25. Tillingham Marshes to Burnham on Crouch

Signpost at beginning of walk, Tillingham Marshes, Ruth's coastal walk
Leading East from Tillingham is a narrow road – a track really. It winds around a few bends and, opposite a telephone box, there is an impressive farm entrance. Next to this farm entrance, so insignificant in appearance you can easily miss it, is a small track leading directly due East. At a bend in this track, is a signpost. Here starts a public right of way that runs for a mile, passing through Tillingham Marshes, to the sea wall.

Why am I taking this route? The coast path itself runs uninterrupted for 17 miles from Bradwell Marina to Burnham on Crouch. South of St Peter’s Chapel, there is no other place in the Dengie Peninsula where a public road comes within a mile of, and gives footpath access to, the coastal path; not until you reach Burnham on Crouch itself. Therefore, I am rejoining the walk at this unlikely spot to make this section of the walk a manageable distance. Burnham is now only 9 miles away.

The footpath runs for a mile, and has been diverted by the farmer, taking a course further South then the route marked on the map and involving a right angle turn around the bottom of a field. Very few people walk this path and the route is unclear. Luckily, I have been here before and I find, among the tall grasses, the small bridge that crosses the culvert. Then I make the short climb to regain the coastal path running along the top of the grassy bank.

Endless coastal walk, Dengie Peninsula, EssexInitially I enjoy the walk. Being up on the bank, close to the sea, breathing fresh air, gives me a an energy boost. The sun is shining and it is unseasonably hot for September.

To my left are marshes, covered in uniform green vegetation. They stretch almost as far as the eye can see. Beyond is a small sliver of shining sea and the distant glimpse of an occasional big cargo ship. To my right is a grassy track running parallel to the sea bank, then a watery culvert and then farmland – flat and featureless. I see nobody.

The sea wall seems endless. The view is monotonous.

I am bored and my energy drains away. This is hard work.

Mud, Denghie Peninsula, Ruth's coastal walkThen I reach an area where the grassy bank gives way to a concrete wall and path. Here the sea comes nearer and there is mud with interesting patterns. I must be bored, I think to myself, if I find mud interesting. But the mud makes a welcome change from the featureless marsh vegetation and I enjoy looking at the patterns – the sinuous curves, the ripples and the furrows.

Sea wall, Dengie Marshes, Ruths coastal walkI stop for lunch on an area of wall that has been widened to form a semicircle. A handy, nearby blackberry bush provides a tasty dessert. And, what a relief, I can see the glimmer of the beginning of the River Crouch ahead of me. That distant view of the river tells me I am near the end of this stretch of walk.

Looking back the way I have travelled, I am amazed to find that I can still see St Peter’s Chapel. And beyond I can just make out the Blackwater River. But wait; there is something very odd here. The river level seems unusually high, higher than the sea level beyond it. And appears to be flooding the far bank. I can see bushes, or trees, with their roots apparently hidden by the water.

Distant Mirage, River Blackwater, Ruth's coastal walkWith the telephoto lens of my camera, I have a clearer view of the far bank of the river, with trees and bushes floating above hazy, blue water. And a sailing ship hovering, almost in mid-air. Very strange. Are my eyes playing tricks?

Then I realise. This is a mirage. A genuine mirage.

I linger to take photos and enjoy this rare and intriguing phenomena.

A few miles further on, I come across another strange sight.

Decorated Gate, Ruths coastal walkThere is a gate across the concrete path. And the gate is decorated. It is covered in objects; ordinary objects such as a single flip-flop sandal, a sock, an empty can of lager, a pair of trousers, a number of trainers and, most incongruous of all, a white plastic chair.

I wonder if this is debris left over from some event. Or has each walker simply added something of their own to the gate, just as walkers in the hills add stones to a pile at the top of a peak? I consider adding some item of my own, but I have nothing spare in my rucksack; travelling light and carrying nothing unnecessary.

Pill-box sea defence, bank of River Crouch, Ruth's coastal walkContinuing, I reach the mouth of the River Crouch and enjoy watching the sailing boats. Along the bank of the river I come across defensive structures from the 2nd world war – pill-boxes. In some places, I notice a duo of pill boxes, with one facing the river and the other facing inland, both built into the river bank, back to back.
Defence structure, River Crouch, Essex
And here, in the fields, is a bigger structure that I believe must date from the war, but I am not sure. There are holes for guns and for keeping lookout. The buiding has a hexagonal shape giving 360 degree coverage of the surrounding countryside.

sailing ships on River Crouch, Essex, Ruth's coastal walkI enjoy this section of the walk. There is plenty to see. It is cooler now, the sun is behind clouds, and there is a strange, pale-blue light, giving an ethereal appearance to the water and the sailing ships on the river. There is hardly any wind. The tide is out and there are no waves. The ships move lazily across the water.

