Description & Map
Distance: 6½ miles
This walk begins near East Tilbury Rail Station, and heads east along the outskirts of the town, then across the marshes before heading south along the riverside to the Coalhouse Fort.
From there it goes west over farmland, then north and east back to the town.
A. From the parking (P), head north up towards the station and turn right on the footpath alongside Gobions Park, going through a kissing gate onto the grassy track that runs between the playing fields and the houses (1).
B. At the end of the houses, the track bends left then right around a small copse before continuing east through a shrubby area (2). After crossing a small stream the track turns right in front of the landfill site boundary fence.
C. The path continues southwards between the fence and the stream for about 400 yards before bearing left. From this point on you begin to get good views across the marshes to the sea wall. Continue heading east until you reach the sea wall.
D. Cross the sea wall using the ladder provided (3) (or there is an easier crossing point about 50 yards to the left of the ladder) and take in the views across the mud flats to Coryton oil refinery. Despite the industrialisation of this part of the coast, the mud flats are an important resource for indigenous and migratory birds.
E. Turn right, away from the oil refinery, and walk along the sea wall (4). You have wonderful views of the mud flats to your left, the busy Thames, and the hills of Kent in the distance.
F. After about a mile the sea wall turns inland leaving a larger marshy area between the wall and the river (5). Stay on the sea wall.
G. Head straight across over the ramp continuing on the sea wall until you come to the grounds of the Coalhouse Fort itself (6). The grounds are open and you can walk through as you choose: we took the path on the mowed grass inside the lake, where there is often a good view of freighters moving up and down the Thames (7).
H. Head back north up the road until you come to St Catherine's Church (8). Opposite the church is public footpath 200 heading west across a field (9).
I. Follow this path until you come to a slight rise, where the footpath is crossed by a farmtrack. Go straight across the farmtrack, heading slightly downhill towards a tall concrete wall you can see in the distance (10). The terrain is more overgrown here although the path is still clear.
From here until you reach Station Road (M.), the signage is either missing or plain confusing. It is also impossible to follow the exact route of the Ordnance Survey marked footpath due to overgrowth. Follow these instructions and you'll find the way through.
J. Just before you reach the wall the path turns right up the slope, circuiting the end of the wall and then descends back down onto valley floor (11). After about 50 yards the valley opens out into a field traversed by telegraph poles: this is roughly level with the marshland on the edge of the estuary. Follow the southern field edge on the left (12).
K. At the far bottom corner of the field is a gap in the hedge and a ditch. Cross the ditch and you will find a well maintained path between hedges (13).
L. Continue along this for about half a mile until you come to a farm track (14). Bear right into the shrubbery to find another grassy path between hedges, parallel with the farm track heading north west. This rejoins the official public footpath and emerges back onto the farm track by some metal gates (15). Go around the gates on the right hand side and continue on the track until it meets the corner of the main road (Station Road).
M. On the road, carry straight on for about a quarter of a mile to the junction with Love Lane. Just before this junction there is a bridleway (No. 58) on the left, adjacent to a house: follow this (16).
N. This bridleway starts off as a green lane called Coal Road then becomes field side track: follow the signs across a field and then along the field edge with the hedge on your left, until you come to the level crossing. You will see the abandoned Bata factory on the right (17), and Tilbury Power Station on the left.
O. Once across the railway line, follow the bridleway signs across the field towards the electricity pylons. As you go under the second line of wires you will pass right by the pylon. The bridleway turns left here but there is a permissive path straight on (north) towards a small hedge, with a white house in the distance; take this (18).
P. When you reach the start of the hedge turn right on FP 61, going under the overhead power lines, following the line between two fields towards a gap between the houses (19).
Q. This gap takes you into Beechroft Avenue: cross the road and bear right into Stenning Avenue and continue until you see an alleyway on your right (20) which takes you to East Tilbury Station entrance. Turn left away from the station to the automated crossing gates on Princess Margaret Road, cross over the crossing and head back south to the parking.
East Tilbury was the home of the British Bata Shoe Company. In 1933 the first Bata building was opened by Czech entrepreneur, Tomas Bata, who also built a housing estate and provided funds for the construction of East Tilbury Station.
It had everything a normal town had: over 350 houses, cinema, restaurant, sports facilities, garage, a farm, memorial garden, grocers, butcher, post office, and, of course, shoe shop - except that everything was owned by Bata.
Life in Bata-world seems to have been a cross between a holiday camp and a prison camp.
The town had its own newspaper, and there were activities and facilities galore, but beneath it all was an almost cult-like corporate philosophy. And of course, if you lost your job, you lost your house too.
Bata may never have intended that the houses should look like shoeboxes, but they certainly do. You'll see these uniform cube-shaped, beige and cream pebble-dash dwellings with flat roofs and there's no escaping the fact that they demonstrate a distinct eastern European influence. Architecturally, the Bata complex is an example of the "modern movement" style. The Thames Gateway Development project in East Tilbury and Linford proposes to bring thousands of new homes to the area, but the much of Bata complex will be preserved under conservation orders.
Coalhouse Fort is a Victorian coastal defence fort set in parkland next to the river Thames at East Tilbury, Essex, completed in 1874, to defend the approaches to London from the threat of French invasion.
Defence of this part of the Thames dates back to Iron age earth fortifications, and to Henry VIII who ordered brick blockhouses to be built at Coalhouse Point and on the Kent shore in case of papal invasion.
The importance of the fort in defending the country continued through Napoleonic times and into the two world wars.
Known as a 'Palmerston Fort', the design consists of an arc of granite-faced gun casemates with iron shields and an open battery. The rear of the fort consists of barracks. The magazines are on the basement level, directly beneath the guns they served. Two ditches, the inner one defended by caponiers, would have allowed troops to defend the fort from direct attack.
In the Second World War, the Fort was equipped with anti-aircraft guns to defend London against aerial attack. It also checked the magnetic field defences of passing ships ('degaussing') to guard against German magnetic mines. Bowater's Farm (1,500 yards WNW of Coalhouse Fort) was also developed as major AA gun site originally with 4 x 3.7 inch guns, then later 4 x 5.5 inch dual purpose guns which could be used in an AA role or for coastal defence.