Las Vegas - Canvey Island

Las Vegas – Canvey Island

I had been inspired by Jonathan Meade’s documentary The Joy of Essex and as it was a dry bright day set off for Leigh on Sea. Leigh on Sea hadn’t featured on the film but its neighbour Hadleigh had so I planned to visit both. My approach to Essex was along the A13 and I soon found myself singing the old Billy Bragg song:

“If you ever have to go to Shoeburyness
Take the A road, the okay road that’s the best
Go motorin’ on the A13

If you’re looking for a thrill that’s new
Take in Fords, Dartford Tunnel and the river too
Go motorin’ on the A13.”

I fear that this distraction had drastic consequences. I found myself on the road to Canvey Island not Hadleigh. My companion thought we should plough on and reminded me of the Julien Temple film Oil City Confidential (2009) which celebrated cult 70s R & B band Dr Feelgood who were from Canvey. So potentially well worth a visit.
The sign post indicated the way to both the Sea Front and the Gas Storage Installation. My heart sank a little but we pressed on. One of the houses we passed had a full size flag pole with an enormous West Ham flag: a reminder of the east end heritage of the Islanders. On the way to the sea front we passed St Katherine’s Church which is now the Heritage Centre. It reminded me that it is the 60th anniversary of the 1953 floods which killed over 300 people of which 58 were from Canvey.

Concord Beech - Canvey Island

Concord Beech – Canvey Island

At last we arrived at the sea front and I was most indignant to find that I had to pay 50p parking fee for 30 minutes. I really did think that the local council should be offering incentives to tourists. There are some amusement arcades which always look so sad in the winter months. However, I found my spirits lifting when I climbed the sea defenses and had my first views of the estuary. You can’t fail to be affected by the remote and somber landscape.

Canvey Island
There were several people about but mostly dog walkers. I was struck that there was a lack of bins for dog waste which meant that you had to be careful where you tread. A warning notice did point out the impact of “wash” from passing ships so perhaps the waste is eventually taken out to sea. The Labworth Cafe which is on the promenade is a great 30s Grade 11 listed building. It was designed and built by Ove Arup, who was involved with the design and construction of the Sydney Opera House and the penguin pool at London Zoo. Would I go back? Probably not but I am pleased to have been.

Labworth Cafe

Labworth Cafe