I did this walk from home first taking the train into London Waterloo, the tube from there to West Ham and a C2C train from West Ham to Stanford-le-Hope. It was a pleasant journey though I had not made as early a start as I’d hoped. It was now December, and daylight is in short supply in this month.
Coastal access was limited on this walk so it was to be another walk through marshes – I’ve come to realise that a lot of the coast is marshes.
I came out of the railway station at Stanford-le-Hope and headed through the church yard. The church was very pretty with interesting brick work on the tower.
I emerged from the church yard opposite a pleasant looking pub, The Inn on the Green. (I was also amused to notice, later on, the differing reactions of the two ladies waiting for a bus when I took the photo).
Sadly this was the of the town centre now really as I headed down un-interesting suburban streets back to the northern end of Rainbow Lane, where I joined the roads into Stanford-le-Hope for the train last time.
Interestingly the route I took then seems not to be possible now. I turned right along Rainbow Lane and then turned left on a track (High Road) which headed north east past Oak Farm and Great Garlands Farm.
But the most recent Ordnance Survey map shows that this road has been sliced in two, with a new dual carrigeway built to serve the new “London Gateway Port” cutting it into two dead-end roads. So I’m not sure if it is still possible to walk this way.
It was a quiet road both in terms of traffic and noise, with large fields on either side, crossed with power lines, probably from Tilbury. When this lane turned off to the left, I could continue ahead on a footpath heading along a field edge near to Old Hall. The path comes out ahead onto the A1014, but just before it I turned right then left again to emerge a little further down the road. The path was not obvious on the ground and I struggled to find it until I spotted the stile I was meant to reach on the other side. This brought me out onto the A1014, another dual carriageway. Thankfully traffic was light (probably because it is the weekend) and once over I could cross into a recreation ground and follow the footpath across it to the church in Corringham.
Corringham and Stanford-le-Hope were presumably once separate places but they have now merged together. I didn’t know anything about Corringham, but it was lovely.
I followed the path through the church yard to reach a pretty collection of buildings, some half timbered and some clapper-boarded with an attractive looking pub being one of them.
The path continued past these buildings and beside an attractive lake, Cobblers Mede Lake. It even had a little fountain in the middle.
At the end I emerged onto a road with the school just the other side of the road. The path continued alongside the school and beyond it was squeezed between another lake on the left and the school fields on the right.
At the end the path crossed a track turned left and bought me out onto another road. This was a minor road that led into the small village of Fobbing to my right. I passed this building with it’s bright coloured doors and a large pub beyond it.
The road here too was quite a steep hill – and there was me thinking Essex was flat!
At the T-junction ahead I turned right down the main road of the village, with a mixture of old and new buildings. Soon I reached the church. It was another attractive church with a nice solid looking tower. It’s been a good day for spotting churches. Less so the coast.
As I passed the church I could look back and realised that though Fobbing is now quite a small place it must have once been both wealthy and important since the church seemed to have 3 distinct sections to it, I presumed extensions as the congregation grew.
At Fobbing I had a choice. A path headed north east over Fobbing Marsh, my onward route. Another path headed east over another area of marsh (un-named, perhaps also part of Fobbing Marsh). This second route was closest to the coast but it was basically a giant loop down to the A1014, which I’d have to follow back to Fobbing. In short a lot of walking (about 3 miles) to end up about 20 metres from where I was now, mostly not on the coast.
However checking the map more closely I could see that the southern (dead-end loop path) seemed to have a bridge over a creek. So I decided to follow this southern route, closer to the coast and see if I could devise my own route. I followed the road as it turned left at the far end of Fobbing and then found a path on the right which seemed to go across someones garden then out into the marshes.
This crosses an over-grown stream and then I turned left on a fairly obvious slightly raised track heading east over the marshes. In fact the path is dry underfoot and quite easy to follow, a relief. The marshes are flat, large and with distant views of the industry around. Though the immediate area is actually pleasantly rural – and not actually very marshy!
At a fork in the footpaths I turn left to follow the route closest to Fobbing Creek. I’m briefly next to the creek, now almost a river with another raised bank ahead. I suspect this area was once more marshy and these raised banks protect it from the tides so the land is drier.
Oddly ahead the path turns to the right, away from the creek then turns left, back to the creek, forming a big U-shape. I follow it. To my right now is the “moveable flood barrier” marked on the map. This crosses the much larger Vange Creek.
I had wondered if it might be possible to cross Vange Creek here. However the land beyond is a mixture of industry, old wharfs and a rubbish dump, with no roads and no paths. The barrier I can see is big, much bigger than I expected. Clearly with the fences around it there is no way to cross it. So I give up on any thoughts of trying to cross it.
As my path returns to the banks of the smaller Fobbing Creek, there is another barrier. Well more of a damn really, over Fobbing Creek. It is not a public right of way. But there is a stile and no signs saying “Keep Out”. So I cross the stile onto the damn. An Environment Agency sign tells me that I am in fact on an “Ooze Dam” and gives the grid reference.
I think this may be a nature reserve, oddly there were signs for both the RSPB and Essex Wildlife trust I noticed, so I am not sure who owns it (I think the Essex Wildlife trust had recently acquired it from the RSPB). However there are no “keep off” or private signs, so I follow the raised bank, again not a right of way, on the western bank of Fobbing Creek.
The creek soon widens as it joins the larger Vange Creek. The view across this creek is quite a contrast. The sun has come out and I have the natural un-spoilt creek (well, more mud flats really, since the tide is out) with the chimneys and industry ahead.
I continue on the sea bank path as it turns left along the south edge of another creek called “Parting Gut” (sounds more like a medical condition).
Ahead I reach a fence of some sorts but the gaps between the slats are so wide I can just walk through, so I’m not clear what it is for. At tit’s inland end I rejoin the public footpath. I’m pleased to have managed to make a more coastal route and also one that does not require me to double back, though I’m not clear if it’s strictly a legal route.
The mouth of the creek is another of those barriers. To my right the creek is mud flats. To the left there are so many reeds you would barely realise there is water there at all.
Now the footpath leaves the raised sea bank and heads over a field. The route on the ground is unclear so I had just to the left of a brown coloured building I can see ahead since this is also marked on the map and the path clearly goes just to the left of it.
The walk is difficult but as I reach the track I’m met with a locked gate. I’m certain this is the public right of way as the grid references from my GPS matches where I thought I was on the map. So I have to climb over the gate onto the track, and climb another gate on the other side to continue. I reported these padlocked gates to the appropriate authority who told me they had visited and found the gates were unlocked. Hmm.
Beyond these gates the path proves very difficult. There is no route on the ground and I come to a water channel. The path goes right across it, but there is no bridge. So I turn right back towards Vange Creek where it is narrow enough I can scramble across. I was hoping not to have problems now I was back on a proper right of way, but I’m wrong.
There is no sign of the path on the ground now so I head in broadly the right direction until I reach a line of trees behind which is another creek.
So I turn left, keeping the banks of the creek on my right until I reach a track. It is the track I crossed earlier, where the locked gates were. So I should have walked on that. I could follow this ahead to where it joined another track going left to right to Marsh Farm.
I cross this track and once again the footpath disappears. I’m left trying to make my way over boggy areas of grass, mixed with streams, long grass and boggy areas.
I make very slow progress. Eventually I reach the north edge of this area with the railway line now to my left. I crossed a footbridge (so this is the path) but then followed beside the railway line, because it was drier here, though it is not the right route. At the field end I turned right and rejoined the proper footpath to go behind Vange Wharf. Here the path is very overgrown.
I soon reached the access road for Vange Wharf where there is a railway crossing so you can reach the A13. But the A13 is a busy dual carriageway here with no safe route to walk or cross it. So reluctantly, I keep to the path. I pass a metal gate where there is a footpath sign to Pitsea station. However it’s back to a boggy overgrown path. I make my way as best as I can across this area to end up next to the railway again.
