Benfleet Circular via Leigh on Sea walk

Hadleigh Castle, Leigh on Sea, and Benfleet Creek


This is a list of previous times this walk has been done by the club (since Jan 2010). For more recent events (since April 2015), full details are shown.

Date Post # Weather
Sun, 20-Jun-21 Sunday Walk: Benfleet Circular 3 dry overcast with occasional sun
Sun, 06-Sep-20 Benfleet Circular and more... 7 sun cloud sun cloud sun dry sometimes hot
Mon, 24-Sep-18 Monday Night Special Harvest Moon Walk to Leigh-on-Sea 6 clear skies followed by bright moonlight
Sun, 23-Apr-17 Sunday Walk - Adventures along the Essex Coast 14 dry with some sunny periods but a cool breeze
Sun, 20-Jun-21
Sunday Walk: Benfleet Circular

Main circular walk 15.2km (9.8m) or with optional circuit of Two Tree Island 18.6km (11.6m)..
Difficulty: 4 out of 10
Sadly, no Leigh Folk Festival this month, thanks to some crumby virus. But that doesn’t stop us doing the Benfleet Circular. The morning takes us through the dense, hilly woodland of Benfleet Downs and Hadleigh Country Park. It's possible to finish early at Leigh on Sea (trains at xx:11 xx:41) but, to complete the circular walk, we head back alongside Benfleet Creek with fine views of the estuary and an optional circuit of Two Tree Island nature reserve.

Trains Get the 09:45 Shoeburyness train from Liverpool Street Station, getting to Benfleet at 10:33. A return to Benfleet will do you. Leigh-on-Sea, one stop further, is the same price ( the “on-sea” bit is important). Trains return from Benfleet at xx:17 and xx:47

Covid restrictions may impact - consider bringing a picnic and water. The walk visits Hadleigh Castle on the way to Leigh, a good spot for a picnic with superb views.
Leigh-on-Sea has at least three pubs (The Crooked Billet 01702 480289, The Peterboat 01702 475666 and Ye Olde Smack 01702 476765), a teashop, and seafood places, all along the waterfront.

Tea: Two possible tea stops.
Barge Gladys (don’t, she’s a big girl) (last year's joke but worth repeating). It is a pub on a boat - with an onshore seating area. Cash only. Nearer the station, you'll find The Hoy and Helmet tel: 01268792307.

Directions for Benfleet Circular are here
(Another option would be to continue east from Leigh-on-Sea to Southend, Shoeburyness or one of several nearer stations, following these additional directions. Trains back are half-hourly. Your return ticket will cost slightly more).

Covid-19 Compliance: please note the current guidance on this website and observe social distancing. Please sign up for this walk in advance if you can, using the London Walkers User Group site. (This saves time collecting contact details). Otherwise bring a piece of paper with your email address on it, which will be put in an envelope and accessed if needed for contact tracing. To report a Covid case after this walk, use


  • 21-Jun-21

    3 today. The weather was better than predicted dry overcast with occasional sun So no water from above but plenty from below, off the wet vegetation that encroached on the narrower stretches. As one wag put it “No folk festival but at least we can have a soak festival” How we laughed. The brambles were making an earnest bid for new territory but it didn’t stop us. Nor did the occasional slippery bit. I was slightly miffed that the official route descends to railway level before climbing back to the castle. Last year, when we were a bit lost, we eventually found our way to the castle without this extra ascent. Still, it’s exercise innit.

    We didn’t stop long at the castle, instead making for the Crooked Billet in Leigh where service was organised with almost military precision. My co-walkers ordered food. I grudgingly ordered some soup - a rare event. It was fine as was the view over the estuary mud.

    Then back along to Benfleet, incorporating a visit to Two Tree Island. Last year, I remember the eastern half as being ‘quite interesting’. This year, we did the western half, which I found ‘a bit dull’. Nothing to look at, just plants and stuff. Then back to the mainland noticing egrets on the island lagoon as we passed it. Then to Barge Gladys which made a pleasant and timely end to the day.

  • Sandy

    Nature notes - on the way from Hadleigh Castle to Leigh we walked through a big field of wheat mixed with rye-grass - is this a normal practice? The boring plants on the island included salsify, salad burnet (and a burnet moth - or was that somewhere else?), fennel and loads of a familiar thing which I had a mental blank about but later established were wild parsnips.

