Sunday, May 31

Shoeburyness to Benfleet by bike

What better way to spend a rather grey bank holiday than cycling along the Essex coast? Yes I know it might sound a bit underwhelming but I'm getting a bit of a soft spot for the northern side of the Thames estuary, a bit like the southern side took a while to grow on me.

With Jon's home being close to the Shoeburyness line we've been out to Leigh on Sea and Benfleet a couple of times for walks, but this time we loaded up the bikes on the train with the intention of exploring a few more miles than usual.

Our plan had been to explore the wonderfully-named Foulness Island but this was abruptly stymied by the fact that the majority of it is fenced off for use by the military, something that wasn't clear from the rather old map I was referring to. We'd been aiming for a pub that was marked on the map in the settlement of Churchend but had to be content with a stretch of beautifully smooth asphalt road through the firing range - open on weekends and bank holidays - that took us down to a typically muddy and mostly deserted expanse of beach. 

I'd already taken this photo before reading the sign about how photography was prohibited, but there didn't seem to be anyone around to mind.

Apparently you can get access into the restricted area once a month to visit the Foulness Heritage Centre - might plan to do so just for curiosity's sake.

Further back in Shoeburyness we happened upon these lovely modern beach huts designed by Islington architect Pedder & Scampton - one's currently for sale at £30k but they do have fitted kitchens! They are made of timber frames clad with plastic sheets that are then infilled with pebbles and shells, and have grass roofs.

Much further along the coast, having survived the seafront at Southend where footy fans were lining the promenade in anticipation of cheering their local team which had secured an unexpected and last-minute promotion, we settled down at Osborne Brother's in Leigh on Sea for a seafood feast. Every bit of it was delicious but the rollmops won the day for me.

We also did a detour to Canvey Island just for the hell of it - notable as having the best beach of the day, presumably imported sand and lucky to have the sea even when the tide is low, due to being in the middle of the estuary. 

The Labworth Cafe on the seafront was very disappointing, having been badly refurbished and looking sad and deserted. The din issuing from the band playing outside the Monico Hotel on the seafront did not help. I'm assured there is a good pub on the island - this one presumably - but we fled the place without seeking it out and took the train back for liquid refreshment closer to home.


colleen said...

Mouth watering at thought of roll mops at Leigh. Our route is the walk from Benfleet through the Country Park via Hadleigh Castle. I really like the mix of scenery - Essex meets Essex.

Knit Nurse said...

Yes Colleen, that's the walk that started it all earlier this year! It was a rather wet day but the roundhouse in the park was open, which made for a good destination to dry off for half an hour or so before descending via the castle to beer and seafood! A bit quieter than last weekend!