179. Steeple to Maldon

April 2007

On this walk I’m heading around the southern side of the Blackwater Estuary to the closest crossing point of the estuary at a place called Maldon.

I started this walk by driving from home to Maldon. The journey is mostly OK other than some queuing traffic as I reach Maldon. I drove along the main street of Maldon and found a car park signed just off the main street.

I didn’t know much about Maldon, in fact until a few weeks ago I didn’t even know it existed. The only place with that name I knew of was New Malden, which I passed through on the train on the way to work in London. It also looked a fairly bland suburb of London. Maldon in Essex though was very different – it looked a beautiful place, packed with interesting old buildings and a High Street that seemed full of life.

Maldon

I had about 20 minutes before a was due to Steeple so I decided to have a quick look around Maldon before taking the bus to Steeple to begin the walk. This is because the bus was only hourly at the time (it is less frequent now) so I didn’t want to be left with a potentially long wait at the end of the walk.

Maldon

I liked Maldon a lot and enjoyed my wander around the town.

Maldon

I found the bus stop on the High Street and the bus arrived on time to take me back to Steeple. I got off the bus just after the junction of Canney Road, which is where I had joined the road at Steeple last time. I was amused to note a traction engine parked beside the garage of one of the houses.

Traction engine in Steeple

I followed the road back past Hall Farm to the banks of Steeple Creek where I left last time. This time the tide was high so I was seeing water rather than mud.

Mayland Creek

Here I turned left and followed the footpath along the raised bank beside the creek.

Mayland Creek

As is often the case, the path was almost a causeway with water both in front of and behind it at times.

Mayland Creek

Spring is well and truly here now with the blackthorn hedges (I think they are, anyway…) beside the path adding a lovely splash of white with their pretty flowers. The creek now begins to narrow and soon I have reached the most inland point of the creek, near to Mayland. I round the back of the creek and continue on the path at the other side of the creek.

Mayland Creek

At one point, trees mean the path is almost a wooded tunnel and it’s lovely, with the fresh green leaves on the trees.

Footpath beside Mayland Creek

Soon the trees end and the path continues now lined with the blackthorn bushes and their lovely white flowers.

Footpath beside Mayland Creek

Soon the blackthorn comes to an end, but it has been an unexpectedly pretty stretch of the walk.

On my right there is a derelict old wodden jetty. Presumably boats once moored up here but I very much doubt they do any longer.

Disused jetty on Mayland Creek

The path on the west side of the creek is again on the raised bank and on my left are a number of lakes. I suspect the remnants of gravel or salt extraction, they are now being used by fisherman who are clearly, like me, keen to take advantage of the fine spring weather.

The creek is beginning to widen again as I head back nearer (slightly) the sea.

Mayland Creek

It is lovely and peaceful, until a noisy jet ski comes racing along the creek.

Jetski in Mayland Creek

A less welcome visitor of spring – I’m surprised they are allowed down this shallow muddy creek at all (or perhaps they are not, and ignoring the rules). Fortunately they only come down once and head back to the estuary, leaving a smell of petrol in their wake.

I continue alongside the marshes, eventually turning the corner back towards the Blackwater estuary, but I don’t get as far as that, as this creek just emerges onto another, Lawling Creek. The path though is right next to the waters edge now, rather than having a stretch of marsh between me and the water, as I have had up to this point.

It is clear the water lapping at the edge of this sea wall has taken it’s toll as the sea wall has crumbled away, eroding a section of the path away, though there is a well worn path along the back of the eroded area I followed instead.

Sea wall erosion near Maylandsea

Rounding the corner I’m now heading up the next creek, Lawling Creek which stretches for a little over a mile. I soon pass an Environment Agency sign warning that “We plan to carry out improvement works to this sea wall”. Well it is certainly in need of it – but I’m glad I’ve got through before they start and inevitably close the path for a time.

Lawling Creek

The creek is quite wide here with a number of boats moored up, but the tide has gone out now and they are marooned on the mud.

Lawling Creek

I pass an old metal sign “Essex Rivers Board” warning that tampering with any of the groynes or sluices is liable to a £50 fine. I wonder how old the sign is – I suspect the fine would be higher now.

Essex Rivers Board notice

I’ve now reached the edge of Maylandsea. The first part of the town I come to is a sailing club, with most of the boats still under wraps on the grass behind the path. Sailing is certainly popular in this part of Essex.

Maylandsea Sailing club

Just past the sailing club is another narrow muddy creek.

Maylandsea

I follow the path behind this and just as the marsh ends I come to another boat yard, this time Blackwater Marina. There are larger boats here, moored up with wooden decks to reach them, but because the tide has gone out all the boats are marooned on the mud.

Maylandsea Marina

Mixed in amongst the modern boats I came across what I found out was a Thames Sailing barge. I find this boats very pretty and I’d be seeing a lot more of them as the day wore on.

Maylandsea Marina

Past the boat yard and I had a mixture of open water and mud flats to my right. At this state of the tide the land and water seemed to merge because where there was water, it was extremely shallow.

Maylandsea Marina

I continued further up the creek as the water was replaced with mud flats and finally reached the most inland point of the creek, where it looked to me as if an old sea wall might have been breached here.

Lawling Creek

Lawling Creek

Thankfully the path continued right along the sea wall around the north side of the creek.

To my right was a mixture of mud flats and marsh land. Soon I had reached the mouth of the creek, at Mundon Stone Point.

Mundon Stone Point

Again I could see that the sea wall below the path had been eroded as the concrete squares it seemed to be made from was all broken apart, but this time it had not yet taken the path with it.

Near Mundon Stone Point

Now I was back alongside the Blackwater again having rounded all of Lawling Creek, with Osea Island just visible ahead.

The Blackwater Estuary

Zooming in on it, I could make out the large house on this side of the island.

Osea Island

My time along the banks of the Blackwater was short lived though as after about 200 metres I was turning away again to head around another creek, Coopers Creek, this one now mostly silted up and marsh.

Marshes beside Southey Creek

Marshes beside Southey Creek

This one though was shorter and it was less than a mile to get around it where the path then returned to the banks of the Blackwater.

Only a short distance after I had got around this then to my right it was another creek, Southey Creek. This time it I don’t have to go all the way around it, as it is more a water channel than a creek. Out in the estuary is another marshy island, Northey Island.

The main channel of the river Blackwater flows north of the island whilst to the south, where I am is a tidal creek, Southey Creek.

As the creek narrows I pass another fishing lake on the left and beyond that a field of rape seed, already showing the pretty yellow flowers. There is, yet another, creek to get around ahead. This one is Limbourne Creek. The path goes all around the creek inland, but in fact it seems a newer sea wall has been built along the mouth of the creek. It is not marked as a right of way, but there is a well worn path over it, so I follow that, pleased to have been able to take a slight shortcut.

A short distance ahead of this I come to Northey Island. This is a tidal island so at low tide the water in Southey Creek empties out and then you can reach the island on foot (or even, by car).

Northey Island Causeway

There is a causeway going out to the island. Northey Island is owned by the National Trust meaning it is possible – with some effort – to visit it. This is because signs warn you must not cross the causeway unless you have made an appointment to visit the island with the warden that lives on the island (and given 24 hours notice). I’d like to visit the island, but I haven’t made an appointment so for now I have to stick to the sea wall.

Marhses near Maldon

Beyond the causeway much of the land to the left is now fenced off behind a chain-link fence. The creek seems to be a bit of a boat graveyard with several ruined boats abandoned on the mud.

Ruined boats beside the Blackwater at Maldon

Ruined boats beside the Blackwater at Maldon

Soon I reach the edge of Maldon where, characteristically the first thing I come across is a sailing club.

Maldon Sailing club

Beyond this is Promenade Park, which was created in Victorian times. This is a large park on the south bank of the river Chelmer (after which Chelmsford, further inland, is named). It is a very popular place.

Promenade Park, Maldon

The promenade is wide more or road really. There is a dead-end route to my right out to the end of a jetty.

Promenade Park, Maldon

Originally I hadn’t planned to follow it, but there are a few people at the end and an interesting looking statue, so I decided to head along it to take a look. The statue turns out to be of Byrhtnoth, the Ealdorman of Essex who died in a battle against the Vikings in the Battle of Maldon in 991. This really brings it home to me how old the town of Maldon is – it has been here at least more than 1000 years.

Byrhtnoth, Ealdorman of Essex

Heading back I can follow this good, though busy, promenade. I have a fine view of Maldon ahead, though looking into the sun it has come out rather lacking in contrast in my photo.

Maldon

It was a beautiful sight though, the pretty church tower and several more of those very pretty Thames sailing barges. As I’m stopping to enjoy the view and taking a few photos a local man comments that “it looks like a film set doesn’t it?”. I can’t help but agree – it looks like a view that has been unchanged for 100 years or more.

The promenade park is busy and it seems like half the population of Maldon is here. It does seem to be a town where the people seem happy and enjoying their surroundings.

Promenade Park, Maldon

The park is very pleasant, now with a lake and fountain to my left and a well kept shelter on my right.

As I near the centre of the town I can look ahead to the masts of all the various different boats moored up on the quay.

The quay at Maldon

I’m not sure if there is any commercial traffic left here, but there is certainly a lot of leisure traffic and I like the view of all the different boats.

As I get closer I realise why there are so many of those lovely Thames sailing barges here. It turns out I have reached the Thames Sailing Barge heritage centre. These barges were originally built here. Now a company called Top Sail Charters owns the yard. Here they still repair these beautiful boats and have their own fleet for hire and for public cruises. Sadly none are operating on the day I was here but it sounds like a nice trip.

Maldon

Thames Sailing barges at Maldon

I enjoy looking around this area though, as there are information boards about many of the boats, telling you when they were built, what they were used for and what they are used for now. It is a lovely little museum.

Thames Sailing barges at Maldon

Thames Sailing barges at Maldon

Just past this though I have to leave the river bank as it is now blocked by a pub and it’s garden, The Queens Head. Just past this the road turns left so I can turn right. I turned onto North Street which turned out to be a (short) dead-end but the next road inland, Downs Road soon brings me back to the waters edge where I pass an area called Watership Down.

