On Saturday the weather was beautiful - mid twenties and a gentle breeze - so I packed the camera and caught a coach to the coast. Having been born on an island, if I don't see the sea for a while, I miss it.
The nearest open water to Chelmsford is Southend-on-Sea. I'd been warned I might find it tacky, but I was up for something new, a contrast perhaps to the wild Irish coastline.
The coach trip took me through the low, rolling hills of Essex, past golden fields separated by the deep green of hedges. Coaches are an excellent way to travel, I've decided. Apart from the obvious benefit of not having to drive, the viewpoint is considerably higher than that from a car. The seats were comfortable, and I was lucky enough to get a window seat both coming and going.
Southend-on-Sea has a relatively modern history for this part of the world. Originally a fishing village on the Thames Estuary, it developed as a place for Londoners to visit with the advent of the railways in the early nineteenth century. This made it very familiar to me, as many of the buildings were built around the same time as those in Hobart, my home town. Jane Austen wrote about it in "Emma" as a place to visit, and it is still possible to imagine finely dressed ladies and gentlemen strolling the esplanades at the western end of the town.
The pier is the longest pleasure pier in the world. I couldn't help but wonder, why? Why build something out into the sea for people to walk along, but not actually go anywhere? These days a train will take you out to the cafe at the end of it, but I chose to stay on the shore.
There are seven miles of beaches, the water is shallow and probably warm in the summer months (I didn't get my feet wet either). I watched two small girls, perhaps four and six years old, cautiously approach the water with their father's encouragement. They stood in it, up to their ankles, and clearly had no idea what to do next. He got them to walk around a bit. It didn't take them long to get used to the idea - soon they were chasing each other and having a wonderful time. I caught sight of them a while later, and the smiles on their faces were a joy to see.
What is it about the open water?
The last time I want to a beach - not just the coast - and sat on it, and watched people was in Perth, Western Australia. I couldn't have found a greater contrast. Here I had calm estuary water instead of the wild surf of the Indian Ocean. The people were the same though. Parents and children. Young people dressed to attract the opposite sex. Grandparents taking grandkids out for a day's treat.
People are, I'm convinced, the same everywhere.
Blog posts may be a little further apart for a while. I have to find full time work to support my travel habit, although I still plan to take day and weekend trips as often as I can. The reason I've chosen London is there are so many things to do and see here, many of them cheap or free.
Watch this space!