6b – The Lobster Smack to Benfleet

We left the Lobster Smack, heading north.  To our left was Holehaven Creek, a large body of water with views to the Coryton oil refineries on the other side.

As soon as the Lobster Smack is left behind the landscape becomes entirely rural.  There are two “horses” in Holehaven Creek.  These are the Upper Horse and Lower Horse, the word “horse” being an old local word for island or mudbank. The tide was in when we were walking, so these two horses were out of sight.  We had to make do with the ones in the field next to our path.

Even if the tide had been out, I question whether we would have noticed the mudbanks.  This is because the riverscape is dominated by the prominent feature of a large jetty, almost a mile long, which projects into the mouth of the creek and out into the Thames.  This is the Occidental Petroleum Jetty, built to enable tankers to berth in the deeper water without fear of running aground in the more shallow sands.  It was built when Occidental Petroleum were planning an oil terminal, but planning permission was rescinded in 1975.  The landward side of the development was demolished, but the jetty still stands as a reminder of what could have been.

The jetty itself is rather a grand structure.  At its landward end, however, the fences marked “Danger – Keep Out” have been breached, and it is clear that people have been climbing the tower at the jetty foot.  I admit the lure of exploration pulled at me, but we had a walk to get on with.

We ate our lunch at the jetty, observing only a few other people passing by.  This part of the island is not used that much, and I put this down to the fact that after the Lobster Smack you need to walk some five miles before reaching another road.  To me, the remoteness of the area was, quite frankly, welcome.

We did meet one friendly local once we resumed our walk.  This was a seagull, standing by the side of the path, and who allowed us to walk within a couple of feet of him.  On two occasions he stretched out his wings and seemed as if he might fly off, but then changed his mind and stayed, observing us with a degree of caution.  He may have been used to humans; he may have been sick.  Whatever he was, allowing us this close presented a great opportunity for a picture.

We left the gull, and it was at this stage that we took out the walkie-talkies we had brought with us, and gave them to the kids.  It gave them a new lease of life and enthusiasm.  They walked within a few feet of each other, broadcasting diligently what they may as well have whispered.  We tried to separate them and get some distance between them in order to show the true worth of the equipment, but they were more than happy conversing as they were.

As we walked on, the creek turned westward, and the path with it.  This brought us closer to the Coryton refinery on the other side of the creek, and its most dominant feature, a large flare stack which can be seen from quite a distance.  It had drawn our attention for the last couple of walks, and will probably do so for the next couple too.

Just to the north of this stack, Holehaven Creek splits into two.  The main creek continues north west, whilst a tributary called East Haven Creek runs more north east.  It is East Haven Creek which splits Canvey Island from the mainland.  At the point where the creek divides, there are two flood barriers.  If only they could be crossed, access to the coastline to the west would be far easier.  As it is, the only way for pedestrian traffic is to continue around Canvey Island.

The main creek barrier is by far the most impressive.  The barrier in East Haven Creek seems somewhat insignificant by comparison.  Both are normally open, thereby allowing small ships and boats to pass underneath them.  Even the smaller East Haven Creek barrier has 30 foot high gates.

Next to the East Haven Creek barrier the path turns sharply to the east.  The adjoining land here is put to pasture, with a mixture of cattle and horses.  It was good that there was a small ditch between us and the livestock, for the cattle in particular did not appear to be too hospitable.  I have been chased by cows in the past and it is an experience I have no particular wish to repeat.

After a short turn east, the path bends to the north again, taking a long and lonely route towards the A130 Canvey Way, the main arterial route to the island.  The path passes underneath the road, and then twists and turns and twists again, finally meeting the B1014 Canvey Road.  This is a secondary route onto the island.  The secondary route I should say, as there are only two roads on and off.  The last stretch of this walk meanders quite considerably, the end always visible and tantalisingly close, yet a long walk away.  We walked across Canvey Road by the Benfleet flood barrier we had passed two walks ago, out of Canvey Island and back to Benfleet Station.

Canvey Island is done.  On with the walk.

Points on this walk (copy and paste the co-ordinates into Google Earth):

  • The Lobster Smack:  N 51° 30.675 E 000° 33.170
  • Occidental Petroleum Jetty: N 51° 31.085 E 000° 32.859
  • Coryton Flare Stack:  N 51° 31.384 E 000° 30.964
  • Holehaven Creek Flood Barrier:  N 51° 31.854 E 000° 30.470
  • East Haven Creek Flood Barrier:  N 51° 31.822 E 000° 31.090
  • A130 Canvey Way:  N 51° 32.752 E 000° 32.690
  • B1014 Canvey Road:  N 51° 32.297 E 000° 33.900

Walk #6 Statistics:

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2 Responses to 6b – The Lobster Smack to Benfleet

  1. Farhat says:

    I love all pics! How amazing. Would love join you one weekend.

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