Soon buildings line the banks of the river to my right again so I can’t see the river any more. The next view I get is obviously an old dock on the other side, now converted to flats.

The River Chelmer, Maldon

Now I am along the quay still lined with boats of various sizes. This side is still quite pretty, but the other side is a bit industrial, but mixed in with some older mills. I am not sure if they are still used, they look run down and one seems to be clad in asbestos!

The River Chelmer, Maldon

Soon I reach the bridge which marks the lowest crossing point on foot of the Blackwater estuary. Rather than cross it, I continued just ahead for a view further up the river.

The Blackwater Estuary at Maldon

This is the river Chelmer which heads to Chelmsford, the next town inland, though it is a little over 10 miles further inland from Maldon. The Chelmer provided the main transport links to Chelmsford and as a result a navigable canal was created, the Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation which provided an easily navigable route that connected Chelmsford with the sea at all states of the tide. These days like most canals it is used exclusively be leisure craft, but the tow path is still intact and you can follow it all the way to Chelmsford.

I’m not going to Chelmsford today though but instead heading back to the car park. Maldon has another little surprise for me. It is hilly!

Maldon

The road up to the High Street is really quite steep as you can see from these buildings that line it. Essex has a reputation for being flat, but this bit isn’t!

Maldon

The road continues, seeming to get steeper but it is lined with attractive buildings, now mostly houses I think I suspect they were once commercial and all painted in pleasant pastel shades.

Maldon

Maldon is quieter now than when I was here earlier, it seems most of the shoppers have gone home (as it’s nearly 5pm) and it is nice to wander the now peaceful streets, admiring the many beautiful old buildings.

Maldon

Maldon

Maldon had turned out to be a wonderful town. It is nice to discover places like this having come not knowing what to expect and finding such a beautiful town.

Maldon

Maldon

Maldon

From the High Street I headed back to the car park. Here Maldon had one further surprise for me. As I approached my car I could see all was not quite well, it looked like the car parked next to mine had parked incredibly close.

As I got closer I realised it wasn’t the case that the owner had parked their car so badly. Instead, someone had crashed into it with such force, they had pushed the car almost to 45 degrees in the space, denting the front wing and dislodging part of the front bumper and leaving it about an inch from the back of my ageing Peugeot 106 parked next to it.

At the time I was working in London and so travelling there by train each day. So I only really used my car for trips at the weekend to go walking or to visit family and friends, so there was no point in spending a lot of money on new, large or expensive car for it to sit idle most of the week. So although it was about 12 years old by this point I would still rather it not be damaged so was glad to see that my car at least was unscathed, even if it did make it a bit tricky to get out of the space. However it did make me wonder how on earth it had happened. I could only assume either someone reversing out of another space had pressed the accelerator rather than the brake by mistake or someone was racing around the car park showing off and lost control, but they must have been going at a good speed to push the car that far sideways! They would have had to jump the curb, too. It did at least look as if whoever did it left their details under the windscreen wiper, but I was glad I had not parked in that space, or it would have been my car that had been damaged.

Although this had been another walk of marshes, creeks and mud I had still enjoyed it a lot. It was helped by the lovely weather, plenty of flowers about, brightening up the path, and plenty of interest to see, such as Northey Island and the beautiful Thames Sailing barges. All the paths were in good condition and other than in Maldon itself all the walk had been on paths rather than roads which made it more enjoyable. Maldon too had been a lovely town to explore and it was nice to come across such a beautiful town as I hadn’t known what to expect, it seems to be a rather undiscovered place.

Here are details of the public transport needed for this walk:-

On Monday – Saturday Hedingham bus routes D1 and D2 can be used : Maldon – Purleigh – Cold Norton – Latchingdon – Maylandsea – MaylandSteeple. At Steeple the two routes diverge, with bus D1 runing to St Lawrence and Bradwell-on-Sea whilst route D2 runs to Southminster, also serving the rail station. Between them, there are 9 busses per day between Maldon and Steeple and it takes around 35 minutes to make the journey.

On Sundays First Essex route 33 can be used : Chelmsford – Great Baddow – Danbury – West Mortimer – Maldon – Latchingdon – Maylandsea – Mayland – Steeple – Southminster – Southminster Station. There are 7 busses per day (roughly once every 2 hours).

Here is the complete set of photos for this walk : Main Link | Slideshow

Advertisements
Posted in Essex | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

178. Bradwell-on-Sea to Steeple

April 2007

On this walk I leave the open sea again to head into another estuary, this one the Blackwater estuary. I’ll need to head inland as far as the town of Maldon to get around this estuary, but that is too far to cover in one walk so it will take me two walks to get there.

I’m not sure sure, when I set off, where I’m going to end this walk. There aren’t many busses to Bradwell-on-Sea so I plan to just keep walking until it is near the time the bus I want to catch is due and head to the road to catch it.

I drove to Bradwell-on-Sea because this is a remote area with very limited public transport. There didn’t seem to be any car park that I could see, so I parked on the road near the church.

The first part of the walk is re-tracing my steps from last time along the road for almost 2 miles, back to the ancient and beautiful St Peter-on-the-Wall chapel.

St Peter on the Wall Chapel

Once again I am puzzling why Bradwell has the “on-Sea” suffix. It’s not on sea and a good mile in any direction from the centre of the village to the sea or estuary. I suppose “Bradwell-quite-near-the-Sea” would not have quite the same ring. I did wonder last time if the land around had built up but then I noticed on the map right near the chapel is marked the sight of a Roman Fort so this has been land for a very long time.

It is another lovely sunny day and it is peaceful around the chapel. Although not crowded last time it seems today I am here before most of the visitors arrive. The chapel is just a minute or so walk to the sea wall. Across the marshes I can make out a thin line of sand, some mud, and finally some water beyond that. It must be low tide!

The coast near St Peter-on-the-Wall, Bradwell

I turned north along the sea wall. Largely out of sight behind trees is a small religious community presumably drawn here by the lovely chapel. As I head north the marsh thins out and I am closer to what would be the waters edge.

The coast near St Peter-on-the-Wall, Bradwell

But the land is so flat the tide goes out a long way, revealing what looks like a good half a mile of mud flats (confirmed later on the map). Some people are walking on the sand at the edge of the shore but you have to walk over a lot of mud to get to it and I’m not sure how easy it will be to walk on, as it looks like soft sand, so I stuck to the path.

I’ve reached a corner on the coast this one oddly marked on the map as “Sales Point” which sounds like somewhere you might find a checkout, but there is of course nothing there. Out to sea though I can see the remains of some wooden groynes or coastal defences and more of those old barges I saw last time. I presume they are from World War II and now made into further coastal defence, now beached on the mud as the tide has gone out.

The coast near St Peter-on-the-Wall, Bradwell

The coast near St Peter-on-the-Wall, Bradwell

In the distance beyond it too I can just make out land on the other side. Checking the map I realise this is Mersea Island, a large island, though it is joined to the mainland by a bridge these days.

The coast near St Peter-on-the-Wall, Bradwell

It looks quite close, but it will take me a long time to walk there. As I continued to head north west the water becomes closer to the shore and I can see the old boats clearly placed on the beach at regular intervals.

The coast near St Peter-on-the-Wall, Bradwell

On the other side too I can now see Mersea Island more clearly and can make out many beach huts there. It seems odd to me that the beach this side is mud whilst it clearly must be better over the other side.

Mersea Island from Bradwell

As I continue west there is soon a bit of sand just below the sea wall though the rest of the beach is a mixture of sand and mud. The terrain is easy since it is mostly along a concrete sea wall.

The coast near St Peter-on-the-Wall, Bradwell

Ahead I can see something of a blot on the landscape.

Bradwell Nuclear Power Station

This is Bradwell Nuclear Power station. Actually strictly it is a former power station, as it had stopped generating in 2002 and is in the process of being decommissioned. The beach now is a mixture of sand, shells and mud. I’m starting to see a lot of shells again now, as I did further south on my previous walk.

Soon there are areas of marsh between me and the water again, though there are people on the beach beyond it.

The coast near St Peter-on-the-Wall, Bradwell

After a while, I decide to join them to have a break from the concrete sea wall. Once over the marshes there is some firm sand and it is quite pleasant. It seems strange now that I am heading back up another estuary I’m finding a better beach than I did on the sea-facing coast further back.

The coast near Bradwell

The coast near Bradwell

An area of marsh ahead though forces me back to the sea wall again. This is now grass rather than concrete which makes for a more comfortable walking surface.

The coast near Bradwell

As I progress along the sea wall there are numerous concrete structures just to my right, what I assume are World War II pillboxes. This couple found one to make a handy seat!

The coast near Bradwell

This is another peaceful stretch of coast as I’ve not passed through any settlement of any size and the path is good underfoot. Despite it’s remoteness this seems to be a coast that is more visited, as there are people around most of the time which is nice to see, as there doesn’t seem to be much car parking close by so people have to walk to get here. Inland I’m getting closer to the power station.

The coast near Bradwell

There are also quite a few boats going up and down the Blackwater, all pleasure boats. Despite the activity around I’m surprised to see a Heron fishing at the waters edge – I don’t think I’ve seen one fishing in the open sea like this before, they are more usually found at the edge of rivers, canals and lakes in my experience.

Heron on the Blackwater Estuary near Bradwell

Out to sea there is another odd structure. It looks like a concrete sea wall or breakwater. I think it is in some way connected to the nuclear power station, I suspect an inlet for sea water to cool the reactor.

The coast at Bradwell Nuclear Power Station

Now I’m right alongside the old power station. It is huge, and very ugly. But then we need electricity and power stations have to go somewhere I guess.

Former Bradwell Nuclear Power Station

From this side of the power station there is another lower building too. It occupies a large site.

Former Bradwell Nuclear Power Station

Once past the power station I’m soon turning the corner and reaching the start of Bradwell Creek. This is a small muddy creek that separates a small muddy island from the mainland, Pewet Island. The name Bradwell too is a clue that despite all the miles I have walked I’m now only a mile from Bradwell-on-Sea, because I’ve been falling the sea wall in big loop.

Bradwell Creek

There is nothing much to be seen on Pewet Island. It is privately owned and not open to the public and apparently contains the remains of timber fishtraps from the Saxon era.