Past this the path becomes a track. This soon leads to a foot crossing over the railway line. Here I made a mistake. The footpath continued a bit further north towards the A13 then it turns right. I turned right too early. I end up in a scrappy area of waste ground and assumed the path goes through here. I find a reasonably easy track to follow through this. I can follow this to the railway line. There I come to a locked gate, with spikes on top. It soon dawns on me I’m not on the correct path. I try to look for another way out, but there isn’t anything easy. I could go back to the A13 but I don’t want to.
Frustratingly, I can Pitsea station, where I’m heading. It’s just across the road which is just the other side of the fence. There is a level crossing across the road. Eventually I realise I might just be able to squeeze around a small gap in the fence where the level crossing mechanism is and then get over the fence as here there is only a small gate with no spikes on top. I manage to squeeze through hoping no one at the station sees me!
Relieved to be off that horrible path and back on the public road, I could finish here at Pitsea. However it has not been a long walk (albeit it not an easy walk) and ahead there is another small area of coast that is accessible to the public – Wat Tyler Country Park. At least being a country park it should have easy family-friendly paths. So that is where I went.
The route is initially not pleasant, along a road with another private road off to the left and then passing the sewage works. However soon I reach the start of the country park and there is grass next to the road I can walk on. The country park is basically a dead-end with Timberman’s Creek to the west of it, Pitsehall Creek to the east and Vange Creek to the south, so it’s a small spit of land surrounded by creeks.
Wat Tyler was the leader of the peasants revolt against the poll tax in 1381. He marched a group of rebels from Canterbury to the capital, where he was killed by officers of King Richard II. I’m not sure if he ever reached this part of Essex. It seems unlikely given it’s the wrong side of the Thames to be on if coming from Canterbury.
As I entered the country park I tried to make my way to the western edge, beside Timberman’s Creek. However I got a bit lost in the woodland and made a couple of wrong turnings before I found the way. I followed this around the edge of the creek though I turned inland to explore a view point made out of an old World War II pillbox. This was in fact the end of the strongest World War II defensive barrier (so the sign said), called the GHQ line.
From here I returned to the coast and was soon walking beside Vange Creek, just a short distance from where I was earlier. Although the tide was out, leaving mud flats, it was still very pretty in the now low setting sunlight.
I continued past the Wharf at the south eastern corner and stopped to take in the fine view over the creek.
The sun was however nearly setting so I soon headed north along the path close to the eastern side of the park where there was a miniature railway. This bought me to the main visitor centre area where the was a pretty thatched cottage and a couple of other interesting buildings.
I imagine they are open during the day when the park is busier, but they were all closed up now.
I soon reached the end of the country park having made a circuit, or as close a one as I could and returned along the road back to Pitsea station. From here I took the train to West Ham to pick up the tube to Waterloo and then the train home.
This was an odd sort of walk. The first part was pleasant, through some pretty villages but not really coastal. Then for a while it was a nice walk through the marshes on the sea bank path. But this soon deteriorated to a frustrating battle through boggy marsh with no visible path and then a further battle with a level crossing barrier. However Wat Tyle country park made an interesting end to the walk with the lovely views over Vange Creek.
Here are details of the public transport needed for this walk:-
C2C trains run every 30 minutes between Pitsea and Stanford-le-Hope seven days a week on the following service. London Fenchurch Street – Southend Central : London Fenchurch Street – Limehouse – West Ham – Barking – Upminster – Ockendon – Chafford Hundred – Grays – Tilbury Town – East Tilbury – Stanford-le-Hope – Pitsea – Benfleet – Leigh-on-Sea – Chalkwell – Westcliff – Southend Central. Trains run twice an hour, seven days a week. It takes 6 minutes between Pitsea and Stanford-le-Hope.