  • 21-Jun-21

    We saw the moth on the raised path just after Leigh station

Sun, 06-Sep-20
Benfleet Circular and more...
Benfleet Circular 9.8 miles / Benfleet to Leigh, 5.6 miles
Difficulty: 4 out of 10
The first half of the Benfleet Circular takes you to Leigh on Sea. You visit Hadleigh Castle on the way (a good spot for a picnic).
Leigh-on-Sea has at least three pubs – and some seafood places – along the waterfront: The Crooked Billet 01702 480289, The Peterboat 01702 475666, Ye Olde Smack 01702 476765. Covid restrictions will apply and you may need to book. Best to think picnic then you won’t be disappointed. Carry some water.
From Leigh-on-Sea, you have three choices -
1. Follow the Circular back to Benfleet .There are two possible tea stops en route, Barge Gladys (don’t, she’s a big girl) and the Hoy and Helmet tel: 01268792307. Trains leave Benfleet at xx:01 and xx:31
2. Catch a train home from Leigh on Sea (xx:26 xx:56).
3. You could also continue along the shoreline as far as Southend or Shoeburyness (a further 7.8 ml – with intermediate stations if you start flagging. Not that an SWC walker would EVER admit to flagging). Be aware, though, that there’s a replacement bus service beyond Leigh-on-Sea today. Return from: Chalkwell xx:44 and 14, Westcliff xx: 38 and 08, Southend Central xx:30 and 00, Southend East xx:53 and 23, Thorpe Bay xx:47 and 17, Shoeburyness xx:40 and 10. Change from the brmm-brmm to a chuff-chuff at Leigh-on-Sea.
Southend boasts the longest pier in the world, so if your happy feet just can't stop walking and you have a quid or two to spare, why not walk the 1.3 miles out and 1.3 miles back. There's a caff at the end and there's even a little train for those with tired tootsies.
Trains Get the 09:55 Leigh-on-Sea train from Fenchurch Street Station getting to Benfleet at 10:39. (The back entrance to Fenchurch station is not far from Tower Hill underground - follow the signs. This map shows other connections).
A return to Leigh-on-Sea (specify “on-Sea”) is the same price as Benfleet and would cover you for both stations. If you're intending to walk further, get the appropriate return. If unsure, Shoeburyness is the furthest stop.
Benfleet Circular
Leigh-on-Sea to Shoeburyness
COVID: See Covid rules at top of “this weeks walks” page.
** CONTACT TRACING: be prepared to share your name and contact details with those you walk with. Bring a pen and paper for this purpose. *** Be sure to take the contact details of the contact-taker if one is nominated. Keep your distance. T=swc.268
  • Anonymous

    I did this walk back in June, it is a very nice walk, highly recommended.

  • 04-Sep-20

    I hope to do the Berwick walk


  • 06-Sep-20

    4 at the station, one of whom had already walked from Leigh. Weather was sun cloud sun cloud sun dry sometimes hot We more or less stuck to the circular directions. (I say "more or less" because we saw a bit more of the Essex Alps than the directions required). We weren’t lost or anything. We knew exactly where the castle was. It’s just it wasn’t where we were. Eventually it showed itself but, by then, it was just a pile of stones. After a picnic in the remains, we headed for Leigh. No interest was expressed in exploring the old town (except, maybe, by one), so its fabled hostelries were deprived of our custom :( No, we set off on the return leg, squeezing in a circuit of Two Tree Island on the way. One of our number was not as thorough about this circuit as the others. He was discovered later at Barge Gladys clutching a well-earned pint of cider. (n.b. cash only). It was declared "A Grand Day Out". Two Tree Island was declared "Worth a Look".

  • Anonymous

    I caught the hour later train, met up with two other people who had a lie in. Lovely walk, we took the low route along the estuary edge, crab rolls at Leigh on Sea, a swim and walked to Chalkwell for ice cream and chatted to dog owners, watched salsa practice, and then back again. Very good day out had by all, thanks for posting Moon Tiger,


  • 07-Sep-20


Mon, 24-Sep-18
Monday Night Special Harvest Moon Walk to Leigh-on-Sea
Distance: 5.6 miles or 8.9 km for those more metrically minded T=SWC.268

Difficulty: 2 out of 10

Train: 17:31 Shoeburyness train from London Fenchurch St. Station, arriving Benfleet at 18:12 – buy a day return to Leigh-on-Sea

Return: Trains back from Leigh-on-Sea are at: 20:33; 21:03; 21:33; 22:03; 22:12; 22:42 and 23:03

Another “transitional shoulder-season” evening stroll, but rather than a sunset, this evening the hope is to watch a Harvest Moon rise near where the Thames meets the sea on the way to Leigh-on-Sea…You may wonder why the walk is on Monday when the full moon is on Tuesday --- the reason being that the full moon is technically during the wee hours of Tuesday morning, meaning that it will rise almost 20 minutes earlier on Monday than Tuesday… better for an evening walk. It should take about 2 hours to walk to Leigh-on-Sea – so time to have a meal in one if its many pubs before heading back to London. More information about the route can be found here.

