"the lock" at Heybridge Basin
The tea room. Imagine sitting outdoors by the river on a glorious Sunday morning, looking across to Northey Island, the place where in 991, Byrhtnoth and his men bravely defended their land against 4,000 Vikings.
Bright and airy, “the lock” is THE place to eat on the waterfront at Heybridge Basin. Indoors or out, it offers outstanding Blackwater estuary views. This former ship’s chandlers and café serves traditional café-style breakfasts, home-made lunches and ‘Tiptree’ cream teas. Enthusiastic staff take full advantage of fresh local produce: hand-made local cakes, fresh salads, jacket potatoes and ‘Tiptree’ preserves with home-made scones. A list of daily specials and the traditional menu provides a range of refreshments throughout the day.
There’s something at Heybridge Basin to suit most tastes. The Basin is where the Chelmer & Blackwater canal meets the tidal Blackwater estuary, and the fresh water merges with salt water. This Essex riverside village retains much of the character of a bygone age and it’s a wonderful place to unwind. In the winter enjoy the solitude, in spring watch as hardy walkers, avid birdwatchers and the first of the boat owners venture forth. During the summer the Basin is alive with action and from daybreak to dusk it’s a great place to sit and watch riverside life. Others say autumn is the best time to enjoy the views across the river to Northey and Osea Islands.
Walkers exploring the Essex coastline from here are spoilt for choice: east along the sea wall passing Osea Island en route for Goldhanger and Tollesbury: or follow the coastal path west towards the old port of Maldon with a return route to the Basin via Wave Bridge and the canal tow path, in time for a cream tea at “the lock”. Heybridge Basin developed with the construction of the Chelmer and Blackwater canal. As Chelmsford expanded, the need for an effective system of transportation from the estuary to the centre of Essex became essential. In 1793 an Act of Parliament was passed granting the making and maintenance of the canal. Small shops and public houses were established to support the canal workforce, boatyards and importers of eels and timber. In 916, the Saxons established a settlement just across the river at Maldon and for many years it was the second most important town in Essex, after Colchester. Several Thames sailing barges are berthed at Hythe Quay and the promenade park has been a favourite since Victorian times.
No talk of the river Blackwater can be complete without mention of this brave lord. Byrhtnoth assembled his men in a field across the causeway from Northey Island. It was their intention to defend the land from the marauding Vikings who had landed on the island, in the mistaken belief that it was the mainland.
As the Vikings trailed single-file across the narrow causeway (which exists to this day), Byrhtnoth and his men picked them off with ease. When Olaf sent a deputation to complain that this wasn’t fair, Byrhtnoth couldn’t help but agree and moved his men back into the field.
A poem about the battle entitled The Battle of Maldon explains: "He was neither shaken by the small number of his men, nor fearful of the multitude of the enemy". Well he should have been! 1-0 to the Vikings.
Visit ‘the lock’
From Maldon, take the B1026, Goldhanger Road and shortly before the 40mph limit ends, turn right into Basin Road. After one mile, park in Daisy Meadow car park and follow the canal towpath to the sea wall. ‘the lock’ is the low white building with a red roof, right on the river front ahead of you. Wheelchair access via sea wall ramp. Wheelchair-accessible toilet available.