This is a walk of rivers, marshes and islands, as so much of the Essex coast is, as I walk alongside the rivers Roach and Crouch.
I’m doing this walk in the reverse direction, ending at Rochford, where I also ended last time because there is only an infrequent bus service to Canewdon and so I want to get the bus journey done in the morning to avoid an otherwise potentially long wait at the end.
I took the train into London Waterloo, then the Waterloo and City Line to Bank, the Central Line onwards to London Liverpool Street and then a train from there to Rochford. I had timed this so I should arrive in time to catch the bus to Canewdon. Fortunately all my connections run to time so I get to Rochford in time to take the bus to Canewdon. This service only runs once every 2 hours. And on time, an ancient double-decker bus arrives. I sit upstairs, where it smells rather damp and it’s cold, but it gets me to Canewdon on time, which is the main thing.
Canewdon is a pleasant little village with a pub, a village store and some pleasant white clapper-board houses.
Just past the shop I turn right along the un-surfaced Gays Lane which soon becomes muddy but emerges into a field where it becomes drier. For the first part of the walk I’m following a marked trail, the Roach Valley Way. This is a 23-mile walk around Rochford and the surrounds, much of it alongside the estuary. Since it’s a named path I’m hoping the paths will be a bit better.
Emerging into a field I’m a little surprised to find I’m heading downhill. I’m in Essex, I didn’t think there were any hills! I’m also following a dog walker, who you can see ahead.
As is often the way he is walking quite slowly and stops from time to time, so I soon catch him up. As I get close he suddenly swings his arm back with a stick to throw for the dog and very nearly hits me in the face with it! Thankfully he noticed before he did so and apologised but I often find myself in this situation.
If I’m walking faster than other people I catch them up. Walking doesn’t make a lot of noise so people often don’t realise you’re behind them. Perhaps I need to start coughing as I approach or something.
At the end of the field the path goes over a stile and crosses the drainage ditch of Old Fleet and continues to Upper Raypitts Farm where I can go beside the farm buildings to join the southern bank of the river Crouch.
Between me and the other side of the river is Bridgemarsh Island.
This was an island that would naturally flood, but in 1736 it was enclosed by a sea wall preventing the tidal flooding and connected to the mainland by a tidal causeway. The island was then farmed as well as having some industry, such as a brick-works that used the clay from the island. However the sea wall was not maintained and major floods along the east coast in 1953 was basically the end for the island. Many of the walls were destroyed and the island returned to tidally flooded marsh and is now no longer inhabited. In fact it’s now a huge number of tiny marshy islands and is now owned by the Bridgemarsh Island Trust. However as the island is so shallow and barely above the water I can hardly see it.
Now I’m on a sea wall path again following the southern banks of the river Crouch heading north east towards Black Point. On the other side of the river, beyond Bridgemarsh Island I can see the village of Althorne where I hope to reach on my next walk. It’s an odd village with a part of the village south of the railway line beside the river and another part of the village about half a mile north (inland) and up a hill, along the B1010.
The concrete sea wall path has soon becomes grass but thankfully it is dry enough under foot. I soon reach Black Point (which isn’t black) and continue east as the river bank and path turn south east. I’ve reached the end of Bridgemarsh Island now so the view is now directly across to the northern bank of the Crouch.
To my right the scenery is now very flat, mostly agricultural fields drained by numerous drainage ditches. Across the Crouch there are gentle hills rolling up from the rivers edge. Soon on my side of the river I come to an area of salt marsh that marks the start of Lion Creek. Across the estuary I can see the large house at Creeksea.
Lion Creek was I believe once joined to Paglesham Creek meaning that Wallasea Island ahead was a true island. Now it is probably technically a peninsula, being joined to the mainland by a road between these two creeks.
Beyond that I can see the town of Burnham-on-Crouch on the other bank of the river, but it will be a while before I’ve walked there.
Lion Creek is only s small creek, heading less than half a mile inland to it’s end. Though before the end of the creek there is actually a sea wall across it, but according to my map, the footpath doesn’t go over it, but heads further inland to what I presume is the natural end of the creek. But I’m pleased to find I can walk over the sea wall to cut off the end of the creek and clearly access is permitted here as I come to a sign from Essex Widlife Trust telling me that they purchased the land here with the aid of a donation in 1991 and goes on to tell me about the wildlife that can be seen here. Rather frustratingly to me, it makes no mention of how the creek got it’s name or what it used to be used for.
There is Lion Wharf just ahead on the map so I guess it must have once had some sort of use for industry or fishing, but it’s quiet now. (As a postscript to this, the official route of the Roach Valley Way is now marked as the route I followed rather than the route shown on my now ageing map, it looks like the footpath has been diverted).
On the eastern side of the creek I have to briefly join the road, which is also the route of the Roach Valley Way. As the road turns to the left, I have a choice. The official route of the Roach Valley Way is to turn right here off the road and on a footpath that follows the western edge of Paglesham Creek. Or I could turn left and follow a footpath out onto Wallasea Island.
