162. Allhallows-on-Sea to Cliffe

October 2006

After previous walks around industry, and tortuous twisty turny paths around numerous streams and estuaries I was looking forward to this walk because on the map later I’d actually be able to draw a long line showing progress along the shore. For the first time in a while there was a footpath all the way, so I’d not have to turn back or walk long distances on roads. I’d also be next to the shore (or Thames Estuary) for almost all this walk.

Logistically, this was a slightly more tricky walk, as there is no bus between Allhallows-on-Sea and Cliffe, I’d need to change busses in Strood. I decided instead to take the train to Strood, the bus to Allhallows-on-Sea and then I could walk to Cliffe, take the bus back to Strood and then the train home. I took the train to London Waterloo then crossed the footbridge to Waterloo East station where I took the train to Strood. The train to Strood was quite slow, stopping at many stations on the way. I was hoping there might be some views of the Thames, but there wern’t any, at least not that I noticed. From Strood I took the bus which was on time and made the slow journey out to Allhallows-on-Sea, but there were few people on it, so it was a pleasant enough journey.

On my last walk I had puzzled about Allhallows-on-Sea. The beach was as much mud as sand and didn’t seem very attractive to me, it was really too far up the Thames estuary to be a resort, I felt. I did a little research and found that it had an interesting history.

Allhallows-on-Sea

Queen Victoria first popularised the coast as a destination and so resorts sprang up all along the coast to serve this growing demand. This was further helped by workers being given a weeks holiday from factories and trains becoming more affordable (and extensive). The popularity of the coast was probably at it’s height during the inter-war period (after which cars and flights became increasingly affordable). Rail companies struggled to cope with the huge and growing crowds wanting to travel to the coast at weekends (the Great Western Railway even adopted the slogan “The Nations Holiday Line” at the time). The railway companies themselves began developing resorts and it must have seemed that all you needed to do was build a railway line, a station, a hotel and produce some of those lovely old posters advertising the place to stick up in the city stations and bingo, the tourists would flock there for a holiday and you had yourself a booming resort.

That was the theory with Allhallows-on-Sea. The Southern Railway opened a new branch line to Allhallows-on-Sea in the 1930s, hoping to create a resort. Ambitious plans were developed, along with Kent Council, to build an artificial wave machine, the largest swimming pool in the UK and an amusement park four times larger than Blackpool Pleasure beach.  However the ambitious mass development never really took place, then World War II happened and it never really developed as a resort. Less than 30 years after it opened, the station closed.

Today as I found it is a resort almost entirely made up of chalets and caravans (the latter I suspect mostly being owned rather than rented out). From the entrance to the caravan park I headed north on the road through the park to reach the beach following the same route I had followed previously. The tide was quite high so the beach was mostly sand and shingle rather than mud. It was autumn now so the beach was also pretty quiet.

Allhallows-on-Sea

I followed the grass just behind the beach with views over to Southend-on-Sea on the other side of the estuary.

Jetty at Allhallows-on-Sea

I followed the grass until I met a yacht club. Here the path was constrained between the concrete sea wall and a chain link fence between me and the yacht club.

This was the first indication of problems. A sign warned that the path ahead was dangerous due to subsidence. Well the alternative was a long walk inland – exactly what I had hoped to avoid! So I continued. There was a crack in the concrete at the end of the yacht club but it was not really a problem to get past.

Broken promenade at Allhallows-on-Sea

Beyond the yacht club ahead was just salt marsh so I turned left and reached the edge of a golf course. I could not see a path. Double checking the map I realised I was meant to be nearer the coast – the path must be through that salt marsh. So I headed back to the shore.

Ahead was an area of salt marsh (I’ve been seeing a lot of it in North Kent) and so I followed the slightly muddy beach along the coastal edge of this.

Salt marsh west of Allhallows-on-Sea

At the end I came to a slightly surreal sight of a World War II pillbox now all at sea. Presumably it had been built on a sections of the marsh or field that had since eroded away and the pill box had ended up in the estuary.

All at sea

Here though I had another problem. Ahead the way was blocked by a stream, which seemed man made. There was no bridge so the path headed inland. But before I could reach the sea wall on which the path continued there was another stream. What there wasn’t was any bridge across it.

Salt marsh west of Allhallows-on-Sea

So I headed back east along the marsh as the stream seemed to narrow here. When it got narrow enough I thought I could jump over, I did just that. Except I slightly mis judged it and got my left foot all wet as that one landed in the muddy stream, rather than on the grass as I’d hoped. Just beyond that though there was a second stream! This time though, submerged, I could just about make out a stile at the fence. So at least this was the path – the streams must have changed and the Council not bothered to build bridges.

So I tried to jump to the stile as it was under only about 1cm of water. I made it, but this time my right foot went straight through the wood, which, as I discovered, had rotted. This time I was up almost to my knees in the muddy water and now had both feet wet. Things were not going well, but it was a relief to at least find I could then reach the sea wall and find the path was better along here.

St Mary's Marshes, Kent

I would have to walk the rest of the way in wet shoes though and hope that the sunshine would dry out my feet. My trousers were at least black, so did not obviously show the dirt.

The route was easy, for a few hundred meters, until the sea wall seemed to end. I turned in land into an area of scrubby bushes but soon found the narrow path became a dead-end. Once again I could see no way ahead other than to head back over the marsh, and jumping over the channels of water again.

The Thames estuary

This time I made it across without getting wet feet and followed the muddy marshy shore line again. I made my way with difficulty west until I met the sea wall at the edge of St Mary’s Marshes and could turn north with this. I’d gone barely a mile, but it had taken me ages and had been very frustrating. I only hoped the rest of the walk would be easier, or I would not make it before dark.

Thankfully, the route did improve. The path was now a neatly mown grassy path along the sea wall and although I had drainage channels to my left I didn’t need to cross them. Near West Point I even came across a small sandy beach. That felt like my reward for persevering.

St Mary's Marshes, Kent

It didn’t last long and it had a bit of washed up debris, but it was a lot nicer than salt marsh.

Looking inland there was a few roofless concrete buildings.

St Mary's Marshes, Kent

I suspect this area was heavily used for something (I know not what) during World War II and these buildings were the remains of that. Ahead I had another area of marsh to get around, but this time there was a proper path.

St Mary's Bay, Halstow Marshes

St Mary's Bay, Halstow Marshes

It was a shame to see just how much debris and rubbish had been washed up at the edge of it, though. At the end was another little sandy beach, but sadly fenced off (why?).

St Mary's Bay, Halstow Marshes

I came to a fotopath post ahead, the first in a long time which showed the route I was following was not called “Curlews, Convicts and Contraband”.

