My original plan was to cycle from Southminster to Southend, taking the Burnham on Crouch - Wallasea Ferry over the River Crouch. The Lady Essex website (now amended) advertised that the ferry service would start at Easter. I phoned the day before to make sure, only to be told that the service would not start until Whitsun.
Having changed my plan, I set out from Birmingham International at 0620, arriving at London Euston on time at 0738. The train manager was clearly a character, giving clear but very idiosyncratic announcements at the stops on route. The description of "Sunny Watford" prompted me to turn on my voice recorder before my destination and recorded an announcement that made it very emphatic that we were arriving at London. I may be tempted to publish train announcements on a website on the future.
I took the folded bike on the Circle Line to Liverpool Street where I caught an early train to Shenfield, arriving there at about 0845. My connection left at 0908 and I arrived at Battlesbridge Station punctually at 0924. The station appeard to be out in the wilds and the other two passengers who alighted onto the platform also appeard lost. A quick glance at the map sent them towards an antiques fair and me on the way towards the bridge. Contrary to my original thoughts, there was no battle at Battlesbridge. In fact, the original bridge was built by a Frenchman by the name of Bataille (or Battle), hence the extra "s" in the middle of the name.
Battlebridge is a very small place which is renowned for antiques. The bridge itself was disappointingly a small single lane construction of stone and steel. Onwards then to Hullbridge (0950), which was unremarkably ordinary and remained unphotographed.
Canewdon (1030) was totally different, dominated by the tower of the sturdy stone church. This was an unspoiled practical village with many old houses which had not been ruined by thoughtless "improvements". Having stocked up with sandwiches at the local Costcutter store, I finally joined the originally planned route and headed down to Wallasea Island, where I arrived at 1058 after cycling 11.7 miles. It is here that the non existent ferry would have deposited me.
If you love boats, then Wallasea is for you. There are boats of all shapes and sizes (except ferries) from luxurious ocean going cruisers, carefully shrink-wrapped for the winter, to the smalled dingy. The River Crouch sparkled in the sunlight and the mudflats were suggesting that this is not a place to be at night. The effect was only spoiled by the presence of industrial builinds at the Marina.
Parially retracing my track, I passed through Ballards Gore and Great Stambridge which are both unremarkable hamlets. The church lies a little outside great Stambridge and appears typical of the churches in this area, stone built with a tower and a small wooden spire on the top.
Rochford (1150)is a lovely place which remains largely unspoiled by development. Old terraced houses and clapper board buildings abound near the centre. This is a place to return to in the future. The road out of Rochford was busy, presumably with traffic heading to Southend. Fortunately there was a cycle track alongside the road and I was able to make quicker progress through Stonebridge Barling (1230, Little Wakering and Great Wakering (1255). The three churches I passed all had a tower with a spire on the top. Great Wakering was an attractive and relatively unspoiled village.
The final stretch of my journey was to Shoeburyness (1315)and along the promenade to Southend. Shoeburyness is undergoing transformation from Firing Range to Holiday Town, with much new building in evidence. Around the Ness I walked or slowly cycled along the promenade, past a long row of untidy beach huts until I arrived at Southend Pier at 1420 after 32.2 miles. At Marriott's I enjoyed a small portion of fish and chips - The fish was delicious and enormous. I can't imagine what the giant size would be like!
A gentle ride through the centre of Southend brought me to Victoria Station and the 1606 train to Liverpool Street. In London, I had plenty of time to cycle to Euston through the quiet streets, have an outside drink at Pret a Manger, before catching the 1703 to Birmingham International. I arrived on time at 2013, finding my patient car where I had left it earlier in the day.
8 May - Bridgwater to Minehead
12 June - Colchester (Hythe) to Clacton on Sea