The Chapel of St Peter-on-the-Wall in the sunshine
Earlier this year we featured a guest blog from Hannah Salisbury about a winter walk to The Chapel of St Peter on the Wall, and we finally made it there ourselves – and in some glorious weather (scroll down for pictures).
In one of the remoter parts of Essex, Bradwell on Sea is only half an hour’s drive at most from Maldon. For our trip, we stopped in Maldon for our lunch and a short walk around the town. We had our lunch at the Maldon Delicatessen – the food was lovely and fresh.
You can drive up the East End Road in Bradwell and get to their car park which is only about 850m from the chapel. However, we decided to park by St Thomas Church, to have a look in the church, and to walk the couple of miles to the Chapel to take it the countryside. And to pop into The Cricketers pub en route for some refreshment. Have a look at our article on Essex Real Ale about our visit.
It has been on our “to-do” list to visit the chapel for many years, but we’d never managed to get organised enough to make it. So to finally visit on such a sunny June day was a real treat.
East End Road follows the route of the Roman Road which led to the Fort of Othona on which the foundations of the chapel were built, which is where it derives its name St. Peter’s-at-the-Walls. The walk from the village did feel like quite a long way, we felt like a bit like those early pilgrims visiting the chapel back in the 6th century, and we do a lot of walking. So be warned if you can’t walk far – drive to the car park.
The walk is beautiful, with views to your left to the River Blackwater and across to Mersea Island and open countryside all around you. You pass Bradwell Nuclear Power Station just across the fields on one side, and on the other side of the road is a wind farm. Both on the way to a chapel built in the 6th century, on the remains of a Roman Fort. I found this meeting of the old and the new, in an area that is heavily farmed fascinating, making me think about how man has been leaving his mark on this corner of Essex for nearly 2,000 years.
The chapel stands alone overlooking the backwaters of the river. It was built as a place of worship by St. Cedd when he travelled down from Lindisfarne in 653AD. This makes it the 22nd oldest building in the UK (according to Wikipedia that is.) The chapel is still an active place of worship, and certainly lends itself to contemplation and peace. Although I knew that regular church services are still held there, I didn’t expect to be able to go in – but the door was open and visitors were welcome. Inside the chapel is very simple. There is an alter and chairs, the walls are bare stone and Roman brickwork, with a muted still light. The stillness when we visited was very welcome, as it was quite a windy day on the headland!
From the chapel you can walk along a path which has been mown into the field down towards the river. Here you come to the famous Essex salt marshes, which you can’t walk on at this point because they are a protected area. There is a path along the wall which you can follow, but for us it was time to leave the chapel and retrace our footsteps back to the car. We’d stopped at the Cricketers on the way to the chapel for a drink and had to go in again on the way back – it was a hot day and it was quite a long walk! Maybe the pub has been welcoming pilgrims to the chapel for hundreds of years.
The chapel holds regular services and events throughout the year. You can find out more about the history of the chapel and its role today here.
When I told people that we had visited many said “It’s lovely – but I haven’t been for many years”. if like us you had never been, or it’s a long time since your visit, do take the time to go. It’s an over-used phrase, but St. Peter’s Chapel is a truly unique place.
St. Thomas Church.
The Chapel of St Peter on the Wall.