Curlews, Convicts and Contraband on Halstow Marshes

Well seeing the first and last of those would be nice, I’m not so sure about the convicts! This turns out to be a walk (not shown on the map) around this peninsula. But I was glad to see it, because it should, I hoped, mean the path was more walked and so in better condition.

Halstow Marshes

Back on the sea wall path by the estuary again I passed a few more ruined buildings (marked as “Camp (disused)” on the map, presumably an army camp of some sort. The view over the other side of the Thames estuary was not exactly pleasant either. More heavy industry.

Oil storage depot at Canvey Island

Not something I was looking forward to walking through or past. This was the edge of Canvey Island is marked on the map as “Oil Storage Depot” but it looked more like a refinery to me, with flare stacks and chimneys.

Soon the path turned left again with the bank into another marshy little bay, Egypt Bay.I don’t know why it’s called that but it had a small sandy beach at the start, but then became marsh. I puzzled over what forces cause part of it to be beach and part marsh like this, it’s odd.

Egypt Bay, Halstow Marshes

Egypt Bay, Halstow Marshes

Rounding the bay I noticed there was a heavy rain shower just inland of me. I was hoping to avoid it – and luckily I did. Out over the Thames estuary it was now grey, with heavy industry on the other bank and a container ship (presumably from Hamburg, given what it said on the ship) heading out to sea (perhaps to Hamburg).

Cliffe Marshes

It was clear I was nearing a major city now – London, with all the industry and shipping. Once the shower passed it brightened up a bit again and I was now walking behind a low concrete wall. I was a little nervous of the walk ahead.

Until now there had been paths inland should I find the route blocked. But Egypt Bay was the last point with a footpath (or road) heading inland from the sea wall. The next would be near Cliffe, some 6 miles ahead. I really hoped I wasn’t going to find the path blocked after 5 3/4 miles and have to turn back, because there seemed no other route!

The route ahead was easy but not the most interesting now. I’d passed the last of the little bays now and to my right was marked Blyth Sand but the map suggested it was all mud, not sand. The tide was in though, so I couldn’t see and I suspected that made it look better.

Cliffe Marshes

The sea wall soon gave way to some rocks, of the sort that looked to have been placed here rather than be natural. Another shower passed close by, but again just missing me, causing a pretty rainbow over the Thames.

Cliffe Marshes

More large ships passed by on their way to … somewhere.

The Thames Estuary near Cliffe

The path was good so I made rapid progress along here, helped by the fact it was flat and was soon nearing the point where the wall started to turn left with the Thames which then begins to narrow quite rapidly. London is getting close!

Cliffe Marshes

Rainbow over the Thames

Inland there were many ruined buildings again. They looked like more left overs from World War II, roofless and made of concrete, I wondered what used to happen here. The map showed the buildings too but this time did not offer any clues as to what they were.

Cliffe Marshes

The view over the Thames was a varied one, with the wide blue waters of the river in the foreground but beyond that a massive oil refinery and another oil stroage depot.

Old jetty beside Cliffe Marshes

This is a landscape that has changed quite a bit since I did this walk. This was over 10 years ago. Since then, the old Oil Storage Depot has been developed into “London Gateway Port”, a huge container port. Though I can’t imagine it is much prettier.

I passed an odd concrete structure, I assumed this was to do with the light marked on the map at Lower Hope Point.

Lower Hope Point

I had now turned to start heading south and looking across the Estuary I could now make out a power station in the distance (Tilbury, I think). Clearly the other bank of the Thames was also going to be rather industrial.

The Thames estuary

(I later read somewhere that in Northern Europe at least it is common to site most of the industry to the east of the city centre, because the prevailing winds normally come from the west and so blow the pollution away from, rather than over, the city).

Another heavy shower was on the other shore, making for some dramatic light as the sun reflected off the waters of the Thames to the dark clouds on the other bank.

The Thames Estuary near Cliffe

I continued past a derelict pier (not marked on the map). Perhaps connected with the old military structures inland?

Old jetty beside Cliffe Marshes

I continued to another pier, this one still intact and marked on the map. This had a pipe line marked on the map. Inland are what is now Cliffe Pools Nature Reserve but are I think pools formed my gravel extraction over the years – but not sure that you can pump gravel though a pipe line? So it’s a mystery to me what the pier is used for.

The Thames estuary near Cliffe

Passing this pier on the other bank I could make out the travelling cranes marked on the map at Mucking Marsh. Here waste from central London is shipped by boat from a small wharf next to Cannon Street Station to the landfill site here on what was I presume once Mucking Marsh. It seemed an appropriate name.

Now I was closer, that pier turned out to be a pipe going right along the pier. Perhaps oil is pumped on or off ships? No idea. Ahead I had reached the small Cliffe Creek. Cliffe Fort was just the other side of it, surrounded by more jetties and industry.

Cliffe Creek

By now I was tired and was glad to be nearing the end of the walk as my pace had slowed. I followed the footpath along the north bank of this creek and at the end could pick up a byway that headed between the lakes of the Cliffe Pools Nature Reserve.

Cliffe Creek

I believe these are old gravel workings which have now become a nature reserve. They were actually rather pretty and at the far end I could even make out chalk cliffs.

Cliffe Pools Nature Reserve

Cliffe Pools Nature Reserve

Cliffe Pools Nature Reserve

Bird hides and a few little islands had been created. At the end the path turned out to be wooded and at a junction I turned left and headed for Cliffe.

Cliffe Pools Nature Reserve

At the end of Allen’s Hill I left the last of the ponds behind and headed for Cliffe, where the track soon became the road. The church looked like it might have been quite pretty, but most of it was under scaffolding, which was a shame.

I was tired and glad to reach the end of this long walk. I had nearly half an hour to wait for the bus though. When it did arrive it was an ancient bright-yellow double decker bus which smelt rather damp and musty and with orange and brown covered seats. Still it got me to Strood from where I took the trains back home.

I was glad to have made it to the end of the walk. It was a longer route than I had been used to up to that point and with all the problems I’d had at the start of the walk I was glad that the later part, on that long and remote path were trouble free. I was pleasantly surprised just how remote and peaceful it can be now that I am getting close to London.

Here are details of the public transport needed for this walk. As mentioned, you will need to change buses in Strood. Buy a “Adult Day Medway Zone” ticket which covers both buses and is cheaper than two singles.

Arriva bus route 191 : Gillingham – Chatham – Rochster – Strood – Hoo St Werburgh – High Halstow – Allhallows-on-Sea – Lower Stoke – Grain. It runs broadly once every 2 hourly between Allhallows-on-Sea and Strood, seven days a week and takes around 45 minutes from Strood.

