Leigh-on-Sea, Essex

Well, well – what a big weekend it has been for canine-kind because a dog, Pudsey, has won Britain’s Got Talent. He is the first ever dog to win it.

Frankly I’m amazed that dogs don’t win every time. Take my local park as an example. Dogs – climbing trees (me); chasing squirrels (me); digging holes that go all the way to Australia (Gizmo); jumping in the air and catching tennis balls in mouth (Tess). All of those acts are what I would describe as TALENT. Now let’s look at the humans – standing around chatting (all of them); smoking (Jane); throwing balls (Annie). Ummmm – that’s about it. And not one of those acts would I describe as TALENT.

So there you go Simon Grow-ell. If you have never noticed that dogs are talented and humans aren’t before meeting Pudsey, you must be an idiot.

Anyway, enough of Pudsey and his million pound paws. Has Pudsey ever been to Leigh-on-Sea? To the best of my knowledge, no. Have I been to Leigh-on-Sea? Yes. So I win.

Has Pudsey ever been here? No – and I have.

Leigh-on-Sea is in Essex-shire and Jane and Jane’s mum and me caught the train there from London Fenchurch Street Station. On the way I saw a sign saying Barking so that’s exactly what I did – I barked. But apparently this was all wrong. Barking is a place and not an instruction.

Anyway, when we arrived at Leigh-on-Sea, 45-minutes from London, I was a bit unsure. There was a station but no town. Confusing. But the man in the coffee shop told Jane that the town was a ten-minute walk away and then we understood.

The walk is next to some sheds that are all bright colours and very ramshackle in appearance – and also very smelly. But good smelly – salt and sea smelly. These are cockle sheds and the people in them sell cockles they have collected just an hour or so before. Fresh – like when I snout a chicken bone in south-east London that has been recently discarded.

There are two parts to Leigh-on-Sea. There is the old part, which is Old Leigh and the new part, which is normal Leigh-on-Sea. The old part is very quaint with traditional fisherman’s cottages and art galleries and a little museum. The best thing about Old Leigh, though, is Sara’s Tea Garden. This tea garden is a café but what is amaze-bones about it, is that dogs aren’t just allowed in the outside bit, with rock gardens and a white picket fence. Dogs are allowed in the inside bit as well and as my regular rover readers will understand, this is a very rare phenomenon. A café that welcomes dogs – High Paw! Even better, as soon as we have sat down, I am served TWO dog biscuits and presented with water in a proper metal bowl, not some white plastic margarine tub. And all this has happened – the biscuits and the proper bowl – before Jane has even glanced at the menu. Amaze-bones. We have, at last, found somewhere that knows how to treat us dogs. That understands that dogs have TALENT!

I didn’t think that anywhere could compete with Sara’s but then, in normal Leigh, not old Leigh, we discovered somewhere else amaze-bones. A bakery for dogs! Our very own canine version of Gregg’s – except posher. Because this bakery, the Canine Cookie Company, part of a shop called Vanity Fur, did not serve boring old cheese and onion pasties, which Jane eats from Greggs, but PUPCAKES, LIVER AND BARKIN BROWNIES and BARKWELL TARTS. And the Canine Cookie Company has a concession in Harrods and I don’t believe that Greggs has a concession in Harrods. So that’s 100 points to the canine bakery and minus two points to the human one.

At the end of the road of Old Leigh High Street there’s a beach – Bell Wharf (Old Leigh) Beach but to be honest but it’s not very big.  It’s just mudflats and boats and no yellow sand like I expect on a beach and Jane is fretting that I will leap into one of the boats and somehow find myself an unwitting captain of a smack on the sea, so she won’t let me off the blimin’ lead. So Jane asks around and people tell us about somewhere called Two Tree island. Trees – good for peeing against; it sounds all right. We walk there and then, because the nearest cars, which I think are fun and Jane thinks are DANGEROUS, are a long way away, Jane lets me off the lead. Grrr-huzzah!

This is the kind of walk I like. Not a walk at all but a sprint and a leap –  lots of rough grass for me to practice my terrier bounds in and just that big sky and horizon in front of me, with a castle’s turrets on a far away hill. There are muddy marshes, with abandoned boats with grass growing in them, and hardly any trees so the name doesn’t make sense.

Jane’s Mum reads a sign naming all the birds that inhabit the marshes – curlew and Redshank and Grey Prover – but they don’t mean anything to me and I’m not interested in birds, unless a flock of them lands in front of me and I can charge into them and watch them all flap into the sky.

There aren’t any trees to seek squirrels in or any animals to chase but there are lots of holes in the reeds for me to stick my snout down and smell interesting smells.

And, when Jane and her Mum aren’t looking, hidden by the long grass, I bust a few of my moves a la Pudsey. I perform a triple forward roll followed by a pirouette, a star jump, an attitude en point and a little bit of the Charleston. Then Jane spies me and I stop, immediately, before she catches on. Because if she saw my moves she’d have me on Britain’s Got Talent and there is no way I’d want to meet Simon Growell. He terrifies me.


Phileas Fact Box: Leigh-on-Sea

  • Sara’s Tea Garden, 64 High Street, Leigh-on-Sea, SS9 2EP. Tel: 01702 477315. Website:
  • Special Phileas Dogg Paw Print of distinction to Sara’s.
  • Vanity Fur, 1 Stable Mews, Broadway, Leigh on Sea, Essex SS9 1AW. Tel: 0845 838 2330. Website:
  • Canine Cookie Company is at – it delivers its bakery products throughout the UK.
  • The Walk: Two Tree Island, Map Reference, TQ 824 852. From Leigh-on-Sea Railway Station, walk away from the town, keeping the rail tracks on your right. Continue past the car parks and you’ll see a brown footpath sign – climb over a grassy bank and follow that.