2015 - August - 15
On our walk this sunny Saturday we explored the eastern part of the - still very rural and quiet - Dengie peninsular as well as the furthermost part of St Peter's Way. St Peter's Way is a reasonably long distance path linking Ongar, close to London, with the historic St Peter's Chapel in this eastern outpost of Essex. We started from the old church of Bradwell-on-Sea, following the even older old Roman road to St Peter's Chapel.
From St Peter's Chapel we headed south for about two miles along the sea wall. A sharp turn westwards brought us through arable fields to historic Tillingham's village green. After light refreshment at the "Fox Hounds" we headed west again along St Peter's Way over - for hereabouts - reasonably high ground, affording distant views out towards the Blackwater Estuary in the north. Near St Lawrence we left St Peter's Way and headed south to Southminster, from whence we caught our train back towards the crowded metropolis. Walking weather was excellent: sunny but with sufficient cloud cover to make sure we kept cool.
And now here is some verse to introduce the story of our walking day. My modest poetic endeavours can, I'm sure, be far outshone by others with more artistic mastery of our language than I have.
'Twas good walking weather this Saturday -
just right to complete the St Peter's Way.
At noon, from Bradwell's centre our feet did tread
to St Peter's, the ancient chapel of Saint Cedd.
Then to the sea wall and wide open spaces,
with sun and fresh sea air in our faces.
After traversing Dengie's green and fertile land,
a light refreshment in old Tillingham was just grand.
And so to our journey's high point we did advance,
and 'twas the distant Blackwater our eyes could glance.
Southwards now, off St Peter's beaten track,
and on to Southminster for our journey back.
Thank you Ralph for this walk devising
and to all for your pleasant socialising.
So here's what you will see on this page. If you joined us on our walk, I hope this page will bring back some memories of this pleasant CLOG Saturday. If you were not fortunate enough to join us, then I hope you will at least get some flavour of what this part of the wilds of remote Essex has to offer the discerning hiker from the crowded South East. I wish you happy perusing!
We set out from Bradwell-on-Sea just past noon. Busses in this part of Essex are not that frequent, and Ralph did well to optimise the timing of the train and bus connections. The old church of St Nicholas merits a quick look. However, it is historically eclipsed by the 7th century St Peter's Chapel which we reach after about two miles further east along an old roman road. After a short break at the chapel, we then head south along the sea wall. We are almost down to sea level in a vast, quiet and exposed landscape, with the sea out to the east and the fertile flat lands of the eastern Dengie to the west. An interesting experience in the crowded South-East.
After leaving the sea wall, we strike inland and westwards, passing a recently sprouted wind farm ere we reach Tillingham, where we have a short refreshment stop at the "Fox and Hounds". We are then ready to continue along St Peter's Way, leaving the village by the old village pump - could it but talk, the stories it would tell!
High ground in these coastal parts means anything approaching 30 to 40 metres. Nevertheless, we get good views to the Blackwater Estuary to the north. This estuary allowed sailing barges to reach Maldon, an erstwhile trading port, famed for its sea-salt.
Having arrived early this morning, I took the advantage of nosing around down-town Southminster. However, since this is where we finished our walk, it seemed a good idea to put this morning's pictures here. I was lucky that a churchwarden of Southminster's interesting church just happened to be in the vicinity, and, since I looked respectable (!!), was kind enough to let me into the church itself.
The first half of our walk of about 12 miles or 20 Km was along the initial part - or was it the final part? - of St Peter's Way, and was very close to sea level. Later, we reached higher ground (a maximum of 34 m., to be precise). It was essentially a low-level walk. However, the terrain had its challenges, including the reasonably freshly ploughed fields along the course of St Peter's Way. On the return route to Southminster, some footpath signs had succumbed to the joint ravages of weather and time. All was, however, doable, especially for seasoned Cloggies!
Now prepare ye for some plots and graphs. Not too overwhelming, but hopefully quite interesting! You will see here:
Our walk had the shape of a reversed letter "S". Here are few numbers. The minus signs for the longitude angles indicate "degrees west of Greenwich". The map grid scales translate to 1.112 Km per 0.01° latitude and a mean of 0.689 Km per 0.01° longitude, all when using 6371.0 Km as the volumetric mean radius of the earth - as per the WGS84 standard!
Because we don't live on a flat earth - unless you are a convinced "flat-earther" - maps are inevitably a distortion of what is. In other words, it's all a matter of mapping a curvaceous surface onto a flat surface. We don't want to carry curvaceous representations of the terrain on our walks, do we? In our case, the northern length of our map grid is stretched out by an extra 0.20 %, to make it the same on the page as the length of the southern part of our map grid. Not that much for hiking purposes really! Can't complain.
Much of our walk was very close to sea level. It was in the latter part of our walk that we scaled the - for hereabouts - dizzy height of 34 m.. It of interest, as we can see from this plot, that in past centuries people were savvy - they generally built their settlements on the highest ground they could find! Why get wet feet if you can avoid it?
Here are some "vital statistics" in metric and imperial units. The total distance, as always measured on a conceptual "flat" plane at mean sea level, is 12.3 miles or 19.8 Km. This accords with Ralph's figure of 12 miles. Of course, the total ascent (here 82 m) usually exceeds the difference between maximum and minimum elevations (here 34 m); I'd suspect things, if the reverse transpired!
And here, for the numerical fun of it, are the average gradients we overcame on our walk. The rising and falling (negative) gradients are both averaged over the distance given, with level stretches having rises and falls of less than ± ½ metre. By comparison, Hertfordshire County Council recommends that its roads should not have longitudinal gradients of more than 5% and one of the steepest adhesion railways in the world, in Austria, has a maximum gradient of 11.6%. By way of further interest, the clockwise route of the Fairfield Horseshoe in the Lake District has a total distance of 15.62 Km (9.71 miles), with the following calculations: an average rising gradient of 14.66% over 6.589 Km, a level part over 0.345 Km, and an average falling gradient of 11.11% over 8.676 Km. This is seen by many as really quite challenging - but then, when you compare it with our Saturday Dengie walk, it can be said that on our excursion we had a more leisurely and less demanding aim compared with Lakeland challenges!
The plot represents the gradient (rising - positive, falling - negative) at each measured point of our walk. As some of you know, differentials are notorious for introducing noise. I have done some mild smoothing by looking at the gradient over the two neighbouring points either side of each central reference point on the horizontal distance (x) axis.
While it can be expected that gradient values tend to bounce around around the 0% level during a walk, this plot also shows that starting and finishing gradients here are - as is the case for most walks - other than 0%.
As might be expected, the gradients are greater in the hillier area of our walk. However, maximum rising and falling gradient are below 5% and 6% respectively. Interesting if you like that sort of thing - I mean, not in theory but out on your walk!.
On any walk there are considerations which are very real but tantalizingly out of ready reach of those who wish to espouse a numerical approach to many of life's activities.
It's one thing to discuss the terrain over which we walk. It's quite another to ask how we personally respond to walking over that terrain. There are a number of considerations, of which timing and speed can be taken as starting points.
Thank you Ralph for organising and leading this walk, without undue hesitation or deviation. Thank you all for your good company. It certainly has been a nice and successful day out - lots of nice countryside and good exercise AND excellent weather for doing a walk in the far-flung reaches of deepest Essex. A rewarding way to spend a Summer Saturday!
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