Bradwell Creek at Bradwell Waterside

The more sheltered creek seems to provide moorings for a few boats, though one of them is at a rather jaunty angle and another further up on the marsh is clearly abandoned.

Bradwell Creek at Bradwell Waterside

Just ahead I have come to the village of Bradwell Waterside. This is the only part of Bradwell that is actually on the water. It seems to be almost entirely built around yachting and sailing, since there is a yacht club here, a pub (of course) and a large marina.

The boats in the yacht club are all neatly stacked up in what looks a bit like  giant toast-rack to me!

Bradwell Waterside

Beyond this, and the associated slipway I come to the large marina. This has what looks a bit like an airport control tower informing me that I am at Bradwell Marina.

Bradwell Marina

It is a busy place though most of the boats still seemed to be moored up in the harbour their owners presumably not having come out of their winter hibernation yet.

Bradwell Marina

At the far end is a crane, used to lift the boats in and out of the water and there are old rail tracks embedded in the ground here.

Once past the marina I have left Bradwell waterside and it’s a couple of miles to the next settlement.

The coast at Bradwell Waterside

Sadly the path along the sea wall does not last long as irritatingly I come to a sign saying the footpath has been diverted because the sea wall is unsafe. The signs give a name “NRA Anglian Region” and a telephone number in Ipswich. Usually such signs are from the council which makes me wonder if this is an official closure or diversion.

Former sea wall west of Bradwell Waterside

But rather than risk the sea wall I decide to follow the diverted path, as the diversion is not far inland and I don’t want to have to turn back if I find the sea wall has been breached.

Soon I realise that the sea wall has been breached and salt water has flooded in to what I presume was once fields, killing the trees.

Dead trees on salt marsh near St Lawrence

In the distance I came make out the gap in the sea wall, so I’m glad I didn’t try to continue on the sea wall.

Dead trees on salt marsh near St Lawrence

I did wonder if this sea wall breach was deliberate and I suspect it is – it seems quite common now that parts of the sea wall is breached to create new marsh. Looking back, my view is still dominated by the power station, which looms large over the creek.

After about half a mile the diversion ends and I’m back on the sea wall.

Marshes on St Lawrence Bay

Just as I reach the sea wall it turns inland again to head around another small creek, this one St Lawrence Creek.

Marshes on St Lawrence Bay

It is only a small creek though and in about 500 metres I am around it and back on the sea wall. Ahead is the village of St Lawrence. A few fisherman sit on the marshes enjoying the peace and quite and the pleasantly warm weather, as it’s only early April.

The beach at St Lawrence

The path now goes in front of a large caravan park, Waterside Holiday Park. The beach they look out on is a mixture of shingle and mud.

The beach at St Lawrence

Beyond the end of the caravan park there are then houses, so at least St Lawrence is somewhere that is lived in all year around. The path is a pleasant and clearly much walked route now, as it’s quite busy and the grass has been worn away to mud and gravel here.

The beach at Ramsey Island

Part way through the village there is another small boat yard. Most of the boats are out of the water or under tarpaulin still.

The beach at Ramsey Island

Rounding the corner from this there is a small but pleasant shingle beach, backed by marshes.

The beach at Ramsey Island

This part of St Lawrence actually seems to be called Ramsey Island. It’s not an island, but I can see how it got it’s name because a short distance ahead the land inland too has become very marshy, meaning the Ramsey Island does have water, of a sort, on 3 sides.

Ramsey Marsh

Thankfully the raised sea wall keeps my feet dry though. Once around this marshy area, Ramsey Marsh the coast returns to a shingle beach again.

The Blackwater Estuary west of Ramsey Island

Tide tide has come in now, and it is now quite close to the sea wall. Ahead there is another tiny settlement.

The Blackwater estuary at Stansgate Abbey Farm

On the map this is marked as Stansgate Abbey Farm, so I presume there was once an abbey here. Now there is another large boatyard, this one Marconi Sailing Club. Beyond that is the farm itself and here the footpath has to leave the sea wall, with signs indicating the land ahead is private.

There is something rather ironic about this, because at the time I did the walk the farm was owned by the father of Hilary Benn. Hilary Benn was, at the time, the Environment Secretary who had promised to create the England coast path and open the coast up to walkers. Except, it would seem, the part of the coast in front of his families land!

Before I headed inland to get around this farm I could look across to another island in the Blackwater estuary. This is Osea Island.

Osea Island from Stansgate Abbey Farm

Like many islands in Essex this is a tidal island in that there is a causeway uncovered at low tide that means you can walk or drive over to the island, though the casueway is on the other side of the estuary. Sadly the island is private, so I won’t be able to go there when I get around the other side of the estuary anyway, so I will have to make do with just looking. I then continued on the footpath behind the Benn family farm.

Soon I was round this “Private” area of land and reached the head of Steeple Creek, where the path returned to the edge of the creek and then back to the shores of the Blackwater estuary.

Steeple Creek

The tide had really come in now, as all the muddy creeks were full of water, some of which I could actually watch flowing in.

Steeple Creek

Beyond the marsh I was briefly back on the sea wall beside the Blackwater estuary until I reached of another creek, this time Mayland Creek. At the mouth of the creek was a large caravan site, Steeple Bay Holiday Park. This seemed quite a remote place but it was a sizeable park. I suppose it must be popular with people living in London who can easily come and spend the weekend here and whilst the views are quite pleasant it is still quite far from a good beach.

Steeple Creek

I wondered too how long it would exist as the sea wall was collapsing at one point.

Eroding sea wall near Steeple

It was quite busy at the holiday park but just beyond it, I was back to a peaceful path beside the marshes again.

Mayland Creek

Mayland Creek, Essex

It was getting near the time I wanted to catch the bus now, as it does not run often. I decided I could either head inland to the small village of Steeple or continue to the mouth of the creek at Mayland. Mayland was further and access back to the road was a little more tricky there, either emerging to a road near Bramble Farm just east of the village, but where I suspected there was no pavement or bus stop or head even further west which was too far. So I decided to continue only as far as Steeple where I could follow a good path (I hoped), St Peters Way onto the road.

So near the south end of the creek I turned off the sea wall path and headed past Hall Farm, the path soon coming a track leading to the road leading to that caravan site. This emerged ahead to the slightly more main road into the village of Steeple.

The church in steeple

I passed the lovely church with a very old looking steeple (is this how the village got it’s name?) and a pub, which did not look so appealing and another pub, which looked nicer. The village shop on the other hand looked to have closed some time ago.

Steeple Village Stores (former)

It was a pretty village though with many old buildings, some with the white clapper boards on the front. I found the bus stop close to the village shop and had arrived about 15 minutes before the bus was due.

Steeple

Steeple

In the event it was about 5 minutes late, though we arrived almost on time back at Bradwell-on-Sea as no one else got on.

This walk was nicer than I had expected. Mostly right along the shoreline and this shore was more varied than I had expected, with some sand and shingle beaches and some nice views (well, except the power station). It was nice to have something other than mud and marsh to walk alongside and the paths had been good, other than the brief diversion past the breached sea wall.

Here are details of the public transport needed for this walk:-

Hedingham route D1 : Maldon – Purleigh – Cold Norton – Latchingdon – Maylandsea – Mayland – Steeple – St Lawrence – Bradwell-on-Sea. 4 times per day, Monday – Saturday. There is no service on Sundays. It takes just over 15 minutes between Steeple and Bradwell-on-Sea.

Here are the complete set of photos for this walk : Main Link | Slideshow

Posted in Essex | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

177. Burnham-on-Crouch to Bradwell-on-Sea

March 2007

I was looking forward to this walk because having spent several days walking around the river Crouch it was time to reach the open sea once more. It was also a remote and rural walk so I was looking forward to being able to stick to footpaths not busy main roads.

For this walk I travelled by train to Burnham-on-Crouch and made an early start to do so because this was a long walk and I needed to allow enough time to catch the bus back at the end, as it did not run frequently.

I took the train into London Waterloo, the tube across to London Liverpool Street, a train to Wickford and another to Burnham-on-Crouch, but everything ran more or less on time so I reached Burnham-on-Crouch at around 9:30.

It was another fine early spring day with slightly hazy sunshine. I re-traced my steps from the railway station to the waterfront which took about 15 minutes but Burnham-on-Crouch is a nice town so it made for quite a pleasant start to the walk.

Burnham-on-Crouch

On reaching the water front I turned left, initially re-tracing my steps from last time, though this time there was no one sitting out at the various pubs – because it was too early for them to be open.

Burnham-on-Crouch

I passed the two Royal yacht clubs again, but all was quiet there too at this time in the morning.

Burnham-on-Crouch

Beyond the second of the yacht clubs there is a large boat yard with cranes to haul the boats out of the river and people starting to arrive presumably for a days boating activity.

Beyond the boat yard was a sewage works and then another thing I’ve not seen for a long while – a caravan site. I must be back near the sea again. I did wonder what it was called (probably not “Sewage Side”). I presume they don’t mention the sewage works next door to it in the brochure.

Burnham-on-Crouch

Soon though I left the caravans behind too and I was out in peaceful open countryside with views across the Crouch to Wallasea Island.

Marshes near Burnham-on-Crouch

As is so often the case I passed the usual array of rotting away ship wrecks now abandoned beside the muddy river.

Marshes near Burnham-on-Crouch

On my left too it was as flat as a pancake, as it is all marshland (the Dengie marshes) with the usual array of drainage channels to keep the fields from flooding.

Marshes near Burnham-on-Crouch

There were a few short twists and turns in the sea wall path but soon I came to an arrow-straight stretch. Clearly these are man-made banks with a line of stones and marsh disappearing into the haze.

The sea wall near Burnham-on-Crouch

It was peaceful pleasant and easy walking, as the landscape was flat and the path good so I made fairly quick progress.

View over the Dengie peninsula

The dead straight part of the sea wall soon ended and I was back to rounding a few tiny little bays which were gradually becoming less muddy and having a bit of sand instead.

The River Crouch near Burnham-on-Crouch

Soon I was beginning to turn the corner at the mouth of the estuary and return to the open sea, rather than rivers. Before I got there I had another small area of marsh to round near Holliwell Point though this too was becoming a bit sandy rather than just mud.

The coast near Burnham-on-Crouch

I could look across to Foulness Island where there was an odd tower and a few masts visible. This would be the last walk I’d see Foulness.

View to Foulness Island

As I continued ahead I came to a rather strange site. An old World War II pillbox had been incorporated into the sea bank. Presumably the bank was either re-built or strengthened after the war and rather than remove the pill box they just built the grass over and around it!

Near Burnham-on-Crouch

I suspected it must be high tide, or near enough because now the gentle waves were lapping right at the wall at the bottom of the path.

Soon the grass path widened into a concrete path that felt a bit like a sea-side promenade. I was at last back by the sea rather than river, though there was no beach, the water just came right to the edge of the sea wall.

Near Burnham-on-Crouch

There were no people either, I hadn’t seen anyone since I left Burnham-on-Crouch.

Near Burnham-on-Crouch

It was nice to see the sunshine sparkling off the waves, smell the salt air and look right out to a wide vista of sea, as far as I could see. Lovely.

Ahead I came to a sort of beach. Unusually it was not made of sand or pebbles but rather thousands and thousands of shells. I wondered what it was that must make all the shells wash up here.

Shell beach near Burnham-on-Crouch

There was another strange sight ahead too as I came to a gate across the path that someone had decided to decorate with stuff washed up from the sea, which ranged from shoes to hard-hats wood, fishing debris and even a football. A slightly depressing reminder of how much rubbish ends up in the sea.

Gate on the coast near Burnham-on-Crouch

Before leaving this bit of the coast I headed down onto the beach. It would make a nice lunch stop and I loved taking a close look at the shells.

Shells on the Dengie Peninsula

Often when you find beaches of shells most of them are broken, whether from the force of the waves, people walking on them or both. But here where the coast was marshy and hence the waves tiny and where few people come they were almost all intact.

Shells on the Dengie Peninsula

Having finished lunch it was time to continue and I was surprised (and a little disappointed) by what I saw ahead – miles and miles of salt marsh.

Marshes near Burnham-on-Crouch

Having been walking next to marshes beside the rivers for ages I was surprised to find marsh beside the open sea as well. I assumed that the waves would quickly erode the marsh and soft mud, but it appears not. So the rest of the walk was back to walking alongside marsh, with the sea only just visible beyond it.

Inland I soon passed another World War II structure though it was a very odd shape, it reminded me a bit of a dalek.

Old World War II pillbox

The walking continued to be easy and I soon reached the Bridgewick Outfall.

Bridgewick Outfall

Half a mile or so later there was another outfall, this one Grange Outfall. This is where the various streams and drainage ditches flow out into the sea, but it is all controlled with sluice gates and the lake presumably to try to keep the land from flooding in winter and from getting too dry in the summer.

Grange Outfall

Ahead I soon reached another of these outfalls, this time the Howe Outfall. It was dried up revealing mud flats with the footprints of an animal, a deer I suspect across it. I guessed this must mean the tide was going out, but I could barely see it now.

Near Tilllingham

The flat marshes inland had a few extra paths signed that were not on the map which seemed to be some sort of network of toll briddlepaths with a telephone number to call for a license to use them and the warning that they would be closed on Christmas day.

The tide going out made for some pretty patterns though, I like lines of water between the clumps of marsh on this one.

Near Tilllingham

The marsh seemed to be narrowing now and beyond it in the water I could see a line of old boats. I suspected these were also from World War II and had been placed like this when their purpose was over, to act as a form of coastal defence.

Coastal defences near Bradwell-on-Sea

Once this line of boats ended there were the remains of wooden posts poking above the water, I suspected some other attempt at coastal defence. It was not the only structure though because I soon came across this.

Thingy near Bradwell-on-Sea

What on earth is it? I’ve no idea, I guessed at some sort of device to do with radar perhaps? It was very odd and I couldn’t work out why it was here. Perhaps it was in some way connected with the mysterious goings on on Foulness island, or perhaps to monitor shipping. I didn’t know and there were no signs to tell me other than a warning of high voltage cables, so what ever it was it needed a lot of electricity.

I must be nearing Bradwell now as an Essex Widlife trust sign told me I had reached Bradwell Cockle spit, which looked to be more marsh, but with many shells washed up at the waters edge.

I had walked around 13 miles by now and not passed through any sort of settlement at all but that was about to change. Ahead I had an unusual building.

The Chapel of St Peter-on-the-Wall, Bradwell

This is the Chapel of St Peter on the Wall. It is a remarkable survivor. It dates from around the year 660-662, making it well over 1300 years old! What a wonderful building and yet despite it’s age it was largely isolated from any settlement. The village of Bradwell-on-Sea is nearly two miles inland (despite the “on-sea” suffix). This too puzzled me. The logical explanation for the name is that it was once by the sea but that the marsh had built up and Bradwell was now further inland (like Rye). But this 1300 year old chapel was on the coast so if it had silted up, it must have been an awfully long time ago.

Still rather than puzzle over the names it was nice to enjoy this lovely location. It is thought that the walls of the chapel are built from the ruins of abandoned roman buildings.

The Chapel of St Peter-on-the-Wall, Bradwell

Over the years it has not always been a chapel, for a while it was converted to a barn. It was not until the 1920s that it was reconsecrated as a chapel. According to the internet, (which is of course never wrong), it is the 19th oldest building in the whole of Britain and is still in regular use.

This was the first time I had seen other people since I left Burnham-on-Crouch too and most were bird watchers as there is also an RSPB reserve here and several bird hides constructed.

Bird hide at Bradwell-on-Sea

Before I left I wanted to have a look inside the chapel. It was a simple affair, bare stone walls and a paved floor.

The Chapel of St Peter-on-the-Wall, Bradwell

I wondered how many people must have stepped inside during it’s long history. It was a wonderful place. I am not sure the significance of the wooden shelter next to the chapel though.

The Chapel of St Peter-on-the-Wall, Bradwell

I had made better time than expected so far because the path along the waters edge had been easy and because it was not that varied there had been little to stop and look at on the way.  So I had plenty of time to sit and take in the view before continuing.

As this had already been a long walk I planned to end my walk, at least along the coast here and walk inland to Bradwell-on-Sea (which is inland and hence not on sea) in order to catch the bus back to Burnham-on-Crouch. As I had not passed any sizeable places busses were few and far between out here (and in fact you now have to phone and book this bus a day in advance now – see the bottom for details). So I turned inland here initially along a footpath that soon widened to a track and a car park – which explains where all the people had come from.

Bradwell-on-Sea was a pleasant place. I was also struck by the peace of the place.

Bradwell-on-Sea

Other than when a car passed, obviously there was no road noise, being far from a major road. It was also far from the railway line and didn’t seem to be on any flight paths, so it was lovely and peaceful with just the occasional car coming past.

The church here was also sizeable suggesting it had been a wealthy place (perhaps it still is).

Bradwell-on-Sea

Unusually the tower on the left was brick and obviously a later addition.

Bradwell-on-Sea

I continued down the pretty little High Street past these colourful houses and located the bus stop.

Burnham-on-Crouch

I had printed out the times of the busses before leaving home, as it was not a frequent service and was confident I was in time for the last bus of the day. However I scanned the timetable with dismay and realised the times didn’t match what I had printed, and it seemed I had in fact missed the last bus by about 20 minutes. I began to panic a bit. How had that happened? Would I be able to get a taxi to come here? How long would it take? How much would it cost? Did I have enough cash? I decided to look for a telephone number for the bus company to check with them first and spotted that the bus timetable I was looking at had the right route number, but it said it was operated by Stephenson of Essex. The timetable I had printed out the previous evening said the bus was run by a different company, Arriva. Then I spotted something else I’d missed. The timetable printed at the bus stop was listed as “From 02/04/07”. Today was the 31st March 2007. So it seems the times changed on Monday and someone had changed them over early.

So I stood and hoped the expected bus would come and the times I had were still correct for this day. And it did, though it was a titchy little bus, basically a Mercedes van but with seats in and a colourful “Dengie Village Link” colour scheme (this area is known as the Dengie Peninsula). I was expecting the bus to be almost empty but in fact there were quite a few people on board and as we headed back towards Burnham-on-Crouch we picked up more people until it was almost full. As we reached Burnham there was a rather unexpected experience, as a man with a big camera round his neck flagged down our bus. He explained to the driver he was a journalist from the local paper and wanted to take a photo of the bus (and the passengers on it) to record the arrival of the final bus operated by Arriva of this “Dengie Village Link” service. I guess not much must happen around here if a bus changing to being operated by a different company is worthy of a newspaper article! So probably there was a photo of me and the other passengers in the local newspaper (though I never did look it up to find out).

After that excitement it was time to get off the bus and head back to the railway station for my train home.

This had been a lovely walk. Whilst I would not call the scenery spectacular it was still very pleasant, peaceful and relaxing and it was nice to be back beside the sea rather than a river again, even if it had turned out to be far more marshy than I expected. The chapel at Bradwell too was an unexpected and lovely end to the walk.

Here are details of the public transport needed for this walk. Note I believe that it is no longer possible to just turn up and catch the direct bus, you must book it. To book call 01621 874410. You should call the day before however it might be possible to book up to 2 hours before travel. You will be given a time to wait for the bus which might differ by 10 minutes from the timetable.

Essex DartD4 : Bradwell Waterside – Bradwell-on-Sea – Tillingham – Dengie – Asheldham – Southminster – Burnham-on-Crouch. 5 buses per day each way Monday – Friday and 4 on Saturday. There is no service on Sunday. It takes around 40 minutes between Bradwell-on-Sea and Burnham-on-Crouch. You need to book at least the day before for this bus to operate. To do so call 01621 874410, email  bookings@essexandsuffolkdart.co.uk or visit the website.

Here is the complete set of photos for this walk : Main Link | Slideshow

Posted in Essex | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

176. North Fambridge to Burnham-on-Crouch

March 2007

I only have a short walked planned today, between North Fambridge and Burnham-on-Crouch. This is because the day was too short last time to make it all the way to Burnham-on-Crouch and beyond Burnham-on-Crouch the coast is surprisingly rural and as a result it is over 15 miles until the next settlement along the coast (and that is only a small village).

