315. Barling to Benfleet

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 church at Little Wakering
Heading across fields to Shoeburyness
The MOD perimeter fence at Shoeburyness
The end of the MOD land at Shoeburyness
Back on the coast and heading towards Thorpe Bay
A beautiful morning heading in towards Southend-on-Sea along the Thames Estuary
The Pier at Southend
The entrance to the pier (taken in 2008)
Heading out along the pier (taken in 2008)
One of the trains that run along the pier (taken in 2008)
Looking back towards Southend (taken in 2008)
Work still under way following the fire in 2005 (taken in 2008)
Small Turnstone(taken in 2008)
Looking across the Thames estuary towards Kent (taken in 2008)
From the pier end looking back to Southend (taken in 2008)
Evidence of the fire from 2005 (taken in 2008)

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.

 

The cliff-lift at Southend
A very placid Thames at Westcliffe-on-Sea
The Crow Stone demarcating the limit of the Port of London River Authority
The wharf at Leigh-on-Sea
Looking back to Leigh-on-Sea and Southend
Hadleigh Castle
Heading towards Benfleet
The tidal Barrier at Canvey Island

Distance today = 20 miles
Total distance = 5,767 miles

 

 

 

314. Barling to Canewdon

I have set myself the target of walking a minimum of 3 days in England and 3 days in Scotland each month, which would hopefully see me complete my challenge later this year. As I had already walked 5 days in January, I just needed to get a single walking in, so I decided on a day’s visit to Essex. Doing a single days walk driving from Shropshire can be quite hard on the body with 7 – 8 hours of driving coupled with a 5 – 7 hours walk. The good news is I am finally nearing my completion of the Essex coastline, which has been frustrating in terms of linear progress down the coastline.

Today’s walk would involve a large amount of sea wall walking and some small sections of road walking. Because of the bus schedules I decided to reverse my usual direction of travel by driving to and parking in Canewdon. From there I caught the 08:01 #60 bus into Southend-on-Sea and then catching the 09:07 #14 bus to Barling. I had a bit of a scare when I arrived at the bus stop where I would catch the #14 bus, in that I could not see the service number on the timetable. I knew it was the correct stop because I had checked it on Google Streetmap and Traveline. Anyway I caught the bus ok and was glad to get out of the wind which was a freezing cold.

I got off the bus in Barling Magna and headed towards the Church, with its small spire sitting atop the main square tower. I joined the sea wall at Barlingham Creek, which fed into another channel called The Violet which in turn fed into the River Roach which I would be walking around today.
The thing to understand about the coastline of Essex, is yes, it has a number rivers, some of which confluence into larger estuaries and contribute to the 350+ miles plus of Essex coastline, but what adds to the difficulty of walking around these rivers are the numerous creeks, channels, inlets, pools, streams and smaller rivers that feed into the River Colne, Stour, Blackwater, Crouch and Roach and must be walked around!

I was fortunate to have the stiff breeze with me at the start of the walk, but as I reached the River Roach at Barling Ness I now headed  into the freezing breeze. I was essentially walking around Barling Marsh, which appears to be a large landfill site. I headed westwards along the sea wall before turning inland near Mucking Hall, as the public footpath on the sea wall ceased. I plotted a route along public footpaths, crossing over a miniature small gauge railway track that seemed to have fallen into disrepair and then along the odd short section of road. This worked well and I soon arrived at the outskirts of Rochford.

At Rochford I had to negotiate getting around a large boatyard, a large disused industrial site, a household recycling facility as well as crossing over The River Roach. I was surprised how easy this was, especially as the maps were not so clear. However, I managed to get over the Roach and continue  along the opposite bank and start making my way eastwards and with the breeze now at my back. I had been following The Roach Valley Way, but at Bartonhall Creek, which required a 1.5 mile detour inland, the Roach Valley Way disappeared inland. I continued along the sea wall, which was a bit rough in places.

