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Friday, 24 December 2010

Walk 16 – Canvey Island

Walk 16 – Canvey Island (Essex)

Map: L/R 178
Distance: About 8 miles – this is a circular walk
Difficulty: easy - flat
Terrain: mostly paths and pavements but some marshy areas
Access: park in or near the centre of the town
Public transport – Buses from nearby areas run to the centre of Canvey

This walk requires careful navigation along the roads to and from Canvey centre. A compass in conjunction with the map may be helpful. Canvey Island (origin reputed to be – The Island of Cana’s people) is very flat and much is built on land reclaimed from the sea. It has been inhabited since Roman times and was a popular seaside resort from the early 1900s until around 1970 when cheap overseas package holidays were introduced. It is still a destination for holidays and day trips but there is also a large amount of industry, mainly related to the petro-chemical trade. The island is linked to the mainland by a bridge over Benfleet Creek.

Head to the west and walk to the Dutch Village and museum which are marked on the map.  In the 1620s a number of Dutch workers were brought here to use the skills gained in Holland and build a land wall to protect Canvey. They also drained the area and reclaimed some land which had been regularly flooded in the past. As part of the deal the 200 Dutch workers were granted a large part of land to settle. The two preserved cottages (one of which is now a museum) were part of this development. About 1/3 of the town's roads have names of Dutch origin.

Walk in a southerly direction then along a road that goes south west past the oil refineries. Join the path here and walk westwards to the jetty at Shellhaven Point, this projects one mile into the estuary. Beyond this are the Coryton Oil Refineries. Canvey was the first site to receive liquefied natural gas. Surprisingly, there were several walkers along this stretch on a cold, foggy, February day. There is not much to be gained from walking further along this path so turn around and retrace your steps, walking eastwards. On the walk the marshy coastline is prominent and an area called Canvey Wick (a wick is a shed in which cheese is made and this was an occupation on the island) has been designated as a public community space nestled amongst the industrial surroundings.

The path follows the sea wall and passes The Lobster Smack pub. This very old pub was rebuilt in the 1700s as The World’s End and was later renamed. It is rumoured to be the hostelry made famous in Great Expectations by Dickens. It was a haunt for smugglers who would ship in and out from the sea wall.

Continue eastwards and past some rather basic looking mobile homes which have the tanks of the oil depot as a back drop. After the oil terminal is some sort of beach environmental garden in need of some TLC when I saw it. The land adjacent to the sea wall gradually becomes more pleasing with green space on one side and the metal gates of the sea protection on the wall. These were built in 1953 after the flood disaster which claimed 300 lives on the east coast including 58 here in Canvey. In just 15 minutes the sea broke through the original wall and was above the window sills of most buildings. Some people drowned in their beds, others died from exposure on the roof tops. Do not miss the flood memorial which is in the Memorial Gardens opposite the sea front; some interesting sculptures and facts are found here. Walk past the usual amusements and, if it is low tide, you will see a man made pool exposed (typical of other resorts such as Broadstairs).

Further along is Canvey Island FC ground. The club became famous in the 2000s for winning the FA trophy and defeating professional clubs to get to the third round of the FA cup. Continue in an easterly direction past Leigh Beck to Canvey Point. A footpath is marked on the map but I decided not to walk to the end when I sank down past my boot top into the marsh! Follow the footpath back along the eastern edge of the marsh towards Canvey (it follows a road/houses on the left, I do not think much can be gained from walking across the marsh to the north of this). On this final part of the walk you will be looking at reclaimed land which now has football pitches and public open space.

Navigate your way back to the centre of Canvey.

Snaps show: flood memorials; caravan park Canvey; interesting fact board; flood defences; Canvey Wick; The Lobster Smack Pub.

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