A little over a week later from my first section of the Essex Way, I was back and ready for more. This time the plan was to pick up where I left off, conveniently at a bus stop, and walk to White Notley where there’s a station. My mapping software, into which I’d imported a GPX of the route, told me it would be about 27km – but I knew it would be more as I could see the supplied route had cut a few corners. So I didn’t expect to polish it off in one day, and so planned for a camp out.
I also learned my lesson after last week’s mudfest and opted for the full boot option, this time. It proved to be the right choice. This is probably my own fault for choosing to walk this path at this time of year. What I do know is that on a nice summer’s day with the clay soil baked hard, this would be a glorious walk.
After 3 trains and a bus, I was set down at the bus stop that coincides with the point where the path crosses the A1060, and made off down the byway to Farmbridge End. Soon I was confronted by my first muddy section, and moreover a field where the farmer had planted right across the path.
Leaving Good Easter I passed one of the spots I’d reccied on Geograph for a potential camp, finding it too open and visible to be viable. Just as well I hadn’t carried on last week, as that was the place I’d have headed for.
A bit further along, the sound of gunshots filled the air, and I spied a bunch of pheasant murderers.
Stagden Cross was soon behind me, and a byway brought me to Pleshey.
Pleshey’s the friendliest place I’ve encountered yet on the Way, in a county where I often don’t feel that welcome as a walker. Three separate groups of people stopped to talk as I walked through, including the postman, who imparted the vital piece of intelligence that the pub used to be owned by Keith from The Prodigy. Sadly, it was just a bit early to be stopping, leaving aside the fact that I didn’t really have the time.
I left the friendly Pleshey to be greeted by the least friendly signage I’ve seen on the Way so far – lots of “keep strictly to the footpath” signs, and lots of signs about official footpath diversions. As is usual with the latter – they don’t really tell you why, and the map they give is incomprehensible unless you’re (a) local or (b) holding an OS 1:25k map.
However, along this stretch, I fell in with a chap walking his dog Molly, and it turned out we’d shared a few common haunts, walking-wise, so we walked and chatted for a while alongside Walthambury Brook.
I passed through Great Waltham and onto the Langleys estate.
It seems Langleys are fed up with dog walkers – personally, I can never understand why a dog owner would go to the effort of picking up their dog’s shit and putting it in a bag, only to then dump it.
I stopped for a late lunch on my way out of the estate, and recharged ready for the final couple of hours before I needed to find somewhere to stick the tent for the night.
Some pleasant spots were passed on the way into Little Leighs, but it was both a bit too early still, and a little too close to the village, so on I continued.
Passing the sewage works, possibility after possibility came at me, and I was sorely tempted by some nice rough grassy patches surrounded by trees. I carried on though, as I had a preferred spot, and wanted to get as much done today as I could.
A slight issue with lack of (or at the very least some non-discernable) signage at the entrance to the last field before Fuller Street, led to my only real divergence from the official route so far – tracking around the opposite side of the field. A little while later I was exploring the spot I’d researched on Geograph and the satellite images, trying to find the optimal spot. I settled for a spot a few hundred metres off the Way at the edge of the wood.
Up went the new shelter, a Wild Country Helm 1 that Terra Nova were selling off as (technically) used, but which in effect was brand new. I got this last week after spending a 16 hour night in a tent I couldn’t sit up in. I was looking forward to this camp a bit more.
The night was long, but at least I could sit up, cook and generally do the things you do at a camp. Pheasants, the drama queens of the bird world, kept making a racket, and I heard plenty of owl hoots twoo.
I was up and away at first light, not so much from a fear of discovery as from the result of an early night and lack of phone signal. I rejoined the Way and passed around the other edges of the wood. I pulled into Flacks Green and took the road to Terling where I was confronted with something the map gave no clue about. This wasn’t just a ford, if I’d been driving through this I’d have been driving down the river for a short stretch.
Terling behind me, I came upon another patch of wood, I’d identified as a “possible”, and calculated I could have just made it before I lost the light the previous day. Bit of a risk though.
Fairstead supplied the last of a succession of churches before I found myself on largely paved paths all the way to the outskirts of White Notley.
I arrived at the station with 20 minutes before my train, and promptly got a brew on, using the last of the water I’d carried all the way from home the previous day.