Maldon Mud

Maldon Mud: A Warning Tale - 13 April 2016
Maldon Mud
13 April 2016

I said in the introduction to this blog that I would report on trips, equipment purchases and any photographic mishaps. Well this is the first mishap.

Along with other members of my photography club I visited Maldon in Essex to see what we could photograph. Maldon is a small seaside town on the River Chelmer famous for its moored Thames Barges.
I was in a car with Ray and Alan and we parked near the Heybridge Basin to the east of Maldon. We set off in pursuit of photographic treasures. Ray soon discovered some birdlife on the local waters to keep him happy. Alan and I continued to a viewpoint looking out over the mudflats at the town, on the opposite riverbank. After taking a few photographs, Alan said he was walking further on and I told him I had spotted a couple of wrecks midway between us and the town and I was going to get closer for a better view. We parted and I picked up a 3 foot long piece of wood to test the mud and proceeded down the bank to cross what appeared to be a small stream leading to a grass covered island that would give me access to a better viewpoint.

I should mention that I had come prepared for messy conditions by wearing my Wellington boots. I put my left foot forward onto the bed of the stream and promptly sunk about 12 inches into the mud!
“Oh ****, I had better give up this idea” I thought.
However, it proved impossible to extricate myself from this predicament as one Wellington boot rapidly found itself, and its occupant, well and truly stuck. At this point I removed my camera backpack and threw it onto a nearby bush. My tripod was similarly discarded to one side and I quickly put my 3 foot length of wood beneath my right foot to spread my weight before that boot disappeared as well.

Well, my loyal reader, now what was I to do? Pulling on my boot seemed to get me nowhere but deeper in the mud. The harder I pulled the further I fell forward and, in no time at all my left trouser leg was in the mud and feeling very wet and unpleasant. Well there was no other way out so I decided that I had to dig myself out. Due to lack of foresight on my part, I had not equipped myself with a spade. So I started to take handfuls of sticky black mud away from around my boot in the hope that I could, thereby, reduce the suction when I next tried to extract the boot. Before long I had a big hole extending around the boot and slowly getting deeper. However, I believe I mentioned that this mud was in a stream, and it now started to fill my lovely hole with water. I was now working against the rising water hoping to raise my boot before the water flowed in over the top of it.

It was at about this point that Alan returned and called out to me, “Are you alright?” whilst, also preparing his camera to get a shot of my predicament. Here is one of his shots showing me after I had discovered that the best way of extracting myself was to scoop the mud away from around my boot.
Maldon Mud

I decided enough was enough and had one last tug at my boot and it came away just seconds before the water would have risen over the top. I was free but covered in thick glutinous mud on my hands, boots and left trouser leg. I scrambled up the bank to be greeted by Alan saying that there was no way I would be sitting in his car in my present state. I am uncertain how long I was stuck in the mud but suspect that it was anything from 5 to 15 minutes.
Alan wandered off again. I now removed my left boot and proceeded to scrape the worst of the mud off (my boot, my trousers and my hands) with my compass that I carry around in my backpack. Fortunately it was the warmest, sunniest day of the year and so I stood there in one boot, on a plastic bag (that I also carry in my backpack) ensuring that the wettest parts of my left leg were pointed at the sun to encourage the drying out of the remaining mud. It took the best part of an hour to dry out to the point where I started to feel slightly human again, rather than a mud-dwelling creature.

Whilst drying out and wearing one boot I did manage to take a few HDR photos in order to make a panoramic image. In this image you can see the wrecks that I had tried to approach.

Maldon Essex

The moral of this story is never trust that what looks like a harmless slightly muddy stream can support your weight.