Today we had planned to go the Southend and had bought the train tickets on Thursday when we bought those for St Albans. We set off bright and early and reached Liverpool Street station in time to buy breakfast and catch the 8:58 train.
We didn’t actually reach Southend at the first go because Tigger decided we should disembark at Benfleet. I had no idea why we were doing so or whether we were going to spend some time here so I quickly took this photo of the station to remind me where we were. (When following Tigger, it’s sometimes hard to remember where you’ve been!) As it happens, that was the only photo of Benfleet I managed to take as we straightaway boarded a bus to somewhere else.
Here’s where the bus took us. This was my introduction to Canvey Island. The Island lies below the high tide level and needs to be protected from flooding by the Thames Tidal Defences sea wall and a system of drainage. The sea wall, part of which is pictured here, is therefore an ever present reminder of the Island’s vulnerability.
You can walk along the top of the defences and enjoy broad vistas of the estuary and its shipping.
Canvey Island doesn’t have the sort of beaches that attract bathers and sand castle builders. Even the paddling pools (like the one in the picture) are silted up. There was a stiff breeze blowing throughout our visit, tempting me to describe the climate as “bracing”.
That is not so say that you cannot have fun in Canvey Island. I’m sure you can. There is a fun fair (see photo below) and for pubbing and clubbing, The Monico.
Canvey Island also seems a rather affluent place. I base that observation on the houses I saw which included a surprisingly high percentage of detached houses, often of individual design, such as this hacienda-style dwelling near the sea wall.
We had tea and toasted tea cakes at The Labworth cafe and restaurant, a curious building squeezed in between the sea wall and the sea. The atmosphere was pleasant and the staff friendly.
Thus fortified, we set off on the next stage of our journey.
We took the bus to Southend. This was a long journey, lengthened by traffic congestion and frequent patches of slow running. Leigh-on-Sea appeared and fell behind, then Westcliff… Finally, after what seemed hours, we pulled into Southend.
We took a look at the York Road Market but many stalls were closed and it lacked the vivacity and some of the splendid markets we have seen in Sheffield, York and Manchester. So we turned our attention to more serious matters, specifically lunch, and for this we went to Tomassi’s famous Italian restaurant and ice cream parlour.
Southend has suffered from its reputation as a place of down-market entertainment. The fun-fair atmosphere lends credence to this, persuading the snobs that this is not a place to visit, much less to be seen in, but I think that does Southend less than justice. There is more to the place than pubs, fish and chips and games arcades. In any case, I rather think that the merry chink of money in the tills removes any concerns about what the snobs think.
We spent some time walking along the sea front, enjoying the warm weather and all the sights and sounds of a cheerful Saturday in Southend and then it was time to move on. After a little dithering – we were uncertain as to whether the buses were running along the crowded seafront – we eventually caught a bus to our next destination.
This was the curious little seaside town of Shoeburyness.
I call it “curious” because there is a certain contradictory quality to the place, though I am willing to accept this might be only apparent, owing to the shortness of our visit. I would like to go back and take another look.
The town seems quiet, but then you see all those people off-shore playing with kites (see top picture).
There is a certain air of abandonment, as exemplified by the boarded-up Shoeburyness Hotel, but there is a new private housing development on the old M.O.D. site and the broad High Street suggests a busier and perhaps more elegant past. (See photos below.)
Perhaps further visits will elucidate the mysteries of Shoeburyness.
We took the bus back to Southend and walked to Southend Victoria station. This is actually quite a pretty little station but unfortunately, as Tigger was taking photographs, she was challenged by a member of staff who informed her that photography was prohibited “under company policy”.
This ridiculous forbidding of photography for no very good reason is becoming well nigh universal. There is no good reason for it (citing “terrorism” is a silly excuse not a genuine reason).
Fortunately, there were no further annoyances on our journey home.