The church at Barling Magna
Barlinghall Creek at low tide
Looking across the River Roach to Paglesham Eastend
Looking westwards towards Rochford
Heading westwards towards Rochford
Small gauge railway near Sutton Hall
Small gauge railway near Sutton Hall
Crossing over the Roach near Rochford
At the head of a 1.5 mile detour around Bartonhall Creek
Back on the Sea wall alongside the Roach heading eastwards

To the north I could see Canewdon, where my car was parked, it was quite tempting to head straight for it, but I had planned to continue walking around The Roach. I carried on along the river and soon arrived at the Jetty, with a few river boats/home moored alongside close to the village of Paglesham Eastend. After a kilometre I left the left the Roach and headed along Paglesham Creek. At this time I was rather fed up with walking along the sea wall, so I headed across footpaths towards the village of Paglesham, with its delightful church and clap-boarded cottages. I joined up with the Roach Valley Way for a short distance then made a direct line across filed paths and a quite road back into Canewdon.

 

Houseboats near Paglesham Eastend
Old boathouse near Paglesham Eastend
Zooming across Clements Marsh to Burnham-on-Crouch
Clap-Board houses in Paglesham

Distance today = 19 miles
Total distance = 5,747 miles

 

 

 

 

 

313. Rosehearty to St. Fergus

Today would be the day when I eventually start walking southwards again, as the last 6 or 7 walks have been eastwards. I had no concerns about today’s walk other than a few possible river crossing which may have required a slight inland diversion. It would be a very early departure from my hotel room, because I had to catch the first of two buses to get to my start point. This meant driving to the shore car park about a mile from St. Fergus and walking back into St. Fergus to catch the 5:53 #69 bus to Fraserburgh. As I drove to the car park I passed the large St. Fergus gas terminal, with its thousands of lights lighting up the early morning sky. There was little traffic about at that time of the morning and I passed a Police car in a lay-by. About 400m later I turned down the single track road to the beach. As I got out of the car and started getting my stuff ready, another car appeared. It was the police, or should I say Ministry of Defence Police, the equivalent of the Civil Nuclear Constabulary who I had come across before. There were obviously checking me out as the car park is about 1km from the huge gas plant. They soon disappeared back up the road without stopping.

After catching the bus into Fraserburgh, I then caught the 06:55 #74 to Rosehearty. It was still drizzling with rain when I got off the bus and because it was only 07:05, still very dark. I had checked beforehand though and I knew there was a good footpath all the way back into Fraserburgh. As I walked out of Rosehearty and through Sandhaven, the rain ceased and it gradually began to get light. By the time I had reached Fraserburgh I was able to remove my hi-vis vest and turn my head torch off. I passed a bakery and popped in to get a bacon bap, it was really nice and perked me up as the drizzle began to slowly return.

I walked through Fraserburgh and out past the harbours full of boats, mainly to do with the fishing industry. I transferred down onto a lovely beach that swept around Fraserburgh Bay. About half way along the beach I spoke to a chap who was exercising, I asked him about crossing the burn further up the beach. He confirmed my suspicions that I would have to divert inland due to the high tide which was now underway. I cut across the golf course to the B9023 road. I crossed over the Water of Philorth via a road bridge and continued along the main road for another mile before continuing down a minor road into Inverallochy. As I left Inverallochy, the sun came out and it stopped raining. I walked alongside another golf course and into the village of St. Combs.

Fraserburgh High Street early in the morning
Faithlie Harbour Fraserburgh
Heading around Fraserburgh Bay
The Water of Philorth

I got speaking to a local dog walker who advised me of the two bridges I needed to cross a couple of miles further up. I already knew about the bridges, but it was still reassuring to know they were still there. I now entered a dune system that would be with me to the end of the walk. The dunes were covered in Marram Grass and difficult to walk through. I picked up a couple tracks that ultimately led me to the two wooden bridges I needed to cross. One of the bridges was over the outfall from Loch Strathbeg, Britain’s largest dune loch and an important winter feeding site for many birds.

