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).
The bridge itself is rather a strange structure, a mixture of brick, stone and blue metal.
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.
This brings me down to the River Crouch which is peaceful.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Once past the flooded area things improve. The path is now dry underfoot and runs right alongside the houses of 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.
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.
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).
This is quite a nice stretch of path beside the peaceful waters of the creek.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
They are so close but there is over 2 miles of walking to come before I can get to that side of the 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).
Perhaps they are washed up after all – but the way they are piled up does not look natural to me.
There is a barn on the left of the path, but it has seen better days as it has mostly collapsed!
The path now follows a wide track to cross the railway line and then head through the farm yard of Little Hayes Farm.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. “
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.
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.
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.
I soon reached the road ahead and the attractive village sign.
I then followed the road straight ahead for a quarter of a mile to reach 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.