315. Barling to Benfleet

I had planned to get back to Aberdeenshire for 3 days of walking but the arrival of storm Ciara meant my last day would be in very high winds. I opted therefore for 3 days walking in Essex. I had booked myself into a motel in Basildon for three days that would take me out of Essex and to the fringes of London. I drove from Shropshire and parked on Canvey Island. It was the closest place to my walk end where I would not have to pay the exorbitant parking charge of £8.

After parking up I had decided to catch a bus to Benfleet station, then a train to Southend, however, because I was almost 30 minutes early I caught a #27 which would take me all the way to the bus station in Southend. The only trouble was, it was early morning rush hourand the bus was very busy, stopping letting people on and off. It took just over 1.25 hours to get to the bus station. I caught my connecting bus, a #14 to Barling, with just 60 seconds to spare!

It had been freezing overnight and a severe frost was on the ground, but the sun was out and it felt warm, just like a spring day. I got off the bus in Barling and began walking along the road towards Little Wakering. The land to NE was a collection of islands owned by the MOD, one of them Foulness required a permit to enter the island and there were restrictions on where you could walk. I could not be bothered with all the fuss that this involved so I was heading towards Shoeburyness. I passed through Great Wakering and followed a footpath across fields to the edge of Shoeburyness, here, I picked up the MOD perimeter fence which warned of firing ranges. The firing ranges have long since gone and most of the site is now run by QinetiQ. However, I could hear loud explosions coming from Foulness to the NE.

I passed the entrance to the Shoeburyness ranges and continued to the coastline. Bizarrely the sea wall and shoreline is still ‘out of bounds ‘and continues past Shoebury Ness. The whole area of Shoeburyness was once the site of a huge garrison for training and firing of large artillery pieces. There is a fantasic amount of military history surrounding Shoeburyness, to much to descibe here! As I passed Shoebury Ness and the nearby HM Coastguard lookout point I left Shoeburyness behind and entered the Thames Estuary. The estuary here was very wide, but I still make out the far bank in Kent through the mid-morning haze.

The church at Little Wakering
Heading across fields to Shoeburyness
The MOD perimeter fence at Shoeburyness
The end of the MOD land at Shoeburyness
Back on the coast and heading towards Thorpe Bay
A beautiful morning heading in towards Southend-on-Sea along the Thames Estuary
The Pier at Southend
The entrance to the pier (taken in 2008)
Heading out along the pier (taken in 2008)
One of the trains that run along the pier (taken in 2008)
Looking back towards Southend (taken in 2008)
Work still under way following the fire in 2005 (taken in 2008)
Small Turnstone(taken in 2008)
Looking across the Thames estuary towards Kent (taken in 2008)
From the pier end looking back to Southend (taken in 2008)
Evidence of the fire from 2005 (taken in 2008)

The Thames was like a mill pond and extremely calm. I would be following the sea front all the way back to Canvey Island and Benfleet along paths, sea walls and the promenade. It was not long before the trappings of most seaside town made an appearance, chief amongst which was the huge Southend-on-Sea Pier. Stretching out 1.3 miles into the Thames it is the world’s longest leisure pier. Today I would not be walking out along it, but I did do back in 2008 when my local football club AFC Telford visited Southend for an FA Cup replay. The pier is quite amazing and has its own railway carriages running backwards and forth. For a week day in early February, the day could have easily passed for a summer’s day, with the sun out and large amounts of people about.

I soon had the pier at my back as I made my way out of Southend into Westcliffe-on-Sea, then Chalkewell and finally Leigh-on-Sea, each merging imperceptibly into a single large seaside conurbation. Leigh-on-Sea was quite a charming small town, with the seaside part of the town retaining its cobbled streets and quaint pubs.

I left all the built-up areas behind me and set off along a very wide sea bank, which was in the main dry. The view now was not out towards the Thames but a small island called Two Tree Island. It certainly had more than two trees, as well as well as a large Nature Reserve. Eventually Canvey Island appeared, although it was difficult to see with all the water channels, still at low tide.

When I reached the main road out of Canvey Island I continued onto a short distance to Benfleet railway station, as I needed to fill a small gap in my walk, which would save me from doing it tomorrow morning. I reached the station and about turned heading over to Canvey Island and back to my car.


The cliff-lift at Southend
A very placid Thames at Westcliffe-on-Sea
The Crow Stone demarcating the limit of the Port of London River Authority
The wharf at Leigh-on-Sea
Looking back to Leigh-on-Sea and Southend
Hadleigh Castle
Heading towards Benfleet
The tidal Barrier at Canvey Island

Distance today = 20 miles
Total distance = 5,767 miles





2 thoughts on “315. Barling to Benfleet”

  1. I didn’t make it along Southend Pier. Must go back and do that one day. An interesting and varied area I found this. Shoeburyness in particular with all the various MOD sites. I did make it out to Foulness. My understanding is that you do need a permit to drive there (which can only be obtained by someone living there or working there I believe). However you don’t need a permit to go there if you walk along the Broomway. The downside is you will probably have to then spend 12 hours or so there because I don’t think there is enough time to safely walk there and back on a single low tide. I did it, but with a guide as I didn’t want to risk it on my own (who had managed to arrange a coach for the return, so only walked one way). Quite enjoyed it but didn’t get chance to circuit the island on foot, which is what I’d have liked to do.


  2. Hi Jone, I also noticed on the bus time tables you also need a permit whether boarding or alighting a bus service to Foulness. If I had stayed on the #14 from Barling I could have visited Foulness (as long as i was’nt embarking or disembarking). I did read your TR which sort of made my mind up.

    Its looking doubtful for 3 days in Scotland this month, especially with another storm on its way and a lot of snow at low levels. It will just mean getting a additional days in the SE. I have finally drawn out a route from Tilbury to Woolwich foot tunnel. Thank heavens for Google streetview! I think I may be able to make use of the Tilbury foot ferry, because of the free parking at the Fort.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: