Stage 32. Egypt’s Bay to Allhallows-on-Sea

Style to Halstow Marshes, Hoo Peninsula, Kent. Ruth's coastal walk. I start my walk at Swigshole, climbing over the style and walking up the potholed track to reach Halstow marshes. Walking along a raised bank, I am back on the riverside footpath once more.

Egypt Bay looks different this morning. The gulls have gone.

Canvey Island, view over the Thames, Ruth's coastal walk, Kent.I walk with the River Thames on my left. Across the blue-grey water are the storage tanks and chimney towers of Canvey Island.

Large freight ships pass up and down, carrying containers.

I walk along the endless river wall. To my right is marsh and farmland, stretching inland to where the land rises into a gentle ridge.

I see nobody.

I walk, making good progress and following the raised bank, around another inlet, called St Mary’s Bay. Now I am in the area called St Mary’s Marshes.

The tide is coming in. The river wall disappears and becomes a simple raised bank. The shore is free of litter but is rough, with seaweed strewn rocks. The river widens and the far bank looks, well – far.

Looking towards Canvey Island, Hoo Peninsula, Kent. Ruth's coastal walk.I look back along the River Thames to Canvey Island, disappearing behind me. I am beginning to feel I am making good progress and will soon be near the open sea; something to look forward to after days of river walking.

Rounding a curve in the river bank I see, across marshland, Allhallows-on-Sea ahead of me. This is where I am meeting my husband for lunch. There is a little bay between. The tide is in and, although there is an area of sand bank running just off shore, I can see no easy, dry, route across the bay.

I consult my map. The official footpath runs parallel to the river, round the bay, but keeping just inland, along a bank that runs along the edge the marsh. As I search for the footpath, I come across a wide track and am tempted to follow it, but this would lead me too far inland. Allhallows is my destination and that is ahead of me, across the bay.

Then I spot the footpath through the marsh, following the top of one of the many banks running between waterways. The path is not signposted, but other people have trodden the long grass down, creating a visible track. I follow the path with confidence, but it soon becomes lost in a maze of bramble and hawthorn bushes. Sticking to the beaten route as best I can, I bend down to crawl through clumps of hawthorn and I constantly fight off the thorny embrace of bramble branches.

St Mary's Marshes, Kent, Ruth's coastal walkLooking back, I see two young walkers have crossed the bay, using the sandbank as a path. They have come from the direction of Allhallows. There must be a way across the bay, avoiding the marshes and keeping close to the water. I am tempted to go back and retrace their steps, but I have come so far along here now, and the route back is through thorny brambles. So I decide to continue my trek through the marsh.

In retrospect, this was a mistake.

But for the moment, it seems like the right decision. The path becomes clearer and leads along the edge of a farmers field. Here the ground is very muddy, churned up by cattle, and I am glad to come across a style, leading back over into the marsh.

Where to go now? I see some planks of wood lying in a line across the ground. Everywhere else is mud and bog. This must be the path.

Now I reach a bank, slightly higher than the surrounding bog. It looks like people have walked along here. But, as I follow it, the bank meanders, taking right-angled turns, so that I am constantly doubling back on my route and making slow progress. The path becomes less obvious and the tracks disappear. Now the top of the bank is narrow and obscured by long grass. There are no thorny bushes but the ground is rough and uneven. I am grateful for my poles. Progress is painfully slow.

As I jump across a ditch, landing on a bed of flattened grass and reeds, something long and thick slithers away from close to my left foot.

It is a snake.

The colour of the snake was a uniform, dull brownish green colour. I know this means it was a grass snake and, although I am no longer fearful of grass snakes, I do worry about something worse – adders. I would like to put my gaiters on for protection, but the ground is too uneven for me to balance while I do this and I can’t bring myself to sit down in this damp, muddy, snake-infested bog.

My meanderings have brought me closer to the shore and I see there is a narrow, shingle “beach” by the water. I abandon the path, if it was a path, and stumble across spongy, wet vegetation to reach the shore. Now I walk on shingle and am grateful to be off the marsh.

But ahead I see a bank of soft earth. The tide is in and the beach is covered with water up to the bank. The bank is boggy with water trickling down it and marshy plants visible on top. Although it is not very high, I realise I can’t climb up easily. I would have to scramble up on hands and knees and, even then, may not be able to make it up the soft, slippery surface. And I have no idea what sort of foothold there is at the top.

Reluctantly, I turn back and, where the ground is flatter, make my way back onto the wet marshland.

Bridge over ditch, St Mary's Marshes, Kent, Ruths coastal walkFollowing a raised bank, I come to a dead-end. The bank ends and there are water-filled ditches on every side.
I am faced with the awful prospect of walking back the way I came, or trying to find another way across the marsh.

Then I see a plank across one of the dykes. Is this a proper path? Or has someone just put it here to get access to an area for fishing or hunting?

