Mooching Around Maldon, Essex

IMG_7266

Maldon is a smallish town (population roughly 14,000 people) with a lot of history and fun current shops and restaurants. Plus they have world famous salt! UK Sarah and I spent a few hours mooching around Maldon one March day. It isn’t far from where Sarah lives and one of the most charming towns in Essex. It is situated on the Eastern coastline with marsh flats and tidal fluctuations that strand boats in the River Blackwater for hours at a time. On my last visit we had explored the Promenade Park.

This visit was more practical with a stop at Tesco for dinner ingredients and then a leisurely stroll in downtown with a bit of shopping (for salt) and lunch at Mrs. Salisbury’s Famous Tea Rooms.

Apparently you can buy the Maldon salt at Tesco, but I didn’t think to look for it there. I was able to find it at the Marks&Spencer mini mart. It is the same box you can buy at your grocer. Perhaps like me you’ve been watching Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat on Netflix or read the book and it peaked your interest in Maldon salt. Here are a few excerpts from Samin Nosrat’s book: Sea salt is what’s left behind when seawater evaporates. Natural sea salts such as… Maldon are the less-refined result of gradual, monitored evaporation that can take up to five years… Maldon salt crystals… take on a hollow pyramid shape, and are often referred to as flaky salt. (p25) I recommend buying Nosrat’s book if you’d like to know how to use Maldon salt and at what quantities. Very helpful.

I’ve also been watching Great British Bake Off and purchased a cookbook by Mary Berry when I was in London. I wanted to sample a Victoria Sponge or Victoria Sandwich to see what I’ve been missing. Mrs. Salisbury’s Victoria Sandwich was quite tasty although very sweet. I enjoyed the Victoria Sandwich at The Loft in Tollesbury more. And on Sunday’s the Loft plays vinyl records and creates a laid back vibe perfect for a Sunday afternoon.

I love the go-go of London and Harry Potter world, but there is a lot to be said for relaxing at the English seaside and experiencing a bit of modern English culture.

Maldon Promenade Park Offers Fun for All Ages

I can’t believe I was able to walk over 10,000 steps without even thinking about it. The Promenade Park at Maldon makes it easy to do. This is also a good activity for people of all ages.

 

We stayed along the river and followed the walkway out to the North Sea. It begins with the Blackwater Barges. There is an active sailing club that maintains these ships and works to restore them. They were sponsoring a “barge match and smack race” on Saturday. (We saw them from a distance!)

 

It is also the home of the Maldon Salt Company. As you look across the marshes and see the tidal influence you can imagine how salt is harvested.

IMG_1615
Byrhtnoth the Earldorman: there is a lot of history in Essex including Viking and Roman

I really enjoyed our time walking along the Quay and the river. Essex offers a gently refreshing family holiday.

Curious about Chelmsford, Essex

IMG_1570One of the things that bonded UK Sarah and me, while we looked for the tomato paste in Eden Market, was her recent ordination in the Anglican church. She attended seminary in Chelmsford and so she wanted to show me the city she knows so well.

IMG_1574
I loved the inside of the Cathedral. Lots of terrific art.

Chelmsford is becoming the shopping center for Essex with fashionable shops and a brand new John Lewis department store. We did dip in and out of a few shops and do our part for the local economy.

Places in Essex are not too far apart that you could easily visit Chelmsford and Muldon in a day. Or Colchester and Mersea Island. Currently it may not be a tourism center but it would not unfair to call it flat and dull. Slow down and you’ll begin to see the special attributes of the east coast, the saltings and tidal march, and smaller towns and villages.

Discovering Where Our Jam Comes From

If you travel much, then you’ve probably had jam from Tiptree in Essex. It’s a short drive from Tollesbury, so we planned to visit the Wilkin & Sons Ltd. jam factory. It is surrounded by the Tiptree strawberry farms and there is a small museum that chronicles the illustrious history of their preserves, including visits and honors from the Queen of England.

IMG_1901

We stopped at lunchtime and enjoyed toasted cheese sandwiches, which is something of a tradition for UK Sarah and me. I saved room for dessert. I thought the custard on my apple pie would be more like ice cream, surprised but still pleased it was delicious.

IMG_1531

Jokes about English food are out of date. They even have good coffee now. There are still some mysteries that I will never understand…

IMG_1534
like the number of mushy peas available.

Friend Time in Tollesbury

My friend UK Sarah lives in Tollesbury and descriptions of life in her Essex village were too lovely to visit England without experiencing the essence of Essex. We stayed at her home in Tollesbury and made day trips. Our days were ordered though by drinks or dinner with friends, walks in the village and to the sea, and time for reading. No point in being in Tollesbury if you don’t actually spend time in Tollesbury.

I understand why she and Roy were glad to move back. While their boat Ocean Dancer is home for the next few months. This is where they will weigh anchor at the end of their adventure.

 

 

Exploring Winchester’s Great Hall

IMG_1516

The Great Hall, built in 1235 by Henry III, is the last remaining building from the great Winchester Castle. After his coronation at Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day 1066, William the Conqueror began building the castle. Henry III had a love of architecture and commissioned Elias of Dereham to oversee building of the Hall. Dereham also oversaw the construction of Salisbury Cathedral and is the only commoner to be honored in the stained glass windows.

The Great Hall has been used for many functions: court trials, weddings, and a “round table.” Tournament is Edward I time were called “round tables” where courtiers dressed up from Arthurian legend and participated in jousting and feasting.

IMG_1497 (2)
On our way to the Great Hall we stopped at Eat, Drink and Be for coffee and breakfast. Yum.

“Edward I believed strongly in the myth of King Arthur. He attended many round table feasts. Edward had the table build within the Great Hall, which may have been for a round table tournament in 1290 to celebrate the arranged marriages of his children.” (The Great Hall Where History and Legend Meet, Hampshire County Council)

Henry VIII first visited Winchester as King in 1516, whereupon he ordered the repair of the Great Hall at Winchester and the Round Table. This is when it was first painted in the design you see on display today.

Winchester Castle was largely destroyed by that spoilsport Oliver Cromwell after 1645. Only the Great Hall remains and it is now the responsibility of the County of Hampshire.

The Great Hall makes the most of its sketchy connection to King Arthur. I’ve seen Excalibur and read a bit about it, but I admit my knowledge has some big blanks, so I was excited to read Rosie Schaap’s New York Times travel article, “King Arthur Slept Here (Maybe).” She asserts that the places to visit if you are interested in an Arthurian pilgrimage are Glastonbury, Tintagel, Totnes and Padstow. Her article then goes on to describe the kind of new age and coven-catering shops you can find almost anywhere in California. None of her experiences relate to King Arthur. Perhaps Avalon is best left to the imagination.

IMG_1514