Discover Leigh-on-Sea through the eyes of a local
A forty minute train ride direct to the bustling centre of London brings you to the recently voted ‘happiest place to live in Britain.’ This is my home town of Leigh on Sea, and as its name suggests, it lies on the Thames Estuary – a part of the south coast where the river joins the sea. Whilst I love to travel and explore other towns and countries, Leigh holds a special place in my heart, as it is where I was born and where I continue to live.
It has become hugely popular in recent years, with more and more people moving to enjoy both it’s old world charm and it’s proximity to the sea. And yet, it has kept its character – the Old Town still harbours the traditional fleet of cockle boats, and it’s cobbled streets and cafes are as inviting as they ever were.
It’s home to many festivals including the Leigh Folk Festival, (the largest free folk festival in Britain,) the Leigh Regatta, the Maritime Festival and is an excellent base for Village Green – an annual arts and music event that is held in nearby Chalkwell Park. All year round there are local events and exciting things to do.
Things to do
You can swim here when the tide is in, or you can follow the sea as it rolls itself back like a quilt to reveal the surreal landscape of the mudflats themselves – your toes sinking into the cool mud.
The shallow waters make this area a haven for kite and wind surfers and sea swimmers.
Just next to the Old Town, you’ll find the Two Tree Island Nature Reserve. Split into two sites, both are popular with bird watchers. The western side has a bird sanctuary which can be viewed from a hide as well as from the seawall. The eastern side is quieter and ends with nice views over the Leigh foreshore.
You can walk for miles from Leigh’s sea front – the area’s mainly sandy beaches lead up to Leigh’s bigger and brasher cousin – Southend on Sea, with its 2km long pier. If you don’t want to walk to its tip, there’s a train that’ll take you to the end, from where you’ll enjoy great views and perhaps a cup of tea.
From Leigh, you can also see the remains of Hadleigh Castle. Built in the 13th century, this picturesque ruin with its spectacular views over the estuary makes an ideal location for a picnic and there are tea rooms just behind it if you forgot to pack your lunch. It forms park of a country park and so is great for walking. As it was the site of the 2012 Olympic Mountain Biking event, it also has a number of both easy and challenging bike courses for you to try.
Where to eat
Just above Leigh Old Town, you’ll find Leigh High Street with its restaurants, pubs and small niche shops. It’s here that the Leigh Art Trail takes place each June.
The local delicacies of cockles, (a small local shellfish) and samphire, (a succulent marshland plant rather like baby asparagus,) are said to be the finest in southern England and you can taste them for yourself as you sit on the seawall with an ale or glass of wine and watch the bird life wading on the mudflats.
Our own home is peaceful yet close to the centre of Leigh-on-Sea, with the beach just a 15 minute from our door. We’re lucky enough to have a beach hut, which is sometimes available as part of a swap, as are our bikes.
With London Southend Airport just a 10-minute drive from our home, and with it’s 30 European routes and adjacent mainline train station, this little corner of Britain has become a natural gateway to Europe.
We love to welcome people to our home and love the trust and friendliness that this house swapping community fosters and I’ve come to appreciate my hometown even more by seeing it through the eyes of our guest.