It is not often that I include a walk of just 1 mile in these pages, but then, these are exceptional times. This short walk, I believe, fits into the national request at this time for only modest exercise in the context of social distancing. And yet, this walk offers views over the undulating countryside and a nice encounter with local history as well as with the natural world.
These crocuses were photographed on 5th February before the snow came.
They herald Spring and a new beginning.
This walk captures the few days when snow came to this part of Essex in February 2021. Actually, this walk is a winter version of my
Corona Walk in May 2020. Unfortunately,
Captain Tom and many of those who helped to raise awareness of the pivotal role played by the NHS fighting the pandemic, are no longer with us. However, the crocuses you see above, in their way, signify a new year, a new beginning and hopefully new advances on the medical front.
The walk itself starts at the end of Downham Road, Wickford. The path has survived successive housing developments, and as such, its rural ambience can be enjoyed today. After the 90° turn to the right, this lower path becomes part of "Grange Lane". The path then continues as far as the turn off to "Littlemead". After the turn off to "Littlemead", the walk starts to gain height, and the walker gains a number of views across the countryside - towards the west, south and east. On the summit of the walk there are a number of houses, including the "Grange", and also a small pond. There is the expansive view across the field towards Kent. The immediate features in the landscape towards the west are
(see also this link) and
Downham Hall nestling below it. (See also
for further info on Church and Hall.) It's worth the walk!
Monday, 8th February. "Summit" of the Walk.
The view towards the west and Billericay takes in
the local mediaeval axis of power with
Downham Church (to the right) and Downham Hall (to the left).
I have arranged the walk description on a day-by-day basis - more precisely February 7, 8, 11 and 14. This reflects how the weather changed the scenery over this week.
Four Days in February 2021
A crown is the logo for this walk. The crown signifies the pleasantness of the walk and the heights - albeit modest - achievable on this walk. On a perhaps more sombre note, "Corona" is a medical term used to describe the virus which is turning the present world upside down. Now "Corona" is the Latin for crown, and I think you'll agree that a crown presents a nicer picture than the virus!
It was a cold afternoon, the temperature about 2°C. A strong cold wind was coming in from the NNE. Light snow had fallen in the morning and had settled on the branches to give that filigree effect. The snow had not settled on the paths yet. The ice had not yet covered the duck pond next to "Plum Trees". However, it was an invigorating walk today!
Here, framed by the oak, is
(see also this link
which is dedicated to the dragon slayer, Saint Margaret of Antioch. The red brick tower is believed to be from the 15th century, but the Victorians "restored" the remainder of the church, which was rebuilt again after a fire in 1977 and subsequently reopened in 2000.
This is the entrance to the Grange. The Grange is a large, rambling, Edwardian house originally built for the family that owned the large
" department store in Southend and a number of smaller shops besides. The Grange occupies an outlying spur of the hill we have just climbed. Since Edwardian days, the house has had several owners. Three members of the Keddie family died in action in WWII, as the war memorial by Downham Church (not on today's walk, but, of course, seen from today's walk) tells us.
Behind the main gates, the Victorian style street lamps exude an air of elegance.
Ecce eum! Ursus nomen suum est.
Magno cum sonitu latrat!
"Bear" is his name - standing guard at "Plum Trees".
Likes his bark.
The ice is yet to cover the duck pond next to "Plum Trees".
Returning from the summit of the walk at the Grange, but still on the upper part of the path, the snow is gradually beginning to settle, but the path stays clear.
As the path strikes west, the wind has lessened
and has left snow on the branches to give that filigree effect,
Turning south there is yet more of the
winter filigree decorating the trees and shrubs.
We catch a glimpse to the west of
winter's decorative ebullience.
As the path descends towards the south and the turn off to "Littlemead",
we can again appreciate the winter filigree created by the morning's light snow fall.
Today the afternoon was even colder - just below freezing. Light snow had again fallen in the morning. Today the wind had changed direction slightly to come from the NE. The wind was not quite as strong today but still managed to clear most of the tree branches and cover the paths with a layer of snow. The landscape had changed! Today's walk was still invigorating!
