Whenever we say we say to anyone that we are off to a house sit in Essex we can see the signs of stereotypical thinking about all things Essex. Busy commuter towns, TOWIE, nightmare driving on the A12, Lakeside Shopping Centre, Clacton and Southend-on-Sea and, probably most erroneous of all, the bronzed ladies in white stilettos dancing round a pile of handbags. Hopefully things have moved on but it is surprising how once a image or label is added to a place it sticks.
Jon has strong family roots to Essex. His family, on his father’s side, is from Billericay which like parts of my home county Kent has become more like a suburb of London. Maybe it is a sense of loyalty due to these family roots or maybe it is just because we have explored the county a little more than most people, but we really like Essex, especially once you get a little further east. Charming villages, traditional pubs and beautiful countryside. Perfect for our return visit to look after Ed, a German Pointer, who we looked after for the first time three years ago (This Housesitting LIfe in Aldeburgh and Reunion with an old Housesitting Friend).
We arrived the night before Simon and Mary were due to head off and had a refresher of all things Ed and house. After an airport run to Stansted for their long haul flight to South Africa, we were left to settle in, do some meal planning and get some shopping before taking Ed out for a lap around the local footpaths, fields and lanes.
The Four Colnes
The River Colne runs through the Colne Valley and the village names of Earls Colne, White Colne, Wakes Colne and Colne Engaine all cluster along this River and it makes for some good walking country. Last time we were here (Reunion with an old Housesitting Friend) we were lucky enough to coincide our visit with the CAMRA beer festival at the Chappel & Wakes Colne Railway Station, also home to the East Anglian Railway Museum.
The Chappel Viaduct
Just outside the station is the massive Chappel viaduct. Completed in 1849 it has an impressive 32 arches. A staggering 7 million bricks were used in it’s construction with the clay sourced from the nearby village of Bures. Not sure if it still holds the record but at one point it was the second largest brick structure in England. It towers 75 feet above the valley and still carries trains on the short branch line between Sudbury and Marks Tey.
Frost, Ice, Fog, Stars and Sunrises!
But no rain!! After what feels like about 3 months of rainy skies we are being treated to crisp mornings and stunning sunrises, something that somehow seem a rarity in the winter months nowadays. So while most people are scrapping their cars and filling up their thermos cups with tea and coffee for the commute, we are fortunate enough to be putting on the boots, hats, scarves and heading out across the countryside for our morning and afternoon walks with Ed. Then back to the cosy kitchen that is kept toasty by the trusty Aga.
The clear skies have given us some spectacular star filled skies and popping out to look to identify the different constellations usually ends up with us staying outside far too long searching for satellites and shooting stars.
Belated Birthday Lunch
Our youngest son, Ryan, had his 26th birthday earlier this week and Jon did manage to get down to Maidstone to see him. The bonus for me is that Ryan drove Jon back and stayed for lunch. It was a perfect day. Lots of chatter, a long walk, too much food for lunch plus birthday cake and he stayed quite late with the plan of avoiding the aforementioned A12 traffic (one of the stereotypes that is true) so we had loads of time. I think he is a little bit in love with Ed too so their was a lot of tummy tickles going on. We just had to make sure Ed didn’t get sneaked into his car and dog-napped across the county border to the wilds of Kent.
So its been a good start to our stay here and long may the dry, crisp weather continue. The waterproof trousers have not come out of the rucksack for at least 10 days!! Hooray!
13/01 – 21/01/2020