Richard White

explorations in place and time

River Crouch Festival Walk Day 7: North Fambridge to South Woodham Ferrers

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Yellow moon at night and sunrise blasting me awake through the trees. Standing around in the car park with the ducks and delivery men and no sign of breakfast. In the end we set off for the station on instant coffee and a cheese roll. Last day of proper walking.


The meet at the station was not well attended. With no continuing walkers apart from Mike, Ali and me, the outward momentum has been hard to maintain, today the energy seemed to ebb away. No breakfast perhaps the cause. Walking out on the recce’d route where once there were warnings of deep mud we were on hard baked land  and when finally we crossed the railway line onto the salt marsh flats it was like a cowboy film. Or maybe Australia. High on the cropped grass flood defence banks a cool breeze was blowing. Low at the waters edge, in the mud the bright green sparks of samphire poked up. Hundreds of brown butterflies were clustering on the purple thistle flowers. I remembered the thoughts at the beginning of all this, imagining the social media engagement like the butterflies in the Rushdie book following the village that went on pilgrimage. I photographed and tweeted. We flew on with the river wind to South Woodham Ferrers. Our rendezvous perfect, only 2 minutes late thanks to the secret short cut.


At the school an exemplary no-nonsense class room teacher was fully briefed on the details and trusting in the positive energy generated by Laura, Damien and the children. Damien reminded us all that artists try to do impossible things but here everyone was walking on water. We looked again at the water supply map, flew the flags, and unfurled the final community flag. Off to the river along the toy town South Woodham Ferrers streets quite literally walking on water. We stopped like pilgrims to examine the signs and continued back to the flood defences with children flying the flags. The teacher leading at a brisk pace. The children purposeful: walking well and identifying their work on silks they were flying. For them it was a long walk in the heat to the quay to look across the short stretch of water separating them from Hullbridge. Finallywe gathered in the shade of the trees at the park.

walking on water

Tropical: strangely seeking out the shade instead of the sun.

As the energy returned and the boys started to lark we were called to order, to our stories: the walk, connecting across the river, pilgrimages, The Boxes, the whole thing. A small gentle and respectful sharing. The children read their poems in pairs, the sound of their voices surfacing without sequence in the gathering. As powerful and moving as their counterparts across the river. Their words now coded and the phrases randomised into the as yet unnamed Boxes. Laura presented Box to the class teacher hoping that at some point they will exchange it with the one on the Hullbridge side.

SWF Box presentation2

Back to the quay for an afternoon of treats and mysteries. Essex Radio Ham was set up connecting to the world, Dorothy in Basildon was the safe bet. She talked with artists and school children as the others held a line of all 8 flags fluttering in the wind off the river. At last the children set off back to school and we were left exploring the connections by amateur radio, Laura connected with George on a boat on Lake Balaton in Hungary using the flags as aerials to much excitement. On the quay side the tide was rising, the swans each with a local name navigated to the food. Chatting with passing visitors and amateur radio enthusiasts, we heard stories of birds, a goose raised as a swan, sheep scams at the country park, radio waves and why the flag poles were perfect aerials.

8 flags and Laura

Finally farewells and a walk into town. Local cafes closing, Costa open. I started to think about evaluation and our final day tomorrow. No walkers showed for the evening walk. A last lost walk.


Author: rswpost

Exploring connections between landscape, place and people. on foot and online. Working collaboratively and harnessing the participatory potential of social media.

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