I could now see the towers from the large St. Fergus gas terminal. Composed of three plants, each having three offshore pipelines coming ashore, the site receives 25% of the country’s gas supply. I decided to cross over the dune system again and drop down to the beach. This took a while as the dune system here had two ridges which took some effort getting over. The beach was beautiful with amazing surf causing a fine mist to form. The sand, however, was a bit of a pig to walk along though. Try as I did, I could not find a “sweet spot” to walk along without sinking into the sand. I decided to cut back into the dunes as the effort of walking over the beach sand was sapping my energy. I cut back through the dunes and walked along the dune fringe. I could now see the lighthouse at Rattray Head which I was heading for. I passed the Lighthouse cottages, which was a bit of a misnomer, as the “cottages” appeared to be a large and well-built house.

Crossing the outflow from Loch Strathbeg
Looking back over the dunes to St. Combs
Heading down onto the beach
On the beach with the surf causing a fine mist
Heading towards Rattray Head
The Lighthouse “cottage” at Rattray Head
Looking back at the lighthouse at Rattray Head

I got back onto the beach and stuck with it until I reached the Gas Terminal. I knew at some point I would have to cut through the dunes again and follow the fence line of the gas terminal, because of a water course at the far end of the site. After walking along fence line past the multiple signs warning me that armed police patrol the site 24hours a day, I arrived at the old ruined Annachie bridge that got me over the last water obstacle of the day. The last kilometre was along a dog walker’s path past the dunes to the car park and my car.

 

Heading along the beach towards the St. Fergus gas terminal
Walking along the fenceline at St. Fergus
The Annachie bridge at St. Fergus

NB: I also publish all my Scottish Blog entries on the excellent Scottish Hills website, I use the same narrative, but larger photos and a few extra ones. They can be found here:

http://www.scottishhills.com/html/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=24806

Distance today =20 miles
Total distance = 5,728 miles

 

 

 

 

312. Rosehearty to Banff

 

I had a really fitful night’s sleep, it had taken me 8.5hrs to do yesterday’s walk mostly over established footpaths and tracks, but today’s walk would a similar distance, I would be starting almost an hour later and it was over ground that had large amounts of ascent and descent with few footpaths. I knew I had to alter my route slightly, taking in more road walking in order that I would finish before it got dark. I examined and re-examined my public transport options. Using public transport to get to the start of the walk in Banff was a non-starter as I would be starting my walk at 11:00! The only option was to drive to Banff again and park up there. I then looked at the option of setting out straight away in the dark towards Rosehearty and getting the only bus back at 16:18, this was a bit of gamble so I opted to take two buses to get me to Rosehearty to start walking at 09:00.

I caught the 07:35 #271 to Fraserburgh, then a short journey on the 08:42 #74 to Rosehearty. I set off down the B9031 on a still, warm morning where the overnight rain had ceased and the sun was just up. I was on the B9031, which was very quiet, for only mile before I turned off down a single track road. The single track road just served the odd farm and with the odd intermittent vehicle. After 30 minutes I passed a farm and the farmer was just about to jump into his tractor and do some muck-spreading. Then what started with a simple query as to how far I was walking turned into a 20 minute conversation! He was from Bath originally and had been farming here for over 30 years. We talked about his cattle and he kindly showed me some that were in his barn. We could have chatted for an hour, but he had work to do and I needed to get going myself.

The views ahead were superb with the high cliffs of Stranhangles Point and the high ground of Troup Head dominating the view across Aberdour Bay. Although I had intended to walk along the cliff-line, I had decided to stick to the lane, which was 300 – 400m away and had more commanding views. The road descended down to the River Dour where I continued across the river and began the long steep climb up a farm track. The track led to much higher ground and after passing through Bankhead farm, it continued straight ahead as a footpath. I picked some signs indicating that this was a recognised route to Pennan, where I was heading. I had decided that although I would be staying on the roads for most of the walk, but there were three places I wanted to visit and Pennan was one of them. I followed a footpath and track past the ruins of Pennan Farm and dropped steeply into the tiny old fishing village of Pennan, famed for being the location of the film “Local Hero”. Its K6 telephone box featured in a number of the scenes of the film and is still there today. However, I later discovered that the  K6 used in the film was a prop! The actual and working K6 box is stuck behind a small building 50 metres away. I remember watching the film at the time…..crikey how the years have flown by!

