diamond geezer

 Sunday, March 07, 2010

Seaside postcard: Shoeburyness
Have you ever been to the mouth of the River Thames? The very end, where the river meets the North Sea and the shoreline bends from estuary to coast? Probably not, even though there's a direct train from the City of London. And there's an A Road - the A13 - which is the best way to get here if you're Billy Bragg. But I bet you've never been. To Shoebury Ness.

There's nothing quite like being the only tourist in a seaside resort. Actually 'resort' is a bit strong. Shoeburyness hasn't been one of those for years, not for anyone outside the local area, and in late winter doubly so. But between 1911 and 1939 this was the furthest flung outpost of the London Underground, with District line excursion trains making seasonal journeys to bring holidaymakers to the last halt before Belgium. Many would have stayed at the Shoeburyness Hotel, now boarded up and desolate, its gleaming ironwork safe only until some thief or vandal slices it away for scrap.

Cambridge Press, Shoebury High StreetAcross the road a sheet stuck to the window of the Cambridge Press offers up a plaintive "Goodbye" from its former owner. Roy had been working in the family business since 1957, so he tells us, serving the diverse printing needs of the community for more than 60 years. But the advent of ubiquitous colour copiers forced him into retirement earlier this year, and his once proud shop now stands empty. In a High Street that fails to open even on a Saturday afternoon, every business is in danger.

The only people on East Beach are locals. Three teenagers wandering the shoreline, along with two dogs scampering on the exposed mudflats. Another hound plays frisbee with its owner on the common, then refuses to retrieve the disc when it lands in the middle of a particularly wide puddle. The rusting remains of a wartime defence 'boom', erected to keep enemy submarines and ships from entering the Thames, stick out one mile from the beach into the North Sea [photo]. Where it begins, an iron fence blocks the beach. You could easily walk around it at low tide, but a red sign advises otherwise. [Danger / Firing Range / No Entry]

The army moved in beside Pig's Bay during the 1840s, initially for artillery practice, then with rather fiercer weapons. Troops are no longer garrisoned here (which for current recruits is damned good news), and the site is ghost-run by contractors on behalf of the MOD. A little further up the coast is Foulness Island, once selected as the site of London's third airport, now a military nomansland where the public are almost never welcome.

Shoebury East BeachShoebury's other former garrison is to the south, nearer the Ness. It's currently being transformed from a desolate waste littered with ruined defences into a desirable housing estate plus waterlogged park. There are even plans for an 18-storey 'landmark tower' to mark the far eastern end of the Thames Gateway, but (thankfully) there's no sign yet. A concrete path leads along the foreshore, above the seawall, above the groynes, linking the town to the river's end. This bleak route is somewhere to take the kids cycling, or to give purpose to jogging, or to promenade with your spouse beneath a protective layer of hood, scarf and gloves.

The tip of the Thames is marked by a wooden jetty poking out into the river [photo]. Judge the tide right and there's decent fishing to be had - judge wrong and you'll be dangling your bait in mud. That's Sheerness Docks across the other side of the estuary, and the power station chimneys of the Isle of Grain belching grey into the Kentish sky. What view there is exists only as a thin strip along the horizon, maybe a container ship chugging distantly by, maybe a distant wind farm if you squint carefully enough. England's greatest river dissipates not with bravado and grace but with a turgid whimper.

Shoebury Ness

From Shoebury Ness it's more than 200 miles up the Thames to the source near Cirencester. That may be a gorgeous Arcadian walk, most of the way, but the first 500 metres are grim. Inland is a post-military waste, still heavily fenced off, plus a coastguard tower watching out over the languid waters. Along the shoreline is an unbroken white wall, just about low enough to be climb-over-able, and all that stands in the way of a killer tidal surge from the North Sea which would demolish this corner of Essex. Then comes the 'beach', or rather a patch of sand merging rapidly into mud. Don't try walking along the sand because there's another iron fence blocking that further up, as if somehow the MOD would really rather you weren't here. [photo]

Shoebury Common beach hutsThere's a slipway immediately beyond, where you might find local lads pushing a motorised boat down into the water. Ordinary blokes love boats round here - they crave watersport action in the same way that men inland roar around on motorbikes. Retired boatmen are more likely to be found in one of the 700+ beach huts that line the next strip of coast, or sat outside Uncle Tom's Cabin on the foreshore downing tea and/or hot dogs.

With Southend only a short distance up the coast, the lesser delights of Shoeburyness are likely to stay forever eclipsed. Not quite seaside, not quite popular, not really anywhere you'd travel miles to enjoy. Just rest assured that it exists, with a flat bleak charm all of its own, and that if you never visit you'll not be missed.

