16th July 2019
A warm July evening with a light breeze is made for a pint at the Old Ship overlooking the great expanse of water and mud that is the Blackwater Estuary. The pub sits at the of a pretty terrace of small fishermen’s houses and overlooks the sea lock that, at low tide, maintains the water levels in the Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation (canal). The old waterway was the main transport route for goods between Chelmsford and the rest of the world. The canal carried the raw materials to build the Eastern Counties between London and Colchester but the railway once built then put the waterway steadily out of business.
There are yachts, houseboats and other craft of all sizes on and next to the calm waters of the canal and many more sitting out the tide in neat lines across the great mudflats.
The wintering birds are few but there is small flock of black-tailed godwits, elegant in their warm summer plumage and a few curlews on the mud. A stuttering whistle of a distant whimbrel is a portent of the approaching autumn.
Three immature, black-headed gulls crowd a parent, mewing and waiting for it to disgorge a meal of something slimy, probably fresh sprats caught out to sea.
Along the canal, house sparrow forage along the footpath; at this time of year they leave the built environment for hedges and grassy verges where they can sit quietly and mill the abundant seeds in their stout bill.
As the sun sets, the breeze evaporates and the boats are lit by the brilliant sunset of blues and oranges. Shortly afterwards, there is a partial eclipse of the full moon, 50 years to the day when Apollo 11 took off from its launch pad at Cape Kennedy in Florida.