The Square in Rosehearty
The view ahead with Strahangles Point (l) and Troup Head (r)
Looking back at The Doocot near Craigiefold
The intriguing name of Egypt Farm
The view ahead with Strahangles Point (c) and Troup Head (r)

The bad news about descending down to Pennan was that I had to re-ascend up from the village again, which was very steep. I re-joined the B9031 for two miles; the road was still quiet, but the weathered had begun to turn, with cloud and drizzle coming in. I took a minor lane which serviced a few isolated farms which I could see would give me access to the second and third destinations that I wanted to visit, namely Crovie and Gardenstown. I dropped down steep ground towards a ravine, which was clad in gorse. Frustratingly, the road I needed to get on was only 150m away, but there was no way I was getting down through the gorse and across the ravine. I back-tracked back up the slope and field. Some 30 minutes later I dropped down to the tiny old fishing village of Crovie. Like Pennan it sits at the base of the large sandstone and conglomerate cliffs and is hemmed in by the sea. I continued on along the beach to Gardenstown, which was just around a small headland. The good news was there was a well-established path which had steps around the headland, however the weather had closed in big time and More Head, which rose above Gardenstown, was cloaked in fog almost down to the sea, while the drizzle continued.

Descending into Pennan
Pennan
Not the actual K6 in Pennan
Descending into Crovie
Crovie
The steps around the headland to Gardenstown

I decided I needed to get a move on and I also had to climb up from the shoreline in Gardenstown back onto the main road. It was one hell of a steep climb and it took a lot out of me. Back on the main the visibility in the fog was down to 80-100m. I put my hi-vis vest and my head torch on. The road was now much busier than earlier. Fortunately, the available verges, were good, although there were a couple of tight bends where I had to scurry through. Sometimes I managed to get into the adjacent field and walk alongside the road. I must admit this was the first time I had encountered dense fog on a walk. I was on the B9031 for about 6 miles before it joined up with the A98 just on the outskirts of Macduff.  As I walked along the welcome pavements into Macduff, the light had begun to fade. I was pleased that I had managed to visit at least three places on my original intended route. I made it back to the car at 04:00, just as the fog was beginning to clear.

Even though todays walk had been slightly further than yesterdays and I had completed it in a faster time, which is not surprising as there was more road walking, but I was surprised to find that my total ascent was 955m – which is a reasonably sized Munro!

On the ascent out of Gardenstown looking down at the harbour in the rain
Small fishing vessel in for repairs in Macduff shipyard
Looking across Banff Bay to a very murky Banff
The bridge over the River Deveron

NB: I also publish all my Scottish Blog entries on the excellent Scottish Hills website, I use the same narrative, but larger photos and a few extra ones. They can be found here:

http://www.scottishhills.com/html/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=24805

 

Distance today =22 miles
Total distance = 5,708 miles

 

 

 

 

 

 

311. Findochty to Banff

I could see a three day weather window that would be perfect for a trip to the NE tip of Aberdeenshire. I booked myself into Saltoun Inn in Fraserburgh. The Saltoun is actually a Weatherspoon’s hotel which I booked a large family room at a very good rate.

It was forecast to be dry for all three days of my walks, but today had the added bonus of having the stiff breeze with me as well as being a sunny day with blue skies all around. The daylight hours were still short so I needed to make an early start, this meant driving the 25 miles to Banff, where I parked up. I caught the 06:45 # 35 bus to Findochty. The bus was quite busy with most people going to work. It was still dark when I got off the bus in Findochty, although the sky to the east was quite bright.

I set off along an excellent track that was the Moray Coast Trail. The coast here is very rugged, with the rocks steeply dipping into the Moray Firth. I caught an occasional flash of the Tarbat Ness lighthouse fast receding into the distance. After 2 miles I entered another sleepy old fishing village – Portknockie. Portknockie is famous for the close proximity of the geomorphological feature called the Bow & Fiddle, which is basically a sea stack with an attached sea arch resembling a fiddler’s bow. The path dropped down from the surrounding cliffs to a shoreline and passed a number of caves, now seated above the shoreline on a raised beach. I passed Jenny’s Well, not to sure who Jenny was, but the well was spouting a nice flow of water. The sun was now up but remained low in the sky for most of my walk, which meant I could have really done with a peaked cap to shade the blinding sun. In Portknockie I had spoken to a local resident, a retired gamekeeper from England, he advised me of the footpath situation for the next couple of miles.

