Where is the most dangerous path in Britain? Crib Goch on Snowdon? Striding Edge on Helvelyn? Or maybe the Cuillin Ridge in Scotland?
If, like me, you are not keen to be clinging on above a near vertical drop, then you would want to rate all of those as pretty hairy. However, the most dangerous path in Britain is actually as flat as a pancake…
…and therein lies the danger.
Believe it or not, this is a public right of way. It is actually a byway, which means that you are allowed to drive on it, should you want to. It is even marked on Google maps – The Broomway.
Rising sea level has made the Essex coast a maze of islands, separated by tidal channels. Until 1932, The Broomway was the only route to Foulness Island, other than by boat. There’s a bit of a causeway to get you started but then you are out on the flat mud of Maplin Sands, walking on a compass bearing parallel to the coast. There are no footprints to follow, with each retreat of the tide leaving a fresh new surface.
Why is it so dangerous? Well because it is so flat, the tide comes in very fast: faster than you can run.
In the diagram you can see that, for the same increase in water height by the tide, on the gently sloping beach the water comes in and covers a much greater area. It has got the same amount of time to do this before the tide turns again, so on a gentle slope the water has to flow in very fast.
Not only do you have to get the tide right, but there is the possibility of sea mist, gloopy mud and unexploded devices. (Maplin Sands is a firing range on weekdays.)
And as sea level continues to gradually rise, the window of opportunity gets ever shorter.
I stayed safely above the high tide mark and left my imagination to explore The Broomway!