50 Walks on the Essex Coast is now down to the last 300 copies so will be reprinted for a second time in the summer. Meanwhile I’m checking the remaining walks to make sure nothing needs to be changed in the reprint. With a work trip to Scotland having been cancelled die to corona virus, today I did Walk 37, Paglesham Circular (North).
Paglesham is a village on the River Roach north of Southend, famed for smuggling and oysters. Actually it’s two tiny villages – Paglesham Eastend and Paglesham Churchend. The walk passes through both.
I started with lunch at the Plough & Sail, a typical Essex weather boarded pub, dating back at least 300 years. Now mainly a restaurant, it was once a haunt of fishermen and smugglers and also a bake house. For the payment of a penny villagers could use the oven to cook their pies or bread.
The walk links the two parts of Paglesham, following footpaths and a typical open Essex lane. At one point the path goes through someone’s garden but it’s signed so I can assure readers that I’m not encouraging them to trespass.
St Peters Church is usually open and worth a visit to view the fine stained glass window which was built by Zachary Pettit in memory of the five or his nine children who died in childhood. I didn’t get close, not wanting to leave mud from my boots on the carpet but the photo shows the simple church of Norman origin, which was restored by Pettit in 1883.
From the village to Paglesham Creek the path runs beside some of the many channels that drain the low lying land. By one of these I met a chap with a net. We stopped to chat. My guess that he was catching eels was incorrect. Much smaller – shrimps. Sea water shrimps who thrive in the brackish water. He makes a living from selling the shrimps for use in fish food and works the channels of Essex and Suffolk. Occasionally he’ll catch a bass or mullet, some of which he takes home and keeps for a few years in a huge tank, before releasing them into the sea.
The practice is legal and sustainable as he never takes too many from one place and allows the population to grow before returning. This is achieved by placing a stone in the sluice so that shrimps can get into the channels and lay their eggs. The Environment Agency don’t mind and are now starting to put small discs in new gates to let fish in and out. Currently any fish that get into the creeks tend to be stuck there and can grow quite big, but the chap will often put mullet back over the sluice to the sea.
The next three miles are on the sea wall. First beside Paglesham Creek opposite Wallasey Island, then the River Roach. With the tide high it was noticeable how much higher the water was than the farmland behind the sea wall. There were many birds to be seen and I wished I’d taken binoculars.
A couple of WW2 pillboxes are passed and a motley selection of rusting wrecks lie in the Roach.
It’s a fine walk and the only change I need to make is that the Punch Bowl pub at Paglesham Churchend is now sadly closed and has become a private house of the same name. Another country pub lost, but at least this walk has another, passed either part way round, or at the start if like me you can’t wait for lunch.
It’s a remote part of Essex. The only person I met on the walk was the shrimp fisherman but it’s typical Essex coast, countryside and villages and well worth a visit. More information about Paglesham and colourful tales from its smuggling history can be read in Essex Coast Walk.