Benfleet Circular via Leigh on Sea walk

Hadleigh Castle, Leigh on Sea, and Benfleet Creek

Hadleigh Castle Benfleet Circular
Hadleigh Castle

Benfleet Circular

Sep-20 • moontiger on Flickr

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Creek -Two Tree Island Benfleet Circular
Creek -Two Tree Island

Benfleet Circular

Sep-20 • moontiger on Flickr

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Benfleet Creek Benfleet Circular
Benfleet Creek

Benfleet Circular

Sep-20 • moontiger on Flickr

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The City of London from Benfleet Benfleet Circular via Leigh on Sea walk
The City of London from Benfleet

Benfleet Circular via Leigh on Sea walk

Sep-18 • Saturdaywalker on Flickr

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The City of London from Benfleet Benfleet Circular via Leigh-on-Sea walk
The City of London from Benfleet

Benfleet Circular via Leigh-on-Sea walk

Sep-18 • Saturdaywalker on Flickr

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BEN 101
BEN 101

Feb-19 • newnumenor on Flickr

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BEN 102
BEN 102

Feb-19 • newnumenor on Flickr

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Main circular walk 15.2km (9.8m) (or a bit longer if you explore Leigh on Sea)

Short walk to Leigh 8.9km (5.6m)

Main circular walk with optional circuit of Two Tree Island 18.6km (11.6m)

Toughness Main circular walk 4/10; 244m ascent and descent. All the hills are before lunch; it is flat on the return leg to Benfleet. Short walk ending in Leigh 2/10. Main circular walk with circuit of Two Tree island – 4/10
Maps OS Landranger 1:50,000 – Map 178,Thames Estuary OS Explorer 1:25,000 - Map 175, Southend on Sea and Basildon

This Essex excursion is a companion walk to the short 5.6km (3.5m) Benfleet to Leigh-on-Sea amble along the Benfleet Creek shoreline which was devised to coincide with the Leigh-on-Sea folk festival and which usually takes place at the end of June. You can find more information about this walk here. Another related walk is SWC Walk 258, a Canvey Island circular starting and finishing at Benfleet Station, which is a flat walk of 23.2km (14.5m) essentially following the sea–wall around the island in an environment of tidal flats, marshes and sandbanks.

This day walk covers completely different territory: the higher ground north of the estuary and Canvey Island, and is a walk of contrasts. In the morning you go along narrow, grassy paths through the dense, hilly woodland of Benfleet Downs and Hadleigh Country Park. You visit the ruined Hadleigh Castle which is an excellent picnic spot and has superb views; on a clear day you can see all the way across Canvey Island to the Hoo Peninsula and the North Downs in Kent. You have lunch at Leigh-on-Sea, a town rapidly gentrifying with boutiques and up-market restaurants.

After lunch in Leigh-on-Sea you walk back to Benfleet along a wide track adjacent to Benfleet Creek with fine views of the flat open estuary waterscape and the hilly woods away to your right which you walked in the morning. You can also incorporate a circular walk of Two tree island which has fine bird-watching opportunities.

The undulating hills of Hadleigh Country Park were the venue for the mountain bike events in the 2012 London Olympics and there are a large network of bike trails of varying severity criss-crossing the area. But this walk uses “walkers only” paths and routes with just short and unavoidable stretches on bike trails.

This walk is best done from May to October. In winter, stretches of the narrow woodland paths are likely to be very muddy with some short sections quite tricky to navigate.

Walk options

Shortening the walk

You can just walk the morning section of the walk to Leigh-on-Sea (8.9km, 5.6m) and have lunch there and then spend the afternoon ambling around the interesting sea front area, shopping or relaxing on the small beach. You return to London from Leigh-on-Sea station.

If you do not want to walk the hilly morning section you can take the clearly signed estuary path from Benfleet Station to Leigh-on-Sea. This is the afternoon section of the main walk but in reverse and is completely flat. You essentially leave the station by its main exit/ entrance/ticket office and keep straight ahead in the same direction. This route is 6.3km (4m).

Lengthening the walk

The circuit of Two Tree island is recommended for bird-watching enthusiasts and adds 3km (1.9m) to the main walk. Information about walking a circular route on the island are in the main walk instructions.

Once you reach Leigh-on-Sea you may care to continue on the flat tarmac/hard surface seaside path/ promenade all the way to Southend or even beyond. There are intermediate stations on the way at Chalkwell and Westcliffe on Sea. Southend has numerous attractions including a mile long pier which has its own railway (or you can walk it.) These options could add 1 to 5+ miles to your morning route depending on how much walking and exploring you want to do.


Benfleet and the stations beyond it are served by the c2c service from London Fenchurch Street to Shoeburyness. Fenchurch Street station is not connected to the underground network but Tower Hill tube station on the Circle and District lines and is just 100m away. The nearby Tower Gateway station is served by the Docklands Light Railway.

Journey times can vary from 38mins to almost an hour depending on the route to Shoeburyness. Intermediate underground stations from which you can catch the train are West Ham (Jubilee and District lines) and Barking (the District and the Hammersmith and City Lines and the London Overground – Barking to Gospel Oak line.)

There are trains about every 10 mins on weekdays and a Saturday and about every 15 mins on a Sunday with about the same frequency for return trains to London Fenchurch Street.

If you are ending the walk in Leigh-on-Sea you will need to buy a day return to that station.

Suggested trains

Depending on the time of year you can pick a train that suits you best from say 9.30 am to 11.00 am.


If you are bringing sandwiches or a picnic then Hadleigh Castle is an ideal spot with fine views over the estuary and Canvey Island.


It is difficult to know where to begin as you are really spoilt for choice on the High Street which is just a few metres from the sea front.

Cockleshed No 1 (01702 474961) is the first place you come across as you arrive in Leigh. It opened in July 2022 and has not been tried out.

Your recommended pub (if you can get in; it’s very popular ) is the Crooked Billet (01702 480289), described as the best pub in Leigh. It is a traditional pub/restaurant with wooden floors providing real ales and “hearty pies”.

Opposite the Crooked Billet is Osborne Bros café which specilises in traditional sea foods like cockles and smoked eels.

  • Barge Gladys. SS7 1NF. 500m from Benfleet station. A converted barge on Hadleigh Ray (a creek), with outside tables. Quirky spot for a drink.

C2C, who runs trains on the London Fenchurch Street - Benfleet - Leigh-on-Sea - Southend-on-Sea - Shoeburyness line, have serveral obfuscated discounts.

  • Tickets on weekends are 20% cheaper ("super-off-peak"). Railcards give an extra 1/3 off.
  • Buy online from the C2C website (ony) 3 days in advance to get a 40% discount (makes a difference Mon-Fri when super-off-peak tickets aren't available). Railcards give an extra 1/3 off. Use on any train, but no refunds due to an admin charge if you don't go.
  • A Senior Rover (day pass) is £10 (£7 London Freedom Pass holders) for 65+
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By Train

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Back (not a train station)

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Start SS7 1NF Map Directions


National Rail: 03457 48 49 50 • Traveline (bus times): 0871 200 22 33 (12p/min) • TFL (London) : 0343 222 1234


Apr-24 PeterB Alexander

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Walk Directions

Full directions for this walk are in a PDF file (link above) which you can print, or download on to a Kindle, tablet, or smartphone.

This is just the introduction. This walk's detailed directions are in a PDF available from