* The Winsome Delights of South Woodham Ferrers *
* Stealing a March on Stow Maries * Money and Coins: the heart of Cold Norton * With Boats and Bunting and cannons firing: the old town of Burnham-on-Crouch *
Having left the tumble of antique shops of Battlesbridge behind me and with Mendelssohn’s second symphony playing in my ears, I swing on down the road until I reach the two roundabouts that collect traffic only to connect and re-direct them to their appropriate routes of choice. I not only ignore the variety of roads with their alternate destinations but I also circumnavigate the need for following their direction by cutting across them and heading on down a road signposted South Woodham Ferrers.
The name has an odd sound to it but typically English and is now a modern area filled with the hubris of suburban life. The town is a case of the old being given reverence by the new. I, like many others, often question the dubious morals of global corporations but here it seems to work reasonably well. Asda, now part of the Wal-Mart Empire, occupies pole position in this re-creation of an old English Town but in fairness it has been done with sympathy for the residence and in some style. Although in most part just a facade, the recapturing in style and spirit of a typical old market town with its collection of smaller shops that swarm around the giant supermarket like plankton around a blue whale, in this case green, is precisely what an old town looks and feels like. Archways link one group of shops to another and the market square has a pleasant bandstand, bereft of band today that looks exactly as it should.
The fact that it is all still quite new is inescapable but the virtue here is that some one has really tried to give the place a feeling of the past and you are, momentarily deceived. With time, as the paint fades and the architecture crumbles, few will notice that this was all built in nineteen eighty something and not eighteen something.
Of course the purists among us might well argue that the past should be left there. Revered, respected but not reproduced. They might equally suggest that modern towns require modern character and I am all for that but I nonetheless feel that this attempt has achieved all that it set out to do.
Mendelssohn’s melodies draw to an end only to be reproduced by that stalwart of the experimental: Robert Wyatt whose thin, reedy, estuary voice gathers a tune in my ear. The delightful ‘Beautiful Day’ lays waste to all that I have written providing as it does another perspective to suburban life entirely.
With a swiftly taken photo opportunity I take my leave of South Woodham Ferrers and go roving on toward Burnham-on-Crouch but before I get there I have to first pass through Stow Maries. Blink or sneeze, certainly if driving, and you will miss this postage stamp sized village behind.
The road I walk has a profusion of corpses that litter its threaded tarmac; a riot of road kill that are an unfortunate testament to the modern world’s need for cars. I lose count of how many pheasants and partridges lie lifeless whilst their feathers make a mockery of death as they fan and fluster in the soft breeze, not only wild fowl but also one hedgehog (or hedgepig as they used to be called) a couple of foxes and one sad old badger.
I am not one of those who decry everything and anything associated with motor vehicles. Too often they take the can back for having been the single cause of all that man has inflicted on the worlds environment. They are for sure a part of that problem but the paradox is that we would be hard put to live without them any more. However, I do believe that the best days of the automated vehicle have passed and that they have reached their zenith in terms of need and desire to own. With the advent of laptop’s and PC’s there is now the burgeoning possibility that more and more of us will work from home. This will effect a change in our life styles. It will not be instant as such things never are and for a good while yet we will continue to ‘clock on’. The time will come though when an average family will only need the one car and not, and I am no different in this regard, one for each member. As I say, it is a long, long way off but it has all the hallmarks of being a possible future. By the time I have completed my body count of dead animals and come to the end of my fanciful musings on the future, Stow Maries begins to fall behind me and I say farewell to its scattering of thatched cottages and its rural charm
Old Sketch of Stow Maries Church
Old Sketch of Cold Norton Church
If Stow Maries was an unassuming little place then Cold Norton is the very opposite and is very much the equivalent of a little brother who has made good. A little bit brash perhaps but well meaning with its bigger houses with their grander designs and their must have sporting facility that sits proud and incandescent in the surrounding countryside.
There is, of course, nothing wrong with having money nor is there anything bad about having it spent on opulent homes. I would imagine, and I am only guessing here, that the Noveau Riche that now occupy this neck of the woods are the sort of people who have made their money while building legendary careers in the city. London is, after all, only forty five miles away which allows for relative short journeys to and from work while still being able to live in the country. Trouble is Cold Norton is rapidly turning from rural into suburban.
I gaze at the house with a mixture of emotions. They are undoubtedly large and desirable and it must be a comfort to have such money that you can afford to build yourself such a home but, and I confess to liking them, I think I would rather live either in London overlooking the Thames or somewhere remote where no one is aware of how much wealth I have or haven’t got. Anyway, not for me to question why anyone does what they desire to do as I simply don’t have the right.
I would love to have the opportunity though to not worry about financial concerns ever again but surely I am no different to anyone else in that? Cold Norton fades to dream as I walk on now with weary limbs and aching feet but the journey is far from over and Burnham is still before me.
As soon as you enter Burnham-on-Crouch you feel an overwhelmingly warm sensation course through, and no it is not the whiskey I had earlier but more a feeling of historical reverence and admiration.
