Day 71: English Coastal Path

D71: TILBURY to DAGENHAM

Sunday 15th May 2022

Today miles: 16.7 Total miles: 1124.7

It’s first light around 4.30am and I’m off walking just after 5am. The path is dry so the forecasted thunder and heavy rain never actually appeared. I skirted around the border of Tilbury before heading slightly inland to avoid the working docks on the river. Fortunately for me there’s a 24/7 McDonalds takeaway restaurant on the Western edge of Tilbury and as the light rain started to fall I ordered myself some breakfast. An hour later I was again working my way along a couple of minor roads, eventually rejoining the coastal path near Grays. The next three miles is on the edge of heavy industry but there’s an obvious path and as long as I only looked to my left I enjoyed the views and the walking. There’s a high concrete sea wall and it’s covered with tasteful graffiti. Occasionally I’d stop and admire some of the more interesting and very up to date artwork.

I was due another short break so sat on the path just prior to the Queen Elizabeth II bridge, watching the ships moving up and down the Thames. It was still early on Sunday morning and I’ve hardly seen a soul in the last three hours. When I arrived at the Rainham Marshes visitors centre just before 9am I hung around for a few minutes before ordering myself yet another coffee. The place was packed full of enthusiastic twitchers and bird watchers all heavily laden with their huge telescopic lenses and tripods. The route through Rainham Marshes is also part of the London Loop walking route and is popular with both walkers and cyclists. The path in long sections is narrow with head high bushes on both sides and this caused me some frustration with the dozens of cyclists on the path. Every time, I’m the one expected to move out of their way. There’s a series of funny placards along the route and reading these helped to balance out my annoyance.

At the Western end of the marsh I head inland in order to avoid Dagenham Ford motor works. I also noticed a serious of about 14 concrete barges (there’s actually 16) embedded in the foreshore and I stood there puzzled by these seemingly pointless objects. These barges have been sat in the mud near Rainham since 1953 and before that they played a part in the D-Day landings during World War 2. Who would have guessed that cement floats.

My final destination for today is the Premier Inn in Dagenham. I walk along a minor road through several industrial estates, in midweek these roads would have been busy, but not today. It’s been raining lightly for the last two hours and it suddenly gets a lot heavier around 1pm. The final three miles for today is along the busy A1306 between Rainham and Dagenham. By the time I reach my hotel in Dagenham I’m soaked. It’s only 3.30pm and I probably could have carried on a little further however I’m going to be walking through the biggest and most populated city in the UK and didn’t really fancy wild camping. After taking care of a few chores and calling Gemma I was asleep before 9pm.

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