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
life viewed from london e3

email    twitter    G+

my flickr photostream

What's on this weekend?
Wed 19th - Sun 23rd October
Bloomsbury Festival
It's free to visit the Foundling Museum this weekend.

twenty blogs
ian visits
blue witch
city metric
the great wen
edith's streets
spitalfields life
in the aquarium
round the island
wanstead meteo
london museums
christopher fowler
ruth's coastal walk
london reconnections
dirty modern scoundrel

quick reference features
Things to do in Outer London
The DG Tour of Britain
Comment Value Hierarchy

read the archive
Oct16  Sep16
Aug16  Jul16  Jun16  May16
Apr16  Mar16  Feb16  Jan16
Dec15  Nov15  Oct15  Sep15
Aug15  Jul15  Jun15  May15
Apr15  Mar15  Feb15  Jan15
Dec14  Nov14  Oct14  Sep14
Aug14  Jul14  Jun14  May14
Apr14  Mar14  Feb14  Jan14
Dec13  Nov13  Oct13  Sep13
Aug13  Jul13  Jun13  May13
Apr13  Mar13  Feb13  Jan13
Dec12  Nov12  Oct12  Sep12
Aug12  Jul12  Jun12  May12
Apr12  Mar12  Feb12  Jan12
Dec11  Nov11  Oct11  Sep11
Aug11  Jul11  Jun11  May11
Apr11  Mar11  Feb11  Jan11
Dec10  Nov10  Oct10  Sep10
Aug10  Jul10  Jun10  May10
Apr10  Mar10  Feb10  Jan10
Dec09  Nov09  Oct09  Sep09
Aug09  Jul09  Jun09  May09
Apr09  Mar09  Feb09  Jan09
Dec08  Nov08  Oct08  Sep08
Aug08  Jul08  Jun08  May08
Apr08  Mar08  Feb08  Jan08
Dec07  Nov07  Oct07  Sep07
Aug07  Jul07  Jun07  May07
Apr07  Mar07  Feb07  Jan07
Dec06  Nov06  Oct06  Sep06
Aug06  Jul06  Jun06  May06
Apr06  Mar06  Feb06  Jan06
Dec05  Nov05  Oct05  Sep05
Aug05  Jul05  Jun05  May05
Apr05  Mar05  Feb05  Jan05
Dec04  Nov04  Oct04  Sep04
Aug04  Jul04  Jun04  May04
Apr04  Mar04  Feb04  Jan04
Dec03  Nov03  Oct03  Sep03
Aug03  Jul03  Jun03  May03
Apr03  Mar03  Feb03  Jan03
Dec02  Nov02  Oct02  Sep02
back to main page

diamond geezer 2015 index
diamond geezer 2014 index
diamond geezer 2013 index
diamond geezer 2012 index
diamond geezer 2011 index
diamond geezer 2010 index
diamond geezer 2009 index
diamond geezer 2008 index
diamond geezer 2007 index
diamond geezer 2006 index
diamond geezer 2005 index
diamond geezer 2004 index
diamond geezer 2003 index
diamond geezer 2002 index

my special London features
a-z of london museums
E3 - local history month
greenwich meridian (N)
greenwich meridian (S)
the real eastenders
london's lost rivers
olympic park 2007
great british roads
oranges & lemons
random boroughs
bow road station
high street 2012
river westbourne
trafalgar square
capital numbers
east london line
lea valley walk
olympics 2005
regent's canal
square routes
silver jubilee
unlost rivers
cube routes
capital ring
river fleet

ten of my favourite posts
the seven ages of blog
my new Z470xi mobile
five equations of blog
the dome of doom
chemical attraction
quality & risk
london 2102
single life
april fool

ten sets of lovely photos
my "most interesting" photos
london 2012 olympic zone
harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
tracing the river fleet
london's lost rivers
inside the gherkin
seven sisters

just surfed in?
here's where to find...
diamond geezers
flash mob #1  #2  #3  #4
ben schott's miscellany
london underground
watch with mother
cigarette warnings
digital time delay
wheelie suitcases
war of the worlds
transit of venus
top of the pops
old buckenham
ladybird books
acorn antiques
digital watches
outer hebrides
olympics 2012
school dinners
pet shop boys
west wycombe
bletchley park
george orwell
big breakfast
clapton pond
san francisco
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
doctor who
blue peter
peter pan
feng shui
leap year
bbc three
vision on
ID cards