This was a walk I was not particularly looking forward to – a walk through the urban sprawl of the Medway towns. Whilst it certainly wasn’t my favourite walk it wasn’t as bad as I had expected and had some enjoyable parts – and a lot of history.
I drove down to Strood via the M25 and M2 and parked at the station in Strood, then took the train a couple of stops to Rainham, where I had finished last time.
I retraced my steps from the station to the banks of the Medway via Berengrave Nature Reserve. From here I knew I must be in Kent, since the first thing that caught my eye was a wrecked boat.
There must be hundreds (if not thousands!) of them around the rivers, creeks and estuaries of Kent. I could also see the Kingsnorth power station over on the Isle of Grain on the other side of the estuary. Something to look forward (!) to for another walk.
Soon I passed a derelict old wharf on the right. It had a variety of uses over the years including a ship breakers and scrap yard. Beyond this I was once more into salt marsh, though with the tide fairly high it was quite pretty with the boats and masts reflecting in the calm waters.
The path was very pleasant, wide and easy to follow, so I made quick progress. Soon I had reached the narrow spit of land that heads out to Horrid Hill, part of Riverside Country Park.
I headed out along this, despite it being a dead-end as it looked quite interesting.
I passed the rusting remains of another ship (a Google search reveals it to be the tug “Waterloo”).
The path then passed woodland and soon reached the end of the spit, where it widened to the hill.
The spit got it’s name as it was once used by convicts and smugglers.
There were the remains of what looked to be quite an old stone wall at the end, though with a more modern brick wall behind.
I could also see the Kingsnorth Power station again, something I’m clearly going to be seeing a lot of for a while. After this I returned the way I’d come and continued along the Saxon Shore Way.
Unlike further east in Kent, this was a good easy to follow path here. Out in the Medway I could watch large tankers and other ships making their way out to sea or in towards London.
There were also a couple of marshy islands just off the shore to my right which are oddly unnamed on the map.
As I approached Gillingham the path had to head inland past another small industrial site but I could at least return to the waters edge once past it. Out to sea were some of those concrete barges used during World War II (Mulberry harbours?) that had now been sunk. I wondered why but later found out it was to provide protection for Gillingham Yacht club!
Just beyond this I came to The Strand Leisure Park. This seemed rather unloved with grass growing out of the promenade and the lido closed (though possibly just for the season, despite it only being September).
I could follow the river through this but ahead I was now coming to industry and docks. The Saxon Shore Way bailed out on me here, heading more than a mile inland on paths and quieter roads away from the coast. I was tempted to follow suit but decided to try and stick as close to the coast as possible. That meant following the A289. The A289 is a busy dual carriageway so this is not a pleasant route to walk, but it did at least have a pavement, or I wouldn’t have considered it.
It was a tedious walk though as the road was hemmed in with industry on the right and Univeristy of Kent Medway Campus. I could not continue on the A289 all the way as it this modern main road soon heads through the Medway Tunnel which it is not permitted to walk through. So I continued to the roundabout ahead. Here again I had a choice. I could turn left to Chatham or right to a dead-end new development of “St Mary’s Island”, which is not an island. I decided on the latter option.
So I followed the road out to the island, crossing the swing bridge over the two marinas. It was a rather soulless development of housing.
Though there were also a few old buildings around, like this one hidden behind a fence either awaiting demolition or re-development (I hoped for the latter given it had survived the demolition of other buildings around).
I was able to head to the west of the island and get a nice view over the Medway. I was pleasantly surprised to find a lovely castle, surrounded by trees.
This is Upnor Castle and gave me something to look forward to on my next walk. Walking out to here had been worth it for this view alone.
Having reached the west side of the island I was pleased to find I could turn south along the coast passing “Dickens World” to reach the Chatham Historic Dockyard. I didn’t have time to visit it on this walk and I really should go back (as I really enjoy the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard and I imagine this is also very good). I remember that the HMS Victory (now at Portsmouth) was in fact built here at Chatham and ropes were also made here.
I was pleased though that like Portsmouth, it is possible to wander around outside the buildings without paying to go in.
The buildings were large and quite interesting to look at too, though I was a bit surprised to find an old steam locomotive outside, perhaps once used to move goods around the docks.
The buildings had the cranes outside which were presumably used to move and launch the boats.
It all looked very interesting and probably needs a whole day to do it justice. One day, one day.
I left the dockyard through a very grand gate, showing the important of this sight to the navy.
