BOTH SIDES OF the Thames estuary offer some good walks and on the Essex bank there’s a promising-looking path going eastwards from Purfleet to Grays.
If you’re from London, it somehow seems natural to start nearer the city and work your way towards the sea, just as most people prefer the left-hand side of the bus when they sit upstairs. But the path is quite hard to find at the Purfleet end and you’re probably better off starting at Grays near the Wharf pub and heading westwards.
The path takes in a pragmatic, industrialised landscape which is under continual development. Few signs of the past remain, with the exception of St Clements church in Thurrock near the Riverside industrial estate. On the map below it’s to the right of the centre:
The church and its graveyard are tiny compared to the surrounding factory buildings owned by Procter & Gamble. The photo below shows only a small part of the setting. Out of view to the left is an enormous blue building of roughly cubic proportions. Behind are masts and powerlines.
During the week there’s constant noise from the factory and this makes the church appear unreal, like the island which materialises on the surface of Solaris:
Further upstream near Purfleet a gas freighter made an impressive rumbling while moored at a jetty. The children’s shouts were from a row of houses overlooking the estuary:
Yeah, yeah, industrial estate has to be one of the best song choruses ever and of course it’s by The Fall: