When my friend told me we’d be spending the day on a barge near Maldon in Essex, I had visions of a genteel Rosie-and-Jim-style barge trip down a canal. I did wonder quite how we were not only going to fit 30 of us onto such a snug boat, but where on earth they’d serve us all afternoon tea.
Much to my friend’s amusement, my fellow city-dwellers and I had quite the shock when we discovered the barge in question was actually a fairly large wooden sailing boat (unbeknown to us otherwise known as a barge).
Maldon is a pretty, charming town full of picturesque fisherman’s cottages on the banks of the Blackwater River in Essex. It has a long and ancient history – it’s one of the oldest towns in the county – and its many old buildings are evidence of this. Indeed the Battle of Maldon in 991 witnessed a successful Viking invasion when Norse raiders recorded a victory against the local Anglo-Saxon inhabitants.
The barge, which was built at the turn of the 20th century, was a two-deck vessel with a large bar and sitting area below deck and a roomy upper deck with plenty of seating on which to relax and enjoy the beautiful sights of the estuary.
We set sail from Maldon at a gentle pace in the direction of Osea Island, a private island that has played host to the likes of Sienna Miller and Poppy Delevingne, where we anchored for a while before turning back towards Maldon. The Blackwater Estuary is beautiful and surrounded by windswept, wild scenery that wouldn’t be out of place in a Dickens novel. I couldn’t help but think of the Viking raiders and what an inviting prospect the Essex coast must have seemed to them.
The sailing trip was incredibly relaxing and such an enjoyable, peaceful way to spend a lazy, sunny summer’s afternoon. It was fun watching all the other people also enjoying all the estuary had to offer, including children canoeing with their fathers, fellow sailors, jet skiers racing across the water and dog walkers waving to us from the shore.
In fact, it was such a relaxing experience, my only regret is that I don’t do it more often.