Pixie Lott To Open Italia Conti Theatre School at Boswells

Pixie LottPixie Lott has helped launch a new Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts at The Boswells School in Chelmsford. The new school will open in January 2015.

The Pixie Lott Italia Conti theatre school teaches signing, dancing and acting to children from the age of three.

Pixie, 23, is setting the Italia Conti associate school up with the help of her sister Charlie-Ann. The school, which will run on Saturdays, has close ties with the London Performing Arts College.

Pixie attributes her own success to her time studying at an Italia Conti school which she started attending when was five years old. Pixie said: of the school: “It gave me the best foundation. I made friends there and it help build my self-confidence and I really loved it and was really passionate about it.”

Pixie’s real name is Victoria Louise Lott but her parents thought that she looked like a pixie when she was born and the nick-name has stuck.

Pixie moved to Brentwood when she was 13 years old. She grew up in Bromley and went to the nearby Italia Conti Associates Saturday school in Chislehurst, South London. When she was 11 she was awarded a place at the Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts in the City of London.

She has appeared in the West End productions of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and played Louisa von Trapp in BBC One’s Celebrate the Sound of Music in 2005. She also performed vocals on Roger Waters’ opera Ça Ira.

Pixie Lott, who is one of the favourites to win this year’s Strict Come Dancing, performed her latest single “Break Up Song” at the special open day at Boswells. Pixie will be returning to meet students when lessons begin next January.

Boswells School is on Burnham Road, Chelmsford, Essex CM1 6LY. For more information about the Italia Conti school visit their website.

Photo by Christopher William Adach. CC BY-SA 2.0.

Chelmsford Baddow Meads Floodplain Development

Swan on the River Chelmer through Baddow Meads

Swan on the River Chelmer through Baddow Meads

About one year ago we published The Tranquil Backwaters of Chelmsford City which detailed a walk from the Sandford Lock along the Blackwater Navigation to Chelmsford. It passed through Baddow Meads and was a very pleasant walk. I commented on “how lucky I was to be able to take such a nice walk into town“. It seems that this entire area is still under threat!

The Tranquil Backwaters of Chelmsford City

Today I downed tools at around 4.45pm to make the most of the glorious sunshine we had across Essex today. By all accounts most of the country was in bathed in sunshine also. I left my Great Baddow office and strolled up to Sandford Lock and then along the Blackwater Navigation to Chelmsford.

It was a lovely walk, the birds were singing, the river was full of fish, there were ducks, swans, baby horses, people cycling and running, parents walking with their children, a man in a canoe, several people tending to their boats, and many more making the most of the weather. I even saw a picnic on the fields between Barnes Mill Lock and Moulsham Mill.

What struck me as I walked along the Blackwater into town was how tranquil and beautiful the route was, and how lucky I was to be able to take such a nice walk into town, or should I say the city, on the spur of the moment.

Sandford Lock and the Blackwater Navigation

Blackwater at Sandford Lock

The Southern loop of the Blackwater at Sandford Lock

Although my walk actually started at my office, the first part of the journey is not a lot to shout about. The walk really starts on Sandford Mill Lane, off the Maldon Road (A414) in Great Baddow.

The lane soon ends where a footpath starts. Immediately I came to the river and was surprised to see that it was full of fish. There were a couple of teenagers in waders out catching them.

I took a photo of the fish but it did not really come out very well. Not sure what the southern loop of the Blackwater at this point in the river is actually called, maybe it has a name in its own right.

Boats of Sandford Lock, Chelmsford

Boats of Sandford Lock, Chelmsford

Once I got to the main Blackwater at Sandford Lock it was like being on holiday again. Many years ago I used to go on canal boat holidays with friends and this area reminded me of those days.

There were a few people out tending to their boats, no doubt getting them ready for some barging. Let’s hope the water levels stay high enough.

There were also several people out running, cycling and walking along the paths in the area. There are also some lovely ponies / horses which a family was patting. That was towards the A12, the opposite direction to town though.

I learnt two things about the Sandford Lock and Blackwater navigation today. The first is that there is a boat that does trips on a Sunday along the water. The Blackwater Rose can take up to 12 passengers along the river. They charge around £5.50 per adult, less for kids, and the trip takes around 1 hour. Call 01206 853282 for more info or visit

The Essex Police Speed Boat

The Essex Police Speed Boat

I also learned that Sandford Lock is currently home to Essex Police’s speed boat! OK, this is not the sort of police speed boat seen in Miami Vice, but hey, we have a river speedboat!

