Day 330: Leigh-on-Sea to Bowers Marshes

Distance: 22.13 miles

Ascent: 978 feet

Weather: Dry Overcast/Foggy morning, wet afternoon

Accommodation: Wild camp Near Bowers Marshes


I had had a lovely rest day in Leigh on Sea being looked after very well by Joey and Shaun and though little Chip the dog didn’t like me doing my admin and would prefer me stroke him he was very good company to. It is a bit scary but this is the last week of the walk and one quite unlike any other on the walk. The reason it is different is due to how developed and industrial the North side of the Thames is all the way from here into London, meaning both routes and possible camping spots are difficult but I think I have it all planned.

It was dry but very foggy as I set off, crossing over the railway and then following the coast path for a mile or so to the bridge for Two Tree Island. This must be one of the smallest islands I have walked around, and in the fog it was quite eerie. It had a model aeroplane club which had a really sweet tarmacked runway. After not long I had done my little loop and crossed back on to the mainland.

Once again I followed the coast path with the fog getting even thicker for 3 miles or so until the bridge onto Canvey Island. This was a bigger island about 12 miles around and I followed the embankment path around the North side of the island and it soon became clear Canvey Island was going to be one of the most rubbish strewn places I had walked. As I turned around the eastern end of the island I passed a creek full of boats and on the south side I went onto the seaward side of the wall.

This wall is unfortunately the reason I think Canvey felt quite sad to me, if you are on the landward side all you can see is the wall and not the sea, and if you are on the seaward side the wall dominates you and blocks all views inland. The wall obviously is an important defence but to me it made the town of Canvey almost feel like some sort of open prison.

At the end of the developed part I diverted inland slightly to a Morrisons to get supplies and have lunch and then was on my way again heading around the western end of the island. This end was much nicer up on the embankment and I even liked both the active and derelict industrial jetties and piers at this end. But the rubbish was still very bad, and they obviously like Al Fresco fun on Canvey as I must have passed at least 50 open packets along this stretch.

At the very western tip of the island there is a flood barrier which if you could cross would be much easier and better for me but as expected it was uncrossable so I continued on and back around to the north edge of the island. I caught sight of a little kingfisher in one of the streams and managed to get a semi focussed picture of it included below. It started raining at this point quite heavily and if the forecast was correct it would rain all the way through to tomorrow lunchtime. I got well waterproofed up and then just carried on. I had to go under the A130 bridge as no pedestrian way over it and finally reached the same bridge I crossed onto Canvey and used this to get back onto the mainland.

A path followed along the river/coast from Benfleet Station for a mile until I was under the A130 bridge now on the mainland side. My proposal was to walk another kilometer and then wild pitch in the Bowers Marshes reserve but with the rain quite heavy I decided if I could find a pitchable spot sheltered under the bridge I would pitch here.

I managed to find a flat, if slightly dusty muddy spot and then pitched there. I don’t think anyone will bump into the tent tonight under the bridge and the traffic noise is actually quiet enough it will probably help lull me to sleep.

A good day even if it wasn’t overly scenic and the heavens opened.

charles compton