This time, as a result of engineering works on the trains I travel to North Fambridge by car, via the M25, A127, A132 and finally B1012 along which I walked last time. I parked at the station car park as I’m planning to return by train and trains on the Crouch Valley Line are not effected by the works.

I returned to the coast via the roads, passing the Ferry Boat Inn once again.

The Ferry Boat Inn, North Fambridge

This time on reaching the river Crouch it looks to be about high tide. The acres of mud flats I saw last time are replaced mostly by water with a few bits of marsh poking up above the water.

The River Crouch at North Fambridge

That house I commented on last time, Port Moor Cottage, was now on it’s own marshy island and that was barely above the water. It is certainly a precarious (or perhaps insane) place to build a house.

Port Moor Cottage, North Fambridge

To reach the water I pass through a boat yard and then reach the banks of the River Crouch. Here a pretty boat is moored up which I later found is a Thames sailing barge, something I’d be seeing a lot more of along the coast soon.

North Fambridge

Beyond the boat yard there is a pleasant path along the raised bank beside the river.

Marshes near North Fambridge

Behind is the low-lying marsh land of Blue House Farm that I passed at the end of my last walk. It is pretty boggy, though the path I’m on is a bit muddy underfoot, too.

Marshes near North Fambridge

The raised sea bank I am following is almost a causeway, the river to my right and water channels behind, I think a way of stopping the land behind from flooding.

Marshes near North Fambridge

Marshes near North Fambridge

In fact the land behind is cross-crossed with numerous water channels. Although the path looks well walked I haven’t seen anyone since the boat yard and it is very peaceful.

In a little over a mile the sea wall path turns a bit to the left as Bridgemarsh Island is now in the middle of the river, so I’m following the narrow channel between the island and the north banks of the Crouch. Although island is over-stating things a bit now as the island was flooded 1736. The tide seems very high and all I can see of this marshy island is a few bits of the old sea wall poking up above the river. Predictably though this is still enough land for someone to have come and put a “Private Keep Off” notice on it!

The River Crouch near North Fambridge

Inland trains rumble along the Crouch Valley Line (always re-assuring since I’ll be using the train to get back to Fambridge) and it is also clear that spring has sprung. It is only early march but already there are lambs in the field to my left.

Near North Fambridge

Lamb near North Fambridge

Inland, beyond the railway there are even hills on which I can see Stamfords Farm. They must have a lovely view.

Out in the river I can still see a few bits of marsh – still Bridgemarsh Island.

The River Crouch and Bridgemarsh Island

It is a pleasant walk along the rivers edge heading east. Ahead I can see the small village of Althorne. It consists of only a few streets and a boat yard.

The coast west of Althorne

Before I can reach it though there is another creek to round. On my last walk I rounded about half a dozen creeks but thankfully this one is small and seemingly un-named.

Creek west of Althorne

It does not take long to round the creek and on the eastern side I’m now passing close to the houses of Althorne. Despite it’s small size the village is lucky enough to have it’s own railway station too, so I imagine many people commute to London.

The River Crouch at Althorne

I soon reach another marina. with a large boat that looks like a house boat.

The River Crouch at Althorne

I continue along the sea wall path and at the eastern end of the village reach another larger marina where numerous boats taken out of the water for the winter (or perhaps for repairs). The path goes through this on a raised bank with boats on both sides of me.

Althorne marina

I’m guessing by the number of boats Althorne is a wealthy place too, – given the numbers of boats it seems each house must own one!

Just beyond the boat yard I come across this curious structure which I suspect is the old wheel house of a boat that looks like it is used as some kind of shelter now.

Marshes at Althorne

Beyond it the marshes are cut into neat squares, so I suspect there was some industry here at one time (perhaps salt works?).

The River Crouch near Althorne

The boat yard marks the end of Althorne and so I’m back to countryside. In about a quarter of a mile there is another small un-named creek to round and the path goes right around it.

I’m then back on the river and have also reached the end of Bridgemarsh Island, so I’m looking across to the other side of the river rather than the island again now.

The River Crouch near Althorne

Ahead I soon come to a small shingle beach. It is not much of a beach but it’s the first sign that, at last, I’m nearly back at the open sea. There is a beach and sea weed rather than mud and marsh and I’m looking forward to finally seeing the open sea again.

The River Crouch near Althorne

Ahead too is another surprise. There are small hills, though they are hardly taxing to climb.

The River Crouch near Althorne

As I get closer though I’m pleased to see these hills have even caused little cliffs. It is starting to feel like the coast rather than a river again.

The River Crouch near Althorne

Although the hills aren’t high, the height gained is still enough for me to get a good view back to Althorne and the masts of the boats in the boat yard.

The River Crouch near Althorne

On the other side of the hills is another small area of shingle beach, mixed with marsh.

The River Crouch near Creeksea

A few boats pass along the river Crouch to my right, the first I have seen today.

The River Crouch near Creeksea

I’m now approaching the small village of Creeksea and just before it I briefly have to leave the river bank as the path temporarily leaves the bank and heads about 100 metres inland. This is not for long though and it soon brings me back to the road.

It is clear when I reach the road that it is a tidal road, either that or it is an unusually high tide because it is partly underwater. Fortunately there are either some dry bits of tarmac between the pools of water or I can climb onto the grass verge to get past (this is the view looking back along the road).

Road at Creeksea

The road soon turns inland and at this point a footpath resumes along the sea wall. Creeksea is a beautiful little village as I can see a lovely timber-framed house and several other houses of varying ages along side.

I’m nearly at Burnham-on-Crouch now and can see the houses right along the water front ahead. What isn’t so clear until I’m almost on top of it is that there is a large marina between me and Burnham-on-Crouch. So I have to walk around it, but thankfully there is a path all around the marina.

Burnham-on-Crouch marina

There are loads of boats moored up in the marina and it makes me wonder if everyone that lives in this part of Essex owns a boat!

Burnham-on-Crouch marina

Once past the marina I’m back on the sea wall through a park and then reach the edge of Burnham-on-Crouch.

Burnham-on-Crouch

I don’t know much about the town but it turns out to to be lovely. Most of the buildings are initially white clapper-board houses. Later on there are more varied styles.

Burnham-on-Crouch

Burnham-on-Crouch

The land is really low lying here though and it seems that the town is built behind a concrete sea wall to protect it from flooding.

I really like Burnham-on-Crouch it is packed full of character and beautiful well-kept buildings. It also looks the sort of place that hasn’t really changed much in many many years. There are several water front pubs and although it’s cool people are already sitting out. It seems like a relaxed kind of place where people enjoy the area they live in.

Burnham-on-Crouch

Burnham-on-Crouch

It is wealthy too and soon I come to the Royal Burnham Yacht Club. A short distance past that there is another yacht club. This one is the Royal Corinthian Yacht Club, though I don’t much care for the building that houses it.

Royal Corinthian Yacht Club, Burnham-on-Crouch

There doesn’t seem much point in continuing along the river now, since I will only have to re-trace my steps next time so I head inland instead through the town to the railway station which is a little over half a mile from the river bank.

I don’t mind walking through the town though, it is quite pleasant.

Burnham-on-Crouch

Burnham-on-Crouch

After a bit of road walking I reach the railway station with the Station Hotel right next door. Unlike most of the stations on this line this one has a building and is quite traditional.

Burnham-on-Crouch station

I have about 15 minutes to wait for the train back to North Fambridge and so I’m soon back to my car.

Although I’ve since written about Wallasea Island this was from a return visit in June 2017. In fact when I first walked the Essex coast in 2007 I initially missed out the island as I didn’t have time to explore it and reach my destination before it got dark.

But now I had my car with me, it was a nice sunny day and I still had a couple of hours before it got dark. So rather than head straight home I decided to go to Wallasea Island and explore a bit. It is interesting to compare what I saw then with how it had changed, 10 years later.

So I drove down to Wallases Island. It took longer than I expected, it was only a few hundred metres as the crow flies but almost a 20 mile drive, because of the river Crouch. So it was over an hour after I left Burnham-on-Crouch that I reached the south bank of the river.

The River Crouch from Wallasea Island

I parked at the pub at the end of the road, at the Creeksea Ferry Inn. I wasn’t quite clear if this was the pubs car park or a public car park but there was lots of space so I parked at the back and hoped they wouldn’t mind.

I passed a jetty with some cranes on it for lifting the boats out of the water.

Essex Marina, Wallasea Island

Beyond that was a large marina. Essex was reminding me a bit of the Solent, you can’t go more than about a mile before coming to a large marina!

Essex Marina, Wallasea Island

Past this were some old barges (I think) now abandoned in the mud. Not sure if they are from World War II or something later.

Inland the island was as flat as a pancake and more or less totally featureless, just large fields.

Wallasea Island

Soon I was looking across to Burnham-on-Crouch, where I had been an hour or more earlier in the day.

Burnham-on-Crouch from Wallasea Island

Ahead I came to an area where the sea wall had been deliberately breached to create more marsh land. As I wrote last time, since this visit a much larger proportion of the island has been flooded and turned into marsh.

The sun was getting low now and bathing Burnham-on-Crouch in a lovely golden glow. I continued a bit along the sea wall path enjoying the reflections of the boat in the water and the mud flats which were now appearing as the tide went out.

The River Crouch at Wallasea Island

The River Crouch at Wallasea Island

Soon the sun was almost setting so I had to head back to my car and the drive home.

Sunset at Wallasea Island

I had really enjoyed this walk. After the difficult road walks further up the river it was nice to be able to follow a good river-bank path virtually the whole way. It was peaceful and beautiful and the bonus was that Burnham-on-Crouch had turned out to be such a nice town, too. I was still looking forward to finally reaching the mouth of the river Crouch on my next walk, though.

Here are details of the public transport needed for this walk.

Greater Anglia trains Crouch Valley Line : Southminster – Burnham-on-Crouch – Althorne – North Fambridge – South Woodham Ferrers – Battlesbridge – Wickford. Trains run roughly every 40 minutes Monday – Saturday and hourly on Sundays. It takes around 11 minutes to travel between Burnham-on-Crouch and North Fambridge.

