A visit to Sarfend.

Sunday 14 September 2014 – Southend-on-Sea.

While El and I were away on the Isle of Wight last weekend we started discussing the possibility of buying a small holiday home somewhere. This conversation carried on during the week and we talked about what we would want from a holiday place. It seems that in a perfect world we would be able to buy somewhere near St Ives in Cornwall, but that is just way to far away to be practical right now, but is definitely a future consideration.

Much as I am very happy living with El in her house I had become fairly used to living alone and occasionally feel the need to escape to my own pad, with my own things and just chill out. When I moved in after I returned from NZ in July it was intended that once I was working I would look for my own flat and move out. Living together has not raised any alerts and we have pretty much agreed that it would be silly for me to spend 1500-1700 pounds a month renting a flat I would only stay in half the time. This basically means I have some money to invest. So a buying a cheap flat or house somewhere on the coast but near enough to London so we could easily and cheaply visit at the weekends, or I could commute to and from on occasion, seems like a sensible thing to do.

We just need to find somewhere we like. Southend-on-Sea is not going to be one of those places, but it is close by and well worth checking out as it will give us some idea of what is out there, and what seaside towns near to London can be like.

After Steve and I did our Leigh-on-Sea to Southend photo walk back in April I had  been thinking about doing the final leg of the walk from Southend to Shoeburyness, so, as it was a nice day, El and decided to make the trip in reverse.  We caught a train into Liverpool St, walked over to Fenchurch St Station and caught the train out to Shoeburyness. Shoeburyness was interesting, the tide was out, seemingly almost as far as France, and we could see kite surfers way out on the horizon, they were so far out that at first I wondered what they were – and you cannot even see them in this photo taken on my phone. It was a nice enough place, there were some very nice apartments near the sea, but that tide is just too much for me.

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There was a short section of coast with the ubiquitous beach huts on it before we hit a  long section of much nicer beach that was closed to the public as it was/is an MOD testing site, there were numerous signs warning of unexploded shells and other ordinance possibly lying around. Sadly this section of coast was quite long…

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I did love this sign – ‘deep water’ !!! – You can barely see the water.

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It took us about thirty minutes to walk to the outskirts of Southend, and as soon as the MOD area was over, the beach huts appeared. Quite a number of them had people gathered inside and out and there was a bit of a part time sea side community going on. Not my thing, but nice to see people getting out and about, even though the view of the estuary to the power station was not the most attractive.

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I liked this end of Southend, there are some quite nice houses, and as there is no entertainment at this end of the beach it was all very quiet. You can see Southend Pier in the background, the longest in the world apparently – mainly because the sea goes out so far !

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After about an hour and a half of walking we arrived in Southend central, and like before I knew it was just not my place, far too busy for me. We walked through town, heading for the Westcliff area that I wanted to have a look at. We stopped at the famous Rossi’s ice cream shop, a long standing feature of Southend, and one my mum asked me about after she read my blog post from back in April. She used to visit here when she was young and was interested to see if it was still here. The ice cream was very nice too, as I believe it was  in my mum’s day.

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After Rossi’s it was time to go so wandered up through Westcliff to the station and headed back home.

Did I learn anything about buying property on the coast, not really. But I did learn that buying somewhere near the sea, means I want to hear the waves. So that rules out this section of coast!

A coastal walk, Leigh-on-Sea to Southend.

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.

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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.IMG 8705

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There is also a bit of history around small ship building in this area as well.

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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.

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There was also a couple of places selling locally caught seafood as well as ‘Thia’ fish cakes – not quite sure what they are!

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 !

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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.

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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.

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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.