Arriva bus route 133 : Cliffe – Frindsbury – Strood – Rochester – Chatham. Hourly, Monday – Saturday (no Sunday service). It takes a little under 20 minutes between Cliffe and Strood.

Here are the complete set of photos for this walk : Main Link | Slideshow

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161. Lower Stoke to Allhallows-on-Sea

October 2006

After my industrial walk last time I was pleased to see that this walk was more rural, though I still had some road walking to endure first.

I drove to Lower Stoke and parked in the car park there. Lower Stoke was a pleasant little village and I followed the road north through the village. Sadly, as I had expected once I reached the end of the village the pavement ended and the road narrowed. This is one of two roads to Allhallows-on-Sea, which is not that big a place but as I later found has many caravan sites. Although late in the season these still seemed to be generating quite a lot of traffic.

The road started off quite open, with fields on either side and no fences, which at least meant I could easily step off the road when traffic passed. Later however the road was enclosed with hedges which made it less pleasant to walk. I reached some houses which I initially thought was the edge of Allhallows, but there was no pavement and soon they ended. It was a bit further before I reached the village and the safety of a pavement. I was glad to get the road stretch over.

At Parkers Corner I turned right to continue on the road towards Allhallows-on-Sea. Technically a separate village to Allhallows I think, but they had merged together now. After a while I came to a bend in the road and ahead was the Allhallows-on-Sea Leisure Park (a caravan park). The map showed a footpath leading through this to the shore line. I passed the main buildings on the right and passed chalets on the right – not something you see many of these days. I was not really sure of the correct route so just kept going in roughly the right direction until I reached the sea. The route I took seemed to be the dividing line between the caravans on my left and the chalets on my right. I wondered if there was some kind of hierarchy and which was considered better.

The coast at Allhallows-on-Sea

I was pleased to finally reach the sea. Though to be honest it was not the most inviting. A mixture of sand and shingle which soon became a mixture of mud and sand at low tide.

The coast at Allhallows-on-Sea

It was not the nicest beach I had seen and I did wonder why so many people wanted to holiday here. Yes it’s by the sea, but it is certainly not the nicest part of the Kent coast and there is very little else of interest nearby, it is quite an isolated place.

At the sea wall I could turn left of right. To the right a loop of paths headed east over the sea walls of Allhallows Marshes and the Yantlet Creek. This was a dead end but I decided to walk it anyway and make a loop back to Allhallows.

The path passed a fishing lake which some of the chalets beyond overlooked.

Fishing lake at Allhallows-on-Sea

The beach soon ended and I was then next to a concrete sea wall with rocks and marshes between that and the sea. It was quite misty, but I could still see some of the industry ahead.

The coast east at Allhallows-on-Sea

The coast east of Allhallows-on-Sea

Soon I turned to the right to follow the banks on the western edge of the Yantlet Creek. Here the coast was a mixture of mud and sand and I passed a memorial to a man who had drowned here in the 1970s. I wondered if he had got stuck in the mud or had tried to swim across the creek.

The coast east of Allhallows-on-Sea

Memorial near Allhallows-on-Sea

The mouth of the creek was marked with a couple of strange towers which looks like they may once have been lighthouses but neither seemed to have a light now.

The mouth of Yantlet Creek, Isle of Grain

The Yantlet Creek was a muddy creek with just a tiny trickle of water close to the bank on my side. I’m sure at high tide it would be prettier than the mud flats I had.

The coast near Allhallows-on-Sea

Yantlet Creek, Isle of Grain

However I did spot a heron fishing on the mud banks.

Heron at Yantlet Creek, Isle of Grain

On the other bank was a farm, un-named on the map, that had an impressive collection of hay bails.

Allhallows Marshes, Isle of Grain

I continued further up the creek, which was now narrowing. To my left was grass though the undulations in the grass did not look natural, I suspected there had been some sort of industry here in the past.

Allhallows Marshes, Isle of Grain

On the other bank there still was, with the circles of the gas works or whatever it was I had passed last time.

I could not keep to the bank for much longer. Ahead the path turned inland along the “Old Counter Wall” which I suspected was an older sea wall. The land to my left was now a boggy muddy marsh so I was glad of the slightly raised path. I passed under power lines and then turned left beside another marshy creek. A short distance ahead was a junction of paths.

The route straight ahead was a dead-end and took a convoluted route almost double backing on itself before coming to an abrupt end. It was about a mile to walk there and back and given it was a dead-end path that did not go anywhere I suspected it was rarely used and therefore likely to be blocked or difficult to use. So I decided instead to turn north and follow the other footpath over the marshes to take a slightly different route back. This rounded the western edge of Hooks Fleet and then turned right along the winding sea wall along it’s northern edge.

Allhallows Marshes, Isle of Grain

Continuing east as I was now only about 200 metres away from the path I had followed on the way in.

It was tempting to try and cut across the marsh back to it since I otherwise had about a mile of walking to get there. But the marshes were wet and boggy, so I stuck with the path. So I followed the big loop back over the featureless marsh to rejoin the path I had followed to get out here. I did wonder what the marsh here was used for. Often there are animals grazing, but there were none here, though perhaps it was too late in the year for them now.

I headed back the way I’d come, past the memorial again and back to Allhallows-on-Sea. For the sake of variety I turned left on another path just before the start of the beach which took me a little inland and to the end of the road.

This took me to a car park and a huge pub. I guess in the summer months with all the caravan parks here it does a good trade and so this is why it was big.  Though it did look rather run down.

The British Pilot, Allhallows-on-Sea

I followed this road back to the entrance to the caravan park and here I had completed my walk. Although only a short walk this time but this is because the path west from Allhallows-on-Sea runs for around 14 miles before it comes to the next town or village. That was far too far to contemplate today so that would have to wait until next time.

Irritatingly I had a little under 40 minutes until the next bus. It would probably take less time to walk, but I wasn’t very enthused about walking back along that road again. Rather than wait by the bus stop, I headed back through the caravan park to sit on the sea wall for a while until the bus arrived.

In fact as I approached the road and thought for a minute I had missed it but then realised it was going the wrong way – it headed up to the end of the road to turn around.

I had enjoyed this walk more than last time and it was nice to see the sea again. The marsh sections were pleasant, but not very varied and I had been walking beside a lot of marshes on recent walks. I was beginning to miss cliffs and hills though – this part of North Kent is incredibly flat!

Here are details of the public transport needed for this walk.

Arriva bus route 191 : Gillingham – Chatham – Rochster – Strood – Hoo St Werburgh – High Halstow – Allhallows-on-Sea – Lower Stoke – Grain. It runs broadly once every 2 hourly between Allhallows-on-Sea and Lower Stoke, seven days a week and takes a little under 10 minutes between Allhallows-on-Sea and Lower Stoke.

