The rarely visited island dubbed 'Essex’s best kept secret'

Foulness Island
-Credit: (Image: Visit Essex)

When it comes to exploring Essex, anywhere off the beaten path is enough to get us interested. Stepping away from our gorgeous countryside, there is a raft of fascinating islands which make us daydream of messing about in boats and romping around beaches.

Take Foulness Island - it’s the largest island in Essex and the fourth biggest off the English coast. But it's a closed island - meaning access is restricted, with special authorisation required to visit or remain overnight.

Foulness is owned by the Ministry of Defence. The landmass has been used to test missiles and torpedoes for years.

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Anyone wishing to visit Foulness must get permission in advance from the MOD, or visit the Heritage Centre on the first Sunday of every month from April to October when the public is free to visit the island with a few restrictions.

A small permanent community lives there, with its own village store and post office. Rochford Council said: "Two villages, Churchend and Courtsend are located in the north of the island. These villages make up 83 dwellings and are home to around 200 people.

"Large areas of the island are farmed and there is a long-established and close-knit community. In earlier times, however, things were very different. Evidence exists to show that there was once a Romano British settlement here. Much later the area was a notorious smuggling centre."

Foulness and the adjoining Maplin Sands are internationally famous as a haven for wildlife. It has the second largest colony of Avocet birds and is a winter home for thousands of wading birds and Brent Geese.

If you do get the chance to head to the island under the restrictions in place, Walking Club has a suggested route.

The Broomway and Foulness Island walk is, it says, a "fabled tidal road off the coast off Essex across Maplin Sands to Foulness Island". The 10-mile walk is available to see here.

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