Monday 02 June 2014 – Hadleigh Castle, Leigh-on-Sea, Essex.
Way back at the beginning of April I took a walk along the Thames Estuary from Leigh-on-Sea to Southend, and just before we entered Leigh-on-Sea on the train I noticed a small ruined castle on a hill and decided that I should make a visit there soon. Once home I discovered the castle was Hadleigh Castle and when a quite day and a dry spell arrived at the same time I took a trip out there.
Hadleigh Castle is on a small farm gifted to English Heritage by the Salvation Army in 1948 and is in turn surrounded by the Hadleigh Country Park, which is owned by the Essex Council and was the venue for the mountain bike event at the 2012 London Olympics.
The building of the castle started sometime in the early 13th century when the land was gifted to Hubert de Burgh by King John I for favours rendered. A few years later the de Burgh family fell out of favour with King Henry III and they were stripped of the castle and land and it became a royal palace for a while before falling into disrepair in the middle of the century.
There was a revival of its fortunes under Edward II and III in the 14th century but after that there was little interest in the castle by the royal family and it was finally sold to Lord Richard Rich in 1551 and it was dismantled so the stone could be sold.
The castle is built on a low clay hill over marshes and farmland over-looking on the banks of the Thames Estuary and has been subject to much subsidence over the years. I saw a piece of the castle lying in a ditch as I was walking across from the coastal path.
After a few nice days, with me getting all excited that summer was on the way and I could get out and about again, we then settled into almost two weeks of off and on rainy weather. When the forecast suggested a few hours of sun and high cloud before a late afternoon of rain I thought sod it, grabbed a ticket and jumped on a train from Fenchurch St to Benfleet. I decided to walk from Benfleet up to Hadleigh Castle and on to Leigh-on-Sea where I would have a coffee before heading back to London. In theory I would miss the rain.
The train journey took about forty minutes and then it was another ten minutes of “thinking I know where I am going” walking until I reached the gate of Hadleigh Country Park.
The path took me along the bank between the estuary and the flat lands of the park,
And away in the distance the gentle hill of the Olympic mountain bike course, which I think is open for the public to ride. As a side note I have now bought another bike, a year after my last one was stolen, it is a mountain bike and once I get my fitness up I will see if I can ride here, once I have a couple of test rides under my belt. I am soooooooooooooooooooo not ready to do any decent bike rides right now.
I crossed the railway lines that I would travel on later in the day when I return to London on the train.
A glimpse of the only remaining tower of the castle in the distance.
The path up to castle from this side is surprisingly steep!
There is not a huge amount left of the castle, some of the outer wall is passed through on approach.
I was surprised with the number of visitors there, at least a dozen other people were visiting or relaxing in the grounds – I fully expected to be the only person there. The view to the south and over the Thames is quite impressive – as were the clouds moving in from the west…
The remains of the kitchen.
The last remains of one of the towers built under Edward III.
This tower, also from Edward III is the most preserved piece of the castle.
With the rain pending, I took a last look around and then started down the much gentler path towards Leigh-on-Sea, turning back for a couple of last shots.
I was walking fairly fast down the path back towards town, and once there decided to flag the extra walk from the station to the cafe area about a kilometre away. I jumped on the next train and headed home.
It was a good few hours out, I explored another old castle and got to see a bit more of the area close to London – an area that most Londoners will never see themselves!
Of course it never did rain at all 🙂