Early morning looking back at Findochty, the lights in the far distance are Lossiemouth
Looking down on the harbour at Portknockie
The Bow and Fiddle near Portknockie
Looking eastwards towards Troup Head in the far distance
Heading down to the shoreline near Cullen
Jenny’s Well

My next village was Cullen, famed for its Cullen Skink – a traditional Scottish soup made with Haddock, potatoes and onions. I tried it once but I was not that impressed. Although mid-morning there were few people about. The entrance to Cullen was marked by a large railway viaduct, now disused this used to carry a branch line of the Great North of Scotland line, but closed in 1968. As the excellent shore path passed out of Cullen I came across a pet cemetery on the beach, it was a very sad place to be, especially with all the names of the animals and their photos, toys leads etc..
The path rounded Logie Head and I again dropped down to the shoreline. The path was certainly becoming much fainter now and less trodden. By chance I came across a sign with information about Charlie’s Cave, I thought “here we go again, some cave that Bonnie Prince Charlie dossed down in blah…blah”. But no, this was about a Frenchman, Charles Marioni who jumped ship in Plymouth in 1904 and made his way to North East Aberdeenshire and set up a home against a small niche in the rock. His full story, written by Andrew Saunders, is contained in a photo I took.

I soon came to the ruins of Findlatter Castle, not a great deal to see as the erosion by wind and water over the centuries have left their mark. I then arrived at Sandend Bay and what a beautiful beach it was!

The Three Kings at Cullen
The Pet Cemetary at Cullen
The ups and downs of the coastal path at Logie Head
Info board for Charlies Cave (zoom in to read)
The niche where Charlie built his sea-shore shack
Climbing back up the cliffs
Looking down on the ruins of Findlatters castle
Looking back to Logie Head
Looking back to Sandend across the beautiful beach

I picked up the coast path at the far end of the beach and climbed up the cliffs again. The path continued around another promontory – Redhythe Point. I was now only a mile from another fishing village – Portsoy. Again this was a very quiet place, either the inhabitants were at work or the place was full of holiday lets. I walked past the harbour and around Links Bay. I could see handmade signs to the coastguard lookout tower. When I reached the “Coastguard Tower?” It was simply four posts knocked into the ground with some tape and a sign advising that this was the site of a former coastguard tower. I was slightly underwhelmed. The bad news was that I was virtually surrounded by thick gorse with no way of beating my way through. I managed to backtrack slightly and drop down to the beach again, where I picked up a feint path which soon fizzled out. I knew from reading other accounts that a working quarry lay ahead and that I needed to make an inland diversion to get around it as well as getting over the River Boyne.
I cut inland for about a kilometre and joined a quiet road where I crossed the River Boyne. As I passed the access road to the quarry I could see that it was still working. I soon got off the road and headed across some freshly ploughed fields back towards the coast.

Back on the coast there was little or no footpath of any sort. The ground was reasonably flat and offered a number of small sandy beaches to walk along. After a couple of miles I entered Whitehills, another small old fishing village. I rounded a headland near the harbour called the Knock. I could now see both Banff and Macduff some three miles away. I set off along the track bed of the old railway route and met a lot more people, nearly all dog walkers. By this time fatigue was beginning to set-in with my feet and legs. It seemed to take an age to cover the last mile and I was really relieved to get back to the car.

This had been a fabulous days walking, which despite the one diversion, I had been able to stick close to the coast. With beautiful scenery, good walking conditions and a bright sunny day, this had been one of the best walking days I had had for some time.

