Approaching Maldon on the A474 turn right at roundabout about-one mile before Maldon onto new road' in 300 yards park on the right in a field alongside old railway bridge with a span missing. The walk goes along the old railway hack south towards Woodham Ferrers. A great walk for children' I call this Butterfly Alley, Late July I counted 13 different species in a couple of hours. There are several clearings on the old embankments which abound with the very rare white letter hairstreak, and if you are very lucky you could hear the Nightingale.
Plenty of pubs in Maldon one mile or try the Royal oak for lunch one mile away on the B1018 Fambridge Road
Smart Minds Hadleigh,
Essex Free, weekly group for people living with dementia and their carers to attend together. Fun creative programme available with plenty of tea and biscuits. Members are able to share experiences in a welcoming and
supportive environment, chat to others and/or take part in a variety of art and craft activities.
07866 674150 - Please call prior to attending
Free Every Monday except Bank Holidays 1pm3.00pm
United Reformed Church, Church Road, Hadleigh,
Essex SS7 4BW
This circular walk, based on Leigh-on-Sea railway station, includes a climb to see the ruins of Hadleigh Castle, a walk along Benfleet Downs and a return walk along Benfleet Creek alongside Hadleigh Marsh. From the top of the Castle and the Downs there are good views along the Thames and across to Canvey Island. There is a little road walking involved (far less if you ignore the side trips to the pubs). Please note that parts of this walk can be muddy or wet after heavy rain.
Use OS Explorer Map 175; alternatively, OS Landranger Map 178
Distance: 7.2 miles (11.5 Km), plus a mile (1.6 Km) round-trip to visit the pubs in Leigh High Street.
Places of Interest: The ruins of the 13th & 14th century Hadleigh Castle and Hadleigh Country Park.
Pubs: The is a pub near the railway station in Benfleet - a distance of 4.7 miles (7.5 Km) from the start of the walk – and a number in Old Leigh-on-Sea High Street.
Leave Leigh-on-Sea railway station and walk north-west through the car park, then proceed left (west) along Belton Way West before turning left down Castle Drive. The drive curves round to the right – at its end, go through a gap in the hedge in the right-hand corner and take a footpath that bears diagonally to the right across a field, heading for the right-hand edge – at this point, you gain a first view of the ruins of Hadleigh Castle. On reaching the field’s edge, bear left and follow the right-hand edge of the field to its far end, keeping parallel to the railway lines which are on the other side of the field to your left – near the end, the path slopes down. At the end of the field, climb a way-marked stile in the hedge and then take the path straight ahead (initially heading to the left of some oak trees), climbing steadily up a ridge. Eventually, you gain sight of the ruins of Hadleigh Castle straight ahead of you at the top of the hill. At the bottom of the castle grounds, go through a wooden kissing-gate, keep on the path with a metal fence to your left which borders the Castle and then climb a way-marked stile by a public footpath sign onto a track, where you turn sharp left. The main entrance to Hadleigh Castle is through a metal gate on your left – it was originally built in the 13th century by William de Burgh and was then partially rebuilt by Edward III in the 14th century. From the castle there are superb views on a clear day of Southend, Canvey Island, the Thames and Northern Kent.
Climb a second stile and then head downhill along a broad track. In front of a metal gate at the bottom of the hill, turn right along the hedgerow to a way-marked stile. Climb this stile and follow a path between two fields. Eventually, a hedgerow starts on the right and, soon after, you turn right through a gap in this hedge between two wooden fence posts and then immediately left. Keeping the hedge to your left, the path leads up to a way-marked stile. Climb the stile and turn sharp right, then head gently uphill alongside a wire fence on the right. The path then dips for a short distance to reach a way-marked stile by a public footpath sign. Climb this stile and continue along the right-hand edge of a field to another stile and footpath sign. After climbing this stile, the path climbs steadily along the right-hand edge of a field towards a public footpath signpost at the top of the hill – the path bends to the right just before reaching the top. From this footpath sign, bear left to another public footpath sign by some buildings, then go straight ahead along the right-hand side of an embankment to a small reservoir. Climb a stile in the corner of the field and turn left along a track, running along the northern side of the reservoir. Climb another way-marked stile at the end of the track and turn right along a lane to the right of some farm buildings (Sayers). Just after these buildings, turn left through a narrow gap in the fence and take a footpath to where it joins the road to the Country Park car park. Turn left into this road, which bends to the left after a short distance and then to the right, before entering the car-park. To your right is an information office and public toilet. Keep going straight ahead along the left-hand edge of the car park until you reach a set of information boards on the left, which include a map of the Country Park.
