It was a horrible wet and windy day and I really did not want to venture outside but the boys were slowly going stir crazy having not been out for a walk for a few days so I had to put on my ‘Big Boy Trousers’ and brave the elements and take them on a walk. Initially I thought I might run up the coast a ways and visit one of the many Suffolk beaches, then it changed to maybe I would just drive to North Essex and explore one of the beaches there but this too changed to just visiting somewhere the other side of Maldon but on the way there I changed my mind again and just popped over to Wickford and had a wander around a largish country park there.
The MEMORIAL PARK in Wickford has roughly 80 acres of green space to explore with tennis courts, cafe, kids play areas and football pitches as well as the River crouch running along one side of it and a couple of small copses of trees. The park was founded in 1949 as a war memorial for the losses of Wickford lives during WWII. You can actually walk through the park and out the other side, if you follow the path along the river, and you will end up just outside Battlesbridge at a junction in the river with a small stream which has no access across, although I did chat with a regular park walker who mentioned that there is a push to build a small bridge across the small stream.
Walking through the impressive park gates I followed the pathway that lead to the left hand side of the park along the top of the bank of the narrow River Crouch. The big field to my right had a couple of football pitches marked out on them and further along I could see a building which i guess was the cafe, also I think there were some tennis courts there too. Now obviously I did not wander over to explore the pitch or tennis courts but stuck to following the path which soon took me into small wooden area which was more like my kind of thing.
Following the path I walked through this small wooded area and back out to more open fields, and also more rain as I was now not sheltered by the trees. The wind had also picked up as I bowed my head slightly as I wandered towards a small opening in trees ahead. This was the original park boundary but it had been opened out to allow access to the fields behind. These fields were actually the football and rugby pitches for the nearby Beauchamps School that I attended many, many years ago. They apparently had been some years ago to the local council who left them alone for a few years until recently clearing them and planting some saplings, with some fruit trees to follow soon. For once a council that did not decide to build a load more houses that nobody wants, although I would bet that they originally tried.
I cannot wait to see how this field looks in a few years once the saplings have matured into trees, but for now I walked through them, along the banks of the river, until I came to a stupidly narrow gate type thingy at the edge of the sapling field. The rain was still falling and the wind was nicely whipping it around.
Fighting my way through the narrow gate type thingy, I should of taken a photo of it really to show what it actually was, I proceeded to walk through the small arched railway bridge and out the other side to a more open fielded area, which actually reminded me of the Fenland drains in Cambridgeshire. The arched bridge is called Three Arches Bridge, funnily enough, and I remember, when I was a spotty teenager over 30 years ago, standing alongside the bridges brickwork and watching 2 large eels slowly moving between the debris lying on the river bed before disappearing into the dark depths that lay beneath the bridge itself. In fact over my teenage years I passed through this bridge a good few times as the school regularly used this route for our gym classes country runs, and I would always try and have a little stop there and peer into the rivers watery depths hoping to spot any fish that resided there. I only ever saw one more eel there if I recall rightly, but a couple of fishing school mates who lived locally said they had caught ‘bootlace’, juvenile, eels from underneath the bridge on bacon rind before but I never tried for them myself.
Walking along the grassy, and in places muddy, track that followed the river it was not too long before I reached the new A130 road bridge that crossed the river. Now I might call this the ‘new’ A130 road but it was actually opened 20 years ago but if you have lived in this area for a good amount of time you still call it ‘new’. I was quite surprised at how low this bridge was and there was not a lot of room above my head as I walked beneath it, but was pretty happy to have a little shelter from the rain so opted to have a wee break and sip of my coffee beneath it. Back on my feet again I continued along the top of the river bank until I got to a junction in the river which had a small stream flowing into it. This was as far as I could go as there was no way across this small stream/drain although I did follow a track along it to the right as it looked like I could walk a big loop back to the railway bridge but this ended in a dead end too. The the bridge of the ‘old’ A130 could be seen 20 yards ahead of me and behind that I could just see a few buildings that line the river in Battlesbridge. After another sip of coffee I started my journey back along the river.
Once I had walked beneath the railway bridge there was a track that lead along the bottom of the railway track so I took that route instead of along the river. It was not too long before the track opened out at the top of the sapling field and I continued to follow the track along the top of the field, along the fence that runs at the back of the houses gardens. I was soon heading back down the field before passing back through the hedge and in to the park again, but I decided to walk through the middle of the park a ways before venturing through the small copse area and back to the river pathway. The boys had a few more swims before we arrived back at the entrance gates and then back to the van where I towel dried them off a bit before cutting their drying coats on for the short journey home for breakfast.
I conclusion I am glad that I decided not to venture too far a filed and visited the Memorial Park at Wickford. Not only was it quite lovely to walk around but it also brought back a lot of good memories of being a teenager and playing tennis on the courts there, running along the banks of the river with my school mates and just generally being young and free in the parkland. The weather was pants whilst I was there so I did not get to see much wildlife but I did see ducks, squirrels, a few twitty birds and a buzzard over the railway line but I should thing that on a dryer day there would be a lot more to see. I recorded my walk there on my KOMOOT APP so if you want to see the exact route I took then click HERE.