Hiking in Essex

Canvey Island has been populated for at least 2,000 years. During Roman times it was known as the Convennos Insula (“insula” being Latin for “island”), and by 1255 it was known as Canaveye. Canvey is flat and low, and therefore the tidal waters have always been of concern to those who live there. In 1622 funds were raised for a seawall to be built around the whole of the island. The worst of the flood disasters to hit Canvey came in 1953. On 31 January an enormous surge tide struck the eastern coast of Britain. In Canvey, it breached the sea walls and flooded the island. Many of the homes were (indeed are) bungalows, and many residents had to break through their own roofs to escape the water. The night was chill, and exhaustion and exposure took their toll. Fifty-eight people died, and not one building on the island escaped damage in some form or another. Twenty- five thousand people had to be evacuated. Today, a seawall continues to encircle the entire island, and this section of the walk, over six miles in length, simply follows that wall. The oil storage depots and large jetties dominate the landscape. The first oil storage tanks were built here in 1933. More industry and storage facilities quickly followed, including gas tanks to store liquefied natural gas shipped from Algeria. These depots were one of the first targets of German bombers in the Second World War. Beyond the oil depots is the Lobster Smack pub, once a notorious smugglers’ inn, parts of which are said to date from 1510. The inn is mentioned in Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations.

More photos by neja