After breakfast we drove along the seafront to the pier. Southend claims to have the “longest pleasure pier in the world”. I’m not quite sure what the definition of a “pleasure pier” is, or indeed what was so pleasurable about Southend’s. That’s not to say we didn’t enjoy visiting it, but there was very little on the end of the pier, save a lifeboat museum and a small cafe.
The pier extends a little over 2km into the Thames Estuary. We took a train journey on the pier’s railway to a very windswept platform at its end and then sat in the cafe for 20 minutes and waited for the next train to take us back to shore.
From Southend we attempted to find Wakering Stairs and the Broomway. Our TomTom proved pretty useless with this and we eventually realised that our only way to get there would be to drive on to Ministry of Defence property.
Certainly on the day we were there, there was no public access. We instead just went to the East Beach at Shoeburyness, which is bordered on both ends by MOD sites: Shoeburyness artillary barracks to the south-west and Pig’s Bay to the north-east. From here we could see out across Maplin Sands and observe what was left of the boom built as a U-boat trap during the second world war.
After refuelling at a nearby branch of Sainsbury’s, we left Essex and drove into Suffolk. A couple of hours later, we arrived at Sizewell beach. As Alessandra made a phone call, I strolled some way up the beach alongside its two nuclear power stations.
Returning to the car park area, I found behind the refreshment cafe, a memorial to the 32 Dutch men who had tried to escape the Nazis by crossing the North Sea by kayak. The one living survivor had come ashore on this beach.
We then drove a little way up the coast to Dunwich. It was getting a little late but it was a lovely, sunny evening. We had a look at the ruins of Greyfriars monastery and walked through the gateway to the wooded area at the end. From here we took the pathway through what was left of the graveyard of All Saints: Dunwich’s last church to fall into the sea.
We ignored the signs warning us not to, and went and sat by the cliff edge. A sheer drop went down to a shingly beach and a very calm, blue North Sea. It was striking how calm the sea appeared, when we considered how it was gradually consuming so much of the land along this stretch of the coast.
Before driving to London, we stopped at Aldeburgh to sample its famous fish and chips, which we ate in the car before sitting for a short while on the seawall.