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Tea On The Towpath
Paper Mill Lock (Chelmsford)
Member Name: Machair1
Paper Mill Lock (Chelmsford)
Date: 30/04/10, updated on 02/05/10 (2191 review reads)
Advantages: A lovely spot with delightful views.
In the later years of my childhood I lived in a small village called Little Baddow, which is only a few miles from Chelmsford in Essex. The village is a stark contrast to the suburban outskirts of the town, and most of the village is located along a hill, which if you follow it from the top leads to the quiet and picturesque Chelmer and Blackwater Canal.
It is unspoilt, and the area around the lock at the bottom of the hill is particularly beautiful. The canal here is speckled with brightly coloured boats, and the towpath walk which hugs the waterway will take you as far as you want to go - right to Maldon and left to Chelmsford. This walk will take you in either direction through unspoilt countryside; this time of year, in late April, the fields are bright golden yellow, and the views are stunning. The postcode for your Sat Nav is CM3 4BS
The Chelmer and Blackwater Canal meanders its way through an unspoilt landscape, and connects Chelmsford with the estuary of The Blackwater River which actually ends at the Heybridge Basin, just outside the town of Maldon. In fact until as late as 1972 this canal was actually used to carry commercial freight, but now it's a leisure haven where people go to escape the busy areas of Essex. The canal was designed by a famous canal engineer John Rennie, and has history dating back to 1793. In its heyday it carried over 60,000 tons of freight, including coal, corn and timber in the 19th century. The redbrick bridges and locks were a hallmark of the engineer, and these can be seen very much still in evidence along the canal. Its eventual demise as a commercial waterway was due to wood and iron, which were taken to Chelmsford along the canal to build the Great Eastern Railway. This when completed negated the need to transport freight using the waterway, causing its decline.
This is a place to go to seek solitude if you care to walk, or company if you enjoy local hospitality, as the area around Papermill Lock has a lovely tea room. Parking is plentiful at this spot, and a very short walk takes you to the river and the tearoom.
The tearooms are absolutely delightful and have been there since 2002, and the food is outstanding and extremely good value for money. There are lunches, including homemade soup of the day, and daily specials such as jacket potatoes or chilli con carne. Afternoon teas delight, and the carrot cake is a creamy wedge of deliciousness, moist and always my favourite. In fact the sea of cakes which greet you, when you venture inside to order, is testament to their popularity as the choice is endless, and the customers wax lyrical about them! Coffee and cake is only just over £3 and the slices are very generous.
The tea room is situated at the lock side and it is surrounded by tables, and most view the river. The price list is clearly displayed outside, and you pop inside to order. Items such as tea and cakes you collect yourself, but more substantial orders will be delivered to your table. The staff are lovely, friendly and efficient, and the spot and the view is delightful. Ducks waddle up and down, and swans keep a close eye on canoes and boats in case they should get too close. Only last week when I went there I saw the first ducklings of the year which was a picture.
If you are disabled the only real obstacle for wheelchairs is at the entrance to the tea room area, where there is an incline, but this can be negotiated, and the towpath is well maintained close to the lock allowing for easy wheeling.
The tea room is at its best in the late afternoon, and tables just outside become sun soaked allowing you to watch the world go by bathed in warmth. The area has been delightfully adorned with flowers and baskets which add to the intense colour the views provide.
Live music is played at the tearooms on Sundays afternoons in the summertime, so be aware of this if you prefer peace and quiet. For inclement weather indoor dining is possible in a small space, which does get crowded at peaks times. This indoor area has been tastefully decorated and old photographs of the waterway are displayed on the walls.
As well as making a visit to the tearoom there is also an opportunity to take a river cruise from the lock, which is popular in the summertime. This boat takes twelve people and is called The Caffel, and for £5 you can enjoy an hour on the river. This does get very popular so booking is advisable on 01245 225520.
For celebrations, people can hire a different boat - The Victoria, This is very popular for wedding receptions. Canoe and rowing boat hire is also possible- prices for this are £10 per hour, half day £25, full day £45, May till Sept. To hire a canoe you just pop into the tea room. If you prefer a rowing boat these are also available from the tea rooms at the same hire charge.
This is a very dog friendly place to visit, and probably one of my favourite places to take my little friend as she delights in the waterside walk, and of course is welcome at the outside tables at the tea room.
A short walk away from the canal are vast fields with mature trees where people have picnics, and the photographic opportunities are endless.
This is a place I can highly recommend as it is a simple and almost childlike spot where everything moves at a slow pace. The boats moored along the banks are a delight to see with their colourful baskets of flowers and brightly coloured curtains.
This place, steeped in history, offers more than just tea in a picturesque spot. For me, beauty and nature marry together to create a perfect place to seek solace, and time out from what is, largely, quite a built up English County.
Paper Mill Lock, North Hill, Little Baddow,
Chelmsford, Essex, CM3 4BS
Tearooms open all year 10-5
Directions:As provided by their website at www.papermilllock.co.uk
From Brentwood leave A12 Chelmsford bypass at A414 slip road towards Maldon. After 31/2 miles at the centre of Danbury Village turn left at mini roundabout by pond signposted Little Baddow. After 21/2 miles of a downhill run, Paper Mill Lock is reached just before the road bridge over the canal. The car park is immediately on the left before the river bridge.
From Colchester leave the A12 at Hatfield Peverel. After 3/4 mile turn left leaving the village at the end of a long brick wall. Follow signs to Little Baddow, for approximately 2 miles, cross canal bridge and car park entrance is on right. Coaches should not take this route, but proceed to A12 Chelmsford bypass and take slip road to Maldon as in "Brentwood" above.
From Southend take slip road to Maldon shortly after the start of the Great Baddow bypass and proceed towards Danbury as in "Brentwood". From Bishops Stortford, Dunmow & Braintree follow signs through Chelmsford to Maldon A414 and proceed to Danbury as in "Brentwood".
This review will also be published on Ciao by myself with photographs under my user name there Violet1278.
Summary: A lovely place to enjoy the waterside.