Foulness Island is Essex's largest island. The island is an area of natural beauty and a haven for a great deal of wildlife.It is very popular with bird watchers. Other than this there is little else to see due to the restrictions put in place by the M.O.D. The island is mostly farmland and is bordered by a sea wall and extensive marshland. The island is roughly 10 miles from the coastal town of Southend.
There are two villages on Foulness. The largest one is Churchend and it is just like any other quiet village in Britain. It has a church, post office and general store. There was formerly a pub, 'The George and Dragon', but this closed in 2007 due to low usage and the landlords not keeping up with the rent. The church has also closed due to the costs of renovation of the church roof being too expensive.
At the other end of the island are Courtsend and White City. There are a number of houses in both Courtsend and White City, some old cottages and also houses built in the 1950s. There was a second pub (The King's Head)in Courtsend but this closed in 1989.
The only access to Foulness Island by road is at Landwick police lodge (about a mile from Great Wakering). Residents are issued with permits, which they must show to security guards when entering the restricted M.O.D. zone. Visitors need to contact the police lodge when visiting the island to obtain a temporary pass, or a visitor can contact a friend or relative who lives on the island, so they can in turn contact the lodge, avoiding the need for long security checks at Landwick. The distance between Great Wakering church and Churchend is around six miles.
Buses are very infrequent and are run by Stephensons of Essex on route 14 from Southend via Barling and Great Wakering. On Mondays to Fridays there are two return service buses per day (one in the morning and one in the evening). On Saturdays there are four return service buses per day (one in the morning, one in mid-morning, one in the afternoon and one in the evening). Because of the restrictions posed by the M.O.D., passengers between Landwick Police Lodge and Courtsend must be M.O.D. permit holders.
Just opposite the church in Churchend is the Heritage Centre, which was formerly a school until 1988 and then lay derelict until 2003 when it was reopened as a heritage centre. On the first Sunday of every month between April and October, the public from the mainland can visit the Heritage Centre between 12:00 noon and 4:00 pm. Visitors must stop at Landwick Police Lodge to sign in their car details and obtain a pass permitting access onto the island to visit the Heritage Centre. The Heritage Centre has displays on the history of the island, old school photos, photos of the last night of the second pub in Courtsend, and even the old plans and protest signs from the time when the government planned London's third airport near the island on Maplin Sands. The centre is run by volunteers who are friendly and always happy to answer questions about the history of the island. They appreciate a donation and feedback in the visitors' book.
There is a small village shop in the village of Churchend. The shop is also a Post Office and is used by the residents of Foulness to order their groceries without having to drive to the nearest supermarket (ASDA Shoeburyness, approx. 10 miles away).
The George and Dragon pub was the only place to eat out on the island. Anyone from the mainland had to telephone the landlords to book a reservation for a meal. The pub landlords would then contact the security guards at Landwick to let them know who was coming onto the island. The pub closed in 2007.
The island formerly had two pubs, the George and Dragon in Churchend and a second pub in Courtsend, but both of these are now closed.
Other than staying with a friend or relative who lives on Foulness, there is no hotel accommodation for visitors on the island.
Because the island is under the jursidiction of the M.O.D., Foulness is extremely safe and there is pretty much no crime at all on the island. The locals on the island are rumoured to leave their cars and house doors unlocked. There are even regular explosives testing on the island by the M.O.D. so please don't be alarmed when you hear a loud noise and a rumble. M.O.D. staff will often warn you if a practice is going to take place. Please stay away from areas with warning signs as there could be objects that could explode and injure you. On the Shoebury Ranges walk, follow the public right of way (marked with red and white poles in the M.O.D. area).
Foulness Island is suitable for walking but, because of the M.O.D. restrictions, walkers cannot gain routine access to the island. On weekday evenings and all day at weekends, walkers are allowed to enter the M.O.D. site (also known as Shoebury Ranges), but have to follow the public rights of way.