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CHICCHANTAL
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Long, hot summer

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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Saturday I decided to go for a little walk. I can't really call this one a hike, because it was a nice flat path all the way with only one tiny hill. I started just north of Harlow, in Essex, at Harlow Mill. I pick this because I can see from the map that the path is only about half a kilometre north of the station and it is by the river Stort so even I should be able to find it without difficulty.

And so it proves. Nip over the bridge and down on to the path by the river.

Apologies to anyone who was hoping I would get lost. I don't get lost any more. Usually.



For the next five and a half hours, I have variations on this view for company. If you're not green with envy by now, clearly rivers aren't your thing.

I love rivers.



This walk is going to prove largely uneventful. The scenery is quite dramatic enough for me, thank you. It's high summer and this is a flat watery area. We've had a drought that has just broken, so the path is dry but there is water in the river which is in any case a 'navigation' - it's got locks on so that narrowboats (barges) can use it. Either side of the river are plants, with water meadows, natures reserves, all the twiddly bits and pieces.





There are flowers everywhere, and the flowers are, I'm pleased to say, full of bees. I spend a considerable amount of time trying to get photos of the bees but they are so bizzy or buzzzzy it's a pretty tough gig. I'm sure you know that there's a bee crisis going on at the moment: we've losing a lot of bees, due to pesticides and given how much we rely on bees for pollinating our food plants, this is not good news.

Anyway, this honeybee was doing fine.



I'll be quite honest, I'm a total wuss over insects. They terrify me, but I do appreciate how important they are. Part of nature's rich tapestry etc. So even when a dragon divebombs me and has a good look, I only squeak a little bit. In a ladylike manner.



This is Great Hairy Willow Herb overlooking the river Stort. It was full of bees, but I do notice that when bees become aware of you they politely drift away. So you can just look at the flowers and see if you can see a bee.



I keep on and pass Harlow and after a bit I'm starting to feel hungry and think it would be nice if I could find something to drink that isn't warm water out of a bottle. Views like this are lovely but you can't eat them:







I cross over the river by a bridge and come to a part of the walk that is not shady. It's a hot day, 28C and as I don't like suncream I'm turning a delicate shade of lobster, in my face at least. (I keep covered up so as to avoid burning).



All the way along there have been flowers and this is a fine example of a purple loosestrife which has been imported into the States and become a pest. In the UK it's just another wild flower that grows by rivers and ponds.



This, however, was imported from India and is a bit of a problem. It's buddhleia, and is called butterfly bush because they love it.



Bees also adore it. Also imported from Asia is this stuff, Himalayan balsam



which bees are fond of too.


Personally, I'm fond of cold cider which I finally obtain at a riverside pub at 1.30, two hours after I started walking.



By this time I reckon I've earned the pint that I down in about ten minutes flat. I've also earned a nice pub lunch, maybe a ploughman's (cheese salad) or even a steak and kidney pie. Unfortunately although the pub does food it's the kind you wouldn't give to your dog - burgers, hot dogs, 'melts' etc - although intriguingly people ARE feeding it to their small children.

Well, if they turn into Godzillas, don't say you had nothing to do with it is all I can say.

I keep walking and hoping there'll be another pub.





Eventually I reach Royden Lock where there is a lockkeeper's cottage selling amongst other things synthtic pink strawberry ice cream that is, in the circumstances, absolutely delicious. I have a debate with myself about walking into the village to find a pub, but instead push on to the next pub, the Fish and Eels, which is a couple of miles further along. On the way, I manage to get a photo of a peacock butterfly.







Here I get my second pint. 4pm and no lunch, and I have really earned that boiled egg I had for breakfast. I might even have earned the ice cream. I've definitely earned the pint which you can't see because I didn't put it down, not even to take the photo.

I scrutinise the map and walk the short route, which goes up a little slope and joins a path by the side of a narrow canal. I'm very pleased at managing to find my way up here without deviation because I've only walked this way once before and that was from the other direction, in winter. The path comes out right next to Broxbourne station and just as I get there it starts to rain. Jolly serendipitous.

That evening we have the mother of all thunderstorms, with rain in stair rods, so let's say I got the timing right!
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