October 31 – A day at the beach, Chalkwell and Hadleigh Castle

Porthole paintings

Hello from 1066 – A Medieval Mosaic

We have had several days at home and as today was fine we decided to go to visit Hadleigh Castle. What we did not realise was that from Basildon to Shoeburyness on the East coast is built up so there is no easy way to get from place to place without being in traffic and built up towns. From Basildon, there is Bowers, Gifford, Thundersley, Rayleigh, Hadleigh, Leigh-on-Sea, Westcliffe-on-Sea, Chartwell, Southend-on-Sea, Southchurch, Thorpe Bay and Shoeburyness. The trip from Rayleigh to Hadleigh is 2.7 miles and took us 30 minutes!

We saw signs to Hadleigh Castle but when we arrived there was no more signs and no castle visible so we had no idea if we were in the right place or not. There was a big pay and display car park but this seemed to be for the Salvation Army Farm Estate. The Salvation Army’s rare breed centre had been recognised by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust. RBST Conservation Farm Parks play an important role in the promotion and development of some of the country’s rarest breeds and are also home to special breeding groups of animals and is run by a dedicated group of staff and volunteers. Hadleigh Farm Rare Breed Centre welcomes more than 40,000 visitors each year. The farm cares for more than 100 animals including some of the UK’s rarest breeds of goats, pigs and geese. Family fun and education days teach the importance of conservation and help children learn more about looking after animals and wildlife.

The colony was established in Hadleigh in 1891 by General William Booth. He believed every human being should have food and shelter and published a plan to rescue the destitute from the squalor of London. His vision was that the poor would be given board and lodgings in a City Colony in exchange for a day’s work. They could then move to a Farm Colony where they would be trained to work the land and run their own smallholdings. Then finally they could progress to Overseas Colonies, running smallholdings abroad. The trial City Colony was set up in Whitechapel in 1889 and two years later Booth put down a deposit on land in Hadleigh for his Farm Colony. Starting with 800 acres of land, later expanding to 3,200 acres, the farm was home to 200 colonists by the end of its first year. Existing farm buildings were renovated and new dormitories, a bathhouse, laundry, reading room, hospital and religious meeting house were built. As well as farming and market gardening, colonists were taught brickmaking, pottery and construction skills.

We walked the short distance to Hadleigh Castle, a free English Heritage site and a Grade I listed building. There was a geocache near the gateway plus we were able to do two earthcaches – one about the castle and the land slippage that has taken place there and the other about the Saddleback Ridge which extends 700metres from the castle. There are great views from here across to Canvey Island and ultimately across to the Hoo Peninsula.

Hadleigh Castle is a ruin of a castle built in 1215 by Hubert be Burgh 1st Earl of Kent, where it had an important economic and defensive purpose. The castle was built on a soft hill of London Clay and has been subject to subsidence until it was a ruin in the 16th-century and the stone was sold for use in other buildings. The castle was built of Kentish ragstone and cemented by a mortar containing a large proportion of seashells, particularly cockleshells from the cockle beds of neighbouring Canvey Island. In 2008, Hadleigh Farm, close to the castle, was announced as the venue for the mountain biking competition in the 2012 Summer Olympic Games.

After leaving Hadleigh we drove towards Southend-on-Sea where we turned towards the seafront at Chalkwell. We found a free car park, walked across the railway line and along the promenade. The tide was well out when we got there and as it was so flat you could have walked out for miles. However, by the time we returned an hour later the tide was well in and the mudflats were completely covered with water. We found a series of geocaches called Seafront Stroll and found five of them as well as a multi-cache to mark the Crowstone. The Crowstone is a memorial boundary stone erected in 1837 to mark the seaward limit of the City of London’s jurisdiction over the River Thames at that time. It is a lovely day and not really cold enough to wear a jacket, though all the locals do. It is a popular place for walking with or without dogs. Dogs are not allowed on most English beaches from 1st May to 30 September but since we are past that date there were lots of dogs enjoying the beach for walking and for paddling in the sea. Families with young children were also enjoying the beach.

Just before we walked back up and over the railway bridge to the main road we noticed a series of ‘Porthole’ paintings along the waterfront wall at Chartwell. They were done by Leigh-on-Sea artist Luke Bryant. Each of the ten portholes is five foot in diameter and are a series of famous landmarks that can be seen along the London Fenchurch St to Shoeburyness line including Hadleigh Castle, Southend Pier and Canary Wharf.