Here are the complete set of photos for this walk : Main Link | Slideshow

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160. Stoke to Grain

October 2006

Most coastal walks I thoroughly enjoy. There is the odd exception, the sort of walk that I’d happily not repeat. This is one of the latter category, unfortunately.

I drove to Stoke via the M25, A2 and A228 and parked on the road in the village of Stoke, near to the church. From here I followed same footpath I had followed last time to Stoke Creek Crossing, over the railway line, and down to the little wharf. It was low tide so the boats were again marooned on the mud flats.

Stoke Wharf

I wonder how often they moved. I also had my camera (accidentally) set on a high ISO setting. I didn’t notice for a while and so many of the photos are rather grainy on this walk.

I followed the sea bank but was rather surprised to find a micro-light plane passing just to my left.

Microlight near Lower Stoke

A check on the map showed “Airfield” marked at the end of the road from Middle Stoke to the creek, so that must be why. And it really didn’t seem a sensible place for an airfield. Sure, it was flat but it was very narrow with a railway line just to the left (behind that fence) and power lines a very short distance beyond them to the left (less than 100 metres). Get it slightly wrong and you’d end up tangled in power lines or on the railway line.

To my right was a mixture of marsh and muddy creeks. Today it was only hazy sunshine, now well into autumn and it was not as attractive as it had been in the late afternoon sunshine of my previous walk.

Stoke Saltings

On my left I was soon passing small hangers, well they were more large tents really, housing the tiny little planes.

Microlight at Middle Stoke

I soon reached the end of the little airfield where there was a path left to Middle Stoke, but I carried on along the sea wall path.

I now had the salt marsh to my left but also water to my left behind the sea wall. This was part of Stoke Marshes and presumably the pools had been dug to collect the water and keep the rest of the land dry. They seemed to be used by fisherman with a few cars parked up beside the water.

Stoke Saltings

I continued on the flat sea wall path and soon the water became a bit more open to my right. In the distance I could see the cranes of the container port at Grain.

Grain Container Terminal

To my left I could see the tanks of the oil refinery on the other side of the road.

Stoke Saltings

Later on I’d be walking on the road between the refinery, the container port and the power station. All that industry packed together – clearly I had a lot to look forward to!

A few boats were moored right out in the mud some distance from the land. I did wonder if they have been abandoned after all it did not look safe to walk out on the mud to them at low tide and at high tide you’d need another boat to get to them!

Stoke Saltings

A few others were moored up beside a make-shift pier which had most of the planks missing.

Derelict jetty on Stoke Saltings

The path headed south to the end of a little spit of land and then round a corner alongside Colemouth Creek.

Colemouth Creek near Grain

At the end of this creek the path emerged onto the road (the A228).

Colemouth Creek near Grain

This was the bit I had been dreading. When I drove here this road was busy and about 50% of the traffic seemed to be lorries. Now I’d have to walk on that road and with no pavement. I tried to follow the verge, but soon there was a crash barrier on that side of the road so I had to cross back to the right. To my left now was industry, an oil refinery I believe. Soon I had industry on my right, too.

It was an unpleasant walk and though the road had a 40mph speed limit very few drivers adhered to it (something I’d also noticed on the drive here). Soon I was surprised to come across a level crossing. The railway line heads into the industry to my right and is only used by freight trains these days. But here it crossed the road and oddly, the road then changes from the A228 to the B2001, for reasons I’m not clear.

However what was interesting is that this was still a manually worked level crossing, with the wooden gates manually moved across the road and with the signal box just to the right. I wondered how often it was used. I suspected not often, but I since suspect that I’m wrong. Fellow coastal walker Nic (and family) had an interesting encounter here with a workmen who, from their photos, were building a bridge here so that the road could cross the railway line without the need to use the level crossing. Surely someone would not go to all the expense to build a bridge over the tracks if the level crossing was used rarely?

One thing that the B2001 had that the A228 did not was a pavement. Narrow and overgrown, yes, but at least it existed and got me off that road. Either side access roads entered various industrial complexes but all were dead ends, so I stuck to the road. Gradually as I continued through the industry the amount of traffic decreased, as the lorries entered the various turnings. Much of the industry seemed to be derelict and soon the road had high fences either side, too. It was a relief when these fences soon ended and I had fields on either side. I was nearing the end of the industry.

It was a tedious walk but eventually I passed a sign for Grain Village and the speed limit became 30mph. My first welcome to Grain was the sign for Grain Power station to the right. From the map a bridleway is just left of this road and it might be possible to follow it and reach the coast. But I wasn’t certain and I really couldn’t face walking along the boring road into the power station only to have to come back. So I continued along the road to Grain village.

Soon I entered the village itself, now with houses beside the road. I wasn’t expecting a lot but it looked reasonably pleasant, though I hadn’t actually taken any photos along the whole road section. Not only was it all ugly I was a little concerned that someone would want to know what I was doing.

I forked left, with the main road at the Fire Station and followed this road, past the church, a car park and eventually to steps down to the coast.

Grain Church

At last, after all that industry, the sea again. There was even a beach and a little promenade.

The coast at Grain

It was eerily quite, I didn’t see anyone around. I continued left along the promenade but it soon abruptly ended where there were then low cliffs and some coastal defences.

The beach north of Grain

I continued up on a grassy path along the bank. But this soon was soon blocked with a pile of earth and a sign “Danger! Footpath closed” that went on to tell me that the route ahead had ceased to exist and the public were not permitted.

End of the footpath

In any case I could see from the map that it would soon have become a dead-end anyway, as it headed into a military firing range and a “Sand and Gravel Works”. It’s just that the path ended a little sooner than suggested on the map. The Isle of Grain is not a welcoming place.

The beach north of Grain

So I turned back and re-traced my steps back to the end of the road and continued along the promenade (if you could call it that). Ahead there was a particularly unusual building out to sea. This is Grain Tower Battery.

Grain Tower Battery

It dates from the mid 1800s and was built along similar lines to Martello Towers. Except that unusually this one was built not on land but on the mud flats out into the Medway so that at high tide it becomes an island. It is connected to the mainland by a causeway but much of this too has gone leaving mud flats to be crossed.

Grain Tower Battery

Improvements to artillery technology meant that the battery was obsolete almost as soon as it was completed. However it was used during World War I and II as a defence against torpedo’s. It was decomissioned in 1956 and has now become derelict. It is privately owned but was I believe sold again in 2015. The estate agent blurb (still available) describes it as a “5 bedroom house” as the title, but that doesn’t begin to describe the amount of work that would have to be done to make this habitable, and I doubt it ever will (most of the photos are just architects drawings). They also say that it comes with the address “No 1 The Thames”, which I suppose might be fun, but I doubt you’d convince a postmen to make the trek out along the causeway (tide permitting) to actually deliver any mail.

