Yes, Hastings Battleaxe has been to Maldon before – in October 2020. Had a good time back then, but things were still very Covidy. Here is the post about it. We had vowed to go again in the hope of having a trip on one of the wonderful old Thames Sailing Barges. Well, the trips had started up again, so I booked us up and off we went!
As last time, we stayed at the absolutely wonderful 32 The Hythe B & B. I raved on back then about how fantastic it was, and can only rave on again. We had the same room, with three windows overlooking the Thames Barges, the estuary and the old churchyard, with a great big telescope to view the surrounding scene. The rooms are equipped with everything a person could wish for – a fridge with cold drinks, every imaginable sort of tea, umpteen sorts of biscuits, sweeties, nuts…oh wow. The crowning glory is breakfast. It is my favourite meal of the day anyway, and I swear Battleaxe could have sat there pigging out all day… the range of fresh fruit, yoghurt, cereals, Maldon honey, fabulous cooked food, toast from home made bread, fresh warm croissants… Battleaxe could not recommend more highly. Philosopher says I should write a hotel/travel guide to all the great places I have found for us over the years – should I?
When we arrived we had a walk along what they call the Promenade Park, which runs up the side of the estuary with all sorts of attractions for kids – we actually visited the Petting Zoo! Saw lots of birds poking about in the mud including egrets and this – a snipe. We erroneously thought it was a curlew, but its beak is straight, not curved.
In the evening we had our supper in the pub just a couple of doors up from the B & B – The Jolly Sailor/Fish on The Quay. I had some excellent mussels…
Next morning was our barge cruise. Very handy, because we only had to walk across the road to where our vessel, the ‘Hydrogen’ was moored up. Here’s the link to the company who runs the cruises, should you wish to go – Battleaxe would recommend!
We had chosen a morning cruise, down the estuary, round Northey Island and Osea Island. The boat seemed quite full, but she was very large – in fact the largest remaining barge (there are only 20), so once we got under way the people all spread out easily. We had coffee and very good fresh-baked brownies.
We spent most of the time in the stern of the barge, chatting to the skipper and his mate. We had hoped they would put all the sails up, but typical – there was no wind! In addition, we were told that on trips like that they don’t hoist all the sails, because it is not safe. On a barge, the main sail is attached to something call ed a ‘spreet’ – in effect a moveable boom which is raised to enable cargo to be loaded and then lowered to just above the deck to hold the sail. Obviously, they couldn’t do that with a deck full of people… However, they hauled up the top sail and one other… which largely hung limp. We saw several small sailing boats wafting past with sails aloft and felt a bit jizzed – but unladen, the Hydrogen weighs about 80 tons – a bit different from a little plastic dinghy… Turns out the huge vessel was originally crewed by only two men… She was built in Rochester in 1906, and could carry 220 tons of cargo. The barges are flat-bottomed, with a draught of only 3 feet. In the morning we had looked out of our bedroom window at the river – and there was only a thin strip of water and acres of mud. By 10am, when we left, there was enough to float the barge. Anyway, we had a very interesting morning – lots of lovely photo opportunities. The weather was just right – not too hot, and, thank goodness, dry.
In the afternoon we had a thorough inspection of the Maldon shops followed by a very late lunch at the other pub on the Hythe Quay, The Queens Head, which has an excellent river-side garden. We were joined at our table by these starlings. What pretty birds they are close up.
Evening meal at the very Essexy Turkish restaurant we went to last time – Sark. Very good food again, and a nice airy table by the window. Portions were huge… walked it off with a sunset stagger along the estuary. So beautiful.
So, all together, a lovely trip. The weather was great, and it all felt very relaxing.