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Althorne to Burnham Circular

2nd February 2018


Distance Time Elevation in meters

Gain Loss Min Max
24.32 5H41 5H10 98 98 1 48



This was an interesting walk on the opposite side of the River Crouch when compared with the Roach Valley Way walk that we did to Canewdon on 12th January. The weather on the two walks was not dissimilar; overcast, windy and some rain late afternoon. The terrain was similar as well, being a bit muddy underfoot. It would be nice to repeat both walks in the summer when it is warmer and when the footpaths are not so muddy.


Walks either side of the River Crouch



We started in Althorne at Glenn's house and walked a few hundred yards westward along the B1010 towards North Fambridge. This is a surprisingly busy road with narrow footpaths, so care has to be taken here. The first 'pointers' are the signpost to Althorne Station and the War memorial on the left hand side of the road.



Glenn drew my attention to two names on the war memorial plaque, those of the Spencer-Smith brothers.
(information below courtesy of www.roll-of-honour.com)

Charles Owen Spencer-Smith: Captain, 16th (County of London) Battalion (Queen's Westminster Rifles), London Regiment attached 21st Battalion, King's Royal Rifle Corps. Died of wounds 3rd August 1917. Aged 37. Son of Charles Spencer-Smith, of The Dower House, Woldhurstlea, Ifield, Sussex. Buried in GODEWAERSVELDE BRITISH CEMETERY, Nord, France. Plot I. Row C. Grave 13.

Martin Spencer-Smith:Second Lieutenant, 1st/16th (County of London) Battalion (Queen's Westminster Rifles). Killed in action 10th September 1916. No known grave. Commemorated on THIEPVAL MEMORIAL, Somme, France. Pier and Face 13 C.

What is not shown on this war memorial was the death of the third brother, Arnold Patrick Spencer-Smith in 1916. He was a British clergyman and amateur photographer who joined Sir Ernest Shackleton's Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, 1914–17, as Chaplain and photographer on the Ross Sea party. The hardship of the expedition resulted in Spencer-Smith's death at the age of 33. Cape Spencer-Smith on White Island at 78°00′S 167°27′E is named in his honour.

It is unclear how he came to join the expedition. One version is that he had wanted to enlist in the army at the outbreak of war, but as a clergyman was barred from combatant service. He therefore volunteered himself to Shackleton as a replacement for one of the original party who had left for active service. After arrival in Antarctica his unfamiliarity with polar work and limited physical stamina were in evidence during the first (January–March 1915) depot-laying journey, before he was sent back to base by expedition leader Aeneas Mackintosh. During the 1915 winter season he worked at the Cape Evans base, mainly in the darkroom where he sometimes held religious services.

The circumstances of the expedition, after the depletion of the shore party following the loss of SY Aurora in May 1915, meant that Spencer-Smith was required for the main depot journey to the Beardmore Glacier during the 1915–16 summer season, irrespective of his physical limitations. In this he showed no reluctance and worked tirelessly. However, worn down by the preliminary work of hauling stores up to the base depot at Minna Bluff during the four-month period September–December 1915, he was unable to sustain the physical effort required on the main depot-laying journey south, and collapsed before the Beardmore was reached. Thereafter he had to be carried on the sledge, unable to help himself and dependent on Ernest Wild for his most basic needs. The party nevertheless completed its depot-laying mission and struggled back northward in worsening weather conditions, each man growing weaker as scurvy took hold, and progress forward was with acute difficulty. Spencer-Smith, uncomplaining but in the latter stages occasionally delirious, died on the Barrier on 9 March 1916, aged 32, two days before the safety of Hut Point was finally reached. He was buried in the ice.


Courtesy of Wikipedia


Now I know were are on a walk and not doing a PhD thesis on history, but the above information is fascinating and would have been totally missed had we not stopped at the War memorial!

The road from the B1010 down towards the Crouch Estuary and Althorne Railway Station is as straight as a die; you soon reach the station and, nervously watching out for speeding trains (do trains actually speed on the Burnham on Crouch line?) you cross the railway tracks. The road continues to the coast, but Glenn wanted to show me "Plotlands" ..... small plots of lands allocated to people for a modest sum after the War. These are very small plots of land with small bungalows, mobile homes or caravans on which is now a small community, despite giving the appearance of being a bit scruffy and run down.




Althorne Station

Althorne Creek leading to the River Crouch



Ponds of oyster beds years gone by

Looking back towards the marina

Looking ahead towards Burnham on Crouch


The Boleyn family home; Ann Boleyn is reputed to have stayed there

Burnham Marina

Burnham Marina presents quite a detour; when you are coming back and
feeling tired you yearn for a small bridge across the mouth of the marina!


Coming into Burnham on Crouch. We decided to walk on along the sea wall for a while before lunch.

We walked as far as the solar panel farm. By then the wind was getting
up and it got quite chilly, so we turned inland and made our
way back to Burnham. This path was quite pretty,
and was firm underfoot which was an advantage.

Lunch at the Anchor Hotel

Our respective lunches at The Anchor; a modest bowl of soup and a humongous plate of nachos.


A lot of high quality information boards and audio players are going in along the coast,
probably part of the project to make the entire of the British coast line accessible for walkers by 2020.


Glenn really had me guessing as to what these strange metal objects were that we kept seeing every 50 yards or so. It turns out that they belong to Creeksea Disc Golf club. The idea is that you go around the course throwing a disc (like a frisbee) until it hits the chains and falls into the basket. The one with the lowest number of throws wins! They have a 9-hole and a 18-hole course. You learn something every day!

On the way back, shorty after Burnham Yacht Marina, we took a detour and headed inland for a short way.





We were soon back on the coast but the rain that had been threatening all day appeared with a chill wind. We were glad to get off the coast and take another detour back to Althorne. The detour was to the right along the tree line at the end of this short coastal stretch.


Second Detour


What an enjoyable day out. What at first sight seemed like a walk along a sea wall and creeks with no particular points of interest turned out to be a really interesting day. There is a lot more to the "Saltmarsh Coast" that you would think!