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Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Walk 22 Bradwell on Sea to St Lawrence

Walk 22   Bradwell on Sea to St Lawrence (Essex)

(First leg of English coastal walk – Broadstairs in Kent to Berwick at the border with Scotland).

Map: L/R 168
Distance: about 10 miles
Difficulty: easy, flat
Terrain: roads and paths some of which can be muddy
Access: Parking at both ends
Public transport: Bus D1 goes every couple of hours starting/returning to Maldon. It also goes from Bradwell on Sea to St Lawrence. Check timetables as some journeys involve changes.

Follow the Roman Road eastwards out of Bradwell on Sea. (It was once called Bradwell near the Sea which is probably more accurate as the village is over a mile from the nearest water.) Go past East Hall Farm to St Peter’s Chapel which overlooks the North Sea.

St Peters on the Wall’ (the sea wall) is one of the oldest surviving chapels in England and is built on the site of Othona, a Roman fort. It is a simple barn like construction built in 654 by Bishop Cedd who travelled down from Lindisfarne. It was used by farmers for a while and bits are patched up where wagons entered. A pilgrimage is held here on the first Saturday of every July. I found it to be a picturesque spot on a sunny, calm day.

Continue northwards with the beach of St Peter’s Flat on the right. The path turns into the estuary of the River Blackwater with West Mersea visible on the opposite bank. The now decommissioned Bradwell Nuclear Power Station is a significant landmark at this point. It was built here partly because of easy access and the unlimited supply of cooling water. In 2010 it was one of eight sites identified by the government for a new generation of nuclear power stations. In part of the river opposite the power station is a long concrete structure – I have not been able to find out its purpose.

A mile or so past the power station is Bradwell Waterside. This is a narrow sheltered stretch of water with a marina and many boats. Opposite is Pewet Island where the remains of Saxon fish traps have been found. After passing Bradwell Creek the path goes inland for a little way before getting nearer to the water at St Lawrence Bay.

St Lawrence is a popular spot in the warmer months. There is a large caravan park and several visitors take advantage of the water-sports and sailing facilities. The waterfront village is often called ‘The Stone’ - this is also the name of a local pub.

Snaps show: St Peters on the Wall; Bradwell Waterside; St Peters Flat; the structure opposite Bradwell Power station. 

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Walk 21 Burnham on Crouch to Tillingham

Walk 21 Burnham on Crouch to Tillingham (Essex)

(First leg of English coastal walk – Broadstairs in Kent to Berwick at the border with Scotland).

Map: L/R 168
Distance: about 14 miles including walk inland to car/bus
Difficulty: easy, mainly flat
Terrain: mostly paths some of which can be muddy
Access: Parking at both ends
Public transport: If a bus is needed one way it may be easier to walk this backwards from Tillingham. Bus D4 leaves Burnham on Crouch at 9:33 and 11:33 (on weekdays) and takes about 30 minutes to get to Tillingham. The other way a bus goes from Tillingham at 2:05 but unless the walk is started very early would not allow enough time. There are buses after this at 3:47 and 6:35 but these involve 2 changes and lengthy journeys. Further info. on

As the map shows there is very little access to the coast except by the occasional farm track. After the northern turn away from the River Crouch estuary it is a walk alongside flat marshland; some may call it bleak but it has its own unique atmosphere. Don’t expect to see many other walkers on the second half of this walk.

Start the walk at the seafront of Burnham-on-Crouch. On the opposite shore is the ferry landing/embarkation point on Wallasea Island. When the Black Death ravaged England in the 14th century the sailors of Burnham were the only men prepared to ship grain into London. As a reward they were given the right to land corn in the capital free of all taxes forever. (Now?)

Continuing along the estuary the buildings on the north of Foulness Island can be spotted across the estuary. The occasional World War 2 fortification can be seen near to the footpath, other wise the landscape is rather featureless. (Botanists and wildlife experts may well disagree with this!) 

Turning northwards near Holliwell there is a vast area called Ray Sand – at least there is if the tide is out. Along this part of the coast the tide goes out about 2 miles but comes in right up to the shore line. It can be very dangerous to walk on the sandy beaches, although, here and there, a few fishermen can be spotted on the nearby shore. Inland are Dengie and Tillingham Marshes. Dengie marshes have been denuded of trees in the last 30 years due to Dutch Elm disease – adding to its desolate appearance. It was a very quite and peaceful walk but would be less so if the military ranges to the south were active.

Follow the path up until it joins St Peters Path which then heads inland towards Tillingham. The path passes through Dots and Melons which turned out to be a farm building housing a tool wholesaler. The centre of Tillingham is a conservation area which includes a 15th century pub called the ‘The Cap and Feathers’ and a church with a Norman nave, 13thcentury chapel and 14th century tower.

Snaps show: views along the walk including Dengie Marshes, Ray Sands, an old World War 2 fortification and the ferry crossing from Wallasea Island.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Walk 20 North Fambridge to Burnham on Crouch

Walk 20 North Fambridge to Burnham on Crouch (Essex)

(First leg of English coastal walk – Broadstairs in Kent to Berwick at the border with Scotland).

Map: L/R 168
Distance: about 8 miles including walk inland to car/train
Difficulty: easy, mainly flat
Terrain: mostly paths some of which can be muddy
Access: Parking at both ends
Public transport – Trains at North Fambridge and Burnham on Crouch – they leave every 40 minutes except for Sundays when once an hour.

Follow the road down from Fambridge station then the footpath that takes you to the walk along the River Crouch on the Dengie Peninsula. At low tide there are large areas of grassed marshland, rather attractive in their own way. The area was once land but in 1897 floods smashed through the river wall.

The walk continues around Bridgemarsh Creek opposite the marshy Bridgemarsh Island. Following a flood in 1736 a sea wall was built around the island and a causeway gave access at low tide. Farming took place and a brickworks was built (the chimney of which still survives on the island). A tramway linked the works with a quay visited by Thames barges. The major floods of 1953 resulted in the end of regular occupation of the island and it is now a haven for wildlife and salt marsh flowers. A trust looks after the area.

The path winds its way past Althorne Creek and on to Creeksea which is about a mile west of Burnham. This place (along with Bosham in Sussex) is said to be the site where King Canute tried to defy the tide. RAF fast rescue boats and motor torpedo boats operated from here during World War 2.

Burnham on Crouch is a very pleasant spot. Part of the town has elegant Georgian buildings. It has been called the Cowes of the east coast and is an important sailing centre. Every August the town hosts a festival of sailing. In earlier times it was a fishing port known for its oyster beds. A bi-annual pub crawl is held in fancy dress raising money for the Samaritans. Ian Drury and the Blockheads allude to the upmarket nature of the town in the song “Billericay Dickie”.

Return to the car or station which is about a mile inland.

Picture shows two scenes near North Fambridge.