This morning I decided to go for a stroll around my neigbourhood – Westcliff and Southend in Essex. I wanted some air, some exercise and to see how some local construction work was going and I though I’d be an hour or so. In practice I was out for over three very enjoyable hours.
I took my camera with me and came back with nearly 250 photographs. A selection of the better ones can be found on my picasa website and a few are included below to illustrate some of the places I visited.
My first stop was Cuckoo Corner roundabout [map]. Birse Civil Engineering [website]are currently remodelling the roundabout for Southend Borough Council [website] to reduce congestion. Work seems to be focussed on widening Priory Crescent at the moment. The project is one of four being carried out under the banner of ‘Better Southend’ [website].
Earlier in the year protestors from SKIPP [website] took up residence on a plot of land in Priory Crescent and tied yellow ribbons to just about every tree they could find. They were saying that SBC had gone back on their word and were going to cut down a great many trees in the adjacent – and beautiful – Priory Park [map].
Time has prooven how misguided the protestors were in their actions as none of the trees in the park have been touched and only a handful of trees in the crescent had to be felled. None of the character of this corner of the park has been lost and the remodelled roundabout will undoubtedly improve traffic flow.
From the park I walked up Victoria Avenue past Southed Football Club’s [website] Roots Hall home ground [map] on the right (SFC aren’t doing too well at the moment) and St Mary’s CofE church [map] on the left to Churchill Gardens.
Churchill Gardens [map] [website] is a hidden gem in Southend to which most motorists driving into Southend along Victoria Avenue would be completely oblivious. The gardens are quite small and reside in a tree lined ravine (yes ravine) that is barely 100′ wide and maybe 500′ long but up to 30′ deep.
A stream runs throught he middle through various small ponds and over small waterfalls and many interesting plants and trees have been planted. The gardens have been cleverly laid out and form a tranquil backwater from the busy areas above.
The gardens are popular by couples getting married at the nearby council registry offices for their wedding photographs. If you have never been to the gardens then they are well worth a visit.
From the gardens I carried on down Victoria Avenue toward the town centre. I popped in to the central library [map] to make use of their facilities. It is an excellent library and has the central museum and planetarium next door. Both are next door to Southend Central train station [map] – one of the two mainline routes / stations that serve Southend.
Southend Central station is right next to Victoria Circus roundabout [map] where another ‘Better Southend’ project is being carried out by civil engineering contractor Carillion Civil Engineering [website]. The area – being rebranded as Victoria Gateway – is being remodelled to change the current roundabout into a single traffic controlled juntion. In this isnstance the work is being done primarily to reduce the space taken up by the highway and to increase the area given over to public spaces.
Work appears to be moving along nicely and being carried out in all parts of the area. The underpass known as the ‘Deeping’ has been closed and filled and many of the new kerblines are in allowing visitors to see just how much pedestrian space is going to be created by the scheme.
From Victoria Circus I walked from one end of the high street to the other. The town centre was very busy – partly I’m sure because it was such a nice sunny day – and the market stalls added some extra colour. At the Cornish Pasty shop in the high street I purchased a delicious spinich and feta pasty for my lunch which I consumed on a bench behind the Royals Shopping Centre looking out over Southend’s historic Pier.
Southend Pier [website] [map] is the longest in the world at 1.25 miles and includes a narrow gauge railway for visitors who cannot manage the walk.
After my lunch I visited the relatively new observation tower [map] near the pier which gives great view of Southend’s seafront, the pier, and Adventure Island [website] where thrill seekers can scare themselves witless on the various rides. Also visible is the newly renovated Grand Hotel that has a comanding position above the seafront. The building has reopened as the Park Inn Grand Hotel [website] and includes penthouse apartments on the upper floors.
From the tower I also had a good view of the ongoing works to re-model the Western Esplanade. This is the third of the four Better Southend projects and aims to reduce the space taken up by cars and so increase the area for pedestrians. This scheme is know as Southend City Beach and the work is also being carried out by Carillion Civil Engineering.
From the observation tower I strolled around the area taking more photographs including some B&W photos looking down the pier (I very much like B&W photography at the moment) before heading west along the seafront towards Chalkwell. The tide was high (very) and combined with the amazing sky made the views over the estuary particularly impressive hence the large number of photographs in colour and B&W.
Halfway along the seafront are some highly recommended restaurants in the arches under the cliffs [map]. A soft top Lamborgini Guiado parked outside was drawing a fair amount of attention!
Rain was heading in by now so it was time to head back home which was only a twenty minute stroll from the seafront. Halfway there the heavens opened which necessitated we sheltereing under a tree for ten minutes or so. This did lead to an interesting photo of the rain in the bright sunshine.
A short stroll found me back in my road which – from the photo below – looks quite pleasant. The houses (including ours) are mainly terraces built in around 1900 and as such are full of character, and the streets are lined with semi mature trees.
The main issues that have worsened since we moved in a decade ago are the parking – partly as many of the houses have been converted into flats which has increased the number of cars – and the dog excrement on the pavements – which is a very big issue and the one thing that makes me want to move from the area. I wish dog owners were more responsible and that our council would do more to stop it and do more to keep the streets clear of it.
I thoroughly enjoyed my stroll around my neighborhood – something I don’t do very often just for pleasure – and I have made a mental note to do it more often. Southend has some great parks and seafront and is well worth a visit if you have never been here.