High Sheriff walks the walk

15th January 2021

Julie Fosh was not daunted by the challenge of doing things differently during her year as High Sheriff.

Coupled with her usual determination and enthusiasm for everything that she does, Julie has spoken with a great many charities and voluntary organisations on the telephone, through online meetings and visits (when allowed).

Thanks to the support of local people and companies she has also organised events including a 50 mile walk along the Essex coastline, and has raised over £30,000 for the High Sheriff’s Fund.

“The effort, creativity and professionalism of everyone I speak with reflects the talent, deep passion and care for others that we have within our Essex communities. I can’t thank them enough for all they are doing”. Julie Fosh, High Sheriff of Essex

Reflections of the High Sheriff

“My Declaration did not go as planned. The initial arrangements in County Hall were rapidly pared down to three of us, in full court dress, in our back garden – at least the sun shone! My attentions then turned to what I could do – a sentiment shared by so many. The traditional garden party now involved sending 650 invites to a virtual ‘Wish You Were Here Summer Party’, asking for a photo or short video clip and request for donations. It provided an amusing, uplifting and generous response. To view the montage see below.

Later in the year my husband, Paul and I embarked on a walk – 150 miles from Harwich to Tilbury. The Ha’Penny Pier was glowing in the early morning sunshine as we left Harwich with a spring in our step. Leading the way, with an amazing rendition of Walking With The King, was the aptly named Wash Your Hands Band, formed to raise the spirits of communities in the Tendring area during lockdown and very thoughtfully organised by Cllr Ray Gooding, Ivan Henderson (Leader of the Labour Group at ECC and Deputy Mayor of Harwich) and Suzanne Howe (United in Kind). And so began another ‘first’ in a shrieval year that has become like no other.

The original aim of my walk was to complete it during term-time and engage groups from coastal schools. With schools closed the walk was moved to mid-August. The sun beat down on us for most of the first five days. There were wild swims in the cool North Sea. If you haven’t visited the Tendring Coast in recent years then do – it will not disappoint. Fossil hunting on the Naze, the new sea defence of 22 fishtail groins between Holland-On-Sea and Clacton is a work of beauty as is the award-winning Clacton Pier. Thanks goes to the Old Surgery B and B in Frinton for their generosity and to The Sandrock B and B in Clacton for an equally comfortable night. Joined by Richard Pattison (Essex Scout’s County Commissioner), not forgetting scout mascot ‘Teddy Brown’, we followed the beautifully distinctive coastal path to the remote Point Clear.

A visit to Brightlingsea, the delightful coastal home of a newly refurbished museum and stunning harbour, was made possible by Felicity Lees who very kindly collected us from Point Clear and organised a tour to see the great work of the Pioneer Trust. With help from the Mersea Ferry we spent the night at Mersea Outdoors (thanks to Paul Button) with a swim and evening barbeque on the beach – very romantic!

Stacey Belbin at the helm of the beautifully renovated Lady Grace took us across the estuary mouths to the Grade 1 listed 7th century Capel of St Peter-on-the-Wall at Bradwell-on-Sea – a remarkably spiritual place of pilgrimage for all persuasions and none. The golden glow from the freshly harvested fields provided a spectacular backdrop for a most thoughtful reflection and blessing from my chaplain and the Rural Advisor and Agricultural chaplain Revd Canon Janet Nicholls.

It is while walking along the Dengie peninsular that you feel so close to the elements, so unprotected from the encroaching sea, so vulnerable. The inlets and saltings can be misleading, encouraging you to attempt a short cut but sucking away at your boots with each step.

We enjoyed the culinary seafood delights at lively Leigh-on-Sea courtesy of the Mayor and Mayoress of Southend. So fuelled, we climbed to the 13th century remains of Hadleigh’s ghostly castle. It has stunning views over the Estuary and is adjacent to the site of the 2012 Olympic mountain bike course.

We were so pleased to be joined at various stages by over 100 people including our Lord Lieutenant Jenny Tolhurst and husband Philip, past High Sheriffs James Bettley and wife Lucy and Bryan Burrough and wife Philippa. We were also joined by several Mayors and Chairs including those from Colchester, Leigh-on-Sea, Castle Point, Canvey, Brightlingsea, Thurrock and South Woodham Ferrers. The group on the National Citizen Service programme (organised by Martin Solder and his team at the Essex Boys and Girls Clubs) epitomised all that is great about young people: supportive, enthusiastic and good fun. So too, the 2nd Stanford scouts with their twenty-five strong chorus of ‘Oggy, Oggy, Oggy’ on Mucking Flat.

On our journey we enjoyed great company, stunning views, including a special one from the top of Fobbing church tower and huge help, support and encouragement from the Essex farming community. Thanks too to all other friends and family who joined us, gave encouragement and generously donated to the High Sheriffs’ Fund.

Passing the well-preserved Coalhouse and Tilbury Forts we finished at the World’s End pub and reflected on our journey north to south on the Essex coast.

Julie Fosh
High Sheriff of Essex 2020 -2021