I took a few tentative steps out onto the causeway but the tide had not long gone out and it soon became wet and very muddy, so I gave up. I had to settle for zooming in with my camera to take a closer look.

Grain Tower Battery

The path continued past more derelict stuff to my right, it looked to also have had a military function but I don’t know what.

Old military buildings near Grain

Soon I was approaching Grain Power Station, protected by high fences again, which now lined the path.

Grain Power Station

I passed the water outlet for the power station. The path continued beyond it soon passing some sort of little lighhouse presumably to warn shipping of the presence of the Isle of Grain.

The coast south of Grain

The sea wall path soon turned to the right and even came to a sort of beach with a mixture of sand, mud and old tyres.

Beach near Grain

I continued past the wooden groynes until I had reached the end of the public footpath at the south of Grain, too. This ends at a jetty at Cockleshell Hard. What this jetty is used for I don’t know, but it was surrounded by tall fences and gates.

Cockleshell Hard, Isle of Grain

Numerous signs warned of the dangers of trying to enter and the route ahead too was now blocked with fences. So Grain village itself is a dead-end. Just one road in and out and no footpaths out of the area, either, all of them are dead-ends.

I considered, briefly, walking back to Stoke along the road. But decided there was really no point. Not only was it a horrible walk I had already done it and so there seemed no point in doing it again, albeit in a different direction. I’d see nothing new and I wouldn’t enjoy it. So I caught the bus back to Stoke and ended the walk there.

As you can probably tell I didn’t enjoy this walk. The first stretch along the marshes was pleasant enough. But after that there was a horrible stretch of walking along a busy road through heavy industry. When I’d finished that I came to Grain, where there was more industry. Though at least the old fort was quite interesting. I was at least glad to say I’d done it, but I very much doubt I will ever go back.

Here are details of the public transport needed for this walk.

Arriva bus service 191 : Gillingham – Chatham – Rochster – Strood – Hoo St Werburgh – High Halstow – Allhallows-on-Sea – Lower Stoke – Grain. It runs broadly hourly between Grain and Lower Stoke, Monday – Saturday and once every 2 hours on Sunday. It takes a little under 10 minutes between Grain and Lower Stoke.

Here are the complete set of photos for this walk : Main Link | Slideshow

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Kyststien

Means “Coastal Path” in Norwegian (I had to Google it to be sure!). I don’t know how far around the coast of Norway it goes, but it’s nice to see another neighbouring country to the UK creating a coastal path.

IMG_9052

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159. Strood to Lower Stoke

September 2006

For this walk I was leaving the urban Medway towns behind and heading along the north banks of the Medway back towards the coast. I drove down to Strood and parked at the station there.

From here I retraced the route from my last walk back down to the shores of the Medway to a road called Canal Road, whose name I puzzled over since it was beside the river which had never been a canal (to my knowledge, anyway). There were, briefly, views of the Medway and there are some unusual sights to be seen including an old Russian submarine I somehow missed last time.

The Medway at Strood

I understand this was bought here with plans to restore it and open to the public. But I don’t think this ever happened, and it is slowly rusting away in the Medway – a strange sight.

Canal Road soon became a tatty road passing through an area of industrial units. In amongst the lorries and dirt, I was surprised to see this old Hilman Minx parked up.

Hilman Imp (I think) at Strood

It looked rather out of place and I wondered if the owner was working nearby.

Ahead I passed a few houses of the village of Frindsbury on my left. To my right was derelict land which looked as if it had once had an industrial use and the Medway beyond. Ahead I had a choice. The official Saxon Shore Way continued ahead but strictly speaking the most coastal route was to turn right through a huge industrial estate, Medway City Estate. This would be the most coastal route, but looking at the map there was little prospect of even seeing the Medway. I didn’t fancy walking through an industrial estate probably with no pavement, so I quickly abandoned thoughts of walking through there and stuck with the main path.

Soon I reached the pretty church of Frindsbury on my left. I walked over for a closer look but whilst I could walk around it, the door was locked.

Frindsbury

The path passed a huge old pit on the left. Not sure what it is for – is chalk quarried? I guess it must be for chalk on blackboards, but I’m sure there must be other uses. The land to my right had clearly also been quarried and now the industry was built on it, because the land to my right was much lower and had sheer cliffs.

On my left I soon passed Manor Farm which had a lovely old barn but it was behind sturdy metal gates and fences. I hoped it was to be restored rather than demolished, it looked like the sort of place that would be listed.

Old barn at Frindsbury

Past this I crossed some scurbland and then the A289 on it’s approach to the Medway tunnel. This was a busy dual-carriageway so I had to be careful crossing.

Safely across I then passed the sewage works and some sort of man-made lake on the right. Finally I reached the banks of the Medway again, and finally I had left the Medway towns. I was rewarded with a rather lovely view with the wooded banks of the river ahead and the river full of moored up boats.

Marshes beside the Medway at Upper Upnor

I could also see the sheds of the Chatham historic dockyard across the river.

The Medway at Upper Upnor

I then had a proper path along the banks of the Medway through the village of Upper Upnor (they must like “Up” around here).

It was a beautiful village with a large castle built right onto the banks of the river ahead.

Upper Upnor

Marshes beside the Medway at Upper Upnor

This along with Rochester Castle were presumably built to protect the estuary from invasion. Upnor was clearly a very old and historic village and one which I suspect was once far more important than it is now. I headed up the High Street which quickly gained height, giving me views back over the Medway and Chatham.

The street was cobbled and lined with interesting houses, some with white clapper board and others brick.

Upper Upnor High Street

Clearly there was a wedding on what with all the people in suits and hats. However I was distracted by Upnor Castle. I love a good castle and could not resist stopping for a visit. The castle is run by English Heritage and it turned out I was here on the very last day it was open that year – I had timed it well!

Upnor Castle

The castle was not particularly big but I was pleased that you could climb up to the top of the towers so I could enjoy the views over the Medway.

The Medway from Upnor Castle

It was an interesting castle, with the usual array of canons and guns.

Upnor Castle

Upnor Castle

The castle was built in 1601 so is well over 400 years old and I very much enjoyed my visit.

From the castle I could also look out over the rapidly developing St Marys Island where I had walked last time, I imagine the waste land in front is now all covered in houses and flats.

View from Upnor Castle

Having visited the castle I headed back up the High Street since the onward route was along the road parallel with the coast at the top of the High Street. Heading back up the High Street I passed another old car which had just been parked. An early Morris Minor I think I rather liked it, because the photo could probably have been taken any time in the last 50 years or so and would have looked identical.

