Leigh-on-sea is a town in Essex. North east of London that runs along the River Thames estuary before it meets the waters of the North Sea. Often referred to as Leigh. Fenchurch Street overland station, in London, is a few minutes walk from Tower Hill tube station. From Fenchurch Street station you catch the train destined for Shoeburyness and alight at Leigh-on-sea. The journey takes around 50 minutes. A first time visitor to London would be delighted to see the Tower of London once they exit Tower Hill tube station.
During June and July 2018 the UK has endured exceptionally high temperatures for this time of year. The south-east always tends to have better temperatures than the rest of the UK, therefore, sizzled the most during the heatwaves. During the last weekend of July we had thunderstorms and rainfall which reinstated the temperatures back to what we would expect during the summer.
With fresher weather on Saturday, a spontaneous, visit to Leigh was decided. To see the cool blue sea, well estuary really, and to feel the wonderful refreshing breeze. Upon arrival at Leigh, if you take the exit facing you, turn ever so slightly to your right and cross the road. This will bring you directly to steps leading down to Leigh’s old town. This is where you will find the old world charm Leigh has to offer.
The chinking, clanking sound of the stationary sailing boats, the flying seagulls and the fresh pure air immediately greets you on arrival. To the right you can see the Kent coastline, oil storage tanks and container ships in the distance. To the left the train tracks for trains to stations beyond Leigh and returning to London. High above on the left green fields and homes with views out to the estuary.
As you walk towards the old town you will come across several wooden kiosks selling fresh fish. Osbourne Brothers cafe at Billet Wharf in the centre of Leigh specialise in fish. The cafe is extremely popular and was established in 1880’s. They can source fish for customers from all over the world.
First stop was The Boat Yard a wonderful glass fronted restaurant on two floors. With floor to ceiling glass windows facing the estuary at the back and a large outside patio area. A wonderful cool refreshing Pinot Grigio Blush was enjoyed while taking in the crisp air.
Next a visit to Old Leigh Studios, where you can browse or purchase earthenware and porcelain pottery and ceramics. Fine Artist Ian Smith also has a studio there.
The old town high street is only about half a mile in length and narrow with several pubs which I’m sure all date back to at least the 1800’s. With the town being renowned for fish, it is no wonder two of the pubs were named after types of fishing boats: – ‘Ye Olde Smack’ and ‘Peter Boat.’ Both these pubs and The Mayflower all have outside seating areas facing the estuary. The Mayflower has a cafe on the corner of the pub serving all kinds of traditional fare throughout the day. The cafe has a window hatch, facing the high street, that serves fish and chips which is very popular with the locals and day trippers. Next door is The Rock Shop selling all things relevant to a day by the sea side. The pub, the fish and chip shop and the Rock Shop combined present life’s simple pleasures by the sea at Leigh.
Live music, folk, blues and jazz, are regular events in the pubs and there are music festivals throughout old Leigh in June.
At the end of the high street, just beyond, the Mayflower you reach the small strand with sand. Perfect for the little ones to play and build sand castles. You can walk along a nice walkway with the estuary on one side and the railway on the other. You will pass plenty of dog walkers along the path.
As you walk along you will come across the Yacht Club with HQS Wilton ship as its headquarters. The Club was originally founded in 1890.
Then you arrive at a curved iron bridge that you can cross over to take you to Leigh Hill and up to the modern day Leigh High Street. There are many lovely homes, some with large sun rooms or large bay fronted windows, facing the estuary, with telescopes on stands pointing out to the sea.
Leigh-on-Sea is a wonderful charming unpretentious town with so much to see and do for all age groups. On arrival the Dubliners’ song ‘Molly Malone’ came to mind, no connection to Leigh-on-Sea except for all the fresh fish.
The classic 1947 film, ‘The Ghost and Mrs Muir’ starring Gene Tierney and Rex Harrison featured ‘Gull Cottage’ which, in the film, was at Whitecliff-by-the-Sea a fictional place. The cottage was built by the production department at 20th Century Fox and dismantled when the filming ended. The entire film was made in California, which is about a widower moving to a seaside town with her daughter for a quiet life. It looked as though it was filmed in an English town by the coast.
If you wanted a longer walk you can keep walking along the pathway, I mentioned, and you will reach Chalkwell and further on Westcliff-on-Sea both with promenades and their own charm. I wonder if someone involved with the film The Ghost and Mrs Muir (‘Muir’ is Gaelic for ‘the sea.’) visited or perhaps lived at some point in Westcliff-on-Sea or Leigh-on-Sea.
Saturday in old Leigh as evening was approaching was full of happy people out enjoying their free time. It was quite blustery which I was told is rare. To feel fresh air was what I wanted so that wish was granted. A little too windy to take many photographs while visiting also the tide was out so I didn’t actually get to see the estuary full of cool water. A great place for an enthusiastic photographer so I think I will be returning soon for more photo opportunities.