Heybridge Basin came into existence with the building of a sea lock and a canal to Chelmsford. Until then it was known as Barrow Marsh, an area of land used for grazing during the summer and then returning to wetlands during the winter. Walking the sea wall at dusk with a sea mist coming in, the mind can picture what an inhospitable place it musthave been. Just an arrows flight from the great Battle of Maldon, shadows in the mist could well be the Saxon Earl Byrhtnoth still in hand to hand combat with the Viking Olaf Tryggvason.
With the building of the sea lock, ships would anchor in the Reach down river waiting for the tide to enter the lock, and then into the Basin to unload into barges which would then be pulled by horse to Chelmsford some 14 miles away. Support services soon appeared. Sail makers, rope makers and of course a brewery! It must have been a lively place, withcrews from not only English ports but from the Continent as well! Larger than life characters began to appear and were part of Basin life until not long ago.
One such was our local chronicler Mac, a former Royal Marine and Publican of the Old Ship, he was a regular contributor to our Regatta Programmes, commenting on the world in general and Basin life in particular. Watching the slow replacement of the sliding lock gate, originally built to allow for longer motor vessels to enter the lock, bought back a memory of a previous article he wrote, when the bridge over a brook along Basin Road was replaced. Here is an extract:-
“Then of course there is the new bridge on Basin Road, this minor engineering marvel, which has taken months to complete, if it is finished yet, will stand as a beacon to the modern way of thinking. The structure looks capable of withstanding a nuclear assault; the painstaking work involved in bridging a three foot wide ditch must be a source of inspiration to us all. Oft I have seen the doughty work force of one or two men leaning on their JCB’s in deep contemplation of the task ahead of them. Whatever the weather they were there, contemplating, making sure that no move was made unplanned, no detail overlooked, that no piece of earth was moved needlessly”
He would have loved the saga of our new lock gate!!
Then there is mud, lots of mud. The one thing that stops us being the yachting mecca we should be. That said being tidal does bring with it a certain tranquillity. A breathing space for the Village and a time for getting on with other things whilst waiting for the returning water. Yachts locking in on the tide and locking out to catch the ebb on their way to new ports or home across the North Sea. We are lucky to live here.
A couple who recently moved in and have thrown themselves into Basin life, kindly wrote a few words for me, here is an extract:-
“We were invited to a get together a few days after moving in. From then on, we very quickly seem to have got into the swing of Basin life. Always something going on, you could never feel lonely being part of the community. Also an added advantage is being able to walk to the pub!”