Leigh on Sea to Benfleet circular walk

A walk across salt marshes with numerous birds and returning inland via the ruined Hadleigh Castle. Highly accessible from London as the Fenchurch Street line takes under an hour to get you to the start.

Technical sheet
No. 903292
A Leigh-on-Sea walk posted on 16/12/17 by charlieskelton. Update : 02/01/19
Calculated time Calculated time: 3h20[?]
Distance Distance : 11.53km
Vertical gain Vertical gain : 10m
Vertical drop Vertical drop : 10m
Highest point Highest point : 17m
Lowest point Lowest point : 2m
Easy Difficulty : Easy
Back to starting point Back to starting point : Yes
Walking Walking
Location Location : Leigh-on-Sea
Starting point Starting point : N 51.541036° / E 0.639363°
Download : -


This walk can be done starting at either Benfleet station of Leigh on Sea station and can be shortened by doing one leg and returning by train.
(D) Starting at Leigh station, follow the small road on the eastern side of the station over the railway bridge towards the sea, after a few yards as you approach the sea (1) follow the path on the top of the sea wall, the sea is on your left hand side.
Walking towards a boat club, you pass a number of picturesque decaying wrecks in the saltings, passing the boat club you cross the road (2) and keeping the golf range on your right, you are now on the main part of the footpath and can't really get lost just continue with the creek on your left enjoying a wide variety of bird life in the marshes and in the fields.
Passing the lagoon (a bird reserve usually with Avocets) on the end of two tree island (3) and the remains of the Hadleigh Colony jetty you eventually arrive at at a gate, pass through this onto the road running past a marina and 'The Barge Gladys' a floating pub that sells good beer.
Continue along by the railway towards Benfleet Station.
The return leg:
Note: This can be boggy / flooded after rain and in winter, if this is the case you can take the all-weather track that runs parallel and a few yards inland, however it does not offer the panoramas of the fields.
At the station go through the under pass and then go up the steep road opposite (Station Road) for about 100 M and take the footpath at the corner which will take you down towards the railway line
Walking with the rail line on your right follow the path passing through various gates en route, you enter fields, there are sometimes cows here; the path is vague in places (mainly because you can walk anywhere) but the gates / stiles through hedges are all in the northern corners of the fields and easily visible.
Hadleigh Castle is visible in the distance and we will ultimately pass below it.
Approaching the castle, the footpath merges with the all weather track. On reaching a stile (5) you enter the Hadleigh Castle Country Park, you can either continue below the castle, or if you want to visit the ruins, ascend left and enter through a gate at the top of the hill, walk through the ruins and emerge through a gate at the top of a gentle ridge, descend this to arrive at a junction with the traversing path.(6)
(A) Follow the path easterly to arrive at a gate opening onto a surfaced track between trees, emerging through these you see Leigh Station a short distance away.

Waypoints :
D/A : km 0 - alt. 7m - Leigh on Sea station
1 : km 0.1 - alt. 4m - Follow path on top of sea wall
2 : km 0.94 - alt. 5m - Cross the road
3 : km 2.4 - alt. 3m - Lagoon
4 : km 5.97 - alt. 6m - Level crossing
5 : km 8.85 - alt. 6m - Stile into Hadleigh Castle Country Park
6 : km 10.18 - alt. 4m - Junction with traversing path
D/A : km 11.53 - alt. 7m - Leigh on Sea station

Useful Information

The sea wall is more exposed than the land side, if it's windy and wintery you may prefer to do this stretch with the wind behind you.
The inland (return part of the walk) is not recommended in very wet weather as some of the fields in the area can become very flooded.

(w2) There is a very reasonable cafe at the golf range there that is open everyday apart from Christmas Day.
Two Tree Island is over the bridge and can be circumnavigated en route, the left hand side is quite quiet and good paths lead you round to arrive at the jetty on the south side; the right hand side is more popular and has two bird hides at the end giving views into the lagoon bird sanctuary. It is necessary to return to the bridge to cross the creek, at one time it was possible to cross the creek near the bird hides to return to the sea wall, the place is obvious but the crossing seems to have disappeared, the mud at the crossing is very soft and very deep!

(w4) If you want to carry on to Benfleet Station, don't cross the line, but continue along the road and you arrive at Benfleet Station in a couple of hundred yards.

On returning to Leigh, you can continue through the Old Town and walk by the beach as far as Shoeburyness passing Southend Pier and the golden mile, that will put another 8 miles or so on the route.

Visorando and this author cannot be held responsible in the case of accidents or problems occuring on this walk.

During the walk or to do/see around

Birds. This is a very good area to see birds especially waders, in the winter vast numbers of Brent Geese arrive, Avocets are common, sometimes in winter towards the end of the day, large flocks of Dunlin and Knott gather in spectacular flights.
Pubs, food. There are good pubs in Leigh Old Town and Benfleet offering hot food. The Barge Gladys does good beer, there is sometimes a barbecue outside at on Sunday's in the summer.
Bare foot walking: The stretch in the fields between and the hard track approaching the castle is on good cropped grass and a good place to try this out.
Night walking. The sea wall is very good at night as it requires no navigation, take a torch of course, but as there is little light pollution, under a fullish moon it is quite lovely without. In the summer glow worms are a possibility.

