Here be serpents … a coastal Essex that time forgot

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The fleshy leaves of oversea purslane brushwood our ankles arsenic we walk a weatherboard cottage and locomotion the path, done the saltings, to the jetty astatine Alresford Creek, a waterside hamlet tucked distant connected the borderline of the Essex seashore adjacent Colchester. An oystercatcher guards the entranceway to the broken-down pier, its timbers dilatory melting into the mudflats. On the acold bank, a lapwing is tumbling supra the marshes and a nightingale sings successful the scrub. Even connected this bright, outpouring day, it is casual to spot wherefore Alresford Creek was chosen for the filming of The Essex Serpent, a caller Apple TV bid starring Tom Hiddleston and Claire Danes, based connected Sarah Perry’s bestselling book. This spot feels remote, chopped disconnected from the extracurricular world. In 1893, erstwhile the communicative is set, tales of serpents winding their mode done the breached vessel timbers and sucking teenagers into the ooze indispensable person felt much existent to villagers than quality of technological discoveries from distant cities.

Essex map

Later that day, my mum and I acceptable retired from Hythe Quay successful Maldon to research the scenery aboard the Thistle, a Thames barge built successful the 1890s. The quayside is simply a wood of masts, towering supra the galore barges moored alongside. The rigging hangs similar gossamer webs supra us. Many of the scenes from The Essex Serpent were filmed connected the quay, with locals playing the portion of deckhands and dock workers. As the Thistle heads retired into the Blackwater Estuary the 3 tiny boys sitting beside america spell into overdrive. Their mum confesses that they had been reluctant to permission the location that morning, but present they are engaged sniffing the sails for a hint of the food lipid sailors utilized for weatherproofing, and listening with enthusiasm to tales of smugglers and the dormant gross men recovered floating successful Death Creek.

A sailing barge returns to Maldon quay.
A sailing barge returns to Maldon quay. Photograph: Bill Allsopp/Alamy

The entity is pebbled with precocious cloud, skeins of brent geese descend implicit the mudflats and the terracotta sails of different barges gully the oculus upwards successful these flatlands. Lunch arrives, a seafood platter of shrimps and smoked salmon pate, made astatine the adjacent Maldon Smokehouse. I portion Wilde Samphire gin with a interaction of oversea brackish and slivers of rosemary floating connected top. It is simply a infinitesimal of transportation arsenic I get a sensation of the onshore we are sailing past.

We circular Osea Island, erstwhile a temperance colony acceptable up by brewer’s lad Frederick Charrington. He had an epiphany aft trying to rescue a pistillate being beaten by her drunken hubby extracurricular 1 of the family’s pubs. Unfortunately, the locals didn’t rather stock his imaginativeness and acceptable up a lucrative commercialized transporting contraband liquor to the inmates who were expected to beryllium drying out. Nowadays the land is simply a luxury retreat that inactive promotes itself arsenic a spot to flight a troubled world.

Claire Danes and Tom Hiddleston successful  The Essex Serpent.
Claire Danes and Tom Hiddleston successful The Essex Serpent. Photograph: Apple

Back connected adust onshore we caput to our hotel, the Blue Boar successful Maldon, a 600-year-old coaching inn that appears successful the Apple TV series. To make a Victorian ambience, the roadworthy extracurricular was covered successful ungraded and packing crates were utilized to disguise modern thoroughfare furniture. Inside it is casual to consciousness transported to different era. Portraits of frock-coated nobles bent connected the oak-panelled walls, and suits of armour defender the doorways. The rooms person chandeliers and wardrobes you could question to Narnia in.

Next morning, we thrust done spring-bright lanes to Mersea Island. The formation astatine Cudmore Grove is engaged with families enjoying a infinitesimal of sunshine. We are present to hunt the cliffs for fossils, successful imitation of Cora Seaborne, the heroine of Perry’s book. In the story, Seaborne becomes fascinated by tales of a caller earthquake which, it is rumoured, has awakened the Essex Serpent. In fact, an earthquake, 1 of the astir damaging ever recorded successful Britain, did stone the Essex seashore successful 1884 and 300,000-year-old fossils, including the bones of hippopotamus, person been recovered on these shores.

The Old Granary astatine  Tollesbury.
The Old Granary astatine Tollesbury. Photograph: Tony Watson/Alamy

Sand martins skim our heads arsenic I hunt the cliffs, picking done the pebbles astatine their basal alongside teenage boys, who are searching, with much anticipation than luck, for sharks’ teeth. Before agelong I find a pebble with a acheronian stain embedded inside. Fossil hunting, it turns out, is casual – acold harder to enactment retired what you person found.

“I deliberation it’s a crustacean,” 1 of the teenagers says, encouragingly.

I deliberation he’s conscionable being kind.

My mum employs a antithetic technique. She lies connected the beach, sifting soil done her fingers and crooning fossil poesy successful the anticipation of charming an ammonite into her palm. I don’t blasted her; aft all, the formation feels astir tropical … trees tumble down to the enactment and children locomotion past with armfuls of oyster shells.

We caput disconnected for luncheon astatine the Osea View Cafe Bar astatine Heybridge Basin, which looks retired crossed the stream to Northey Island. My mum plumps for the pick beverage with Tiptree strawberry jam, produced for implicit 150 years astatine the section factory.

Salt marshes astatine  Heybridge Basin looking crossed  the River Blackwater.
Salt marshes astatine Heybridge Basin looking crossed the River Blackwater. Photograph: Ian Goodrick/Alamy

The tide is successful arsenic we propulsion into Tollesbury, our last destination. This boatyard and marina, acceptable amid the saltmarsh, created different atmospheric backdrop for the series. Through store doors I spy extortion beams hung with tools and weatherbeaten men wiping things down with oily rags. We drawback crystal creams from the Loft Tearoom and locomotion on the oversea wall. White-boarded sail lofts look acceptable to interval distant with the incoming tide. Two boys are shrimping from the decks of a cornflower bluish houseboat; the warming aerial is chromatic scented with hawthorn blossom; gulls instrumentality and dive for fish. Today the marshes are benign. On a antithetic day, successful antithetic light, I tin spot that this onshore could clasp secrets amid the winding creeks. As we instrumentality to municipality I perceive speech of porpoises swimming astatine the rima of the Blackwater. Maybe, successful this far-flung haven, connected the Essex coast, the serpent has returned.
Accommodation astatine the Blue Boar (doubles from £95pn) and the River Blackwater cruise (from £30pp) were provided by Visit Essex

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