Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Travel Tuesday : the Thames Path, day 20 - Leigh-on-Sea to Southend Pier

Walked June 22, 2002

I didn't want to end my trip out to sea at Allhallows, lovely though it was. So I pulled out my map and looked for a place on the north bank, and my next stretch became obvious: Leigh-on-Sea to the end of Southend Pier. Perfect. 

It wasn't a long walk, but I could take the train to Leigh-on-Sea and stroll along the water all the way. So I set off early and arrived on the river at Leigh-on-Sea. 

Past the marina, and boats both afloat and above the tide.

And then I came to this fish counter run by Estuary Fish ... and how could I resist?

I ordered cockles ... not quite knowing what to expect. So that's a cockle...

Not particularly unpleasant ... tasted like tiny mussels, I think. I recall them being cold, so perhaps they were pickled? 

I wandered farther along, hitting my first beach. It was a pleasant Saturday morning and people were playing in the water. 

On past Chalkwell, along the beach -- I spotted the Crow Stone. Like the other London Stones, it marks the (then) end of the jurisdiction of the City of London on the Thames.

I walked on into Westcliff-on-Sea, where the cafes were crowded with people enjoying brunch.

I took a little detour from the river to see the Cliffs Pavilion, a theatre and events space.

There was a fine view of the Thames Estuary from the Cliff Pavilion -- it really looks like the seaside from here.

And in the distance, I could see Southend Pier.

I walked through the Cliff Gardens, a very pretty park.

And soon came to the Queen Victoria statue, Southend. The right hand is a replacement--fitted, coincidentally, around the same time a statue of the young queen from across the river in Gravesend lost her hand... 

The statue was presented by Mayor Bernard Wiltshire Tolhurst to the town to mark the Queen's diamond jubilee in 1897. It originally stood across from the pier; people used to joke that she was pointing at the gents toilets.

image from Visit Southend

Back down on the seafront promenade (look at the illuminations!) in Southend-on-Sea, I could see Adventure Island and the pier.

It's interesting writing these memories up. Why ON EARTH did I miss the opportunity to ride a funicular? As a lover of trains and transport, I have no idea why I did not ride the Cliff Lift.

The Cliff Lift was built in 1912 and has been restored many times. It only holds 12 passengers -- perhaps that's why I didn't ride? 

image from Visit Southend

I had to walk through Adventure Island to get on the pier. This Adventure Railway was really just a small train running in a tight circle... though the kids seemed to enjoy it.

Southend Pier is the longest pleasure pier in the world: 1.34 miles long. I joined the people strolling along to the end of the pier. 

I walked past this reminder of the 1979 pier fire. Perhaps what's remarkable is that they restored so much of the pier after the fire.

I reached the end of the pier and looked down the river and out to sea.

This view back down the length of the pier shows just how long this pier is. 

Here at the end of the pier, I took the bottle of water from the Source in Gloucestershire out of my pack.

I asked a passerby if he would do me the favor of taking a photo of me pouring the water out. He looked skeptical, so I had to explain what it was and what I had just done. At which point he was happy to do it... and told all of his friends that I had walked the Thames Path from Source to Sea.


Then... what? I realized I was a little at a loss of what would come next. Part of it was that I had completed the Thames Path; part was that I didn't know what I would do with my life. Soon I would be returning to the US without a job or, really, a place to live. 

I considered having fish that had been BATTERED BY EXPERTS, but there wasn't anywhere to sit in the chippy so I just had a pint from the pub. Apparently there's a cafe on the pier now that is the location for a Jamie Oliver / Jimmy Doherty cooking show that's only open when they're filming. 

I started walking back down the pier ... see that railway track? Yep, there's a train that runs the length of the pier. 

See, honest: a train. 

I loved the mile markers on Southend Pier:

I made up my mind to ride the train, so I doubled back to the far end and got on there. Somehow didn't take any photos, but I remember feeling silly gleeful on a slow-moving, clacking train. Was it any different than riding the Adventure Railway? 

I wandered along the "seaside"; able to resist a second helping of cockles.

I admired the old Kursaal, opened in 1901 as part of one of the world's first purpose-built amusement park. This building held a ballroom, a circus, an arcade, a dining hall, and a billiards room. Now it holds a McDonalds and a bowling alley. Nowadays I would go in to have a look, but in 2002 I was saddened by it and just walked on by.

I took one last look Southend Pier -- and the sea -- and headed to the station for the trip back to London.

No comments:

Post a Comment