Essex is understood for lots of issues, however its coast isn’t one among them. That’s a pity because it’s dwelling to a assorted birdlife and one part is essentially the most remoted spot within the nation.
Also learn: strolling the Essex Way
Of course, there are the compulsory caravan parks however they’re primarily clustered across the cities and what lies between is wild and unspoilt. It’s additionally the setting for a brand new Apple TV+ sequence, The Essex Serpent.
Also learn: Why Mersea Island in Essex is the proper place to calm down in a caravan
This long-distance hike begins on the Saltmarsh Coast Trail in Tollesbury, primarily following the ocean wall, and goes south all the way in which to the Thames. It crosses three rivers, the Blackwater, the Crouch and the Roach, earlier than arriving in Southend after which carries on previous Canvey Island to Tilbury on the Thames.
Day 1 Tollesbury to Maldon 6.5 hours, 16 miles
It’s overcast however dry as I take a taxi from Witham, which drops me at Tollesbury Marina. The tide’s out, the boats are resting on the mud and there’s no person round. I stroll on the seawall round Tollesbury Wick, an space designated as a nature reserve, with Mersea Island reverse. In the gap is Bradwell Nuclear Power Station, someplace I’ll move tomorrow.
The birdlife is ample, with a number of waders, and the one individuals I see are a pair amassing shellfish within the shallows. There’s nothing else for an additional three hours earlier than I attain the caravan parks, simply outdoors Maldon. Suddenly there are canine walkers, pubs with drinkers outdoors, nevertheless it’s nonetheless a good distance round quite a few inlets earlier than I attain Maldon.
My lodging is on the high of the one hill for miles, and I’m relieved to discard my boots and soak my ft in a sizzling bathtub.
Day 2 St Lawrence to Othona 8 Miles 3 Hours
After yesterday’s interminable inlets, somewhat than face extra of the identical, I determine to cheat and take the bus. It drops me off at St Lawrence, one other caravan haven, and I set off alongside the seawall. It’s sunny with a delicate breeze, and there are lots of sea birds feeding within the water. I quickly arrive at Bradwell Marina, chock stuffed with boats and there’s even a pub, however I don’t linger.
The nuclear energy station looms forward, lengthy decommissioned. though there are plans to restart. I can see the village of West Mersea, shut throughout the channel, and nearer, at water’s edge, are sunken barges, and improvised sea defences.
Ruined pillboxes are dotted alongside the shore, as soon as a safety towards German invasion. I move lengthy shell seashores with the occasional seated fishermen. Soon I’ved turned the nook and arrive on the Othona neighborhood the place I’ll be spending the night time.
Day 3 Othona to Burnham on Crouch 16 Miles 6 Hours
Before I set out, I take a fast take a look at the chapel of St Peter on the Wall, one of many oldest intact church buildings in England, relationship from the 7th century. It’s an exquisite morning, the dew heavy on the ocean wall, soaking my boots. There are extra beached barges and, though I’m strolling by means of one of many bleakest spots within the UK, all of the land is cultivated with small farms within the distance. What’s sure, although is that there are not any individuals and no dwellings.
After going through the open sea for a handful of miles, I attain the Crouch estuary and switch upriver. During WW2 this was thought a possible invasion route and the seawall is lined with pillboxes together with a large fortification simply barely inland. In the center of the estuary is Foulness, the fourth-largest island within the UK.
It’s nonetheless used as a firing vary by the army and loud bangs disturb the silence. As I close to Burnham on Crouch, the yachts are out in pressure within the channel. It’s a pleasant place, so I cease for an ice cream on the seafront.
Day 4 Burnham on Crouch to North Fambridge 10 miles 4 hours
After three days of strolling, I determine to take it straightforward and simply stroll upriver to the pub in North Fambridge. I depart Burnham’s Yacht Marina, nonetheless following the ocean wall, previous the tiny hamlet of Creeksea.
