Friday March 28 2014 – Leigh-on-Sea to Southend-on-Sea.
When I was out walking Hampstead Heath on Monday with Steve we came up with a loose plan to head out to the coast on Friday if the weather remained agreeable; which it did. We decided to head to Leigh-on-Sea on the Essex south coast and the mouth of the River Thames. It is only forty or so minutes from London’s Fenchurch St Station, so dead easy to get to.
Leigh-on-Sea is an old fishing village that has become a wee bit gentrified, but still retains some of its working past, so thee was a bit of photographic grittiness mixed with some nice pubs to try for lunch. Who can ask for more than that.
We left London mid-morning, it had been a foggy start to the day, and by the time we arrived the local fog had cleared but the horizon stayed foggy for most of the rest of the day. The railway line cuts the town in half so we ended up staying on the seaward side of the tracks and in the end decided we would walk the 5km or so up to Southend-on-Sea and stop to take pictures on the way.
For a large part of the walk the seaward side is quite narrow, basically a walking path running next to the edge of the sea, with a few small wharves along the way. As you would expect for a fishing and shell-fishing village there was a lot of small boats along the way.
There was also a small strip of sheds selling seafood, though only one was open on the day. I wonder if the numerous closed sheds open in the summer months – as I suspect this is a very busy walking area. I certainly hope so.
There is also a bit of history around small ship building in this area as well.
At the end of the town there are a couple of quite nice looking pubs and cafes, though it was sort of lunch time we carried on walking.
There was also a couple of places selling locally caught seafood as well as ‘Thia’ fish cakes – not quite sure what they are!
Just outside of town I was really surprised to come across this nice little beach just outside of Leigh-on-Sea. It was completely not what I was expecting to see. I will admit that my ignorance of this area was pretty profound, I had heard stories of this part of the coast being a bit sad and run down, laughable as a place to holiday – but how wrong I was. OK, it is not Cornwall or Devon, but the beaches looked nice, there was some decent greenery and for a beach under an hour from central London this section of coast is really nice. I stood completely corrected!
I really liked these beach swimming pools; the tide here does go out a very long way. I liked the hard angles and the shapes and they way they contrasted to the natural surroundings. I also liked the fact that the distant shore of the other side of the Thames estuary is smothered by the fog.
The old minesweeper, HMS Wilton is now the home of the Essex Yacht Club, but is famous for being the first plastic and fibreglass warship made back in the early 1970’s. It was retired from duty in 1994 and became the yacht club in the early noughties.
The walk past Chalkwell and Westcliff to Southend took us a couple of hours as we stopped a few times to take photos, I was very fascinated by all the man-made structures poking into the sea and took quite a few pictures as we went.
I also really like this ever-so seaside British building – the pavilion, not something we have so much of in New Zealand, but everywhere along the coast of England that I have visited.
Soon we came in sight of the Southend pier, at 2.14 kms, it is the world’s longest pleasure pier. I guess if it had not been so foggy we would have spotted the pier from miles away ! The pier is that long as the tide goes out for over a mile on this section of coast. They must have been really really keen to build the pier here !
I had a fish and chip lunch in one of the small fish and chip shops open near the pier head and then we caught a small train out to the end of the pier, my knee was really starting hurt – it has been plaguing me for a while and I didn’t fancy another couple of miles of walking. I was glad we did as there was nothing open at the end of the pier, plus it was quite brisk out there, so we did not stay for long.
Once off the pier we walked up the steps to the top of the cliff for a look back over the pier and the closed fairground.
We then caught a train back to London. We were going to stop for a pint at Leigh-on-Sea but decided to head back into town and have an end of the day beer there instead.
It was another really good day out, I learned to not always trust what people say about a place as I kinda liked Southend-on-Sea and the other local towns – though I would not go there on a sunny mid-summers weekend – I suspect it would be madness ! I am keen to walk the other way from Southend out to Shrewburyness, so I will definitely visit again.
Next time I will have to try the famous Rossi ice cream as well.