On Tuesday July 19, the hottest day of the year, we had a trip to Southend. First we stopped at Hadleigh [to the north of Canvey Island] near the Olympic Mountain Bike course. We had refreshment at Hadleigh Farm overlooking the ruins of Hadleigh Castle, guarding the Thames Estuary. The Farm was built by William Booth in the 1890s as a place of refuge and training for the destitute Cockneys; the Salvation Army still owns the site today.
A coach tour followed, exploring the creeks and wide open spaces of today's landscape. We made our way to Southend to enjoy lunch at the Palace Hotel, overlooking the sea. Free time was spent here and some of our party went on the pier: the longest in England. The EU has given millions of pounds to help with the developments of the sea front. Many Cockneys came here on the train in the past for a day out.
We drove a short distance to Leigh-on Sea, a thriving fishing and smuggling village when Southend was naught but a sleepy hamlet. The Leigh fishermen, who were once condemned as smugglers, are today celebrated as Dunkirk heroes and they keep alive Leigh's reputation as the world centre of the cockle trade. We enjoyed walking down the main street with a ramshackle mix of cockle sheds, sailors' inns and clapboard cottages. Thanks must go to our guide, Martin, of the City & Village Tours who made the day so interesting.