Here are the complete set of photos for this walk : Main Link | Slideshow

Posted in Essex | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

175. Battlesbridge to North Fambridge

February 2007

Having crossed the river Crouch I was now turning east along the north side of the river and heading back towards the open sea, following the north bank of the river.

I took the train from my local station to London Waterloo, the tube to London Liverpool Street, a train from London Liverpool Street to Wickford and finally another train from Wickford to Battlesbridge. That’s a lot of trimes. Despite the number of trains, it all went to plan and I arrived at Battlesbridge on time.

I headed down the access road from the railway station down to the “main” road into Battlesbridge, though it is not busy. I followed the road down to the river passing where I noticed a water mill that I had somehow missed last time (though I don’t think it is still used as a mill, but offices).

Battlesbridge

The bridge itself is rather a strange structure, a mixture of brick, stone and blue metal.

Battlesbridge

I didn’t actually need to cross it today though, as the station was already on the north side of the river. So instead I headed back and then turned right along Maltings Road. I passed a furniture centre and another pub but soon after that I reached the edge of Battlesbridge, which is only a small village.

At the end of the road I could take a footpath squeezed in front of what I took to be the old maltings but I don’t think they are working maltings any longer.

Battlesbridge

This brings me down to the River Crouch which is peaceful.

The River Crouch near Battlesbridge

It is another fine day and very calm and I’m lucky that it must be near high tide so the river is mostly water rather than mud flats. The path then joins the rivers edge which makes for a pleasant stretch of the walk.

The River Crouch near Battlesbridge

Sadly this doesn’t last long and soon the path turns left, away from the river and heads inland. The path is not obvious to spot initially so I struggle to find where I’m meant to go, but I must guess right as it then becomes a wider track between fields, confirming I am on the right route.

The track crosses the railway line and just beyond that reaches the A132, a very busy A-road. Rather than follow this road, (which is closer to the coast, but which would be dangerous and unpleasant to walk along), I crossed it (with difficulty) and continued on the footpath heading further inland. The track continues on the other side of the road and after a few hundred metres emerges onto Woodham Road, which is I think the old route of the A132. Here I can turn right and follow this quieter road, now more or less parallel with the A132 which is far safer. There is initially a pavement, but this soon ends, to be replaced with a grass verge, still wide enough to walk on.

Sadly at Smithfield Nursery I’ve reached the end of the buildings and so the traffic speed increases. It is not an especially pleasant part of the walk, but it is better than the alternative of a pavement-less A-road, which is far busier. After about half a mile I can turn off on the right down Tabrum’s Lane which looks like a private road but does have a right of way according to the map (though it is of the the rather vague type “other route with public access”). A short distance along this road and I am crossing the A132 again.

Once across the road, the road ahead is a dead-end leading to Tabrum’s Farm. Thankfully there is a footpath immediately after the A132 on the left so I can leave the private road and turn north along this footpath which runs parallel with the railway line.

Ahead the path comes into a more open area of land where it crosses the Fenn Creek on a bridge.

Fenn Creek, South Woodham Ferrers

Beyond this I come out into a more open area, part of a country park. I am bit a confused because what I see on the ground doesn’t really seem to match the map and I get a bit lost.

Eventually I find what I think is the right path back under the railway line and it is quite pretty now. However soon things change.

Fenn Creek, South Woodham Ferrers

The area of land I am on is between two streams and ahead it is flooded. Although not deep enough to be dangerous, it is enough to get my feet wet.

Fenn Creek, South Woodham Ferrers

Once past the flooded area things improve. The path is now dry underfoot and runs right alongside the houses of South Woodham Ferrers.

Fenn Creek, South Woodham Ferrers

This looks like it was once quite a small town, but it has expanded rapidly and all the housing I pass looks pretty new.

South Woodham Ferrers

The houses are mostly large detached houses but at least some effort seems to have gone in as each one is different in style. This meanders about with the edge of the creek which widens quite rapidly, soon more a river than a creek.

Fenn Creek, South Woodham Ferrers

I pass a small sailing club and parts of the path are almost an island with the creek on one side and channels of water on the other (flood relief, perhaps).

Fenn Creek, South Woodham Ferrers

This is quite a nice stretch of path beside the peaceful waters of the creek.

Fenn Creek, South Woodham Ferrers

After about a mile of this I finally reach the banks of the wider River Crouch. I’m only about 1 mile further east along the river from when I left it before, but I’ve had to walk much further than that to get around the creeks – such is coastal walking in Essex, it seems!

The path is wide and easy and I follow it around to the northern end of the byway I saw last time. This disappears into the water, a sign optimistically pointing that it is a public byway.

The River Crouch at South Woodham Ferrers

Byway crossing the river Crouch

Well it is, officially, but the map shows that even at low tide there is always water to cross. I wouldn’t want to wade through the river – for one I’m not sure how firm it would be underfoot, or how deep it is, so I’m glad I opted to walk around to the bridge at Battlesbridge rather than risk this crossing.

Beyond the slipway, the path enters Marsh Farm Country Park. This means the paths are much better maintained but there seem to be only a few people about, which surprises given it’s a fine weekend.

The River Crouch near South Woodham Ferrers

Although South Woodham Ferrers is close by, it actually feels quite remote here as the path meanders along the river bank with marshes on the left.

Clementsgreen Creek

The land to my left is, I suspect, flood plain and perhaps grazed in the summer. It is all part of a narrow peninsula which I soon reach the end of. I can’t continue directly along the river bank ahead because now another creek flows into the river, Clementsgreen Creek, which I have to head around a mile inland to cross.

Clementsgreen Creek

So having briefly rejoined the River Crouch I have to turn away from it again to head up the west side of Clementsgreen Creek. The path continues on the raised bank though ahead I come to yet another creek. This one is Hawbush Creek but it looks man made.

Clementsgreen Creek

It is clear that the raised river bank once continued ahead but looks to have been breached, whether deliberately or not I’m not sure, allowing the water in to form this creek.

Clementsgreen Creek

Having commented earlier that there is no one about I’m a bit surprised when just inland of the path come lots of people being towed in a trailer by a tractor (you can see them in the distance below).

Clementsgreen Creek

That explains it. Most people can’t be bothered to walk around the park and take this tractor tour instead.

Soon they pass though and I’m back to peace and quiet, passing the wreck of some sort of wooden boat.

Clementsgreen Creek

Ahead I’m certain the old sea wall has been breached, because the path on the map is still shown as following it, but there are gaps in it and no bridge, so you can’t use the path without getting very wet. Thankfully a path also follows around it, too, presumably created when the sea wall was breached. From here the path turns right to head north back towards the railway line alongside part of the creek.

The official right of way continues further north (until I’m almost back to the railway line), but there is another right of way on the other bank of the creek. However only about 100 metres ahead on another bit of sea wall (acting as a sort of bridge), that I can cross to link the two paths and avoid a longer diversion inland. The route is not marked as a right of way but it has a wide track and a “You are here” type notice so it is obviously OK to use, so I use it to take a shortcut.

Now I’m on a large area of marsh land, called Stow Maries according to the map. It is almost a (boggy) island, with Clementsgreen Creek to the south and west, the railway line to the north and Stow Creek to the east.  It is totally flat and with just a single farm on it, Hogwell Farm. The path follows the raised path beside the river bank again along the north side of Clementsgreen Creek.

Clementsgreen Creek

The creek is quite marshy in places and I suspect the water is quite shallow.

After about a mile I reach the end of Clementsgreen Creek and am back, briefly, on the river Crouch.

But not for long! After about 500 metres I’ve reached another creek! This time Stow Creek. Once more I have to head more than a mile inland to get around it. There are so many creeks on the Essex coast, it is hard to make progress.

Once more it is time to turn away from the river Crouch and follow the western bank of this creek. The creek widens and soon I can see the boats moored up at Fambridge Yacht Haven.

Stow Creek

They are so close but there is over 2 miles of walking to come before I can get to that side of the creek.

Fambridge Yacht Haven across Stow Creek

Oddly despite heading inland the creek widens for a bit, with lots of areas of marsh. On the bank below the path I come across lots of planks of wood. They look dumped rather than washed up but I’m puzzled to work out how they got them here, since there is no road (and no tyre tracks).

Stow Creek

Perhaps they are washed up after all – but the way they are piled up does not look natural to me.

Stow Maries

There is a barn on the left of the path, but it has seen better days as it has mostly collapsed!

Ruined barn near South Woodham Ferrers

The path now follows a wide track to cross the railway line and then head through the farm yard of Little Hayes Farm.

The Crouch Valley Line

Past the farm and I’m on the road again, though initially the dead-end road that serves the farm.

Unfortunately, I’m heading for another busy B-road. The minor road from the farm goes straight ahead, but a footpath turns off half right that in theory would shave a corner off. But it seems to go directly over a pond! I can’t face trying to find a way over boggy farm land for the path just to little more than 100 metres or so, so I stick to the quite road soon reaching the B1012.

Here I turn right, but this stretch is seriously unpleasant. This is basically a continuation of the A132, which oddly becomes the B1012 on the edge of South Woodham Ferrers. There is no pavement and no verge and on top of that hedges come right down to the road edge much of the way. There is nowhere to get out of the way of traffic. There are also some tight bends meaning I have to keep crossing the road to see safely ahead.

Perhaps I should have diverted inland again. There is an old railway line about half a mile further north which has a bridleway along it which might have been a better bet. But having got so far I can’t face turning back and carry on.

I only have a little over half a mile along the road, but it seems a lot longer. When traffic comes towards me I try to step aside into the bushes, but it’s not always possible and so at times there is cars coming towards me have to stop and wait for a gap in the oncoming traffic in order to overtake (and I have to wait for them to do so, to continue ahead). A couple of drivers take the opportunity to blast the horn and gesture at me as they pass only making it more unpleasant (though I’m doing what the Highway Code says you are supposed to in this situation, walking on the right, facing the traffic). Because of keep trying to get out the way of traffic I made slow progress here.

It is a huge relief when I can leave the road and turn right off the main road to Rookery Lane heading back towards the river. This passes Rookery Farm and then just before the railway takes a sharp left hand turn to head to the Old Rectory. The road ends here, but a bridleway continues straight ahead which is more a private road really because there are still a few houses up here.

