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!
I explored the village a bit first passing the church and village store.
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.
On reaching the river, the water was incredibly calm, like a mirror.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.”
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.
There seems to be a lot of new housing in South Fambridge. This one I thought particularly odd “Maritime Mews”.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
There is a pretty clapperboard pub at the other end of the large car park that serves this antique centre.
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.
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.
Antiques (and drinking) then seems to be what Battlesbridge is all about these days!
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.
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.
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.