juliamhammond

Looking at the familiar with fresh eyes

“The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.”

London born writer Gilbert K. Chesterton wrote this oft quoted phrase about Battersea in his essay “The Riddle of the Ivy”. It’s an idea I’m embracing while out and about in my home county of Essex.

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Thorrington Tide Mill

Often overlooked in favour of neighbouring Suffolk or Kent, the greatest pleasure for me of travelling in my local area is the lack of visitors in all but the most obvious of destinations.

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In the grounds of Layer Marney Tower

Researching for Countryside Dog Walks, I’ve quite literally walked for miles without seeing a soul. It’s taken me to parts of the county I’ve never visited and to my delight, I’ve had as much enjoyment discovering new sights in my own backyard as I’ve had anywhere in the world.  

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Marks Hall Arboretum

Part of the joy of independent solo travel for me is to unpick somewhere new, to learn how it’s constructed and to find out how it ticks.  Realising I can still do this in Essex has been a satisfying revelation. Another great British writer, Lawrence Durrell, famously wrote:

“Travel can be one of the most rewarding forms of introspection.”  

Walking along the Essex coastline and through its surprisingly empty countryside, the lack of specific sights and attractions makes it perfect for pondering while wandering.  Life’s full of things to be done and these walks feel deliciously self-indulgent, yet unlike a big trip, they only require me to take a few hours off.

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Salcott Creek

Being alone makes me more in tune with my surroundings. Sounds that are concealed by conversations push their way in to a solo walk. The salt marsh fizzing, the wind vibrating the rushes, the stream trickling – all lost unless you really listen. For me, one of the biggest distractions from the landscape is my camera. It can be hard to give up the search for the perfect shot and just look without a lens. But when I force myself to do so, it’s more than worth it.

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Lion Creek, Paglesham

To find out more about the hidden corners of Essex, why not visit my Essexology blog? You’ll find it at http://www.essexology.com

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