Opinions and comments


Global average : 4.3/5
Number of opinions : 10
Description quality : 4.5/5
Routemap quality : 4.2/5
Walk interest : 4.2/5

on Mon 03 Jan 2022 14:39:07 CET

I have rewalked this and can report that much of the inland route is very wet / flooded, and in a few places impossible to bypass. I would recommend avoiding it possibly until the spring unless you are not shy of wet feet and slipping over in the mud. The path is particularly bad between Hadleigh Castle and Leigh and it is impossible to avoid as the whole field has standing water. The sea wall is fine.

on Mon 03 Jan 2022 09:10:58 CET

Global average : 4.33 / 5

Date of walk : 03/01/22
Description quality : Good
Easiness to follow the route : Good
Walk interest : Very good

31st December 2021 - the problem was that it was very very muddy in parts which made it difficult for the less able members of our family group. So we only did part of the circuit. However the Castle and the nature reserve were greatly enjoyed by all. We shall go back when it is less muddy

on Sat 27 Feb 2021 22:20:37 CET

Global average : 4.67 / 5

Date of walk : 27/02/21
Description quality : Good
Easiness to follow the route : Very good
Walk interest : Very good

I set up this route a couple of years back and am giving a seasonal update. It has been really wet and with folks tied to there locales the paths have taken a lot of use. I did the whole route today now that things are drying out a bit, the inland section is still very moist in places and I would say character building, ie. good footwear ( not the Balenciaga speed recycled sneakers observed en route) is indicated, or a willingness to accept one's fate; I did the worst bits barefoot which was actually quite pleasant. All in all I would not recommend it at the moment if you are expecting a pleasant amble, small children and dogs will love it.
The sea wall is dry now and a good path; it is very broad so it is easy to distance from others when passing. The Brent Geese are in evidence and have taken to eating the winter wheat on the landward side; if you happen to be in the right place when the bird scarer goes off; you find your self about 10 feet below a few hundred large birds; very impressive!

on Fri 08 Jan 2021 21:42:31 CET

It is indeed very wet on the inland leg at the moment and best avoided ( or carry wellingtons). The best time for wildlife is when the tide is in as all of the shoreline feeders are compressed up into the Ray creek, there are a large number of over wintering waders etc. Another option is to finish or start with a tour of Two Tree Island; I will endeavour to attach a description.

on Fri 08 Jan 2021 21:03:23 CET

Global average : 3.67 / 5

Date of walk : 08/01/21
Description quality : Good
Easiness to follow the route : Average
Walk interest : Good

My partner and I did this walk earlier today (8th Jan 2021).
A very nice walk. I imagine there is a lot of wildlife to see in non winter months, but not so much now.
The second half of the return leg from Benfleet was extremely muddy and difficult going.
I would recommend that at this time of the year it is better to return to the start via the way you came, or RIDE THE TRAIN back to Lee from Benfleet station.

on Tue 26 May 2020 10:16:57 CEST

Global average : 4.67 / 5

Date of walk : 26/05/20
Description quality : Very good
Easiness to follow the route : Good
Walk interest : Very good

Dry weather so nice walk and good paths. Good walk although we got lost trying to find a route to the castle - turns out there is a signpost from the walking route up to the castle if you stick with it. You can also walk out the far end of the castle and down the ridge to meet up with the route if going from Benfleet to LOS, you have to walk through the ruins and then down/left to a hidden track where you can go through a couple gates.

on Mon 13 Jan 2020 15:33:35 CET

Global average : 4.33 / 5

Date of walk : 13/01/20
Description quality : Very good
Easiness to follow the route : Very good
Walk interest : Average

I did half the walk this morning. Got a train from Westcliff to Leigh and walked with a couple of friends and my dog to Benfleet. Popped into a lovely little pub for a coffee and then got the train back to Westcliff. A really lovely walk which I'll definitely do again.

on Mon 12 Aug 2019 19:48:28 CEST

The pedestrian crossing before Benfleet Station has re-opened.

on Mon 12 Aug 2019 09:25:35 CEST

Global average : 4.33 / 5

Date of walk : 12/08/19
Description quality : Very good
Easiness to follow the route : Good
Walk interest : Good

I think I was lucky because the paths were dry and the weather fine.

on Mon 25 Mar 2019 11:23:27 CET

Global average : 5 / 5

Date of walk : 25/03/19
Description quality : Very good
Easiness to follow the route : Very good
Walk interest : Very good

The landlord of the floating pub moored at Benfleet marina wont let you use the toilet unless you buy something which is fair enough

on Wed 02 Jan 2019 16:31:30 CET

I re did the walk just before Christmas and note that all of the crossings at Benfleet are now closed; I will revise the description with the crossing at the station.

on Wed 02 Jan 2019 12:23:10 CET

Global average : 4 / 5

Date of walk : 31/01/19
Description quality : Good
Easiness to follow the route : Good
Walk interest : Good

The walk was fun and there was a few bits to see, though walking on a dreary day made it a bit rubbish, but there's not much that can be done about the weather. The only problem with the walk was that the railway crossing by Benfleet station was closed. So we had to walk up to Station road and take a slightly different route to get back on track by going past the station up Sation Road, towards School Road and getting into the park at that entrance.

on Mon 29 Oct 2018 11:48:19 CET

thanks for the walk details
the weather was too wet for this walk as described so we postponed it to another day
will send you our feedback then
very helpful directions, map etc

on Mon 23 Apr 2018 16:18:28 CEST

Global average : 5 / 5

Date of walk : 18/04/18
Description quality : Very good
Easiness to follow the route : Very good
Walk interest : Very good

It was a lovely day and the walk was great. One thing to note is that the access across the railway on the approach of the walk (where the walker turns to start the return leg) is closed off, so the walker has to continue to Benfleet Station and turn there. Not a problem, but another 10 minutes added to the walk.

on Mon 02 Apr 2018 19:04:32 CEST

Thank you for your feedback on this walk. We have added a note to the walk advising against this route after heavy rains

to find out more.

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