Although you cannot see it in the photo, the cover on the outboard motor says Essex Police. So it really is their boat! I wonder how often it gets used.

Fishing on the Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation

I do not fish, and never have. However, I can see how it can be a pleasant pastime especially in an area is tranquil as the Blackwater. There is a sign up detailing the fishing rules. You cannot fish from 15th March until 16th June as this is a “Main River” and subject to Environment Agency Byelaws. No fishing within 30 metres of a lock, near boats etc.

Blackwater - a nice spot for running, cycling, walking or fishing

A nice spot for running, cycling, walking or fishing

You can fish anywhere along the navigation from the tow path bank providing you have a rod licence and a valid day ticket or club membership. Day tickets are available from local tackle shops in advance (try Ronnie Crowes in Great Baddow) or from a Maldon Angling Society bailiff on the bank. For more places to fish in Essex see Essex Fishing Lakes and Rivers.

I continued my walk towards town along the tow path. Soon several runners and cyclists were passing me. The path is narrow so you have to keep your wits about you and be ready to move out of the way of the more athletic people in the area. There were also several dog walkers who had parked up near Sandford Lock.

Barnes Mill Lock

Bridge across the river near Barnes Mill Lock

Bridge across the river near Barnes Mill Lock

I soon arrived at Barnes Mill Lock on the edge of Chelmer Village, just off Chelmer Village Way. There was not a lot to see from the river side really, but Barnes Mill looks impressive. I think it is a residential property now though. It is here that I crossed the river to continue on towards town across pasture for horses.

I rather liked the white metal bridge so photographed that. Although I fear my 2008 G1 Google phone’s camera did not do it justice (that’s it, blame the tools).

The lock was actually full of rubbish, included a half submerged tyre. It seems that the lock gates have remained firmly closed for some time, I assume to preserve the water in the navigation for as long as possible.

The Fox and Raven

the back of the Fox and Raven in Chelmer Village

The back of the Fox and Raven in Chelmer Village

As my walk continued I passed the back of the Fox and Raven pub in Chelmer Village. I have been there a few times before but never sat in the beer garden at the back.

In fact, I had never noticed it before. I could smell char-grilled steaks / burgers, and suddenly fancied something to eat. I could certainly hear people enjoying themselves at the pub. I also started to fancy a pint at this point on the walk.

A swan on the Blackwater

A swan!

I fought the temptation to make a detour and marched onwards to town.

My determination paid off, as shortly after passing the pub I caught sight of a swan. It was ahead of me on the river and travelling the same direction. At this point the river starts meandering so I decided to take a short cut, dodging the stingers and horse poo, and managed to cut the swan off at the pass, as it were. The swan seemed pleased to see me as it cruised carelessly along the river.

A baby horse in Chelmsford

A baby horse in Chelmsford

The next nice sight was seeing a horse with its baby (foal? I am not a horsey person). Another reminder that it is Spring. In this part of the field / meadow / flood plain (and it does indeed flood when we get a lot of rain) there are many horses grazing away.

Some horses even stroll underneath Chelmer Road, which is essentially a bridge at this point that links the Army and Navy to Chelmer Village. Never before while crossing the bridge in a car did I think that there may be horses sheltering beneath my wheels!

Chelmer Road Underpass

Chelmer Road Underpass, with Cave Paintings

As I approached Chelmer Road I had a real feeling that I was now finally leaving the countryside and entering town (city!).

The road was busy, and pretty jammed as it was rush hour. To get from the fields to the south of town to the path on the north side of the Chelmer Road you have to go through a very urban underpass that is covered in graffiti.

However, this urban decoration does not last for long, soon it is all quiet and peaceful again (apart from some loud dog walkers who prefer to yell than use a lead ….).

Next on the journey was the final lock of the day….

Springfield Lock

Springfield Lock, Chelmsford

Springfield Lock, Chelmsford

Springfield Lock is to Chelmsford as Canary Wharf is to London. You may think that I jest (I partly do) but it is a great little area.

It is pretty, quiet and many of the flats overlook the water. There are still a few boats too. The water is clean and considering how close we now are to Chelmsford town centre, it really is a pleasant area. Not actually listed as one of the best places to live in Chelmsford, but it probably should be.