There’s nothing a lot else till the ocean wall all of a sudden disappears and I’m directed inland and begin to climb. Locals know this as ‘The Cliff’ and all of a sudden the panorama opens up in entrance of me.
It’s solely a minor undulation and I’m quickly again on the flat on the ocean wall. I move the marina at Althorne earlier than reaching the superb Ferry Boat Inn at North Fambridge. The ferry is lengthy gone however they’re nonetheless offering wonderful beer and meals. It’s so good that I linger too lengthy and find yourself taking the prepare again to Burnham.
Day 5 Burnham on Crouch to Rochford 8 miles 4 hours
Today, I’m sure for Southend and I begin by phoning the ferry, only a one-man small inflatable, to take me throughout the Crouch to Wallasea Island. Over three million tons of earth from the Crossrail excavations have been dumped right here to create a wildlife habitat beneath the safety of the RSPB. Arable farmland has been transformed to saltmarsh, mudflats, lagoons and grazing marsh however I’ve no time to linger.
I head inland by means of the Paglesham hamlets of Churchend and Eastend, throughout enormous fields of grain, to finish up as soon as once more on the seawall by my third river. This is the Roach and I observe its banks to the crossing place at Rochford. I’m now on the outskirts of Southend and, somewhat than tramp by means of city streets, I take the bus to the centre. It’s then a nice stroll alongside the promenade, previous the well-known pier, to my B&B in Thorpe Bay.
Day 6 Leigh on Sea to Stanford Le Hope 17.5 miles 7 hours
Rather than trudge into the centre, I take the bus to Leigh on Sea. This is the beginning of the Thames Estuary path which can take me all the way in which to Tilbury. It largely runs parallel to the railway line, with stations dotted all through, so it’s straightforward to do day walks, simply tackling brief sections.
I observe Hadleigh Ray riverbank, with Hadleigh Castle above me and Two Tree Island to my left, to South Benfleet after which inland to Pitsea.
From right here it’s all cross nation, previous Vange Marsh, then by means of Fobbing Marsh Nature Reserve. I get my first view of the Thames at Stanford Warren nature reserve, flooded gravel pits with reed beds stuffed with birds. From right here it’s a brief stroll to Stanford Le Hope.
Day 7 Stanford Le Hope to Purfleet 14 miles 6 hours
From Stanford, I observe the railway line earlier than coming into Thurrock Thameside Nature Park. Once a landfill website, it’s been reclaimed by nature and comprises an enormous lake, wonderful for chicken watching.
At East Tilbury, I lastly attain the Thames, with the spectacular 19th century Coalhouse Fort, guarding the river. Originally constructed to guard London from the French, it was repurposed in WW2.
The seawall follows the curve of the river to the seventeenth century Tilbury Fort now totally restored. Henry VIII constructed the primary defences right here and Queen Elizabeth famously rallied her military close by to face the specter of the Armada. These days the Armada has been changed by large cruise ships which dock close by, subsequent to the Gravesend ferry.
I press onwards to Grays, not essentially the most inspiring place, however I’m quickly again on the Thames, stopping for fish and chips at a riverside pub.
Huge oil tankers and container ships ply this stretch of the river and the ocean wall has been remodeled right into a gallery of graffiti. Passing beneath the Dartford Crossing Bridge, I arrive at Purfleet, my remaining vacation spot, and get the prepare dwelling.
Travel: Greater Anglia has direct trains from Liverpool Street to Witham.
Info: Visit Essex has details about the county.
The Saltmarsh Coast has details about the path.
Explore the Thames Estuary Path has maps and an in depth information.
Stay: Luigi’s Al Fresco is a snug place to remain in Maldon and has good Italian delicacies.
Othana Community, close to Bradwell, offers welcome.
Thatched Cottages in Burnham on Crouch are a few atmospheric, immaculate restored, historic dwellings.
Ferry Boat Inn in North Fambridge has rooms and wonderful meals.
Suenos Guesthouse in Southend has sea views and 5* lodging.