I wake up in Burnham to a grey drizzle and walking gingerly down the slippery, mossy slipway I stand and wait for the ferry which will take me over the river. From the marina on the other side I can pick up the Roach Valley Way which will lead me on to Paglesham Creek. I am the only one wanting to cross the river, so I chat to the new owner as he blows on his cold gloveless hands. He tells me he hopes to pick up trade in the summer from families wanting to get to Southend – there will soon be a bus service in connection with the ferry.
I wish him luck and clamber out of the boat. Zipping up against the weather I walk determinedly past the boat sheds and out onto the path which runs between two stretches of marshlands dotted with strange metal crates packed with charred planks of burnt wood
After a while I turn off left following a sign for the Roach Valley Way which I follow through fields of rough grass until I come to the tip of Paglesham Creek, where I head off eastwards to walk around Clements Marsh. The landscape is much the same as a lot of estuaries in Essex so I settle in for a trudge in the deep silence, broken only by the call of sea birds. By the time I get to Paglesham Eastend I am exhausted and ravenous. Fortunately a cosy looking pub appears and I’m able to rest and eat, next to a roaring coal fire. I hear the sweet young girl behind the bar asking innocent questions about Margaret Thatcher, her father unwilling to voice his opinion in public. No such scruples for granny, who shunts her zimmer frame into the bar cursing the “witch Thatcher” and “good riddance to bad rubbish”. Reluctantly I leave the warmth of the pub and set out on the road passing a lovely old tin church before I realise I’m going in the wrong direction for the sea wall – I turn round with a sigh.
After a few hours of edging alongside Paglesham Reach wincing at, and cursing the litter strewn along the water’s edge, I see in the distance the industrial profiles of Rochford. My feet ache as I head slowly towards the station.