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THE THAMES ESTUARY PATH


I had purposefully ended the Essex Coast Walk at Benfleet, for to me that was the end of the “coastline”, although not the end of Essex. I knew from previous walks the paths beyond were not reliable as one began entering the London environment and the world of shipping commerce. However a few weeks after this book was published an Essex walker contacted me and said five of them had walked the Essex coast from Rainham to Manningtree - basically border to border, meaning I had left out the section along the Thames Estuary.

For the sake of completeness, I walked the section from Benfleet to Rainham, first using the Thames Estuary Path - 29 miles - Benfleet to Tilbury. This I followed with great difficulty for the route differs from what is shown on the maps on the website. Plus the signage is not consistence and is missing in some key junctions and in several places the sign posts have been turned round, pointing in the wrong direction! As the route was not marked on the OS map I had to rely on the signs to follow the route. Finally near the end at Tilbury the path is flooded at high tide. There are no signs or logo’s at this point, nor any information that the path can be flooded, on the ground or website.


So what should have been an easy two day walk took four days to decipher the route and make sense of it all, so I could write authoritatively about it. The section from Tilbury to Grays is road walking and  from Grays to Rainham is clear and straightforward along tarmaced paths, part of the London Loop. To complete the picture I pressed on from Rainham to Tower Bridge, although mostly road walking it did complete the walk to London and retrace my steps I took 40 years ago.


Having said all that there are some nice places along the Thames Estuary, a great contrast to the Essex coast, but still with seaweed on the shore. Twice you walk along the earth sea wall, recalling the best of the Essex coast. There are Nature Reserves, forts and the ever busy container and cruise ships on the river. Aptly, Tilbury has the inn - World’s End - beside the path!

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