The Broomway

Photo:The Maypole

The Maypole

Mark Norton

Britains Deadliest Pathway

By Mark Norton

Stretching 6 miles across the Maplin Sands in the Thames estuary, The Broomway links mainland Wakering to the MoD controlled Foulness Island. Named Britains Deadliest Pathway, the Broomway dates back to 1419 and was once the only access point to Foulness until Havengore Bridge was built in 1922. Still, to this day, The Broomway remains the only public footpath to the heavily restricted island that also operates as a live firing range.

Accessible only when the firing range is not operational, this is usually weekends although Qinetic who operate the range do notify the public when the rage is closed via their website. The path itself was once marked by sticks in the mudflats resembling brooms, hence the name Broomway. Sadly, the markers have long gone and the pathway now is impossible to see without a map or GPS coordinates. The Broomway which starts at Wakering Stairs has multiple points that lead into land on Foulness, Shelford Head, Asplins Head, Rugwood Head, Eastwick Head and Fishermans Head. The Broomway does have some marker points, the first to come is at the entrance to Havengore Creek and is called the Maypole, a tall post in the mud with pieces of wood nailed along it.

The Broomway gets the name of 'Britains Deadliest Pathway' due to the dangers that it poses to walkers: Quicksand (known locally as the Black Sands); deep water filled craters caused by explosions that are extremely hard to see; live unexploded ordnance that are fired out to sea from the firing range; and last but not least, the tide. Walking the Broomway without knowing the tide times is very dangerous, the tide comes in faster than a person can run and due to the nature of the Maplin Sands it comes in around you. Over the years, over 100 people have lost their lives on the Broomway due to miscalculating the tide and or attempting the walk in bad conditions and instead of walking towards land have walked further out to sea. Even today, it is easy to see how people have become disoriented out there.

The walk is amazing, though desolate and infinite. It is not recommended to walk the Broomway alone or without an experienced guide. There are guided walks along the Broomway which I definitely recommend for anyone wanting to walk this ancient path hidden by the sea.

This page was added by Mark Norton on 19/07/2020.
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