A winter walk at Bourne End

When I mentioned my trip to Bourne end Fiona asked me: “Are you going to do a blog for each season?”

I said: “Maybe.”

I guess in a way I was telling the truth!

Last Monday I woke up to a layer of snow (possibly the most feeble layer of snow I have ever come across, but never mind) and I decided that a world all bathed *ahem* in white would be the perfect time to take my new Bridge camera out for a test run. So I thought to myself, where better to go in the snow to get some awesome pictures than Bourne End?

Some of you will remember my last trip to Bourne End, during autumn, where I walked along the bank of the Thames in possibly the only fog we had in 2012. This time I walked the length of Bourne End in the snow, once again with my friend Catherine.

When we got there we arrived to a flurry of snow flakes, and as I parked my car I regretted having not brought an umbrella. Not to keep me dry, but to keep my camera from getting too wet. To start our visit I dragged Catherine back up the way we had come to see what we could of Enid Blyton’s old home, Old Thatch.

The Old Lynch Gate into Old Thatch

The Old Lynch Gate into Old Thatch

Old Thatch through a gap in the hedge, under snow.

Old Thatch through a gap in the hedge, under snow.

The old Lych Gate was very picturesque with its thatch all covered in snow, and the evergreen hedge surrounding it. When we walked a little further up the lane, there once again was a gap in the hedge and we caught a glimpse of the lovely house and gardens under snow. The white snow covered thatch looked like something off of a Christmas card. I really wish that there had been a chance to look around the gardens, I am almost sure that they would have been thrilling whatever the weather. I do appreciate however, the choice not to open in the winter; I doubt it would be cost effective for one, and it’s lovely of Old Thatch’s owners to let people have a look around during the summer months. Still it would have been fabulous to wander around those charming gardens again. Anyway, after sneaking a look into the gardens at Old Thatch we ambled back along the road towards the river. The snow was practically raining down on us as we walked, and I was annoyed at myself that I had forgotten my umbrella – I was terribly afraid of my camera getting water damaged on the first day I took it out of the house. I must admit that I did take some very artsy shots with the camera, even trying to get a picture of a blue tit, but it came out blurry annoyingly enough.

The Train passing the level crossing as we drew closer.

The train passing the level crossing

Once we had passed the field and barn on the way to the river we were confronted with the railway track once more. We were lucky however as the train had just gone whizzing past us, but we still followed the advice of the sign: STOP, LOOK, LISTEN before we hurried across the tracks. It was a shame that we couldn’t really stop because with the verges covered in snow it would have made a very good picture.

On the other side of the train tracks the River Thames flowed on by, a steely grey, almost eerie as it felt very different to the busy river of the summer and autumn that I have gotten used to seeing. As we stood taking in the scene before us, the hills on the other side of the river shrouded in mist from the snow clouds,  no ducks quacking away in the water, my eye was drawn to the sight of a beautiful little red breasted robin bobbing up and down from the docking point in front of us. He stood out beautifully from the white and green boat.

The charming little robin who kindly stood for a picture.

The charming little robin who kindly stood for a picture.

We also encountered a flock of geese on the other side of the gate. We were going to head upstream, over the fields but decided that the geese looked a little irritable and I wasn’t sure that I could slip past them quickly enough without being mobbed for some bread.

So we headed up the little pathway that always makes me feel like we’re heading into a different world, a secret one even with the fences on each side and the trees overhead. The snow had eased off a little at this point, so out came the camera again for some more artsy snaps. I shan’t bore you with them because they are mostly of foliage.

We wandered up to the boat club, chatting idly, as I stopped periodically to capture the scene in front of my eyes. The briskness of the day reminded me of Blyton’s wintry novels, and I wondered how much had changed from her time. Had she seen the same scenes I was seeing? It is easy to guess and speculate about how much she was inspired by her surroundings.

Silent boats... Perfect for a bit of mystery if you're lucky!

Silent boats… Perfect for a bit of mystery if you’re lucky! Can anyone name a Blyton mystery with a boat as a key part of the plot?

