I had planned to get back to Aberdeenshire for 3 days of walking but the arrival of storm Ciara meant my last day would be in very high winds. I opted therefore for 3 days walking in Essex. I had booked myself into a motel in Basildon for three days that would take me out of Essex and to the fringes of London. I drove from Shropshire and parked on Canvey Island. It was the closest place to my walk end where I would not have to pay the exorbitant parking charge of £8.
After parking up I had decided to catch a bus to Benfleet station, then a train to Southend, however, because I was almost 30 minutes early I caught a #27 which would take me all the way to the bus station in Southend. The only trouble was, it was early morning rush hourand the bus was very busy, stopping letting people on and off. It took just over 1.25 hours to get to the bus station. I caught my connecting bus, a #14 to Barling, with just 60 seconds to spare!
It had been freezing overnight and a severe frost was on the ground, but the sun was out and it felt warm, just like a spring day. I got off the bus in Barling and began walking along the road towards Little Wakering. The land to NE was a collection of islands owned by the MOD, one of them Foulness required a permit to enter the island and there were restrictions on where you could walk. I could not be bothered with all the fuss that this involved so I was heading towards Shoeburyness. I passed through Great Wakering and followed a footpath across fields to the edge of Shoeburyness, here, I picked up the MOD perimeter fence which warned of firing ranges. The firing ranges have long since gone and most of the site is now run by QinetiQ. However, I could hear loud explosions coming from Foulness to the NE.
I passed the entrance to the Shoeburyness ranges and continued to the coastline. Bizarrely the sea wall and shoreline is still ‘out of bounds ‘and continues past Shoebury Ness. The whole area of Shoeburyness was once the site of a huge garrison for training and firing of large artillery pieces. There is a fantasic amount of military history surrounding Shoeburyness, to much to descibe here! As I passed Shoebury Ness and the nearby HM Coastguard lookout point I left Shoeburyness behind and entered the Thames Estuary. The estuary here was very wide, but I still make out the far bank in Kent through the mid-morning haze.
The Thames was like a mill pond and extremely calm. I would be following the sea front all the way back to Canvey Island and Benfleet along paths, sea walls and the promenade. It was not long before the trappings of most seaside town made an appearance, chief amongst which was the huge Southend-on-Sea Pier. Stretching out 1.3 miles into the Thames it is the world’s longest leisure pier. Today I would not be walking out along it, but I did do back in 2008 when my local football club AFC Telford visited Southend for an FA Cup replay. The pier is quite amazing and has its own railway carriages running backwards and forth. For a week day in early February, the day could have easily passed for a summer’s day, with the sun out and large amounts of people about.
I soon had the pier at my back as I made my way out of Southend into Westcliffe-on-Sea, then Chalkewell and finally Leigh-on-Sea, each merging imperceptibly into a single large seaside conurbation. Leigh-on-Sea was quite a charming small town, with the seaside part of the town retaining its cobbled streets and quaint pubs.
I left all the built-up areas behind me and set off along a very wide sea bank, which was in the main dry. The view now was not out towards the Thames but a small island called Two Tree Island. It certainly had more than two trees, as well as well as a large Nature Reserve. Eventually Canvey Island appeared, although it was difficult to see with all the water channels, still at low tide.
When I reached the main road out of Canvey Island I continued onto a short distance to Benfleet railway station, as I needed to fill a small gap in my walk, which would save me from doing it tomorrow morning. I reached the station and about turned heading over to Canvey Island and back to my car.
Distance today = 20 miles
Total distance = 5,767 miles