Upper Upnor

I had to continue on the road passed some more industry and then an area of new housing at Lower Upnor. Then it was back to the banks of the Medway again. The tide now going out, leaving large mud flats and jetties had been built so that boats could still land at low tide.

The Medway near Lower Upnor

I passed a boat yard and a couple of pubs, one was called The Pier. There was a pier of sorts too, but it looked more of a jetty for boats really rather than a pleasure pier.

The Medway near Lower Upnor

The Medway here is clearly a popular place for boating, as I passed more boat yards and jetties. These eventually ended and the Saxon Shore Way now followed what had become a shingle beach at the back of the river. Backed by trees it was lovely and felt rural again after all the urban walking, it was nice to be back in the country. Not sure if you would be able to follow it at high tide, though.

The Medway near Hoo St Werburgh

The Medway near Hoo St Werburgh

Ahead an old World War II pillbox had tumbled onto the beach a reminder it has not always been so peaceful here.

The Medway near Hoo St Werburgh

Ahead I could see another marina, in which a couple of light ships were moored up. These are interesting vessels, like floating lighthouses, but I don’t think any are still in active use, sadly. Before reaching this I passed what looked like perhaps old kilns on the left but I later found out is part of Cockham Wood Fort. Though the bricks are now crumbling back into the Medway.

Cockham Fort near Hoo St Werburgh

The path continued on the river bank past another ruined boat (well, it is Kent!).

Derelict boat near Hoo St Werburgh

The path here seemed to have been protected by concrete blocks piled up to one side, I’m not sure how effective they would be.

The Medway near Hoo St Werburgh

I had now reached “Hoo Marina Park” and the marina itself. The park in question wasn’t a park in the classic sense, but a an estate of “Park Homes”. I could also get a closer look at those interesting Light ships.

Lightships in Hoo Marina

At the eastern end of the marina, it became more industrial with more boat yards and warehouses again. Tankers were moored up here and I suspected these business were involved in repairing or servicing them.

Marshes near Hoo St Werburgh

Beyond it though was a collection of boats clearly beyond help, more rotting wooden wrecks, something I’ve come to associate the Kent coast with.

Marshes near Hoo St Werburgh

Inland I could also spot the tower of Hoo St Werburgh church, though it was surrounded by modern housing.

Hoo St Werburgh

The path ahead continued right along the banks of the Medway but to my right there was now an un-named marshy island, it had Hoo Ness Jetty at the western end and the remains of an old fort, Hoo Fort at the east. Zooming in I could see it was an old Fort clearly older than World War II.

Darnet Fort

I later found the fort was completed in 1871 but had major problems with subsidence (probably not a surprise if you build a heavy castle on marshy land!). It was used again during World War II but is now derelict. It is owned by the Ministry of Defence still and landing is not permitted. Looked like an interesting place, though.

Ahead the view was now dominated by Kingsnorth Power station, where I was headed.

Stoke Saltings, Isle of Grain

I could follow the bank still but after about half a mile from the docks, the Saxon Shore Way turned inland again. But there was still a footpath along the shore for a while further, so I continued along it rather than head inland

Marshes near Hoo St Werburgh

A large jetty served the power station and I suspect this meant it was coal fired (I was right it is, along with oil). So presumably the coal is unloaded from ships here. In front of the power station the land became marshy, with the path following a raised sea bank but marsh land to my left.

Marshes near Hoo St Werburgh

Kingsnorth Power Station

Out to sea I could see another fort on an island. This is Darnet Fort and is apparently of identical design to Hoo Fort but has been partly flooded in an attempt to reduce vandalism.

On reaching the edge of the power station itself I could not continue along the coast now and would have to head inland.

This proved rather difficult. A footpath was marked as going across the marsh but it soon disappeared into channels of water. There were no bridges (though some floating bits of wood hinted that maybe there used to be) and I kept coming to channels too wide to cross and having to back track.

Footpath near Kingsnorth Power Station

I eventually made it around, but there were no signs and I was rather frustrated that the path on the map didn’t seem to exist on the ground (more recent maps show it partly in the water, which I can confirm is accurate!). Although at the far end there was a gate and stile – but no sign indicating it wasn’t actually passable. Beyond this the path improved since it was now a track, called Jacobs Lane. I followed it inland to Eschol Road and turned right along this, it being the closest road to the coast.

I soon passed the access road from the power station on the right. Beyond that was another industrial estate with I suspect much of the business connected with the power station. At the roundabout ahead a bridlepath was marked on the map. This seemed to follow a road. In fact there are numerous roads laid out here that lead nowhere. It was clearly planned to build more here but for some reason it hasn’t happened.

I followed the road until the industry ended and then tried to turn off left where I thought the path should be to cross the railway line. But I could not find the crossing and there wasn’t really a path any more. The railway was fenced, so there was no way across. Frustrated I had to head back (I think the path is actually just a few metres to the left of this road, but I didn’t spot it at the time).

So I headed back to the roundabout and this time turned right to follow the road north instead over the railway line and past Tunbridge Hill. Just at the end of the row of houses on the left a footpath was marked to the right on the map which should join up with the bridlepath I had tried to follow earlier. I headed along the track to the right to White Hall Farm but again, there was no sign of the supposed footpath on the left.

I was getting pretty irritated now, having spent lots of time not really getting anywhere following paths that didn’t seem to exist and others that didn’t seem to be signed. So I had to head back to the road again. I followed it into the village of North Stoke, but it was not a pleasant walk as there was quite a bit of traffic.

I followed the road all the way to the next village, Stoke ahead. This at least had a pretty church for all my efforts.

Stoke, Isle of Grain

Lower Stoke, Isle of Grain

At Stoke I checked the map and realised there was in fact a path along the shore here, on the southern side of the Isle of Grain. It was a dead-end but if I didn’t walk it I felt like I was cheating. So I decided to follow this too. I took the track down from the village (Creek Lane) to a level crossing. Here I had to cross the railway line. Unusually for south east England, this rail line is used only be freight trains, there is no passenger service now (it ended in 1961), though I don’t know how often freight trains run.

A sign instructed me “Please use mirror provided”. Appearances matter around here, obviously, and it’s true my hair was looking a bit wind-blown, so I tidied it up in the mirror. Satisfied I had used the mirror, it must mean it was safe to cross.

Please use mirror provided

A little crossing hut existed beside the line here I suspect now a private house but one that must be rather noisy with the trains passing so close. Once over to my surprise there was quite a large wharf with boats moored all along the muddy creek.