An interesting information panel shows that the river was often used for pleasure cruises back in 1899.

There us a great photo of a very busy boat passing under the bridge from July 1899. There were probably far more people on the boar than health and safety will allow today.

Springfield Lock, 1899

Party Boat leaving Springfield Lock, July 1899

Moulsham Mill and the River Can

Moulsham Mill and Bloke in a Canoe

Moulsham Mill and Bloke in a Canoe

From here I headed along the river path, passed the back of the Moulsham Mill, which today is home to offices, craft outlets, meeting rooms and also has hosted science fairs in the past.

Just here I was the only canoeist of the day. It was still a little early for the after work canoeists I think, as it was just before 6pm. Maybe most canoeists prefer the summer weather – but today was fantastic.

This is the stretch of river just before the point where the rivers Can and Chelmer merge together to form the Chelmer and Blackwater navigation. Although you can hear the road traffic it is still a lovely area for walking.

Chelmsford Sea Cadets boat house

Chelmsford Sea Cadets

The final points on my walk saw the Chelmsford Sea Cadets boat house, which is really not much to look at. However, the sea cadets themselves, at least I think it was them, were have a ball shooting some hoop. For those that enjoy fishing, there are some fishing spots along this part of the river.

I continued towards town and was soon on French’s Walk and passing the Meadows Shopping Centre. I stopped for a coffee at Costa at just gone 6pm, I think I was lucky to get served. The coffee was good and it was still warm enough to sit outside in shorts and T-shirt.

A great journey from Great Baddow to Chelmsford, the pretty route.

Journey's End - Coffee at Costa

Journey’s End – Coffee at Costa

I walked back to Great Baddow along Baddow Road. The journey into town took about 90 minutes and the journey home around 35 minutes. Nothing much to report on the journey home, although I took some photos of some business and pubs in Great Baddow, however, that really requires another post.

I was out walking and drinking coffee (plus a quick burger ….) for around 2 3/4 hours. Was a great way to finish the day. Writing up my walk has taken almost as long!

You can see all the photos from my walk, plus a couple of random shots from the other day, here:

The Queen Gives Chelmsford City Status

Chelmsford Cathedral by Jon WadeOn 14th March 2012 Her Majesty the Queen has awarded 3 cities in Great Britain with city status. Chelmsford is one of them.

Along with Chelmsford City, the Queen is giving Perth in Scotland and St. Asaph in Wales city status.

The new city status forms a part of the Queen’s Jubiliee celebrations. The Queen took advice from Deputy Prime Minister and Lord President of the Privy Council, Nick Clegg.

The Deputy Prime Minister said:

“Congratulations to Armagh, Chelmsford, Perth and St Asaph who have been granted these rare honours from a field of exceptional entrants. Across the United Kingdom, I have been moved by the pride and passion which people have shown in putting their nominations forward.”

Her Majesty will formally confer the city titles by Letters Patent later this year. These are the same letters that are sent to individuals when they are invited to become life peers in the House of Lords.

What does it mean for Chelmsford?

The City status is purely honorific and Chelmsford will not gain any power, extra funding or political influence as a result.

The first towns in the UK to receive city status were those which had diocesan cathedrals. The first cities were created in the 1540s when King Henry VIII founded dioceses.

Chelmsford beat off proposals from Southend and Colchester. Colchester residents are upset that their town was not chosen. Colchester is Britain’s oldest recorded town and has a long history. However, Chelmsford is the “County Town” and is a strong business centre in Essex.

Essex County Council is also based in Chelmsford.

Chelmsford City Football Club

Chelmsford City Football-ClubChelmsford’s foodball club did not wait for The Queen’s permission to call themselves Chelmsford City. Chelmsford City FC has carried the city status since it was founded in 1938.

On their website they state: “Clarets Overjoyed By City Status Decision. Naming riddle finally solved!“.

Chelmsford City were the Isthmian League Premier Division champions 2007–08 and the Southern League Cup winners in 1990-91.

Chelmsford City FC play at the Melbourne Stadium in Chelmsford. There have been recent discussions about renaming Melbourne Park to mark the Queen’s Jubilee year, with the name Queen Elizabeth II Park.

News source: Chelmsford, Perth and St Asaph gain city status to mark the Diamond Jubilee