Southminster via Battlesbridge
SOUTH WOODHAM FERRERS is almost other-worldly, epitomising all that the Essex Design Guide had to say about the use of traditional materials and regional styles. Building began in 1976, which makes it one of the more recent attempts to create a planned new town instead of a rash of new developments. Everything has steep pitched roofs and eaves, and banks resemble barns. The William de Ferrers school doubles as a public library, and a new community centre, Champion Manor Hall, is home to a variety of clubs and societies. Planning regulations are tough; you are not allowed to park a caravan outside the front of your house. The Round Table and other similar organisations are strong in a place where people were once all newcomers together, forging links for the first time. The town has grown up, and the place that was once inhabited entirely by thirty-somethings who were all relatively well-off and wrinkle-free, now has much more of a mix of ages and income brackets. One-bedroom houses start at £115,000, four-bedroom detached houses at £215,000 to £475,000. The Marsh Farm Country Park provides 350 acres of reclaimed marshland in which to walk the dog and the shopping development offers retail therapy.
At North Fambridge you enter yachting country. It has a post office and a general store and is encircled by small new estates. A typical large four-bedroom detached house will cost £260,000 to £595,000. Althorne is a tiny hamlet, one-and-a- half miles from its station on the river. It is mostly modern, with a post office-cum-shop, a pub, the Ferryboat Inn, and home-produced beef available from Althorne Beef. A semi here costs £165,000 upwards, a bungalow £190,000 and a detached house £375,000 to £595,000. Burnham-on-Crouch is the yachting capital of the Dengie peninsula, known as the pearl or the Cowes of the east coast. There are four yacht clubs. Burnham Week has been the highlight of the local sailing calendar for more than a century and attracts hundreds of yachts and thousands of visitors every year. The town has a mix of Victorian, Georgian and classic Essex weatherboarded cottages, and a huge modern complex of flats built on the quay, popular with weekenders who want long lonely walks. Overlooking the river you could expect to spend £315,000 for four bedrooms; a studio will go for £120,000. An older two-bedroom cottage could be had for £125,000. The Limes Farm Shop is the place to go for locally grown fruit and veg; The Secret Burchers Shop for locally reared meats and the speciality Burnham banger.
Southminster suddenly seems remote at the end of the line, and house prices dip accordingly. It is a close farming community on the very edge of the marshes that stretch timelessly into the North Sea. A three-bedroom semi here would cost £160,000. A Grade II listed farmhouse on over an acre of land would be upwards of £450,000. Southminster has its own primary school, cricket and football teams, and operatic and choral and society. Local delicacies which can be bought from Thorogood & Sons farm include hand-picked asparagus, or home reared lamb and beef from Steeple Gate family farm. Tillingham, to the north, is the archetypal Essex village with weatherboarded cottages, a green, a church, a pub and a farm which has a weekly box scheme supplying organic vegetables to the residents of the Dengie Peninsular. A two-bedroom cottage in a terrace starts at £130,000; a detached house in mature gardens would cost £350,000. Still within reach of Southminster station is Bradwell-on-Sea. It has a good collection of cottages, and Bradwell Lodge, a Georgian house near the Blackwater with internal decorations by Robert Adam, where Erskine Childers wrote The Riddle of the Sands. The ancient chapel of St-Peter’s-on-the-Wall, built in 654, is the focus of the annual Bradwell Pilgrimage in July. You can walk 12 miles along the sea wall from here without meeting a soul. Close by is a marina and bird reserve. The nuclear power station has been decommissioned, but there are plans for a wind farm of 10 turbines.