I don’t know and I don’t care. I am running out of choices. I walk the plank.

The bank stretches ahead from this point, one of a number of banks, all running parallel and separated by stretches of green water and mud. I have no idea whether I am on the right bank and I worry that I will come to a dead-end and have to retrace my steps back through this boggy marshland.

All thought of following the official footpath has long since gone. I just want to get to the other side of the marsh; in one piece and before the end of the day. So I continue, balancing on the top of the bank, using my poles to support me and praying I don’t twist an ankle or meet an adder.

After some time, and to my surprise, I see people walking in the distance. I am approaching Allhallows. In my world of water, mud and bogs, I had forgotten another world existed. The people ahead are walking in a line that takes them across the end of my bank, far ahead of me. Even at this distance, I can see there are children in the group. So there must be a dry route ahead and it must be relatively safe.

The bank continues straight and, eventually, ends when it meets a flowing waterway; a narrow river. By the time I reach this point, the group of people have long since gone. I realise they weren’t on this bank, but on a far bank, on the other side of the waterway. My forward progress, once so hopeful, is now halted. Luckily, there is a bank along my side of the waterway, and I follow this towards the shore.

Pill Box, Allhallows-on-Sea, Kent coast - Ruth's coastal walkAhead of me, the shingle beach comes into view. The sun comes out and shines on the sea, the beach and one of the ubiquitous pillboxes that dot the countryside.

My bank dips sharply downwards, towards the beach and I head downwards at a run. Now there is a shallow stream of water separating me from the shore. Compared to the watery wastes behind me, this barrier is a trivial inconvenience. I splash across it.

From here the going is easy, with the narrow beach taking me up to a wall with a promenade. There is a holiday park here. People are out with their families.

The promenade is being eroded by the sea. This end is narrow with signs warning the route may be impassable at high tide. But I am just grateful for solid concrete beneath my feet, albeit cracked and broken.

After my lonely trek across the marsh, it is strange to be here, with people.

Jet ski being unloaded, Allhallows-on-Sea, Ruth's Coastal WalkAround a corner of the promenade and I come across a slipway where a large car is unloading a jet ski into the water. The skier sits astride the machine, shooting water up into the air, before he sets off in a bouncy ride across the waves.

It is windy. There are people fishing off the promenade and, further along there is a wide green spaces with benches. I am feeling very tired and sit on one of the benches for a while.

I am hungry and need my lunch.

The last mile of the walk is hard going. My legs ache from the strain of my journey across the marshes and I am still feeling the effects of yesterday’s 15 mile hike.

As I leave the shore, heading inland towards the pub, I walk between static caravans and holiday cottages, past a fishing lake.

Fresh Mushrooms, Kent. Ruth's coastal walkFrom the door of one of the cottages, an elderly lady calls out to me. Would I like some mushrooms? No, thank you, is my first reaction. I am tired and groceries are the last thing on my mind. But she has picked them today, far more than she needs and, if I don’t take some, they will be wasted. She had a huge plate for breakfast and can’t face anymore.

I take the proffered plastic bag. The mushrooms do look lovely. All different sizes and with creamy, pale tops and warm, brown gills.

My husband is waiting in the pub and Paolo Nutini is playing through the speaker system. We have a large roast dinner, with cider, and talk about ways to cook mushrooms. I have another cider. My aches and pains begin to fade but are replaced with a wonderful feeling of sleepy relaxation. I tell my husband I will walk no further today.

I have another cider while he fetches the car and fall asleep on the way home.


Miles travelled = 7 as crow flies, but considerably more in reality.
Snakes seen = 1
Low point: getting lost in the marshes
High point: a bag of fresh mushrooms

About Ruth Livingstone

Walker, writer, photographer, blogger, Doctor, woman, etc.
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20 Responses to Stage 32. Egypt’s Bay to Allhallows-on-Sea

  1. Pingback: Stage 32. Egypt's Bay to Allhallows-on-Sea | Ruth's Coastal Walk (UK) :: norfolk-shorefishing

  2. Connie T says:

    I would be afraid of the snakes in the boggy marsh. I loved hearing about your walk.

  3. Liesel_S says:

    Hi Ruth,
    So nice to hear from you. I like walking too!

  4. Cheryl Dobinson says:

    Hi Ruth
    as a child at the age 5 to 15 my nan and gramps own a caravan at allhallows-on-sea (the caravan club) from 1977 to the early 80`s but left (which was heart breaking because it was such a friendly, safe and quite little caravan park that was members only) when it was sold to private owners which turned into a holiday resort and just over ran it with caravans on every green space they found….anyway going back to your walk and me as a child i used to walk along the beach to the end of the park just pass the yacht club but was never aloud to go any futher because of the marshland so i would stand there thinking what was beyond that point for years and years and i never got to find out untill now when i read your story and would like to thank you for sharing it an letting me know what was beyond that point and would love to go back and take a walk through there ( safely) now i know it can be done…… again thank-you

    • ruthl says:

      Hi Cheryl
      How wonderful to hear from someone with good memories of Allhallows-on-Sea. I think your grandparents were very sensible not to let you walk in the marshes – I had a difficult time making it across and met a snake on the way! (There is a footpath marked on the OS map, but I soon lost it). Maybe the best way is along the beach when the tide is out. If you do go back and walk that way, please let me know.