I ponder this for a while. I like islands. The path to Wallasea Island runs along the entire northern coast of the island, and part way along the south side of the island, where it comes to an abrupt end. It is nearly 5 miles long, so to walk there and back is nearly 10 miles. I’ll never have enough time to do that and get to Rochford before it gets dark. So I decided to give the island a miss for now, it will have to wait for another day.
Right it is then, alongside Paglesham Creek. Actually the path is not really alongside. Instead it follows a route across fields a couple of hundred metres from the waters edge because this creek does not have man-made sea walls but is more natural.
When I reach the inland point of the creek the footpath then does run alongside the water. It is a narrow and shallow creek, full of the usual salt marsh.
The path on the other side of the creek is more interesting as it follows the sea wall alongside, so I’m right beside the water again. I pass an old World War II pillbox a reminder that this coast was once heavily defended.
I can look across from here to Wallasea Island and the large marina on it. The tide is coming in now and the creek looks nearly full. It’s windy too, creating quite a few waves. The creek forms the southern border of Wallasea Island, so it does lead to the open sea, a few miles away.
There isn’t a lot else to be seen truth be told, the gentle waters of the creek on my left and flat open farm land to the right, so I make quick progress.
Soon I reach the eastern edge of the creek and turn right with the sea wall to head south and right again, now heading west now along the northern bank of the River Roach.
There is more activity here with a few boats to be seen in the river.
A short distance ahead it looks like someone has, at some point in the past created something in the salt marsh, because it is cut into neat squares.
I wondered originally if it was a harbour but it seems boats couldn’t get in, so my guess is it was some sort of area for capturing sea creatures of some sort (oyster beds?) or perhaps for drying salt water to create salt. Either way whatever used to happen here doesn’t any longer. One of the squares has a boat dumped in it. I know that it’s dumped because a sign attached to it warns it “This vessel is subject to salvage” and “Unsafe vessel, do not board”. Actually it’s probably not dumped more likely got washed away from it’s moorings and ended up here during a storm.
Further up I come to another larger boat. This looks as if it had been converted to a residence. A front door on the deck and windows above. But now the boat seems to have taken on water and the back part of the boat is submerged and the wooden panelling making up the house is rotting and the roof flopping down. Despite this a man is working at the front of the boat. I wondered if he was planning to repair it or was removing anything of value.
I pass another couple of boats Paglesham Eastend boat yard which look like they too are house boats, one still with Christmas lights below the window.
The little boat yard here looks quite busy with boats in various stages of repair, though with the wind the waves are breaking over the jetty that leads up to it.
I continue past this interesting boat yard back along the sea wall, alongside more salt marsh. It must be near high tide now as the waves are splashing against the marsh. It is nicer to see with water in rather than acres of mud flats I would otherwise see.
I was soon opposite the landfill site of Barling Marsh I passed last time, so there were large numbers of sea gulls again. Soon I reach Stannets Creek. This is an odd place because it’s now a lake really, as it looks like a sea wall was built over the mouth of the creek meaning the sea no longer enters the creek. Back on the sea wall it’s only a short distance before the next creek (I do wonder how many creeks Essex has?!). This is Bartonhall Creek and soon I reach Barton Hall itself. I thought it might be something grand but it looks like it is just a farm these days.
Here I come a bit unstuck with the footpath. My map shows that the path goes left, in front of the hall. But I can’t see this path and instead end up following the road behind the house. I notice on more recent maps the route of the path is the one I ended up taking so I assume it is another path that has been diverted and my map shows the old route. (Later when I get home I find that the map I had bought in my local WH Smith a few months previously is actually dated 1998, making it 9 years old, so it is perhaps no wonder there were a few issues with it. WH Smith had obviously had it on the shelves for a long time).
I continued past Hampton Barns and around the back of the creek, to return to the river Roach. Inland is a small house, Waldens, in a rather isolated location. Onwards along the sea wall after another half a mile I’m passing the buildings of Great Stambridge Hall.
This looks to be more a farm again now, but beyond it is a pretty church which I can see through the trees.
This was presumably once the church that served this estate, but it’s now about half a mile from the village of Great Stambridge. I was now nearing Rochford with the river suddenly becoming packed with boats and with a large mill ahead.
This is Stambridge Mill and it isn’t an old mill, it is modern and looks quite industrial.
There also looks to be an old military boat of some sort in the end of the creek, not sure if it’s awaiting scrapping or some further use. I soon reach the end of the creek and cross the road ahead where there is a fishing lake, though no one is using it today and beyond this the station, where I ended my walk and met up with the previous walk.
From here I took the train to London Liverpool Street. Sadly by the time I had got back to London the Waterloo and City Line had stopped running (back then it finished early on a Saturday, it runs all day now) so I had a longer tube journey back to Waterloo for the train home.
This had not been the most of interesting of coastal walks, as it was almost entirely along marshes and creeks. It was quite pleasant, helped by good weather just not a lot of variety to be found. However it was at least peaceful and quiet and pleasantly rural, so it had it’s charms, too.
Here are details of the public transport needed for this walk:-
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.