A walk across salt marshes with numerous birds and returning inland via the ruined Hadleigh Castle. Highly accessible from London as the Fenchurch Street line takes under an hour to get you to the start.
Calculated time is computed with the distance, the height difference, and an average speed of 2.2 mph. For an intermediate walker, this time includes small breaks.
This walk can be done starting at either Benfleet station of Leigh on Sea station and can be shortened by doing one leg and returning by train.
(D) Starting at Leigh station, follow the small road on the eastern side of the station over the railway bridge towards the sea, after a few yards as you approach the sea (1) follow the path on the top of the sea wall, the sea is on your left hand side.
Walking towards a boat club, you pass a number of picturesque decaying wrecks in the saltings, passing the boat club you cross the road (2) and keeping the golf range on your right, you are now on the main part of the footpath and can't really get lost just continue with the creek on your left enjoying a wide variety of bird life in the marshes and in the fields.
Passing the lagoon (a bird reserve usually with Avocets) on the end of two tree island (3) and the remains of the Hadleigh Colony jetty you eventually arrive at at a gate, pass through this onto the road running past a marina and 'The Barge Gladys' a floating pub that sells good beer, you arrive at the corner of a main road (4) Immediately on the corner is a footpath sign and a level crossing, cross this (with care, trains are frequent) and the other side of it go right to start the return leg.
Walking with the rail line on your right follow the path passing through various gates en route, you enter fields, there are sometimes cows here; the path is vague in places (mainly because you can walk anywhere) but the gates / stiles through hedges are all in the northern corners of the fields and easily visible.
Hadleigh Castle is visible in the distance and we will ultimately pass below it; in the winter this stretch can be wet / lightly flooded, should this be the case, there is an all weather hard track on the other side of the hedge on the left however it does not offer the panoramas of the fields.
Approaching the castle, the footpath merges with the all weather track. On reaching a stile (5) you enter the Hadleigh Castle Country Park, you can either continue below the castle, or if you want to visit the ruins, ascend left and enter through a gate at the top of the hill, walk through the ruins and emerge through a gate at the top of a gentle ridge, descend this to arrive at a junction with the traversing path.(6)
(A) Follow the path easterly to arrive at a gate opening onto a surfaced track between trees, emerging through these you see Leigh Station a short distance away.
D/A : km 0 - alt. km 0 - Leigh on Sea station
1 : km 0.1 - alt. km 0.1 - Follow path on top of sea wall
2 : km 0.94 - alt. km 0.94 - Cross the road
3 : km 2.4 - alt. km 2.4 - Lagoon
4 : km 5.67 - alt. km 5.67 - Level crossing
5 : km 8.25 - alt. km 8.25 - Stile into Hadleigh Castle Country Park
6 : km 9.58 - alt. km 9.58 - Junction with traversing path
D/A : km 10.93 - alt. km 10.93 - Leigh on Sea station
The sea wall is more exposed than the land side, if it's windy and wintery you may prefer to do this stretch with the wind behind you.
(w2) There is a very reasonable cafe at the golf range there that is open everyday apart from Christmas Day.
Two Tree Island is over the bridge and can be circumnavigated en route, the left hand side is quite quiet and good paths lead you round to arrive at the jetty on the south side; the right hand side is more popular and has two bird hides at the end giving views into the lagoon bird sanctuary. It is necessary to return to the bridge to cross the creek, at one time it was possible to cross the creek near the bird hides to return to the sea wall, the place is obvious but the crossing seems to have disappeared, the mud at the crossing is very soft and very deep!
(w4) If you want to carry on to Benfleet Station, don't cross the line, but continue along the road and you arrive at Benfleet Station in a couple of hundred yards.
On returning to Leigh, you can continue through the Old Town and walk by the beach as far as Shoeburyness passing Southend Pier and the golden mile, that will put another 8 miles or so on the route.
Hikideas and this author cannot be held responsible in the case of accidents or problems occuring on this walk.
Birds. This is a very good area to see birds especially waders, in the winter vast numbers of Brent Geese arrive, Avocets are common, sometimes in winter towards the end of the day, large flocks of Dunlin and Knott gather in spectacular flights.
Pubs, food. There are good pubs in Leigh Old Town and Benfleet offering hot food. The Barge Gladys does good beer, there is sometimes a barbecue outside at on Sunday's in the summer.
Bare foot walking: The stretch in the fields between and the hard track approaching the castle is on good cropped grass and a good place to try this out.
Night walking. The sea wall is very good at night as it requires no navigation, take a torch of course, but as there is little light pollution, under a fullish moon it is quite lovely without. In the summer glow worms are a possibility.
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The GPS track and description are the property of the author.