having given his favoured village some much needed money then decided to build a church but then, upon realising he had run out of cash, compromised the design so that the end result is a building that looks squat although not ugly; just unfinished.

As far as I know, there were no battles here unless they were between brow beaten husbands and there long suffering wives over why the said gentleman had spent so long in the pub.
There used to be, up until the fifties, a ferry that linked South Fambridge to its Northern half. Exactly when the ferry was introduced is uncertain but we do know that there was a ferry when the Earl of Warrick was patron to the Holy Trinity Church between the years 1331 and 1465. The ferry has now gone and it’s a bloody long swim to the other side. It is also a fourteen mile journey by car and therefore out of the question for this foot sore wanderer but, with a bit of magic via the gift of imagination, I can cross the River Crouch with a wrinkle of my nose.
POP! Here I stand on the far shore and in North Fambridge. Five miles away from Rochford and seven from Maldon. Typical of the region is the flat, marsh lands that surround you. Tall reeds wave their plumed, feathery heads over dark banks of mud that are veined with tiny streams that have cut a path away from the larger waterway that is the Crouch.

Legend has it that, way back in Tudor times, a fair maid lived and served at Lord Rochefort’s hall in Rochford. She gained the attention of an officer in the military who fell in love with her. One night the couple eloped and fled Rochford with the girl sitting on the back of the young Captains horse. Chase was given but pursuit stopped when the couple rode their horse into the River Crouch whereupon her father, at the head of the pursuers, said that if they are so in love to risk life and drowning let them go. The couple married in Maldon Church. Another fine sight that greets you as you stand here on the north side is the five hundred year old Inn; aptly named The Ferry Boat

Five hundred years on and it still serves a fine fare and still offers accommodation for the weary traveller.

Even in the middle of spring chill winds blow across these flat mud banks. Over head a cormorant flies along the river heading towards Battlesbridge. Somewhere nearby a rustle in the undergrowth marks the movement of a vole or rat. It is quiet here, quiet in a way that deceives you to fact of the close proximity of cars and cities but they are not that far away. Maldon, Chelmsford and that aging Roman city that sits far North of Essex; Colchester. For now though I am here, windswept and happy sitting on a bench in Fambridge. Fambridge and Ashingdon are so closely linked they could be co-joined twins. Ashingdon and South Fambridge have been in existence for more than one thousand years and I have to confess to having a certain amount of pride attached to the place but in reality I shouldn't have as I recently discovered, having lived here for more than thirty years, my house is not within the parish of Ashingdon at all but is in fact in Hawkwell. Before we visit that hamlet though, we must first go to Battlesbridge. Now there is a name to conjure with.

all words and art are copyright © of C.J. Duffy.


Perfect Virgo said...

Remember the old TV series, "Out of Town" presented by Jack Hargreaves? Well your walks put me in mind of those programmes and their gentle glimpses into historic ways of life that are clinging on, just. This is a great departure for your readers and one I am thoroughly enjoying.

weirsdo said...

Is that Warwick, as in Warwick Castle? Is this near the castle? I remember going through the dungeon and viewing a torture instruments display there when I was 8.

Alexa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
C.J.Duffy said...

PV>>>Yes, Jack Hargreaves, I remember it well. Waswn't he on 'HOW' as well?

Perfect Virgo said...

Yep, along with Fred Dinenage (who still fronts the Meridian local news programme at 6pm).

Nostalgic, me?

C.J.Duffy said...

weirsdo>>>No, not Warwick. For now I am just concerning myself to wandering around and writing about the county I live in which is Essex. I will probably move on from there when I get bored of it!

C.J.Duffy said...

Alexa>>>Glad to hear it!

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