Kerri Worrall takes a scenic rail trip to Essex
Walkies galore! Take your dog on an adventure you’ll both love – wide open beaches, nature reserves, cosy real ale pubs and beautiful walks are a year-round attraction on the Crouch Valley rail line in Essex.
This is a rail line like no other, giving access to ethereal salt marshes and remote villages surrounded by an abundance of distinctive wildlife – including Brent Geese, oystercatchers, kestrels and even glow worms – providing wide open spaces where your four legged-friend can run free.
Dogs are welcome aboard the Greater Anglia trains which make their way from the large town of Wickford along the north bank of the River Crouch estuary and out into the low-lying salt marshes of the Dengie Peninsula.
From Wickford, the countryside opens up into fields and hedgerows before arriving at the renowned Battlesbridge Antique Centre, a dog friendly attraction with a bit of added interest for the humans.
Established in 1967, it is the largest centre of its kind in Essex, with 80 dealers housed in a series of old buildings, including a former mill. There’s also a large field where you can walk your dog, a weir that marks the start of the River Crouch estuary and a Motorcycle Museum, making for a fascinating day out.
Dogs are welcome in Fraser’s Tea Rooms’ gardens, or grab some refreshments from Ragman’s café and make use of the outdoor terrazzo stone seating and tables.
Further along the line is South Woodham Ferrers, with its shops, a wide variety of eating places and the award-winning Crouch Vale Brewery where you can sample the local ales. Dogs are very welcome in the Tap Room and may even be offered the odd treat!
Close by is Marsh Farm Country Park which offers lovely walks where humans can admire the views as Fido romps along the riverside.
Next on the line is the small village of North Fambridge, situated on the north bank of the River Crouch, where the Essex Wildlife Trust Reserve of Blue House Farm is within walking distance of the train station and is a great place for bird watching.
Dogs on leads are welcome on the permissive path that passes around the farm, giving access to the three bird hides.
This links up with the seawall footpath which can then be taken back to the farm entrance and car park creating a 4 km circular route around the farm. Or you can walk all the way from North Fambridge to Burnham on Crouch along the sea wall and then reward yourself with delicious food from one of Burnham’s many dog friendly riverside pubs.
Then it’s on to Althorne located on a ridge overlooking the river. Here, the land sloping down to the river is designated as a Special Landscape Area and there are four conservation sites close to the waterside.
A five-mile circular walk from the station takes in the 14th century St Andrew’s church while a shorter self-guided nature ramble goes through Bass Wood and along the seawall.
Yachting haven Burnham-on-Crouch is a small historic town situated on the banks of the River Crouch and a gateway to the salt marshes of the peninsula.
As well as being home to five sailing clubs, it also hosts yacht and dingy racing during Burnham Week at the end of August.
A stroll along the quayside throws up many interesting features including moored houseboats and the Burnham and District Museum. A visit to the High Street and its unique clock tower is a must.
While in the town, there is also the opportunity to take a trip on the Burnham to Wallasea Island Ferry. The RSPB Wild Coast Project has been established on the island where the marshes bloom with sea aster, sea purslane and sea lavender.
Look closely and you’ll see rusty seals basking on the mudflats, a plethora of native and migrant bird species and Clouded Yellow and Painted Lady butterflies.
Dogs are carried at the discretion of Burnham Ferry Skipper provided they are kept on a lead and under control. Burnham Ferry reserves the right to limit the number of dogs, bicycles, pushchairs and prams on any particular crossing.
Southminster marks the end of the train journey… but there is plenty still to explore, both in the town and surrounding area.
The town features good local services including a selection of local Real Ale pubs and the 12th Century St Leonard’s Church.
The Reverend Dr Alexander Scott, who was the church rector between 1803 and 1840, was chaplain and Private Secretary to Lord Nelson and cradled the dying admiral at the Battle of Trafalgar.
A 20-minute bus ride from Southminster Railway Station gives access to Bradwell-on-Sea, an ancient village on the Dengie Peninsula.
From there it’s a short walk to the Bradwell Cockle Spit beach, home to the mystical chapel of St Peter’s, which was built on the site of the Roman fort of Othona using stones from the original edifice. Dogs can stretch their legs here all year round.
Train travellers of the human and four-legged variety can enjoy the exhilarating views and fun days out in extra comfort – thanks to the fleet of brand new, longer trains which are being introduced by Greater Anglia.
Supported by the enthusiastic volunteers of the Essex and South Suffolk Community Rail Partnership, the railway line is the perfect way to discover this wonderful part of Essex.
Why not book accommodation close to the line and give yourself more time to explore the area?
Interested in visiting for yourself? Click here to start planning your journey and to discover more Greater Anglia Rooms With A View.