There still seems to be quite a military presence in the town, as I passed what I took to be barracks, clearly still used for their original purpose judging by all the camouflage army clothing hanging out of the windows to dry. Presumably Saturday is washing day!
I continued passing this statue of a man on a horse though I’m afraid I didn’t note down who it was, but it marks the entrance to Fort Amherst. The fort was open and you can walk around the grounds outside for free. I had a look in where there was obviously a wedding going on (or about to start) .
The fort was built into the chalk and you can also take tours of the tunnels underneath and through the chalk. Another thing that looks worth coming back to.
I climbed up to the walls of the fort which offered views over Chatham which looked fairly ugly, unfortunately.
Having enjoyed my walk around the grounds of the fort, I emerged from the fort back on the main road by a church and just after this could turn right and follow a path alongside a nice riverside park. Though the views over the river were more industrial now.
I passed some more attractive buildings which probably once had a military use judging my their design and all the canons dotted around.
Ahead I could continue by the river and come to Sun Pier. It was odd to see a pier here though it is mostly just used by fisherman now, but it did offer views of the Medway.
From here though I passed a few more interesting buildings and headed back to the road, as there is no more access along the river side for a while. This soon took me to the (now former) Rochester station (a new station having since opened nearer the town centre and the old one closed down).
I passed under the railway and continued now along Rochester High Street. Rochester and Chatham are the more historic of the Medway towns, and I was soon to see this history. The buildings on the first part were pleasant enough but soon I crossed the A229 and could continue on the pedestrianised part of the street where it was even better. Rochester was an interesting and pretty town.
I even passed this odd Swiss-style chalet which looked a little out of place.
It was a fascinating mix of buildings from the new to the very old including some half-timbered houses and old brick buildings.
I was approaching the Rochester Bridge at the end of the High Street, which would take me across the Medway into Strood.
However before I went that way I wanted to take a look around Rochester. So I turned left into the beautiful Cathedral green, where the cathedral and castle are to be found.
The castle is still quite intact, with the large outer walls remaining and the walls of the keep, which is now partly in ruins but still extremely impressive in scale.
It shows the importance of this town with the need to defend it. The Cathedral too through smaller in scale was also lovely.
Since I didn’t have any particular need to hurry home I made time to visit both the cathedral and castle. From the castle walls I could look out over the Medway and Rochester Bridge, which I would soon cross, though it was not a very pretty bridge.
However an information board within the castle showed a much older brick arched bridge had once been here. Sadly the keep is largely a shell so you can only look up to the sky where once there would have been floors.
However there are wooden steps taking you part way up from where I could enjoy views of the cathedral and river.
The stonework, too was still quite intricate.
Having enjoyed the castle, I turned my attention to the cathedral.
Inside this had fine stone work (perhaps some marble) but a lot of it was covered in scaffolding, though I loved the wooden ceiling.
Heading back to the High Street I passed more lovely buildings and reached the Rochester Bridge.
In fact this is actually three bridges in one, two road bridges (now carrying two lanes of traffic in each direction, in theory, as you can see this wasn’t the case at the time), and a 3rd bridge carrying the railway.
The view from the bridge was limited because I was following the pavement between the two parts of the bridge. Once over I turned right, under the railway line and made my way back to the station.
This was an odd walk really. The first part was still fairly rural, beside the Medway and an interesting walk out to Horrid Hill. Then there was a horrid section beside the busy dual carriageway before I reached Chatham. Here it was packed with history, as I passed the historic dockyard and continued along more roads to reach Rochester. Rochester was a delight, with it’s beautiful High Street, cathedral and castle and I’m glad I made time for these, even if I didn’t for the dockyard. Although I wasn’t quite clear of the Medway towns I could also see that there would be more of interest on my next walk.
Here are details of the public transport needed for this walk:-
South Eastern Trains London to Gravesend, Maidstone, Faversham and Ramsgate : London St Pancras (International) – Stratford International – Ebbsfleet International – Gravesend – Strood – Rochester – Chatham – Gillingham – Rainham – Sittingbourne – Faversham – Whitstable – Herne Bay – Birchington-on-Sea – Margate – Broadstairs – Ramsgate – Sandwich – Deal – Walmer – Martin Mill – Dover Priory – Folkestone Central – Folkestone West – Ashford International (and onwards back to London St Pancras). Trains run twice an hour between Strood and Rainham Monday – Saturday and hourly on Sundays. Trains take about 15 minutes between Strood and Rainham.
Trains also run from London Charing Cross and London Bridge to Strood, Rochester, Chatham and Gillingham and from London Victoria to Rochester, Chatham, Gillingham and Rainham.