Just past this point, turn sharp left and follow a broad path, which starts out level but then goes downhill for some way, heading through woodland before reaching a wooden way-marked kissing-gate. Go through the gate and continue downhill along a broad grassy track across a field, heading for trees on the right-hand edge. Follow the right-hand edge of the field, still descending, to the bottom right-hand corner, where you go through a gap in the hedge by a way-marked post and then bear slightly to the left. Continue along the hedge on the right and then bear slightly right to go through another wide hedge gap. Keep straight ahead along a grassy path and, when you reach a kissing gate, go through it, cross a track and go through a second kissing-gate opposite.
Keep ahead across a short stretch of grass and then follow a hedge-lined track. Where the hedges finish, carry on along the right-hand edge of the next field until you reach a broad gap in the hedge where there used to be a gate. Go through this hedge gap and, in a short distance, turn right and follow a track across a footbridge (Benfleet Downs should be to your right and the railway lines should be a little way off to your left). The track continues ahead across marshy meadowland, crossing another footbridge and passing to the left of two ponds en route. After going through a wooden gate, proceed ahead along the southern edge of woodlands to a second wooden gate. Go through the gate and keep ahead, paralleling the railway lines.
If you fancy a drink in Benfleet, where a track comes in from the right, climb up to it, then turn left – the path follows the left-hand edge of a field, then goes through some trees to emerge in a lane. Turn left and follow this lane, which eventually exits into Station Road. Turn right and go straight ahead up School Lane to a T-junction with Benfleet’s High Street. Turn left and there is a pub
– The Half Crown (telephone: 01268 754 527; website: www.thehalfcrownbenfleet.co.uk/).
Otherwise, keep on the original track, which bears left towards the railway lines. You cross the railway lines via a foot crossing, which has metal stiles on each side – be careful of frequent fast moving trains.
After crossing the railway lines, turn sharp left along a tarmac lane between the railway on the left and Benfleet Creek to the right. Go through a metal gate – Benfleet Moorings are on the right - and keep ahead along the lane to its end, where there is a turning circle for vehicles. Go through a wooden kissing-gate beside a gate with a sign ‘Hadleigh Castle Country Park’ – the route now proceeds along the top of a broad embankment below Hadleigh Marsh, with Canvey Island to your right on the other side of Benfleet Creek. Keep along this embankment for approximately 2.5 miles (4 Km) – after curving round a couple of marshy inlets, the route bends left away from Benfleet Creek, with Two Tree island to your right on the other side of a creek. There is a ditch and a number of pools to the left of this embankment along its length, which are full of waterfowl at certain times of the year. Eventually, after curving to the right and then to the left again, and after passing Leigh Golf Driving Range to the left, the track crosses a road just to the left of a narrow bridge to Two Tree Island. After crossing the road, the track narrows and becomes more rutted. It goes to the south of two small old reservoirs (with a marina to your right) before crossing a track at right-angles to it, then bending to the left where it reaches a road. Go ahead along the road and cross the railway lines via a bridge - Leigh-on-Sea railway station is on your left.
If you would like a further drink, turn right just past the station and the right again - follow this road down through Belton Gardens, signed to Old Leigh. Take the first turning off to the right, cross over the railway lines via a road bridge and descend to Old Leigh’s High Street. There are four pubs along this road – The Crooked Billet, which is a small but friendly pub (telephone: 01702 480289), The Peter Boat, which has an outside area to sit during the summer (telephone: 01702 475666), The Old Smack Inn (telephone: 01702 476765) and The Mayflower. All do food at lunchtimes. This round-trip detour adds approximately 1 mile (1.6 Km) to the total distance of the walk.