With no foreign trips planned until 2016, I’ve decided to focus on exploring the county that’s been my home for over four decades: Essex. In the beautiful October sunshine, this week I headed to Paper Mill Lock, a tranquil spot yet an easy drive from the county town of Chelmsford. It’s times like these that I’m glad to live in the driest part of the UK. In this sheltered spot, I had an al-fresco sandwich filled with thick butcher’s sausages and tangy onion chutney while watching a pair of ducks glide up and down alongside the boats.
The Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation dates from the 1790s, linking Chelmsford to the coast near Maldon. In the early days, its cargo was mostly coal, bricks and timber heading inland; these days it’s a leisure and pleasure canal. The lock’s one of twelve; it takes its name from the paper mill that stood next to another grinding corn as far back as 1792. It’s possible to walk the length of the canal. At the coast, you’ll end up at Heybridge Basin where you’ll find a couple of decent pubs including the dog-friendly Jolly Sailor.