Inspired by one of our favourite books, the young adult dreamy classic, I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith, we jumped on a train from Fenchurch Street Station in search of the magnificent but ruined Hadleigh Castle high above the wild marshes of Canvey Island.
Hopped off the train 40 minutes later at Benfleet station, having avoided the dreaded A13, and stepped through a wooden gate on the start of a footpath along the grassy valley floor towards Leigh-on-Sea and the coast. The path meandered gently passing ponds and flocks of geese, redshanks, herons and avocets out on the marshes.
We climbed to the top of the short steep hill to Hadleigh Castle and its crumbling towers, famously painted by John Constable in 1829. It was once the official home of the King's wife an impressive list of former tenants include Catherine of Aragon, Anne of Cleves and Catherine Parr. We had the place to ourselves with dramatic views across the Thames Estuary. The perfect place for a castle.
We headed out along the path between the two towers, over the stile at the bottom and after half a mile or so we arrived at Leigh-on-Sea with it charming cockle sheds and boats. Couldn't resist some fish and chips from the Mayflower chippy, so called because this is where the Pilgrim fathers boat originally came from, and ate them on the beach. Home again before anyone had noticed we had gone. A perfect day.