One of the harbours at Portsoy
Looking eastwards Whitehills and in the far distance Banff and Macduff
One of the many isolated beaches I passed over at Bears Head
Looking across Boyndie Bay to Banff and Macduff
Late afternoon looking across to Macduff from Banff

NB: I also publish all my Scottish Blog entries on the excellent Scottish Hills website, I use the same narrative, but larger photos and a few extra ones. They can be found here:

http://www.scottishhills.com/html/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=24804

Distance today =21 miles
Total distance = 5,686 miles

 

 

310. Bradwell to Burnham-on-Crouch

I was looking forward to today’s walk mainly because it involved no road walking. I should say that I don’t mind road walking per se, walking along even busy roads with wide verges or quiet backroads can be quite appealing. The real danger is the B-roads which are generally straighter, busier,  faster and with few, if any, verge or refuge areas, particularly in this part of the country.

Today I would actually be filling a gap in my progress around the Essex coastline, or to be more precise the Dengie peninsular, which is one of three peninsula’s running east-west and bounded by rivers north and south. The Dengie peninsular has  the River Blackwater to the north and tothe south the River Crouch. At its eastern boundary is the North Sea and with the  sea wall running its entire length it is probably one of the most isolated parts of Essex.

The only real concern I had with today’s walk was getting from Burnham-on-Crouch, where I had parked, to Bradwell Waterside. The only bus service was the Dart 4, which I had issues with when I last tried to use it. My concerns were allayed when I arrived at the Clock Tower in Burnham to see two Dart minibuses waiting at the bus stop. By 09:00 I had been dropped off close to the Sea wall at Bradwell Waterside.

I set off along the sea wall walking towards the Bradwell Nuclear Power Station. Bradwell had been decommissioned back in 2002 and was now shrouded in white cladding giving the appearance of two gigantic storage barns. I was amazed at how small the site was, but dismayed to learn that a new power station was in the design stage for possible commercial operation by 2030.

Walking along the sea wall was very pleasant, with short cropped grass and little if any mud. I gradually bid goodbye to The River Blackwater and with it the view over to West Mersea on Mersea Island. I soon arrived at what appeared to be a large stone barn, which in fact, was the remnants of a monastery built in 654AD by St. Cedd. The building called St. Peters on the Wall Chapel was built on the site of a Roman fort called Othona, with most the fort had been lost to the sea over the centuries.

Bradwell Nuclear Power Station
The hulls of old boats chained together to help prevent coastal erosion off Sales Point
St Peters Chapel
Inside St. Peters Chapel
Inside St. Peters Chapel

The next 10 to 12 miles was quite an isolated stretch of the coastline, with the actual shoreline about 300 metres away over salting’s. The area was quite featureless and flat, with occasional drainage outfalls being  a key indicator of where you were on the wall.  I later came across a book online called The Essex Coastline – then and now by Matthew Faultley & James Garon, now out of print but available free to read online.

https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Hwl1Tefe1q4C&pg=PA5&source=gbs_toc_r&cad=4#v=onepage&q&f=false

I discovered reading the book that this area was used as a bombing range during the Second World War, with little evidence of that today. The book provides a tremendous amount of information on the Essex coastline. As the salting’s gave way to a proper shoreline I continued along a concreted section of the sea wall, wide enough to drive a car along. I was now near Shell Bank, which was true to its name with the shoreline made up entirely of cockle shells. By the time I reached Holliwell Point I had entered the Crouch Estuary and could look across to Foulness Island. Owned by the MOD I could see a series of red flags flying and it was not long before I heard a series of very loud explosions coming from that direction.

By this time the sun was out and the day had a lovely spring feel to it, although the low sun was blinding as I walked into it. I passed a series of Pill boxes from the Second World War that had been built into the sea wall itself. I did wander which came first, the sea wall or the pill boxes, but the “Polderisation” of this land had been going on for centuries. I also found that in true Ministry fashion the hexagon shaped pill boxes had a design classification namely – Fortification & Works (FW3/22).  One of the fortifications was a very strange construction, built on the marsh side of the wall it had to be built high enough to see over the sea wall. Jon Combe, fellow coast walker, described it as resembling a Dalek – I would not disagree.

As I approached Burnham-on-Crouch, I could make out the high rise buildings of Southend -on-Sea, a sign that the Thames estuary lay just beyond. The path also became increasingly muddy, principally from dog-walkers. I walked along the quay into Burnham, with its small collection of cosy pubs and buildings. Perhaps one of the best Essex walks to date.