The other thing I picked up from this visit to Bourne End was how quiet it actually was. There were few boats on the river and hardly anyone out, we didn’t even meet that many dog walkers. I did mention to Catherine that there is something about snow that makes a place quiet. I fancied at times that I could hear the hiss of the snow as it hit the ground and the creak as new flakes settled on top of fallen snow. In my mind’s eye I could see some of Blyton’s characters trotting along the banks, wrapped up warm against the cold, chasing clues and wondering where they were going to get their next hot drink from.

Walking steadily to escape the worst of the cold, we reached the marina. The boats stood cold and desolate on the river, no one bustling around them this time. There were a few men working here and there but none of the usual activity that I’ve seen before down there. Everyone must have been curled up inside or at work, warm.

The marina felt spooky as we passed by it, what with the absence of people and the claustrophic sky that bathed everything in lightest grey. After pausing to check the price of one of the boats on sale, we walked on, through another covered footpath, that was muddy underfoot, which led us to the bridge.

The view across the bridge.

The view across the bridge.

We had to be careful climbing the steps as they were slippy; not so much because of the snow, but because they were wet. We couldn’t even hold on to the hand rail because that was horribly cold, and our gloves would have gotten soaked. Still we made it up on to the bridge in one piece and the world was white as far as the eye could see. There was a certainly an oppressive feel to the weather now.

The view from the bridge is certainly spectacular in any type of weather, and even last time in the fog you got some beautiful views and colours, but in the snow, it was certainly more of a monochrome view. There were less colours, with it being the middle of winter and all, and the low lying cloud made the world greyer than the fog had done in autumn. You could see the silhouettes of the trees for a good stretch of the river, but on a clear day you can see even further up stream. You can’t really get a good view of downstream from the bridge because of the railway bridge being in the way.

View from the Bridge

View from the bridge

As we crossed the bridge you couldn’t see the hills that usually are a green relief to the otherwise flat landscape that surrounds this walk (I promise that next time I shall try and walk a different way to give you some variety! I know it can be very boring reading about the same route over and over).

The last part of our walk was across the National Trust field called Cockmarsh (*ahem*), where the mud was sticky underfoot and every footfall could have meant going head first into the mud. That field is usually full of cows and dog walkers but this time it was blissfully void of both. I assume the cows had been herded into a barn or a different field. We walked sedately along the footpath enjoying the silence and the way the trees stood in a line along the path.

Our tree lined route.

Our tree lined route.

In fact at one point I was looking at the trees and noticed something I had never seen in the wild close up before. In one of the trees was a bunch of mistletoe. It didn’t have any berries on it, but there it sat in a big clump just above my head. I must admit not having seen it so closely before which meant that I stood there like a loony for a few moments just looking at it, taking in the shape of the leaves and the way it sat. I did wonder how mistletoe comes to grow on the trees it settles on. Which reminds me, I must check it out in one of my father’s gardening books tomorrow!

After I had gazed at the mistletoe long enough we realised how heavy the snow fall was becoming and decided that it was probably best to head back home, in case the roads became impassable and we got stuck in Bourne End. Not that it would have mattered too much, but we had no dry clothes to change into or anything to really keep us warm. So we turned back and headed back the way we had come rather swiftly. When we left the snow was still falling thickly but as we warmed up in the car we decided that it had been a good walk even though we were cold through from the snow.

The amazing (for me) mistletoe!

The amazing (to me) mistletoe!

I do think that whatever time you manage to go to Bourne End there is such a magical quality to the place that you just can’t escape. This time, more than the others I could see Blyton’s characters wandering up and down the lanes with us, finding clues and solving mysteries. It was also lovely to see the place bathed in white, with a different atmosphere to the usual technicolour scene that greets visitors. I hope this blog has been interesting for you, and I can certainly recommend seeing Bourne End at different times of the year if you can. I think it gives you a better idea of why its such an inspirational place and meant so much to Blyton.

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1 Response to A winter walk at Bourne End

  1. Gerry Francis Kelly says:

    What an atmospheric walk and description – I felt I was there shivering with you! I really must go there sometime but in the summertime when the gardens are open. I loved your descriptions and observations of nature – they make things so real for me.
    Well done, Stef


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