Leigh-on-Sea to Thorpe Bay
Monday March 27th 2017
A new year, the school Easter holidays and the sea was beckoning us east again. We set off for Essex for two days of walking, the first to fill in the gap between Leigh-on-Sea and Southend and the second to walk on from there. Sadly, one feature we had been looking forward to was to be denied us. Southend Pier was due to begin its summer opening hours today but was closed for staff training. Presumably they have just employed their temporary summer staff and they needed to prepare them for their various roles. It did mean though that we could take the walk from Leigh at a slower pace as there was no pressure to be at the pier in time to explore it.
We arrived at Leigh-on-Sea station at 12.30 and quickly picked up the route which lay along a narrow road between the railway line and Leigh’s famous old cockle sheds.
Fishing has been part of the way of life here for as long as records have been kept. As well as cockles, local boats land whelks, mussels, oysters, shrimps, crab and other fish. The fishing industry declined in the 19th century as the river here silted up. The cockle sheds survive however and the village is still famous for its shellfish.
At the end of the row of sheds, the path opened out to a small quay. On the water were dozens of small rowing boats, presumably used to access bigger fishing boats moored in deeper water.
A short walk along a very pretty high street brought us to The Peterboat Inn where we stopped for lunch. Jen enjoyed a huge bowl of cockle chowder, while I filled up on a chicken, bacon and melted brie baguette. The helpings were generous and when we set out after lunch we were well fuelled.
The high street ended at a wider area between the railway and the sea. Here we enjoyed the sight of a class of small children lined up along the water’s edge drawing the boats. What a lovely place for an art lesson.
The path continued for a mile or so, becoming very narrow until we emerged at Chalkwell Station onto a proper prom. A real seaside promenade again at last. It was easy walking and we relished passing all the attractions a seaside town should have; cafes, amusements, fish and chips shops, bucket and spade stalls and even a cliff lift.
The prom ran seamlessly from Chalkwell, through Westcliff into Southend itself. We stopped at a café on the beach for a coffee, lingering to enjoy the uninterrupted view from the glazed terrace out to sea.
Finally we reached the closed pier and passed underneath it to Adventure Island with its roller coasters and rides. It did not appeal to us so we continued along the prom passing car parks, more beach cafes and all the amenities of a large seaside resort. After another mile or so the road narrowed and the prom became a pavement beside it. We had reached the edge of Thorpe Bay and our hotel right on the seafront; the Camelia. We ended the walk there and checked in for the night.
Running Total 689.47