Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Benfleet to Leigh-on-sea, Essex

One hour from Harringay by train and you have a seaside walk, with boats, a castle, glimpses of the very much alive Thames cockle industry and time it right, a swim in the sea with fish & chips to finish. Definitely one of my favourite summer walks. 

How to get there 
Catch the overground from Harringay Green Lanes to Barking, where you change and take the train to Benfleet. 

The Walk 
The walk below is about 6 miles, you can extend further by continuing on to Southend or creating a circular route by taking the path back along Benfleet Creek. 

At Benfleet station take the exit on the left and make your way up station road. As you reach the top of the hill, on your right you'll see the entrance to Hadleigh country park and the beginning of the walk. 

A little way into the walk you hit a fork, take the path on the left as it rewards with better views. 
Boats on Benfleet Creek 

In the summer wild bramble flowers, grasses and wild flowers line the walk and butterflies dance among them. 
Hadleigh Country Park 

Paths criss-cross the woodland and more routes are currently being created by Essex County Council. We just tried to keep our height and didn't take paths which drew us down the hill until after the woodland.  

When you reach the 'field' the castle is in,  you take a path just after the hedgerow, keep going until you reach the top of the hill and then a lovely wide grass path leads you into the castle remains. Walk through the castle and on the far side gates take you out onto a nice but short ridge walk towards Leigh on Sea.
The ridge walk from Hadleigh Castle to Leigh on Sea 

The last bit of the walk into Leigh is a bit trudgey. When you eventually hit a road turn right and a walk the short distance to Leigh on sea station and turn right into this road.  As you pass the station cross over and take the stairs down to another road. Go straight ahead and pass rows of green cockle huts. One is usually open and sells ready to eat shell fish. 
Cockle Sheds at Leigh on Sea 

At the end follow the pavement round to the right (there is a fish and chip shop here) and walk along the creek front, passing several pubs and more sea food stalls. Wiggle your way through an alley and along the old High Street 
Leigh on Sea 
and eventually you'll arrive at a small sandy beech, perfect for swimming but only at high tide.

Leigh on Sea looking over the Isle of Grain
As the tide goes out, vast mud banks are exposed, brilliant for mud sliding. 
Leigh on Sea 

Leigh on Sea 
Leigh Fisherman's Co-op at Leigh on Sea 

You can either catch the train back to Harringay from Leigh on sea or walk back. To walk back, when you hit the road with the station, follow it round to the left (towards the creek). Before the bridge over the creek  the footpath you want goes off to the right and follow this back to Benfleet station. Watch out for large number of waders including avocets, in a large pool at the end of the small island across the creek. 

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