It dawned bright with blue skies across Essex today, as forecast, after some very grey, very wet and very windy days (and weeks!).
So exercise was the order of the day, and we popped into the car for a drive down to Hadleigh, with the idea of a walk through Hadleigh Country Park to Hadleigh Castle. Only 45 mins from central Colchester, as we set out from the car park at Hadleigh Country Park someone returning from a walk warned us it was very muddy. Ha! Armed with out stout walking boots we were ready for anything! About half a mile later we turned back..
The rainfall had turned the paths and fields into a quagmire, with only wellington boots capable of dealing with the deep, sucking mud. After having to heave one foot out of some deep mud, and disentangle the spaniel from a nasty bramble branch, we went for Plan B.
Plan B meant going back to the car park, passing the Iron Age Roundhouse, and found a footpath to the castle (past the Hadleigh Mountain Biking track). That was mostly dry, and took us to Hadleigh Farm, run by the Salvation Army, which has been there for over 120 years (and covered memorably by Jonathan Meades ‘Joy of Essex’ on BBC in January 2013). Well, they serve a nice cup of tea and cake, and there were plenty of diners there for lunch.
The castle is an English Heritage property, but is free to enter. It’s on a great location overlooking the estuary – as you would expect, as it was built to defend it! Built around 1215, it was fortified by Edward III during the Hundred Year War, although it was built on geologically unsound clay. In 1500 it was sold to one Lord Richard Rich (formerly Baron Rich) who demolished it and sold it off for building materials. (With a name like that he wasn’t going to renovate it!)
It’s a great location for a castle, with views over the estuary to Kent, down to Grays, and up to Southend – and you can see just how far the Southend Pier goes into the estuary! There were plenty of people there, and a chance to get some nice photographs.
Read more aboust castles and historic buildings in Essex here.