After a couple of days stuck in with a cold, I became slightly obsessed with getting down to the seaside or the estuary. Still suffering from post-viral achiness and not wanting to tempt the weather gods, we chose a trip to Egypt Bay. There is a named walk - something to do with smugglers and curlews and well signposted - that takes you across the marshes to the Thames Estuary, between the Isle of Grain and Cliffe, down Decoy Lane to Swigshole. (Swigshole! It isn't a figment of Dickens imagination, it really exists.) We walked along the path, sheep on one side, cattle on the other, bright sun in front of us and threatening clouds behind. The place was deserted, the only sound to speak of the crunchiness of the frozen ground and, where the temptation was too much for me to resist, the satisfying crack of ice breaking.
Egypt Bay is not pretty. It's one of those places that catches deposits of seaweed and detritus. The tide was high, just becoming slack, marked by that familiar watery sloppiness. There was a narrow peninsula of cockle shells and we sat down to eat a slice of christmas cake, looking across towards Canvey Island. I actually saw three ships go by; no sails though just containers. No laughing frogs. No curlews either, with the high tide. Pity - I love the sound of curlews.
We walked along the sea wall a little way, then turned back across the marshes and picked our way back through the dykes. Little flocks of goldfinches appeared now and then. The thorns on the wild roses seemed particularly brutal.
Even the gate posts seemed to be unecessarily heavily barbed.
It was on the drive home that we passed the end of Christmas Lane.