One small but delightful beach has been named as Essex’s best kept secret.

Bell Wharf Beach in Leigh on Sea received the accolade by lifestyle publication Muddy Stilettos.

Perched on the Thames estuary and famed for its working cockle sheds, this shingle beach is only a 10-minute stroll away from Leigh train station in Old Leigh.  

The beach is quieter and smaller than neighbouring beaches and visitors can watch fishermen at work and walk their dogs.

Muddy Stilettos described the beach as a “sliver of sand by Old Leigh that’s perfect for a sunrise swim”.

The publication suggested that if the muddy estuary waters are unappealing, people can walk the two tree Island nature Reserve to Leigh National Nature reserve instead.

One Tripadvisor reviewer said that the beach was small but kept nice and clean, adding: “This is the only real beach area in old leigh so it can get busy on a hot day but mostly there is plenty of room to sit. Always better when the tide is in but you can say that about all of Southend!”

Another said that it was still the same as it was 50 years ago and “the place will never change – a lot busier now though and lots more cars”.

Close to Old Leigh, the town’s Old Town that runs along the water, Bell Wharf Beach is close to a vibey strip of pubs, bars and restaurants that can get rammed when the sun’s out.

As recommended by Tripadvisor, the best restaurants near Old Leigh are Amala Indian Restaurant, West’s Seafood Ltd, another seafood restaurant Osborne Brothers and No1 Cockleshed.

In addition to restaurants and bars, Old Leigh is home to the Old Leigh Art Studios which supports local artists and ceramicists, and the estuary gallery Barge. This is a 21-metre floating artist-run gallery space featuring the works of resident arts Ian James, as well as watercolours and mixed media paintings by Josephine James.