  5. Richard West says:

    Hi Ruth,
    i walked this stretch this afternoon with my collie pup Maysie, I found your Blog by accident when I was trying to find the origin of the name Egypt bay.
    I live on the peninsula & we are out walking somewhere most days, great to read about our area, good luck with the project.

    • ruthl says:

      Hi Richard,
      Thanks for dropping by. I don’t know how Egypt’s Bay got its intriguing name. If you discover why, please let me know. When I first put this blog up, my kids thought I had left the country and was on holiday in Egypt!

  6. Robert Yaxley says:

    I lived in Allhallows for 15 years from the age of 1. It was a great place to grow up and I spent most of my time as a child out on the marshes picking mushrooms, birdwatching etc. Between the yacht club and Egypt Bay used to be a Victorian rubbish dump, and I used to go digging there as a teenager looking for old bottles. will be a great shame if they cover up the area with a huge airport.

    • Hi Robert – I didn’t know about the Victorian rubbish dump. Yes, you can find interesting things on those old dumps. You must have had a great childhood in Allhallows. Best wishes, Ruth.

  7. wingclipped says:

    Ruth – we got lost in exactly the same spot yesterday! From your description I thing we took a different path from you. Ours didn’t meet with bushes, but rather just petered out. What is quite funny is that at one point I thought of shouting out “Watch out for adders!” as we made our way across the marsh. I didn’t think my wife would find that funny so I refrained, but it is only now that I have read your post and have realised you had a snake encounter! Nic

  8. dave gardner says:

    Hello Ruth, It is a great part of the North Kent coast. My friends and i often go camping at Egypt bay, Coombe beach, cockleshell bay and Yantlet creek. Every summer we will be there. Glad you enjoyed yourself. . . I saw an Adder once. x

  9. I suspect that you may not return to this section again, but for anyone else thinking of covering it, you can find a route description, with various options for getting through Dagnam Saltings without pain on my site http://kentishthames.wordpress.com/

  10. paul and carol sennett says:

    Ruth.. thank you so much for your detials of the crossing of the marshes… We would have not dared to cross the weird section before Allhallows without your notes. The wooden plank you photographed is now split in to 4 pieces!!! but jumpable.
    This walk really amazed us for the bird life.. luckily no snakes, especially in that ultra 2 foot long grass section. However we had a heifer incident near the marsh, when 40 or so ran down the hill towards us. Luckily a stile was there to save the day.

    • Glad you made it safely. I think if I had to do this stretch again I would stick to the road!

      • paul and carol sennett says:

        Thank you so much for guiding My wife (Carol) and I around the coast. It makes our weekends so delightful.. and dramatically easier, without all the need for maps etc. We sing your praises at the end of every leg we do … We are about 800 miles behind you, with 958 miles under our belt. We are not doing it as a continual run… but rather jumping around doing different sections as it suits our diaries. Had we not had your amazing blog to follow, we would have made lots of mistakes, diversions, and struggled a lot! so please keep the blogs coming. Where do you hope to get to by the end of December this year..roughly?

        • It’s wonderful to think my blog has been useful 🙂 And you and Carol are making fantastic progress. Where will I be in December? I’m always a bit hazy about the future because one of my unwritten rules is never to look beyond the next OS map – or else I might feel overwhelmed and give up this crazy venture. I hope to have made great progress around the Welsh Coast. Maybe reached the end of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path…

          • paul and carol sennett says:

            Totally understood..we see our walk as a 10 year plan… and it may take more or less time depending on whether we do Scotand or not..
            so far we have done Kings Lynn to AllHallows.. then a small gap to Faversham, from where we have walked to Sidmouth.. there is then a huge gap to Westwood Ho, from where we have walked to Ilfracombe. We have found it helpful to have a wall map of the UK on the wall, and use highlighter to show where we have walked. Carol has found Falke walking socks to be amazing, and we are both on our first set of boots…for now! All the best
            , Paul and Carol

  11. David L says:

    There are now signs at Allhallows and at 816783 (where the marsh crossing joins the wide raised bank) saying that the path floods at high tide.

    Coming from Allhallows, 4 hours after high water, I found I could walk along a ribbon of sand and shingle, marked by motor cycle tyres, to around 820784, then pick up the path on a rather lumpy raised bank snaking through the marsh with occasional yellow topped marker poles. This had a few iffy plank bridges, but nothing problematic.

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