Stoke Creek, Isle of Grain

In fact someone was just launching one. I turned right and followed the raised path. I was wondering how usable a dead-end path like this would be but in fact it seemed it was quite well used (dog walkers, perhaps?) and so was in good condition. As I neared the other edge of the power station there was a drainage channel to my right. Looking out over the marshes I could make out another power station (Grain) where I would get on my next walk.

Stoke Saltings from the Isle of Grain

Looking south I was interested to see numerous very long jetties, the nearest Bee Ness Jetty. It stretched for over a mile. But zooming in with my camera I could see a section was missing so it was obviously derelict and falling into the sea.

Bee Ness Jetty, Isle of Grain

Not sure what it had been used for in the past but I suspect it must have stretched so far into the deep water that large ships must have unloaded something here. At the end of the path were the usual collection of rotting boats, though these were of more recent metal construction.

Stoke Saltings on the Isle of Grain

Looking north I could see the large cranes of the Grain Container Terminal I would have to pass next time.

The Isle of Grain

I then headed back the way I’d come since the path was a dead-end with the power station ahead. Despite the sign, from the state of the gate I suspected many people had been trespassing.

Footpath near Stoke, Isle of Grain

However despite the dead end path I had quite enjoyed this section. I thought it was rather pretty, despite the amount of industry nearby.

Back at Stoke Creek Crossing the path continued north along the shore.

Stoke Saltings, Isle of Grain

There was another road about half a mile further north but with no crossing marked on the map I was not sure if there was another route over the railway line ahead. I was tired now and had had enough (I had walked a little over 15 miles by the end). Rather than risk walking that and having to come back I decided instead to save this path for next time. So I followed the path inland back to Stoke and thankfully found the footpath from there north east to Middle Stoke was in good condition too.

On reaching the village I followed Grain Road to the A228, crossed this and followed the High Street into Lower Stoke, where I ended the walk.

Lower Stoke, Isle of Grain

From here I took the bus back to Strood which took a very indirect route, taking almost an hour. But it gave me a preview of the next route and a chance for a rest!

This was a very mixed walk. The section along the northern banks of the Medway from Upper Upnor to Hoo St Werburgh was lovely. After that it was a frustrating walk inland following paths that either didn’t exist or were very hard to use, and taking several dead-ends. Despite this I enjoyed the last stretch along the dead-end path at Stoke beside the Medway. It was a nice finish, but it didn’t really make up for the earlier frustrations and this was one of those walks I was glad to finish so I would not have to do it again.

Here are details of the public transport needed for this walk.

Arriva bus service 191 : Gillingham – Chatham – Rochster – Strood – Hoo St Werburgh – High Halstow – Allhallows-on-Sea – Lower Stoke – Grain. It runs broadly hourly between Strood and Lower Stoke, Monday – Saturday and once every 2 hours on Sunday. It takes around 50 minutes to get from Lower Stoke back to Strood.

Here are the complete set of photos for this walk : Main Link | Slideshow

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158. Rainham to Strood

September 2006

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.

The Medway in Rainham

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.

The Medway in Rainham

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 Medway in Rainham

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.

The Medway in Rainham

I headed out along this, despite it being a dead-end as it looked quite interesting.

Horrid Hill, Gillingham

I passed the rusting remains of another ship (a Google search reveals it to be the tug “Waterloo”).

Horrid Hill, Gillingham

The path then passed woodland and soon reached the end of the spit, where it widened to the hill.

Horrid Hill, Gillingham

The spit got it’s name as it was once used by convicts and smugglers.

Horrid Hill, Gillingham

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.

Horrid Hill, Gillingham

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.

The Medway at Gillingham

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!

The Medway at Gillingham

The Medway at Gillingham

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).

The Strand Leisure Park, Gillingham

The Strand Leisure Park, Gillingham

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.

St Mary's Island, Chatham

St Mary's Island, Chatham

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).

St Mary's Island, Chatham

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.

Upnor Castle from Chatham

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.

Chatham Historic Dockyard

Chatham Historic Dockyard

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.

Chatham Historic Dockyard

The buildings had the cranes outside which were presumably used to move and launch the boats.

Chatham Historic Dockyard

It all looked very interesting and probably needs a whole day to do it justice. One day, one day.

Chatham Historic Dockyard

I left the dockyard through a very grand gate, showing the important of this sight to the navy.

Entrance to Chatham Historic Dockyard

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!

Barracks in Chatham

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) .

Fort Amherst, Chatham

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.

Chatham from Fort Amherst

Fort Amherst, Chatham

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.

The Medway at Chatham

I passed some more attractive buildings which probably once had a military use judging my their design and all the canons dotted around.

Chatham

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.

The Medway at Chatham

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.

Rochester

Rochester High Street

I even passed this odd Swiss-style chalet which looked a little out of place.

Rochester High Street

It was a fascinating mix of buildings from the new to the very old including some half-timbered houses and old brick buildings.

Rochester High Street

Rochester High Street

Rochester High Street

Rochester High Street

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.

Rochester Cathedral

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.

Rochester Castle

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.

The Medway at Rochester

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.

Rochester Castle

However there are wooden steps taking you part way up from where I could enjoy views of the cathedral and river.

The Medway at Rochester

Rochester Cathedral

The stonework, too was still quite intricate.

Rochester Castle

Rochester Castle

Having enjoyed the castle, I turned my attention to the cathedral.

Rochester 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.

Rochester

Rochester

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.

Rochester Bridge

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.

Here are the complete set of photos for this walk : Main Link | Slideshow

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157. Swale to Rainham

September 2006

Now back on the mainland this was another walk alongside marshes. I drove to Rainham Station and parked in the station car park. From there I took the train to Swale station. This is the 3rd time I’ve taken a train to or from this remote station (the least used in Kent) proving that even a remote station has it’s uses! Once again, I was the only person to get on or off.

As the station is on the southern approach to the bridge I have to walk a bit south to the road junction and then follow the road back towards the bridge and turn left just before the road goes under it. I go up steps and am now back on the Saxon Shore Way.

The Sheppey Crossing, Swale

I was back on familiar territory, a raised sea bank path beside marshes on my left and the Swale on my right. In about half a mile I come to some lights marked on the map. Not lighthouses, the turn out to be small lights marked on the top of wooden posts. Quite why this particular part of the Swale needs marking in this way I’m not sure.

Ferry Marshes near Swale

Inland the names hint at the old use of this area – Ferry Marshes and Old Ferry Road, clearly names pre-dating the opening of the bridges to the Isle of Sheppey. Inland there is a creek which seems to come to an abrupt end at the modern sea wall.

Chetney Marshes

Chetney Marshes

Cattle are grazing on the marsh to my left under the shadow of the bridge. The land is criss-crossed with streams and drainage channels and I imagine must all flood in the winter, so it is probably of little use other than grazing land.

