21st September 2016
Maldon to Colchester isn't very far. It can be done on one bus in just over an hour and in fact I did just that yesterday and again, in the other direction, this morning as I based myself in Colchester for the remainder of this section of the project. It was the shortage of accommodation in Maldon that initially prompted me to do this, but I then realised that it would have the advantage that I wouldn't be encumbered by luggage for two days at the small cost of one extra journey at each end of the day.
|Burnham on Crouch|
My route between the two towns had to be via the Dengie Peninsula, back to Maldon and then along the coast to Tollesbury beforen heading inland. First bus of the day from Maldon was to Burnham-on-Crouch, a quiet and somewhat upmarket small riverside yachting centre that I had briefly considered as an alternative stopping point to Maldon until I found out the price of a room there!
It has to be said that Essex gets nicer the further away from the Thames Estuary you get, and the run between Burnham and Bradwell-on-Sea was a delight - as is the village of Bradwell - as long as you can ignore the nuclear power station on the outskirts. (If nuclear power is so safe, why are nuclear power stations always sited in remote areas?)
One option for spending the hour that I had to wait in the village disappeared as soon as I got off the bus and saw the village pub covered in scaffolding and "closed for refurbishment until March 2017". I would have thought they could have knocked it down and built another in that time!
|Thames barges in Maldon|
None of the bus stops in Bradwell are marked in any way and you have to guess where the bus will stop. Apps such as Traveline and Google Maps are unhelpful - in fact downright misleading (or just plain "wrong") due to incorrect data having been input and I was glad that I trusted my instinct instead, otherwise I would have had to spend the rest of the afternoon there rather than getting the bus back to Maldon. Not everything on the internet is true!
On this, my third, visit to Maldon I at last had time to look around the town and to wander down to the quay, where I knew a number of Thames sailing barges were to be found. I was in luck as the tide being right, several of them were setting sail and taking passengers for a river trip.
Unfortunately I didn't have time to join them as I had to return to the town centre for the bus on to Tollesbury. I'd seen from the timetable that the 95A actually started at a school before calling at the town centre and I was a bit concerned that it would be a) full of schoolchildren and b) the advertised town centre pick up was a token gesture that might not be observed.
|The Volvo Olympian at Tollesbury|
I needn't have worried. There were two other passengers waiting for the bus and, although full, the children were well-behaved and one even gave up her seat for me. (I was grateful, but it doesn't half make you feel old!). Best part of the journey however was the bus itself, Since the start of the century all new buses have had to be wheelchair-accessible, which had brought huge changes to bus design. Modern buses also have smaller and more highly-stressed engines so sound as well as look different to those of the past. My 95A was one of the last remaining step-entrance ("inaccessible?") buses in service (they will all be banned from bus service work by the end of the year). Having been delayed by traffic in the town (most of it coming from the same school as the bus) our driver made full use of his large Volvo engine as we hurtled along the winding road to Tollesbury. I can't say that I felt unsafe, but I'm not sure I would have dared to drive a full bus that fast and we were only half as late on arrival than we had been leaving Maldon. This may have been my last ever service ride on a traditional step-entrance bus and if so, it will be one to remember.
With another hour to spare here I walked the short distance down to the sea. When I was last here, six years ago on a cycling trip, there was a very high tide and some of the roads had been flooded, so I was surprised to see the same situation applied today! In 2010 some people had left their cars in a car park, despite a number of warnings, and had returned to find them surrounded by the sea, whilst the main access road from the village was under water. It was under water again today, although everyone seemed to have heeded the warnings as far as cars were concerned.
I spent so long looking around the harbour that I had to rush back up to the village square to get the bus to Colchester. A forty-minute ride on which I was the only passenger.
|Flooding in Tollesbury|
|Parking restrictions for boats?|
|It may look like a river, but its actually a road!|