Rising up to higher "altitudes" on Monday.
The snow has left the branches and covered the path.
Here's the south-facing view across "The Field",
which is bereft of Sunday's tobogganing youth.
No doubt by today, the downward slides had become a tad bumpy.
Once again, we have reached the summit of our walk.
On Monday, the snow still covers the landscape around Downham Church
The Dovecote you can see just to the north of Downham Church.
It originally stood in the grounds of Downham Hall
and provided its residents with a ready supply of dove eggs.
And here we have another view of today's Downham Hall,
nestling at the foot of the church.
On the "Summit" of the Walk we have
the view towards the west and Billericay. In the landscape we see
Downham Church (to the right) and Downham Hall (to the left).
What you are looking at is an example of the local mediaeval axis of power. Between them, the church and the squire (in the Hall) - power divine and temporal - held sway over the local community. Many English villages have this set up - the church, and usually very close by, the Hall.
The main gates to "The Grange"
have caught the snow in a decorative way.
As we wend our way back along the "ridge" part of our path, we see that
the strong wind has thrust the snow from the branches onto the path itself.
Our path is a "Public Byway" and here it is called "Grange Lane".
"Grange Lane" may well have started life, many centuries ago, as a drover's road - cattle and sheep driven to market. The high ground would have provided some protection against marauders.
Tough times that long ago!
It is now Thursday. I had had my Corona Jab on Tuesday and it took the whole of Wednesday to recover. Today, Thursday, it was a late morning walk. It was hovering about freezing with an easterly wind. The barometer had risen, but there was still some snow on the ground and an ice cover on the pond next to "Plum Trees".
On the way up along Grange Lane we can still see a little snow on the branches,
but even here on the rising slope, the wind has succeeded in denuding the branches
and carpeting the path - our "Public Byway".
On the "summit" a snow-covered layer of ice still surrounds the duck house.
Here is Downham Church. As you see from the bark of the tree,
the snow has started to melt, but ever so slightly.
The landscape has started to take on a bluish hue ...
... emphasized by the close-up of the church and churchyard in the said landscape.
And here is Downham Hall nestling in the bluish landscape.
Here is the mediaeval axis of local power.
The snow is on the retreat as the grass shows.
In the distance, to the south, we see eight of the twelve dock-side cranes.
Apparently the cranes were imported from China. Why?
The Thames Estuary and Kent Hills are in the background.
Another view of the distant dock-side.
The sky has taken on a mildly orange hue.
Saint Valentine's Day was here. The temperature was approaching 4°C and by this time a lot of the snow cover had already disappeared. There was, however, a cloud cover and a SSE wind. Things were warming up. A robin was foraging for food, now that the snow was definitely on the wane. There was a hint of Spring in the air.
Whisps of snow still linger in the sheltered dips and ditches of the landscape.
However, the wider landscape is definitely becoming greener,
as this view from Grange Lane towards Brock Hill shows.
The snow has started to melt and opened up possibilities for nature's local residents.
This robin is busily trying to attend to his or her dietary needs.
In Victorian times, robins became associated with Christmas.
Their distinctive red features reminded Victorians of the bringers of Christmas cards and gifts -
the postmen who wore red uniforms in those imperial days.
Here's another view along Grange Lane close to where our Robin was sighted.
Birds are flighty at the best of times, but Robins are known
to be more amenable to cameras than many other species.
The covering of ice in the duck pond
- the sheltered hollow on the summit - still lingers on.
And finally, here's another view of Downham Church,
with the snow very seriously on the retreat,
Thank you for visiting this web page and doing this virtual walk on four separate days in February. As I hope this walk shows, there is much to see in the world about us. Indeed, the world rewards walkers who cultivate an observant and a perceptive approach to life! Much that is new and interesting can be learnt and appreciated, even within the constraints of challenging times such as the present! Oh, and for the actual walk, don't forget your walking boots!
I photographed these crocuses a few days later on 19th February.
They provided a bright hint that Spring was coming.
The elliptical frame reminds us of Easter Eggs (even if eggs are actually ovi-form!).
A good omen perhaps that 2021 may be a better year than its predecessor!