On our walk this Remembrance Sunday we tried to capture some of the flavour of this annual national event, by seeing how it was reflected in three villages close to Wickford in Essex. Our walk was based on a walk which I had done leading groups or solo many times before in this part of the world. However, I hope that this walk was new to some of you and helped to dispel the notion that Essex is entirely
flat. We also saw some autumnal colour even though the wind had hastened the leaf fall. If you would like to get to know this walk throughout the seasons and if you would like to know more about associated length and heights, you might wish to click on
The porch of South Hanningfield's church was graced by this arrangement of poppies - representing the Flanders fields - and wheat - representing regeneration and renewal.
At each church we stopped at the war memorial for a short reflection on the occasion. At South Hanningfield we were able to participate in part of the outdoor ceremony conducted by the vicar. Here the "Last Post", and of course, the National Anthem, were both played.
What you will see here.
Note that I took some pictures on this page on the next day. Monday's fine weather allowed me to repeat the walk and fill in some photographic gaps. (These "gaps" arose because I did not wish to hold up our walk too much). I think that the few extra pictures serve to amplify the visual impressions we had, rather than detract from them!
Downham Church is strategically situated on a promontory, and with Downham Hall just below represents a local axis of mediaeval power - the spiritual power with the church and the temporal power with the local squire in the hall.
The church is dedicated to the dragon slayer, Saint Margaret of Antioch. The red brick tower is believed to be from the 15th century. We stopped to look at the War Memorial and to admire the view stretching as far as Kent.
First on our schedule is Downham Church.
The War Memorial is outside the churchyard, just by the lych-gate.
On the side of the monument which commemorates the fallen of WWII, THREE
members of one family - the Keddie family - are listed. I think they were connected with the "Keddies" Department Store in Southend High Street. Members of the armed forces came from all sections of society.
The next part of our walk involves a "down-and-up" until we reach Downham Village
and Crowsheath Woods beyond.
We crossed some fields to reach a part of Saint Peter's Way. This long-distance path goes all the way from Ongar to Saint Peter's Church (reputedly England's oldest church) at Bradwell on the Essex Coast. In West Hanningfield we stopped off for lunch at the "Three Compasses", which dates from the 15th century. After this we reached West Hanningfield's church and stopped to look at the War Memorial.
As we draw near to West Hanningfield we join an old road which used to go into the valley flooded by the waters of Hanningfield Reservoir when the reservoir was built in the 1950s.
You can just imagine pre-war Austin Sevens belonging to the local farmers or doctor trundling along this road. Indeed, you can still some of the original tarmac.
Nowadays, this road forms part of Saint Peter's Way, which skirts around the north of the village.
As we come into the village we have time to admire this fine Tudor house.
We take lunch at West Hanningfield's 15th century "Three Compasses" Inn.
After lunch, there's time for a group piccy in an autumnal setting.
Everyone is wide-eyed and alert apart from Adrian.
Adrian is suffering a pronounced bout of "enthralment by gadget", which, as was the case here, can typically last for a few hours. We are pleased to say that Adrian eventually recovered sufficiently to complete our walk! Unfortunately, he suffered another bout as we approached Wickford Station, but it appears that he managed to get back OK.
Autumn is all around us ...
... as we proceed to West Hanningfield Church.
The church porch is graced by this arrangement of poppies - representing the Flanders fields - and wheat - representing regeneration and renewal.
Here is South Hanningfield Church, as seen from the War Memorial.
The War Memorial.
On leaving West Hanningfield we ascend to the Reservoir and get this view of autumn tints. These trees are slightly protected from the wind, and so still retain a lot of their autumnal foliage.
The shadow cast by the reservoir's dam is evident.
We reached South Hanningfield before sundown and had the chance to appreciate the sun setting over Hanningfield Reservoir. We joined the open air remembrance celebration in the churchyard of the mediaeval church. This was a fitting conclusion to our Remembrance Day walk. We had a few more miles to go, but, being fit, we accomplished these without undue effort.
Like so many village churches, South Hanningfields's church is built on higher ground; it was therefore ideally placed to reflect the last rays of the setting sun, giving the effect of light within.
This lighting effect gets more pronounced as we climb up to the church itself.
We join the ceremony at the Village War Memorial. Here we are able to participate in part of the outdoor ceremony conducted by the vicar. The "Last Post", and of course, the National Anthem are both played. Out of respect for the privacy of the assembled parishioners, I wait until the congregation has returned to the church before taking this picture.
As you see, there was still sufficient light for the ceremony.
After the ceremony at South Hanningfield's church, Yandy aimed to get me into the picture. Thank you Yandy, although the lighting didn't quite play its part! Importantly, however you got the atmosphere, and we could entitle this picture "As the Sun goes down".
As we descended to Wickford, there was time to capture the very last remnants of the day.
Thank you to all who came and joined me on this walk. Thank you for your company. I hope you enjoyed the Essex landscape in this part of the county. I hope you enjoyed the exercise! Above all, I hope you enjoyed the theme of our walk, a theme which, I am sure, makes us all pause for thought.