Soon I can turn right off the bridleway onto a footpath that heads south, soon crossing the railway line again. It continues along the edge of fields to reach Church Road. I was surprised how far the Rectory was from the church, as I had passed the Rectory about a mile ago, unless there used to be another church nearer the Rectory. I turned left along this road and took the first road on the right leading back to the Crouch.

I soon reach a pub, the Ferry Boat Inn which looks quite a nice pub.

North Fambridge

The road continues ahead, but a sign now warns that “Beyond this point carrigeway flooded at high tide”. But it’s clearly not high  tide because it isn’t flooded so I continued. Beyond the point the road is marked as flooding I pass a couple of houses on the right. The ground is flat so it does make me wonder if they flood.

North Fambridge

The road then climbs briefly over the sea wall then descends down and just becomes a muddy track heading into the river. The sun is low in the sky now and it’s getting dark but it’s nice to see the river again.

The River Crouch at North Fambridge

Since I last saw it, the tide has gone out a long way. Now there are large area of mud flats mixed with areas of marsh.

The River Crouch at North Fambridge

There is another odd sight. If I look to the right on a bit of the mud flats is a house – Port Moor Cottage. But it’s on an isolated muddy bank, barely above the water.

The River Crouch at North Fambridge

It is an island, with no roads or paths seeming to lead to it. It makes me wonder – how do you get it, and does anyone live there? At the time I didn’t know the answer. To my surprise though a search today reveals that it was sold by auction in June of this year. Although now sold the estate agent “blurb” is still active (along with a few photos, if you want to take a look inside).

It seems it is used as a holiday cottage now and the blurb says “it can be accessed by foot (during low tide) and at boat via the yacht club at high tide”, where the owners keep a small dinghy. Well it doesn’t look easy to get to by foot to me, so I’m amused at the estate agents comment about viewing:-

Owing to the nature of the building, and for your own safety, we strongly recommend that appropriate footwear (wellies) are worn during all viewings as you will be required to cross shallow water and muddy paths. Attendees will be required to sign a disclaimer before viewing commences. “

Port Moor Cottage

In case you were wondering, it did sell, at a price of £41,000. A 1 bedroom detached house so close to London at this price in 2017 is a bit of a bargain but of course the catch is the access (or lack of), and I suspect risk of flooding). I can only assume it was built at a time when planning permission wasn’t required – I can’t imagine building a house on an isolated mud bank like this would be permitted today.

Anyway enough about the house, it was nice to look out to the river – and see that for my next walk there was a path all along the edge of the river for many miles ahead.

The River Crouch at North Fambridge

I took a few photos of the sun reflecting off the river. I could see it was not going to be a great sunset – too much cloud, but still quite pleasant.

But it was getting dark so I could not hang about too long. At the quay I turned east along the river bank path for a short distance and then turned left along the footpath to Blue House Farm.

Path beside the river Crouch, North Fambridge

I assumed this was just a farm (with a blue painted house, naturally). But it turns out to be owned by the Essex Widlife Trust and now a site of special scientific interest. As well as the right of way along the shore there are other (permissive) paths that can be followed too but these are closed for the winter, so as not to disturb the birds.

I was pleased to find that at least the footpath was easy to find and follow. A narrow green path and the sheep grazing have kept the grass nice and short.

Footpath near North Fambridge

I soon reached the road ahead and the attractive village sign.

North Fambridge village sign

I then followed the road straight ahead for a quarter of a mile to reach Fambridge Station.

North Fambridge Station

This was another basic single-platform affair but I had timed it well as I didn’t have to wait long for a train. I took the train to Wickford, another on to London and then back home via the tube and then train from Waterloo.

This was another tricky walk with a really unpleasant stretch along the B1012 and trying to negotiate flooded paths. However there were some lovely stretches too like the path beside the river at South Woodham Ferrers and around some of the creeks and marshes. But I will be very grateful to finally get back to the open sea – it seems a long time since I’ve seen it – and at least I can see the next walk will be on paths rather than busy roads.

Here are details of the public transport needed for this walk.

Greater Anglia trains Crouch Valley Line : Southminster – Burnham-on-Crouch – Althorne – North Fambridge – South Woodham Ferrers – Battlesbridge – Wickford. Trains run roughly every 40 minutes Monday – Saturday and hourly on Sundays. It takes around 9 minutes to travel between Battlesbridge and Wickford.

Here are the complete set of photos for this walk : Main Link | Slideshow

Posted in Essex | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

174. Canewdon to Battlesbridge

February 2007

This walk takes me half way around the River Crouch, as I started at Canewdon on the south side and ended at Battlesbridge on the north side of the river.

As for my last walk because the bus service to Canewdon is infrequent I took that at the start, taking the train (via London) to Rochford and the bus from there to Canewdon.

I got off the bus by the Anchor Inn in Canewdon which although it was February, still had “Merry Christmas” lights above it’s sign!

Canewdon

I explored the village a bit first passing the church and village store.

Canewdon church

Canewdon village shop

Then I followed the same path I had followed on the previous walk along field edges and down to the banks of the river Crouch. This time it was a lovely winters day, clear blue skies and sunny though the clear skies meant it was colder and I noticed the water of a drainage ditch next to the path was still frozen.

Canewdon

On reaching the river, the water was incredibly calm, like a mirror.

The River Crouch near Canewdon

This time I turned left, heading inland rather than out to sea, as the first place (without a boat) you can cross the river Crouch is at Battlesbridge. There are odd wooden jetties in the river. I wondered if these were once used by boats or if they are some attempt at reducing erosion of the banks.

The River Crouch near Canewdon

The path follows right along the raised river bank as I head west. The river Crouch is quieter compared with the Thames just the odd small pleasure boat rather than container ships and other freight boats. On the opposite bank of the river are initially the marshy remains of the now flooded Bridgemarsh Island.

The River Crouch near Canewdon

I am pleasantly surprised by how rural this area is given it’s proximity to London, it is so peaceful. The path meanders with the river bank until I can see the first signs of habitation, the boat yard at North Fambridge on the north bank of the river.

The River Crouch near South Fambridge

On my side of the river I’m reaching the village of South Fambridge which is much smaller and mostly a bit set back from the rivers edge, though the river bank here is a popular place with fisherman as there are several sitting along the bank.

The River Crouch near South Fambridge

At South Fambridge it was decision time. The footpath continues west along the bank but after a mile or so it comes to a marshy area of land interspersed with channels of water where the footpath seems to end but then immediately continue on islands of marshy land. I suspect what has happened is that the sea wall has been breached (either deliberately or because of flooding) but the footpath has not been re-routed.

I decide to continue on the path as the alternative is a long diversion, almost entirely on roads about a mile inland from the river which is not only less pleasant than the river route but also quite a bit longer. I suspected that the area had been deliberately flooded and that as a result the footpath would either have been re-routed or bridges built (there is “FB” marked on the map, short for footbridge, in a few places on the marshy area, though not on the route of the path so I was hoping this was the re-routed path).

I soon come to a small area of salt marsh where it looks as if there was once some sort of wooden bridge or jetty across it, but it is now rotting away. What purpose it once had I’m not sure. But I find the rotting wood rather photogenic on this lovely sunny day.

The River Crouch near South Fambridge

The River Crouch near South Fambridge

I continue on the footpath but soon come to an un-welcoming sign warning that “There may be shooting in progress from this point onwards between September to February inclusive”. Hmm it’s February, so I hope no one is shooting today and anyway this is a public right of way.

I continued on the good path along the sea wall (concrete here, so it is dry underfoot).

The River Crouch near South Fambridge

Now I come across another even less welcoming sign. It tells me that “From this point on this is a private sea wall, there is no public right of way. Also there may be shooting between the months of September to February inclusive.”

Get off my land

Hmm well according to the Ordnance Survey map I’m using (and it’s still the case on the most recent maps) there IS a right of way along the sea wall beyond this point. But I sense I’m on a hiding to nothing. If the landowner put up these signs (which I suspect are wrong, but deliberately so) there won’t be any bridges or way forward and I’m certain I will find the way ahead blocked. That would add more miles and mean I risk not finishing before it gets dark. So reluctantly I turn back. It will have to be the road route.

This time I follow the track into the village of South Fambridge. The first house I come to is called “The Old Ferry House”. What a shame there isn’t a ferry any more it would have saved me many miles of road walking to get around the river.

South Fambridge

There seems to be a lot of new housing in South Fambridge. This one I thought particularly odd “Maritime Mews”.

South Fambridge

I suppose it is nice the architect has tried to build something a bit different than a square block of flats, but the mix of stiles and materials makes it look rather messy and ugly to me.

I continue past this modern development to the village sign and a seat and then I’ve reached the end of the village. From here there is a footpath heading directly south to the main road, which takes a shorter route than the road (which turns east here for half a mile or so before also turning south).

So I follow that, but it is full of piles of rubbish and a burnt out car. I’m not warming to South Fambridge.

Thankfully the footpath soon leaves this track and becomes a narrow path along the edge of fields and the rubbish has ended.

Near South Fambridge

When I reach the road, the walk is truly horrible. I had feared the road would be busy, and it is. There isn’t a pavement, and the road is quite narrow with lots of tight bends, so I have to keep switching sides as I approach each corner to try to avoid being hit by cars who are coming round the corners clearly not expecting anyone to be walking in the edge of the road. In places there is a grass verge, but the grass is long and there are lots of dips (drains) which are not obvious because of the long grass. I think it is the worst stretch of road walking I’ve had to do since the roads leading to Brean in Somerset.

I have to follow this road for around 2 miles. There are only a few farms and a mobile home park called “Dome Village”, for some reason, beside the road so not much to slow traffic down. About half a mile before the end there is another road joining to the left and this brings with it even more traffic. This road is basically the only road into Hullbridge, somewhere which was probably once a village but is more a small town now at least in terms of size, with a population of around 7000. And it seems a large proportion of this population all want to drive along this road right now!

I didn’t take any photos along this section. I didn’t feel safe stopping, there was little of interest to photograph anyway and I just wanted to get off that road as quickly as possible.

