We’re taking our campervan for some short breaks in Britain’s top destinations – Newark, Bury St Edmunds and the Dengie peninsula. Mrs RM did a robust business case before spending our children’s inheritance on a portable Travelodge, but even at assumed post-Brexit discount rates of more than 50% p.a. we need to use it regularly.
Park Resorts are our friend, the Wetherspoons or Travelodge of camping. They have a collection of cheap and cheerful campsites around the UK, taking in the joys of Jaywick, Sheerness and Hartlepool.
We opted for Waterside, at St Lawrence Bay on the Dengie peninsula, purely because it was cheapest. For £10 a night you get an electric pitch, swimming pool and “fun”.
The on-site bar had Groslch (4 pints for £10.60 during football), but no Cloudwater, so we walked to the harbour for lunch. The Blackwater Estuary is my sort of flat walk, full of colour, summer smells and wildlife, but not a person in site. Mrs RM said it looked a bit like Pin Mill, possible the smartest bit of Suffolk
The little village of St Lawrence Bay is an oddity, seemingly full of escapees from East London who’ve bought caravans and then their own houses in individual styles.
It’s not posh, but the old folk who live there are cheerful and friendly (and clear up their dog mess, unlike folk on the Isle of Sheppey).
Facilities are limited; two large caravan sites, a small village store with tins and alcohol and a very simple pub. As Pub Curmudgeon would say, WhatPub is your friend, so we knew the Stone Inn would have pub grub and real ale, which is all you need in a village inn. The white-boarded exterior hides a slightly rundown but pleasant sports bar, and the usual Essex humour.
You can also rely on Essex for all-day opening, mainly because in any pub at 3pm there will be at least 3 middle-aged blokes sitting on the bar drinking lager. And so it was here. Mrs RM read the runes and opted for a pint of Aspall, leaving me to be the first punter of the day to try the lone Mighty Oak IPA.
It was OK, suffering perhaps from a bit too long in the barrel, but at least served cool (NBSS 2.5). The food was cheap and cheerful wings type stuff. In most of Britain you get ’80s pop for OAPs in jeans and jumpers, in Essex you get Daft Pink and Shakira played for old blokes in Ellesse sportswear. I call that a win.
A two hour stroll along the sea wall and through the marshes brought us to Steeple, a good-looking village with one of Essex’s top pubs.
It’s a beautiful building and a model in how to run a pub that looks appealing to drinkers while maximising food trade. Half a dozen drinkers were in place for the afternoon, some of those on the real ale, which raised hopes for beer quality. The Wibblers Dengie IPA (NBSS 3.5) was a superb malty brown bitter that clung to the glass, and I didn’t envy Mrs RM her Cloudy Strongbow. (I’m getting worried about her cider drinking).
The Star isn’t in this year’s Beer Guide; standards are high in Essex. If it returns ,Simon will have a field day here with the banter. Lots of chat about swinging, though sadly I didn’t have time to see the said device in the childrens play area. Next time perhaps.