Crepuscular Rays falling over the Dengie Marsh saltings
Shell Bank
On the sea wall looking out towards the North Sea
Looking south towards the high rises of Southend-on-Sea
Looking along the Crouch estuary
Exterminate!
FW3/22 Pillboxes built into the sea wall
On the quay in Burnham-on-Crouch

Distance today =18 miles
Total distance = 5,665miles

 

 

309. Battlesbridge to Canewdon

My first walk of the new decade! I wanted to make a positive start to 2020, which meant getting some days in on the Essex coast. I’ve decided I’m going to try and do 3 and 3, 3 walks in Scotland and 3 in England in each month. Because  today was a Sunday I needed to work around the public transport issues, this meant making use of my bike.

I drove to and parked in the small village of Canewdon. I took my bike from the back of the car and got all my lights working, both on the bike and on my head! It was 07:00 and still dark, but I only had a 7km to cycle to the nearby town of Rochford. After locking my bike up I took the 07:56 train to Wickford, I then had a  45 minute wait until I caught the 09:06 train to Battlesbridge. I was only on the train to Battlesbridge for 4 minutes, so it was that close!

Today’s walk involve some sea wall walking and a large inland diversion. I set off down the road to Hullbridge, but first crossing over the River Crouch, which was now but a small stream at low tide. For the next kilometre I would be walking along a busy road, even for 9’oclock on a Sunday morning. There’s just a lot people that live in this neck of the woods. Even more annoying the road did not have a verge in some places. I was glad to join the Sea wall and continue along the banks of the Crouch. I passed along the river front of Hullbridge and soon sat opposite to the slipway  at South Woodham Ferrers.

Crossing The River Crouch at Battlesbridge
The Crouch at Battlesbridge with sluice and mill visible
At Hullbridge looking across the Crouch to South Woodham Ferrers

I continued along the river, for a short distance before I began the long inland diversion. This was because about a kilometre downriver the sea wall had been breached, living the sea wall footpath high and dry with nowhere to go. So I needed to return towards the main road I had left about 40 minutes ago. However, the amount of road walking I needed to do was about 3.5km and with no verge in many places I needed to head further inland along quiet roads and footpaths. I managed this ok, but it did take me into the town of Hockley and was almost twice as long as if I had walked along the main road. After passing through the village of Ashingdon I had just a short 150 meter section of road to negotiate before I headed off across a footpath towards South Fambridge, but not before some “muppet” pipped his horn at me for god  knows what reason and as I was clinging to what verge there was! Not very pleasant at all walking along these road sections, dangerous with all the Sunday drivers out and about!!

I re-joined the River Crouch again at South Fambridge and it was nearly all sea wall walking for the rest of the walk. I passed a granite memorial to Fambridge Airfield, which no longer exists and was only up and running for less than months in 1909! It was similar memorial to the Tain  memorial I passed by last yaer. Although it was still only 14:00, it was incredibly dull and dingy, but the sea wall was predominantly dry and I made good progress. As I neared Lion Creek the sea wall turned inland a bit. Lion Creek marked roughly the boundary of Wallasea Island, which I was not setting foot on as the footpaths, I had read, are rather ‘sketchy’ and incomplete.

I was now heading back westwards towards Canewdon and to minimise the road walking I found a few footpaths which took me almost back into Canewdon. I was back at the car by 15:00 and all that remained to do was to change my footwear and head back towards Rochford to pick the bike up again.Then onto Southend and my bed for the night.

Not an enjoyable Sunday stroll.

A rare glimpse of sunshine falling on St Peter’s and St Paul’s churrch near Hockley
The Spa, now a pub, was originally built as an hotel to cater for visitors to the nearby Hockley Spa Pump Room, the Spa ceased in 1848
Fambridge Airfield memorial
Looking across the Crouch to North Fambridge
Looking across to the Marina on Wallasea island, Burnham-on-Crouch is just visible on the left
The remnants of Lion Wharf on Wallasea island

Distance today =18 miles
Total distance = 5,647 miles