Ps: You may want to bring a head torch…but, hopefully, the moon will provide enough light on a straight forward route largely across open terrain…
  • 25-Sep-18

    5 hardy souls managed to disengage themselves from the commuter masses disembarking at Benfleet from an extraordinarily overcrowded train to be met with 1 more waiting on the platform for a total of 6 for this evening outing under clear skies followed by bright moonlight . Some were surprised as we almost immediately launched up a steep hill (yes, in Essex) and towards the top of the hill crossing a field we were rewarded with a great view of Canary Wharf, the Shard and the City of London silhouetted against the red sky of the setting sun. Onward we went through some woods to finally emerge at the top of the hill with the large yellow globe of the rising moon ahead (really breath taking). The route then took as back down the hill and along the valley where we also admired Mars, Jupiter and Saturn before re-ascending to the ruins of Hadleigh Castle atmospherically illuminated in the moonlight. The moon provided ample light on the final descent to Leigh-on-Sea -- some complaining that it was almost too bright to see....We had a pleasant meal at the Crooked Billet before catching the 22:12 back to London.

Sun, 23-Apr-17
Sunday Walk - Adventures along the Essex Coast
SWC Walk 268 Benfleet circular via Leigh on Sea
Length 15.2km (9.8m); toughness 4/10.
You can add 2 miles to the length of the walk by doing a circuit of Two Tree island for a spot of birdwatching. For a shorter walk you can end in Leigh on Sea (8.9km , 5.6m)
Note: London Fenchurch Street is just 100m from Tower Hill tube station.

London Fenchurch Street 09.55 arrives Benfleet at 10.39. You can pick up this train at West Ham ( District and Jubilee Line) at 10.04 or Barking (London Overground, District Line) at 10.10.
Trains back from Benfleet to London Fenchurch Street at 01 and 31 past the hour.
If you decide to end the walk in Leigh on Sea you will need to buy a day return ticket for that station.
In the past this walk has been posted to coincide with the Leigh on Sea folk festival at the end of June but with dry weather forecast it makes a fine Spring outing with hopefully some wild flowers and butterflies to be seen. It 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.
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. This walk however uses “walkers only” paths and routes with just short and unavoidable stretches on bike trails.
Lunch and tea
You have lunch at Leigh on Sea; a town rapidly gentrifying with boutiques and up-market restaurants. There are many pub lunch options in its High Street – see pdf for details. Near Benfleet there is the Barge Gladys a quirky spot for refreshments before heading to the station.
See here for further information about the walk and click on the pdf tab for detailed walk instructions.t=swc.268
  • 20-Apr-17

    Now I might do the Walk on Sunday. But I can't Guarantee I will.

  • 23-Apr-17

    14 off the train at Benfleet with a number of people visting the area for the first time and who were pleasantly surprised by the woodland hillside trails and superb views of Canvey Island and beyond to Kent. We reached the ruined Hadleigh Castle a little too early for a picnic lunch so we all pressed on to Leigh on Sea. Here the group split up taking lunch in any of half a dozen available inns and restaurants with some lingering to explore the town and two walking on to Southend.

    Three of us set off on the estuary path back to Benfleet enjoying the views of the estuary mud-flats with a very low tide. We stopped to have tea at the Barge Gladys before catching the 16.01 train.

    I hope all the others enjoyed their day out - there wqere rumours that one or two people were going to do the circuit of two tree island. the weather was splendid throughout dry with some sunny periods but a cool breeze . Its a pity it was not warmer because there were lots of spring flowers including bluebells and even one or two butterflies.

  • Anonymous

    At least 9 others stopped for drinks in Leigh-On-Sea before heading off around Two Tree Island, where we stopped in the hides for a little while to watch Oyster Catchers and other birds. From there, we strolled on to Benfleet, stopping for a drink at Barge Gladys before getting the later train. Thanks, PeteB for a nice day out.