It comes as a huge relief when I reach the edge of Hullbridge and can turn right on a track called Long Lane. This is a public byway but it’s more or less a road to Cracknell’s Farm after which it becomes a muddy rutted track, but at least there is no fly tipping here.

At the north end of this the track joins a minor road which I turn left along and soon reach a recreation ground which I cut across to reach the river Crouch again where thankfully there is a footpath again.

At last, back to the river and away from the traffic.

The River Crouch at Hullbridge

The river is noticeably narrower now, with a few marshy islands near this side of the shore. I pass another mobile home park and then some come to a concrete slipway where there is, bizarrely a byway marked as crossing the river. This meets another slipway leading to a road on the other side which heads to the now fairly large town of South Woodham Ferrers.

The River Crouch at Hullbridge

Perhaps once vehicles or horses used to ford the river here, but it must surely only be possible at low tides and given how muddy the river is, there is no way I would risk it on foot. Oddly, because it’s clearly marked as a public byway on the map another sign alongside warns “Private slipway, no public right of access” which I don’t think is actually true. In any case, the tide is in and as I can’t walk on water, so I have to continue on the path beside the river.

There are lots of swans gathered just past the slipway I suspect they often get fed here and are hoping I might feed them, but I’ve had lunch so they are out of luck! The sun is getting lower in the sky now and I can see the houses of South Woodham Ferrers reflecting in the calm waters.

The River Crouch near Hullbridge

I soon come to another little boat yard where on the opposite bank of the river the Fenn Creek joins the river Crouch, forming the western border of the town of South Woodham Ferrers. It is also more or less the end of Hullbridge, so soon both banks are back to rural rather than urban.

The River Crouch near Hullbridge

After about half a mile the path briefly leaves the sea wall bypassing an area that looks as if it was once developed (a track heads to it, but abruptly ends) but is now green again, but the path soon returns to the sea wall beyond it.

The River Crouch near Battlesbridge

Soon though the path passes a couple of large ponds (some sort of flood relief system?) and heads to the road – there is no path along the rest of the river. So it’s back to the road for the last half a mile. Again it is horrible, lots of traffic travelling at speed and no pavement or even grass verge. It’s the main road link between Hullbridge and the A130 so it is no surprise that it is busy.

It’s a relief to reach Battlesbridge where at last there is a pavement.

Battlesbridge can be summed up in one word. Antiques. It is a strange sort of village, at most 50 houses, so it is very small, but a large mill on the water front that is now a large antiques centre.

Battlesbridge

There is a pretty clapperboard pub at the other end of the large car park that serves this antique centre.

Battlesbridge

I pass another antiques centre where there are all sorts of unusual and interesting items. The most obvious of which is an old railway carriage but there is also a couple fireplaces and metal chairs. It is a strange sort of village.

Battlesbridge antique shop

Though despite it’s tiny size, Battlesbridge has another useful feature – a railway station! The service was only hourly however at the time (it runs more frequently now) and I knew I had about half an hour before the next train, which I’d take home.

So I had a quick look around the rest of the village passing a nice little pond with an island in the middle a lovely hold shop with the old Drapers sign still there – and three more antique shops and another pub.

Battlesbridge pond

Antiques (and drinking) then seems to be what Battlesbridge is all about these days!

Battlesbridge

Battlesbridge

Having seen the village I headed to the station. It was a little station consisting of just a single platform (as it’s on a single-track branch line) and a waiting shelter.

Battlesbridge Station

There is no ticket office nor even a ticket machine. But at least it exists! I’m there a bit early still so I see the train going the other direction first and my train comes about 15 minutes later, as the trains can only pass at North Fambridge, further up the line.

Battlesbridge Station

No one gets off and I am the only one to get on. Trains on this line run only between Wickford and Southminster so I need to change at Wickford to pick up a train from Southend that is going on to London where I use the tube to get to Waterloo and take a train home from there.

This was another rather frustrating walk. Footpaths that don’t seem to exist anymore. Signs telling me there is no right of way when the map says otherwise and many miles of walking on a horribly busy road with no pavement. But at least the sections beside the river were nice and Battlesbridge at the end was interesting and it was helped by the fact it was a lovely sunny day.

Postscript: It was only when reading Ruth’s blog that I subsequently realised all of this walk was unnecessary. There is in fact a passenger ferry from Wallasea Island to Burnham-on-Crouch. I don’t know if it didn’t run at all when I walked here, or if it only ran in the summer (as is the case now) or if I simply missed it. As I wrote in my rules I won’t walk around every river to the nearest bridge if there is a ferry – and there is here (it’s marked on the current maps, at least).

Here are details of the public transport needed for the walk. There is no direct service between Canewdon and Battlesbridge. Instead to get back to Canewdon, you will have to take the train from Battlesbridge to Wickford, another train from Wickford to Rochford or Southend and finally the bus from there to Canewdon. The bus is the least frequent, so schedule the trains around this.

Greater Anglia trains Crouch Valley Line : Southminster – Burnham-on-Crouch – Althorne – North Fambridge – South Woodham Ferrers – Battlesbridge – Wickford. Trains run roughly every 40 minutes Monday – Saturday and hourly on Sundays. It takes around 5 minutes to travel between Battlesbridge and Wickford.

Greater Angila trains London to Southend : London Liverpool Street – Stratford – Shenfield – Billericay – Wickford – Rayleigh – Hockley – Rochford – Southend Airport – Prittlewell – Southend Victoria. Trains run every 20 minutes Monday – Saturday and every 30 minutes on Sundays. It takes just under 15 minutes between Wickford and Rochford and a little over 20 minutes to Southend.

Stephensons of Essex bus route 60 and 60A : Southend – Rochford – Great Stambridge – Ballards Gore – Canewdon  Paglesham Eastend. 6 buses per day each way, Monday – Saturday. (Only 4 of these operate beyond Canewdon to Paglesham Eastend). There is no bus service to Canewdon on Sundays.

Here are the complete set of photos for this walk : Main Link | Slideshow

Posted in Essex | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

173. Wallasea Island

June 2017

This was my second visit to Wallasea Island. When I first walked the coast of Essex, in 2006 and 2007 I had walked a short distance along the path on the north coast of Wallasea Island, but did not make it to the end, mainly because it was a dead-end and rather featureless.

However since then the island has changed. Around 2008 most of the island was purchased by the RSPB to create the “Wallasea Island Wild Coast”. What this means in practice is that many of the sea walls around the island have been breached, to create a large area of wetland on which it is hoped to encourage more birds and re-introduce some rare or lost birds.

So the path I walked on 10 years or so earlier has since been deliberately breached, to flood the land. The footpath mostly remains, but has been diverted to what is now the the coast of the island, and even better, new paths have opened. The project is a joint one between the RPSB and Crossrail, which seems an unlikely partnership but it makes sense since the RSPB is using the earth removed to build the Crossrail tunnels under London to landscape the island.

I drove to the reserve. It is quite remote but you follow the road to Canewdon and then continue on the road ahead. Pass the marina and at a place called Grapnells, continue on the now private single-track road to the car park at the end. From here I turned right and was almost opposite Burnham-on-Crouch. I followed the path along the sea wall, which was easy to follow, if not the most varied. It was a very hot day, clear and sunny with temperatures around 30 degrees Celsius. So I soon stopped on the grass bank for lunch.

Path on the north coast of Wallasea Island

I could see the old sea wall and it’s path and the boats on the river beyond, just visible through the gaps in the sea wall.

The River Crouch from Wallasea Island

Ahead I was soon surprised to come across some rather more industrial structures, which were not marked on the map. These turned out to be temporary. Earth extracted from under London to build the Crossrail tunnels is transported by boat down the Thames to a temporary dock on the north of the island where a convener system transports it over the marshes behind the breached sea wall for use in landscaping the island. Steps had been provided over the convener so that I could reach the rest of the path.

Wallasea Island

I continued to the very end of the path where there is a wooden shelter. This faces the River Roach with Foulness Island just beyond, which I had visited a couple of years previously.

Wallasea Island

It was a peaceful spot and the rivers around here were proving popular with the boaters, as numerous yachts headed along the river, though a few also seemed to be moored up in the river here. Ahead the sea wall on the east of the island has also been breached (not marked on any maps that I could see) forming more marshes, so this is now as far as you can go.

Wallasea Island

Wallasea Island

Wallasea Island

The River Roach and Foulness

I headed back, but just before the conveyor belt there was another path to “Half Moon Viewpoint”. It was also marked with the name of another trail that I forget. So I followed this. It followed the raised banks around the new area of marshes taking me almost back to the east coast of the island again.

Wallasea Island

On the way I passed this rather cluttered sign post! Pointing not just local areas but where the birds that nest here (or it is hoped will) come from.

Signpost on Wallasea Island

I also passed part of one of the Crossrail tunnelling machines.

Part of a Crossrail tunnelling machine

Then the path turned south and eventually took me to the south coast of the island, overlooking the River Roach.

Wallasea Island

Wallasea Island

Sadly, and to my irritation (because it wasn’t signed as such), it was a dead-end. After nearly 40 minutes of walking I was a bit annoyed by that, I had assumed, wrongly, that the path would loop back to the car park, but it didn’t.

So I had to walk back again, stopping for plenty to drink. At the car park I did consider follow the path back to the marina, but having done this before I decided that it was time to head home.

The view from Wallasea Island looking west

It had been interesting to see what had changed, but probably it is better to wait for this project to be finished (I think in 2020) and come back a few years later, when it has become more natural and established. I’m also hoping that at some point the Ordnance Survey or RSPB might publish a proper map showing the full paths that the public can access around the island. I am not sure if the path I followed is intended to remain a dead-end but in any case a proper map would make this clear.

There is only very limited public transport in the area. Stephensons of Essex routes 60 and 60A runs six times a day between Southend and Canewdon and one bus extends to Essex Marina on the north western coast of Wallasea Island. The bus runs the following route : Southend-on-Sea – Southchurch – Rochford – Great Stanbridge – Canewdon (one bus extends to Essex Marina) – Ballards Gore – Paglesham.

Here are the complete set of photos for this walk : Main Link | Slideshow

Posted in Essex | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment