How many Windmillers can you fit in a small boat? Well now we know: eleven, including bikes.
Martin had promised us a day at the seaside. So it was that eleven Windmillers set out from Brightlingsea for an outing to Clacton. It was an unseasonally chilly morning so we left our buckets, spades and bathing costumes in the car.
“Are we nearly there yet?” was the oft-heard refrain as we pedalled after Martin for some 16 miles – through Great Bentley and Thorpe-le-Soken – before finally seeing the sea at Walton-on-the-Naze.
We pulled in for coffee at the Essex Wildlife Trust café, adjacent to the historic Naze tower. It was a timely stop as Keith had just developed a puncture.
Refreshed and with Keith’s puncture mended, we set off along the promenade for 12 traffic-free miles taking in Frinton, Holland-on-Sea and Clacton. And what a blissful ride it was, under wide blue skies with a clear horizon and very little wind.
Pulling up at Point Clear, we could see our destination 500 yards away across Brightlingsea Creek. Martin made a call to check the foot ferry was operating. It was; which was just as well – the return by road would have meant an extra 20 miles and no lunch.
It was at this point that we started having doubts about Martin’s plan – as we traipsed after him, pushing the bikes with some difficulty across several hundred yards of shingle and sand. There was no sign of a ferry – or even a jetty – and how exactly would we get off the beach and on to a boat? Wading with bikes held aloft? There was nothing at the water’s edge, not even a footprint – just an expanse of open water between us and Brightlingsea.
“Mmmm,” said Martin as, pulling out his phone again, he made another call. Lo and behold, a little boat chugged out of Brightlingsea harbour heading our way. Reaching the shore, the skipper lowered a landing ramp and invited us aboard. What all of us? On that little thing? Bikes too?
Five minutes later and now fully laden the little craft was ferrying us across the creek. What larks!
Disembarking at the town jetty, we saddled up and rode the last few hundred yards to The Rosebud where we lunched in the garden overlooking the Colne Estuary.
For the record the eleven Windmillers were Martin, Andrew, Maurice, Deborah, Graham, Charles, Keith, Lawrence, Roger, Ric and Brian.
Well done, Martin, and many thanks for a wonderful day. We never doubted you really.