Amanda & Mark Dean kindly organised an Essex Extravaganza which was Merlinless! Yes – the first fully fledged Merlin event at which not a single Merlin attended ).
The weather forecast was not very promising so those who had decided to make this trip left their Merlins at home in the warm.
Dave & Sandy (still recovering from their honeymoon), Andy & I, David & Linda, Dave & Roma, Dave & Daphne, Barry & Anita and of course Amanda, Mark and Nadia all gathered together at the Rayleigh Holiday Inn Express ready for the weekend. (What a lot of Davids)
The first venue was a boat trip up the estuary on the M V Viking. We had to be there for 10.30am to catch the tide.
All boarded the boat and we set off down the river with a gentle breeze blowing across the bows. Ten minutes later we were returning to the mooring place as the captain had forgotten another group of tourists oops!!
We set off again up the estuary, definitely getting our moneys worth, for a short trip up and down the river. There were quite a few sailing dinghies bobbing around and the older Thames barges with their tall masts and sails, which were used for ferrying goods around the area in the past. Some are now used as pleasure craft but they give the scene a somewhat timeless quality, you can just imagine the crew in the past sailing the boats in great flotillas.
The captain pointed out various landmarks, the lone house on an island and the power station in the distance. At the narrow end of the estuary is a salt refining plant, which provides salt for many famous establishments such as those of Jamie Oliver and Delia Smith. ( This information should not be interpreted as either an endorsement or as criticism of the governments present anti salt campaign ).
We returned to the quayside a little cold and windswept and made our way to Tiptree where we were looking forward to the warmth of the museum at the Wilkins & Co jam factory and Teashop. We all enjoyed a delicious lunch or a sumptuous cream tea before making our way to the museum and shop. A few jars of the more unusual jams were purchased by all. Just in time for Christmas.
So onwards to Cressing Temple and the Essex Medieval Barns and craft fair.
The Sealed Knot group who were hosting the event were very convincing.
The costumes were excellent and the fair very well laid out, it was a shame it was a little cool though, however we all enjoyed browsing the stalls and buying the odd nic-nac. After more refreshments we drove back to our respective bases to prepare for our evening meal.
Dinner was taken at the Harvester in Rayleigh . This proved to be an excellent venue, the food was superb and once again we all had a great evening.
I have to diet before and after all these events, its jolly hard work all this eating and drinking. Amanda and Mark had kindly invited some of us to stay at their house so we eventually returned to finish of the evening with another night-cap.
Sunday morning saw us getting up to another super breakfast to set us up for the day.
We set off for Southend to visit the world’s longest pier ( and previously the source of Merlin kits – anyone seen a turnkey production car yet???? ). We made the decision to walk to the end of the pier where we were to be given a tour of the new R.N.L.I. lifeboat station.
Here we were shown around the two lifeboats and given a demonstration of the launching of a lifeboat. The lifeboat was then put through its paces. They even showed us how they rescued somebody who had gone overboard, thankfully they didn’t ask for a volunteer from our group, it was a bit cool to say the least.
As the R.N.L.I. depends on contributions we made a collection and presented it to the guide who thanked us. It was surprising to hear how many times the lifeboat was sent out to stranded bathers who do not heed the warnings, you can end up walking several miles when the tide is right out. They have even rescued the same people on more than one occasion.
We left the lifeboat station and boarded the little pier train back to the cars and made our way to Battlesbridge for a Pub lunch. At Battlesbridge that day was a Classic car show and Antiques centres.
After lunch the majority went to the Classic car show but Anita and I decided to browse all the antiques centres. Two hours later Andy found us still there and everybody else had left for home. Sorry we missed you all; we’ll see you all next year.
We returned to Amanda & Mark’s and after a buffet of cheeses and biscuits and the odd glass it was time for Barry & Anita to leave. We were staying until the next day so we settled down to a quiet evening with the Dean family.
Many thanks to Amanda, Mark & Nadia for a lovely weekend, and your wonderful hospitality.