Giant mushrooms, Ruths coast walkSeeing some large, white, circular objects in the grass, I stop to investigate. These turn out to be enormous mushrooms. They look edible. In fact, they look delicious. I must be getting hungry. I balance my iPhone on the top of one. It is as large as a dinner plate. You could feed a whole family from this one mushroom.

Continuing, I reach the outskirts of Burnham on Crouch. There is a path along the river front, weaving between shipyards, running along the back of the yacht club, and cutting through small alleyways. Pubs overlook the river and there are people out enjoying an early evening drink. After the emptiness of the Dengie area, I am excited by the people and the energy of this vibrant little town.

This is the end of my journey. Tonight we are staying in a pub in the town. Tomorrow, I am planning to take the ferry across to Wallasea Island and the next phase of my journey along the winding Essex coastline.

Miles walked = 11
Mirages seen = 1
Boring time = 2 hrs
Interesting time = all the rest

About Ruth Livingstone

Walker, writer, photographer, blogger, doctor, woman, etc.
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16 Responses to 25. Tillingham Marshes to Burnham on Crouch

  1. My wife and I need the same walk on Saturday 23 Oct. But from Burnham – on – Crouch to Tillingham. Very enjoyable , apart from a nearly serious incident with a heard of cows in a field. We were surround up 12 large cows and pushed into a barbed wire fence, which we managed to scramble over. The Public Foot path , which we thought we were on, was very badly signposted. This occurred about 2 miles from Tillingham.

    • ruthl says:

      Oh, how unpleasant. I feel very nervous in a field of cows, as you may have gathered from reading my blog. Did the cows have calves with them? I understand they can become quite aggressive if defending a calf.

      Poor signposting of footpaths is a real problem. I have noticed some farmers are really kind and considerate, while others seem to make it as difficult as possible to cross their land.

      Glad you enjoyed the rest of your walk. I was amazed to find such a large area of unspoiled and remote countryside, so close to London.

      • paul sennett says:

        WE DID THE WALK FROM BRADWELL MARINA TO BURNHAM ON CROUCH AS ONE WALK.. and actually really enjoyed the remoteness.. no adders or cows…. but a huge number of starlings and ducks.. The Anchor Inn in Bradwell did a mean meal too at the end..as we watched the sun set over the yachts…. Thank you re the tip off of no toilets or fiooden route and we had a lunch on one of the 20 plus pill boxes on the route…as a picnic. really nice.. We are now just ver 700 miles round the coast. so alot of walking to catch you up!!! As ever thank you for your really helpful blog Ruth… next weekend is some more of Norfolk around great yarmouth

        • Wow – in one go? Well done. Looking back on it, I think this was one of the most difficult walks I did, because of the monotony of the scenery. Here I think a companion would really have helped 🙂
          700 miles is great progress. At this rate, you might catch me up!

          • paul Sennett says:

            Classification: Public One thing we have noticed recently is how dry the paths are.. so little rain this winter… generally.

          • paul Sennett says:

            Classification: External Communication

            The beach from sae palling to great yarmouth
            Do you remember it as easy beach material or tough?

          • STEVE TAGG says:


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  3. Hi Paul
    It was pretty easy walking. Sea Palling has a lovely beach and the first part was deserted. There were seals! Towards Great Yarmouth the sand was soft and I remember walking along the narrow top of the concrete sea wall to avoid the soft sand.

  4. Hi Steve, you ask if the walk from Tillingham to the sea wall is easy to find. No. It wasn’t when I did it. I’ve described the start along the farm track in the first para above. The trickier bit is the footpath across fields that takes you across the final few hundred yards. When I did it, it was very overgrown. At the bottom is a narrow bridge across a ditch, and that was hard to find. Of course, it’s nearly 6 years since I walked that section, so things might have changed. Good luck!

  5. STEVE TAGG says:

    did walk on 22rd sept access ok, we all thought it was longer than 11 miles as it took 6 hours from village square to sea front, very enjoyable steve

    • Glad you enjoyed the walk. Yes, if it took 6 hours it must have been longer than 11 miles! I wonder which route you took from Tillingham. Did you follow St Peter’s Way? Was it easy to get from the village to the sea? (If I remember correctly, I joined the coast a little further south, which probably explains why my walk was shorter.) Best wishes.

      • STEVE TAGG says:

        no with miss out out on st peters way want south of farm, no matter had great curry at mehek, will bradwell to tillingham in winter to see wild bird life, thanks for your help, steve

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