Here are some of our favourite walks in and around Southend-on-Sea. Most take around 40 minutes – more than enough for Ernie’s little legs – but some are extended strolls that are worth making the effort for. Enjoy!
1. SOUTHEND SEAFRONT: No local list would be complete without mentioning “the Golden Mile” – although the seafront’s nickname doesn’t really do it justice. It runs for several miles, in fact, mainly starting from Chalkwell and running all the way to Shoeburyness. When the tide is in and the sun is out, a stroll along the seafront really can’t be beat. We love it when the weather is cold and crisp and aside from a few other dog walkers and joggers, you have the seafront to yourself. It would take several hours to walk the entire seafront but smaller sections are much more manageable and there are plenty of bars, cafes and restaurants where you stop for a breather along the way. We can often be found enjoying a “Chalk Walk”, as we call it. We start by taking the train to Chalkwell then walking back along the seafront to our home in Southchurch. This takes around 90 minutes but you can obviously stop wherever you want!
2. TWO TREE ISLAND, LEIGH-ON-SEA: A circular loop around Leigh National Nature Reserve makes for a lovely walk, whatever the weather. There are a few small slopes to navigate but the gravel path makes it accessible all year round. To get to Two Tree Island, follow the road behind Leigh-on-Sea station, go past the golf course and over the bridge then park in the car park on the left. We generally start our stroll just across the road – you’ll see the gate. Take the first path on the left and the walk will lead you through several secluded grassy areas before you arrive at the waterfront (my favourite part). Follow the main route and you’ll see the path loops back on itself, roughly following the train track in the distance towards Southend. There are lots of opportunities to get off the beaten track too, if you’re keen to explore.
3. GUNNERS PARK, SHOEBURYNESS: This nature reserve is run by the Essex Wildlife Trust and has something for everyone, whether you’re into your history, seafront strolls or getting back to nature. From the car park at the Shoebury end of Southend seafront, you can follow the tarmac path to do a circular loop around the lake. Gunners is next to Shoebury Garrison and has plenty of wartime buildings to explore, with noticeboards explaining what everything is. A lot of the land is owned by the Ministry of Defence and is therefore out of bounds but you can get down on the beach, where dogs can go for a sneaky swim all year round.
4. BENFLEET TO LEIGH-ON-SEA: If you’re feeling energetic and the weather is good, this four-mile walk is wonderful. From Benfleet station, exit by the creek separating the mainland from Canvey Island. Follow the Thames Estuary Path through the marina and head in to Hadleigh Castle Country Park, which has fantastic views of the surrounding countryside. High up on the hill, you will see the remains of Hadleigh Castle itself and before long, you will be walking alongside Two Tree Island on a grassy ridge. Keep following this until you arrive in Old Leigh, with its fishing boats and cockle sheds. If it’s cold, warm up with a hearty pub meal and if it’s hot, cool down with a nice, chilled pint. Perfect.
5. CHERRY ORCHARD JUBILEE COUNTRY PARK, ROCHFORD: Set in the rolling countryside of the Roach Valley, this wonderfully peaceful park has 200 acres of land to explore. From the car park on the B1013, we like to walk up to the lake. To get there, follow the stream on the right-hand side of the main meadow. This will take you through a mix of grassy areas and woodland until you reach the lake itself. Dogs love to swim here but the lake is often prone to being affected by blue-green algae. This can be toxic so be careful. If you’re keen to explore further, there are a number of footpaths that will extend your walk – you can even stroll to Gusted Hall or Hockley Woods. Find more inspiration here.
6. SOUTHCHURCH PARK, SOUTHEND-ON-SEA: There are two very different sides to Southchurch Park – the quiet nature area on one side of Lifstan Way and the park with a large playground and open space on the other. We tend to start on the quiet side so Ernie can burn off some energy, walking past the lake and doing a lap of the playing field before crossing the road to the other side. There’s a boating lake to explore, some lovely landscaped areas and even a café, where you can stop to refuel. There’s plenty of parking and, being only one road back from Southend seafront, it’s easy to extend your walk with a stroll along the prom.
7. BELFAIRS WOODS NATURE RESERVE, LEIGH-ON-SEA: Great for visiting on hot days, as the woods offer plenty of shade. There are many footpaths to follow from the main car park, some of which intersect a public golf course. Belfairs also has its own stable and offers regular horse riding lessons so watch out for those. Ernie loves sniffing out horse manure so whenever we’re here, we don’t tend to stray too far from the bridle path (look out for the trees marked with a white line). Keep your eyes peeled for the wooden sculptures dotted around the reserve and make sure you stop at the Woodland Centre for a cuppa along the way. Dogs aren’t allowed in but there are plenty of seats and water bowls outside.
8. EAST BEACH, SHOEBURYNESS: It may be a little bit out of the way but East Beach – sandwiched between Ministry of Defence land and the former Shoeburyness Artillery Barracks – is worth the trip. As the name suggests, there’s a lovely sandy beach as well as large grassy park that’s great for picnics. It’s very popular with daytrippers during the summer months but if you go out of season, you’ll feel like you have the place to yourself.