A GUIDEBOOK to Maldon published in 1895 advised visitors arriving by train that the (then new) golf links were but “five minutes walk from East Station, via White Hart Yard”.

Personally I think that was a bit of Victorian spin and pretty optimistic, as I have tried it and, even at a brisk pace, it took me a good quarter of an hour.

It is not until you follow an old route like that that you realise how some things have changed, whilst others appear to be almost timeless.

East Station (built in 1848) no longer serves its original purpose as it was closed, along with our branch line, in 1966.

Station Road still retains its terrace of former railway workers’ homes and then straight ahead is a veritable cathedral to our industrial past.

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The Maldon Iron Works building of 1875 thankfully survives, but it no longer rings with the sounds of hammer and lathe.

Turning left towards Fullbridge and the White Hart mentioned in the guide has also gone – or at least you can’t buy a pint there today.

Instead we continue on our way and cut through the old yard (now developed) to the side of the ‘Welcome’ (now the ‘Sunny’) ‘Sailor’.

Joining the sea wall, apart from the obvious modernity of the Royal Mail delivery office and the massive Tesco store, we are entering a very special, ancient landscape.

Walking the snaking path, with the tidal River Chelmer to our left (for that is what it is at this point and not, as some will tell you, the Blackwater) and the Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation (of 1797) over in the distance to our right, a sense of unchanged wildness is suddenly upon us.

Beyond Tesco and sandwiched between those two water courses, with the hum of the busy bypass (the A414) at its head, is an unspoilt haven.

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Maldon and Burnham Standard:

Ironworks Meadow as it is today

This is the very last remaining vestige of Ironworks Meadow – open land between the rear of Joseph Warren’s original foundry and the spur of the 1889 railway line extension and viaduct.

That this small patch of originality has survived at all is nothing short of a miracle.

As part of the planning permission for the Tesco store in 1989/90, discussions took place about preserving this site from any future development.

Some minor works subsequently took place to try and manage it as a nature reserve – including the instillation of duckboards, or walkways.

Time marched on as it does and sadly the area became overgrown and somewhat neglected.

Fast forward to 2020 and advertisements suddenly appeared offering the land for sale.

A group of concerned locals began negotiations with Tesco, the objective being to agree that the land be let to a not-for-profit, asset-locked community interest company, on a 100-year lease and at a peppercorn rent.

The intention thereafter was to preserve the meadow in its time-honoured natural state and to enable controlled public access to study the unique wildlife habitat.

Maldon and Burnham Standard:

Ironworks Meadow seen from the air today. Photo: ©Simon Farr 2022

I am told that it contains various rare insect and bird species.

I myself have seen heron there, what I think were reed warblers and chiffchaff (although I am no ornithologist) and at least one old dog fox.

In addition to the fascination of studying wildlife, it is hoped to establish a boating facility (for small hand-propelled craft only) beside the canal next to the Heybridge footbridge if a club or similar organisation is interested in taking it on.

Combine all of those things with the close proximity to Maldon’s town centre and the adjoining network of country paths and you end up with something very special indeed.

The lease negotiations proceeded with quiet determination and I am now very pleased to report that agreement has finally been reached and work can commence.

Passing alongside the site today and under what is now the replacement bypass bridge, the golf links club-house is in sight.

The journey may have taken a bit longer than the suggested five minutes (you could say it has taken over 100 years!) but then we have been waylaid (and for all the right reasons) by the draw of the last of Ironworks Meadow.