Posted by: Ross Gardner | May 31, 2018

Closer to home

Mention the southern reaches of Essex along the north bank of the Thames Estuary and most folks will not be inclined to picture wide open spaces, filled with woods, flowery grassland, bird-busy scrub and teeming marshlands.  It is perhaps, on glancing at the map, the urban spread of Southend and Benfleet, Canvey and Basildon that dominate the scene.  True enough, they are sizeable towns with plenty of people, but those grasslands, marshes and other wildlife rich habitats cut a swathe amid the concrete.

Together the Hadleigh and Benfleet Downs, Bowers and West Canvey Marshes and those of Vange and Fobbing beyond comprise a huge area of open country.  One may walk for miles – easily seven or eight, much further if you wish – and barely put a foot on the road.  This is just what occupied me for a day last Saturday.  It was a barmy, beautiful day, yet I could almost have counted the people I met on one hand.

I sometimes decry the increasingly crowded nature of the place I have grown up and still live and the apparent indifference that some people seem to have for the world beyond their bubble.  But such opportunities as offered by the wild places on my doorstep is one I can never take for granted.  My minor indignations would be a paradise to others in some parts of the world and indeed also my own country.  One must keep ones complaints in perspective.

While some reading this won’t recognise the place names mentioned above, I am quite sure they represent for many a familiar state of affairs.  Another could list places I don’t recognise, but what they would mean for them is something I know and cherish.  Somewhere which I hope, which I’m sure, are cherished by others.

Some images from my walk.

Wall Brown 3(scaled)

Wall Brown (Lasiommata megera)

Hadleigh Marsh (scaled) (3)

A weed-filled dyke on Hadleigh Marsh – spot the Grey Heron and Mallard.

Broad-bodied Chaser - head on (scaled)

An alternative view of the Broad-bodied Chaser (Libellula depressa), one of the year’s earlier dragonflies.

Yellow Rattle - mass (scaled)

Yellow Rattle (Rhinanthus minor) en masse.


  1. Greetings from NYC! For the first 35 years of my life I was a regular walker of the estuary, mainly between Tilbury and Pitsea, but my boots have sunk into the mud all the way along north bank of the Thames. Thanks for this post which takes me back to this familiar landscape. Not perfect, not pristine but it has its own beauty and has provided me with some extraordinary wildlife encounters.

    • From Pitsea to New York! A fair journey that one. It’s great to hear that this Essex ‘wilderness’ is one not forgotten over both time and place. Many thanks. Superb hummingbird pics, by the way.

      • Thank you, Ross!

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