Burnham-on-Crouch doesn’t so much shout its significance at you as whisper it gently on salty waters. It is a delightful place but then again anything that exists in close proximity to the sea, or in this case river, has the edge over land locked towns; something to do with the womb and all that ‘shushing’ sound perhaps, or maybe some long forgotten primitive memory that stretches back to our evolutionary roots when we first clambered from the cold clinging ocean with clumsy movements onto the dry land.
There are people here, naturally enough, and today there are lots of them, people in shorts and T-shirts as the sun is out to greet their milky white legs that have not seen the light of day for many a winter month. Sun and water attract people and we Brits are as mad as a bag of frogs when the mere mention of summer appears to cheer us all up. Down on the river it is a hive of activity as yachts slip by on the will of the wind while other boats moor to unload what ever it is that needs unloading.
I find a vacant bench and sit down laying my camera and the bag containing food and drink beside me. Earlier I had bought a ploughman’s sandwich and a bottle of Zero Coke of which I now eat and drink. The sun feels hot on my face, arms and neck and I am very aware that I should be careful of this exceptionally hot weather as my skin hasn’t seen any real sun since my holiday in Turkey last year. As I eat a write, these words ironically but then, as I sit here contemplating this and that a dream form lat night returns to my mind; a forgotten dream that was as odd as it was slightly disturbing.
Last night I dreamt that my fellow members of Discharge met. Gathered together for the first time were Murmurists, Doriandra, Ruela, Inconsequential and many others but not all the team, not everyone.
As soon as Murmurists and Doriandra met they broke into song which in itself struck me as being rather weird as normally people either shake hands or kiss. What made it even more peculiar was the song they sung and not because it was a bad song but it was one I am not sure either of them would like and certainly not Murmurists. The song was Green Days “American Idiot” of which the couple sang in a ribald and raucous fashion.
As they sang I started to prepare food, toast mostly with some glutinous spread that looked as smelly as it was unappetising. Being the dork I am when it comes to anything even mildly culinary, I burnt some of the bread. A female, whose face I didn’t recognise moaned loudly complaining that I was bloody useless. I have no idea who she was but Doriandra, who seemed far shorter than I imagined her to be, very calmly and quietly took the woman to task of which I was very grateful.
Ruela stood back and applauded while Aaron cheered and whooped loudly. I then awoke shaking as my blood sugar was low. Bizarre dream though
Old Sketch of Latchingdon Church
The dream seems a thousand years old now and light years away as I watch the river flow and the vessels anchored there bob up and down to its gentle swell. I finish my fast food fare and take off down the walkway that leads away from the town. A man in a disabled vehicle cruises toward me with a large smile on his face. He hails me with a hearty “Cheer up!” which, as I feel perfectly cheerful in the first place, make me feel a little nonplussed and a little as though I were back in last nights dream again. From this point on I resolve to wear a smile as I walk. The next couple I come across make a sudden swerve around me when they see me grinning like a congenital idiot or maybe I look like Jack Nicholson from “The Shinning”. I decide to temper my face with an air of happy nonchalance in the faint hope that this will not cause comment or frighten the natives off.
As I pass by the attractively built art deco designed Royal Corinthian Yacht Club a cannon goes off which startles one or two stray land lubber seagulls into flight and which also scares the beejusus out of me as I was totally unprepared for the sudden bang. Manfully adjusting my self before anyone sees I re-gather what little wits I have and take a closer inspection of this famous yachting club and its stately history. And without my usual facetiousness this really is an established and well respected yachting community with a huge reputation throughout the United Kingdom. The building itself is impressive looking as it does like some water going vessel with its four tiered decking and its array of masts. In truth, it is the building that impresses me most as the idea of mucking about on boats be they yachts or liners holds little appeal for me but it is a big world and it takes all sorts to fill it.
The Royal Corinthian Yacht Club was designed and built in nineteen thirty one but the history of the club goes back to eighteen seventy two and to Erith in Kent. The club moved to the Crouch and Burnham in eighteen ninety two.
There is a degree of snobsville associated with this sport but I think it is easier to let people enjoy them selves doing what they like and if they see some odd status in messing about with boats then that really is up to them. As a casual observer the site of wind driven vessels being skilfully steered to and fro is a matchless site. The sheer elegance of these craft is breathtaking and the skills of the individuals that manoeuvre them a marvel. Anyway, some people are so insecure that any such pastime gets elevated to a ridiculous level but this shouldn’t put genuine folk off of having fun.
The building was designed by architect Joseph Emberton and is now a Grade 2 listed building. It is hard to understand today the sort of uproar this gorgeous piece of architecture caused with its wide windows and panoramic views but it did stir up some outrage at the time
As much as some might like it to be, Burnham isn’t Henley but it is a very pretty place and the view of the river quite spectacular.
STILL HAVING PROBLEMS LOADING PICTURES SO SORRY FOT THIS TEMPORARY LOSS OF 'SERVICE.'
WITH LUCK THIS SHOULD BE SHORTLY SOLVED.
THE SECOND VOLUME OF THESE 'WALK'S' IS NOW AVAILABLE AND WILL BE E-MAILED AND POSTED AS HARD COPY TO THE USUAL SUSPECTS. IF ANYONE WANT'S A HARD COPY, AND ALL FOR FREE, THEN SEND ME YOUR ADDRESS AND I WILL SEND YOU ONE.
all words and art are copyright © of C.J. Duffy.