The path ahead goes through a few gates, but at most of them the stile is broken, so I have to climb over the gates. A rather aggressive sign attached to one of them warns “Any dogs found in livestock will be shot”. And adds, underneath in smaller lettering and in brackets and seemingly without a hint of irony “Please help to protect our wildlife“!

The sea wall has numerous debris washed up against it from the incoming tide, presumably left from the last storm or higher than usual tide.

Chetney Marshes

After about a mile the path along the sea wall comes to an abrupt end. Ahead is Chetney Marshes and whilst a sea wall goes around most of this, there are no public rights of way. I had wondered if it might be possible to continue, but another rather aggressive sign puts paid to that “Private. Please keep out. Any disturbance to birds will result in prosecution”.

Chetney Marshes

So here I have to turn inland along a wide track heading towards a remote farm along a track marked as Old Counter Wall which is also raised up.

Chetney Marshes

The path soon passes under power lines and approaches a wind pump. Here the main track turns to the right to the farm and Chetney Hill, but it is a dead-end so I continue on the footpath ahead which also heads to the same farm, but via a slightly shorter route. The farm looks run down with broken windows and a tatty caravan alongside the barn. At the farm I can turn left and return back to the waterside. This is also not the sea. I’m on a narrow spit of land with the east of the land facing the Swale and the west another major estuary, this time the Medway. Immediately beside the path is Chetney Hill an island, though joined to the mainland via a bridge and I suspect part of the farm.

Chetney Hill

Father out in the Medway are all sorts of marshy islands. They show evidence of old sea walls on the map but are now flooded.

Bedlams Bottom

I’m not sure whether the sea wall was naturally breached or deliberately so, as has been done elsewhere on the coast. The northern of these islands is called Burntwick Island but the larger southern one is oddly unnamed, though it’s southern tip, named Slaughterhouse Point hints at what used to happen here.

I’m now alongside mud flats and marshes once again though with views over to the distant Isle of Grain (which isn’t really an island). The path continued on the edge of the estuary past an area marked as Bedlams Bottom, which made me laugh.

Marshes near Iwade

Passing an old creek there are numerous rotting boats – I’ve seen a lot of rotting boats in Kent.

Wrecked boats in Bedlams Bottom

Sadly ahead the path now leaves the coast and continues inland to the road. I am not really sure which side of the fence I’m supposed to be on, since there are no signs but the fence has mostly collapsed anyway. At the road, Raspberry Hill Lane, I have a choice. I could turn right along the road (but it has no pavement) or follow the Saxon Shore Way which parallels the road roughly 400 metres further inland. I opt for the latter.

I soon reach Raspberry Hill Park presumably named because it’s a hill where Raspberry’s used to be grown (perhaps they still are). Ahead the path soon forks but I soon begin to regret my choice. Signage is non-existent and I’m never really sure if I’m on the right path. Indeed the map shows numerous tracks on different routes to the right of way. At one point the Saxon Shore Way is even shown as going straight over a lake. Well I can’t walk on water so I muddle through as best I can, going between the two lakes. For a long distance path I’m not impressed, I expected it would be properly signed.

Still the upside is that the path is raised up a bit so so I have a fine view over the marshes of the Medway, though it is pretty misty so I can’t see far.

Raspberry Hill near Iwade

The marshes from Raspberry Hill near Iwade

Ahead at a place called Funton there is a by-way off to the right back down to the road. However I hate road walking when there is a lot of traffic and since the path is clearly marked ahead across the field, I decided to stick with it. This path turns out to be better and brings me beside the Funton Brickworks with it’s distinctive chimney and piles of bricks. From I’m relived to find here is a clear route onwards, though at one point I’m amused to come across a stile, complete with Saxon Shore Way marker, but the fence or hedge either side of it has long since been removed, leaving the stile redundant in the middle of a field. Pheasants pop out of the field edge as I pass.

Sadly the path soon ends at the road so I have to follow it ahead but it is not for long and there is a (well hidden) stile to the left which follows a path parallel with the road, but means I can avoid another stretch. It passes behind houses and through a small orchard. This emerges at the road and I can turn right then left along the minor road passing the pretty church in Lower Halstow. It looks very old (and later I found out that parts of it date from the 7th Century!).

St Margaret of Antioch, Lower Halstow

St Margaret of Antioch, Lower Halstow

Lower Halstow was I suspect once more important than it is today as beyond the church I’m passing an old dock on the right now empty of water and with just a few boats moored up.

Wharf at Lower Halstow

Once round the small dock I can turn right and follow a footpath along it’s western edge and back along the coast once more. There are numerous boats moored up in the estuaries of the Medway here and a few derelict ones closer to the shore.

Halstow Creek

Halstow Creek

It is an easy and pleasant walk along the sea bank and in a little under a mile I reach Twinney Wharf. Here more boats are moored up in the creek, which looks to be rapidly turning to marsh. Although the boats are tied up with rope I wonder if it’s even possible for them to get through the marsh back to the open water any longer.

Creek near near Upchurch

The path is soon running alongside orchards inland, for which Kent is famous but I’ve seen little of so far. The path is easy and after another half a mile I reach another small wharf. More boats are moored here. I pass through this to reach a third little dock in the marsh.

Creek near Ham Green

Sadly here the path along the shore ends again. I half to head inland along the road to the small village of Ham Green. Here I can cross the road and then after a brief right turn turn left onto a path between apple trees. The apples don’t seem to have been picked and are scattering the ground. It’s tempting to take one as a little snack, but I resist.

Orchard near Upchurch

At the end of the orchard I struggle to find the path back to the road at Wetham Green but eventually find the way. Back on the road I turn right and after a short distance can turn right on a footpath off the road, still the Saxon Shore Way. A track really, it passes some fishing lakes on the right and an area littered with debris from old cars until I reach the road near Upchurch.

Here I have to follow the road again, turning right into a small village which seems to lack a name (though Horsham Farm is marked alongside it). Although a small place it does have a pub, The Brown Jug, which at the time was a Shepherd Neame pub (which brings back memories of my walks around Faversham)  but subsequently, and after a brief closure, it is now a freehouse instead.

The village suggested on the map turns out to be a fairly modern estate which is otherwise remote, perhaps an “overspill” from nearby Medway. As the road turns left ahead there is supposed to be a footpath cutting the corner, but I can find no evidence of it on the ground, so I stick to the road to Windmill Hill. The road now turns right and soon comes to another wharf, this one rather industrial and with caravans on one side. Just after this I can turn off the road and follow a footpath behind some more industrial buildings and finally as these end emerge beside Otterham Creek.

Otterham Creek

The tide is low and the creek devoid of any water with a few ruined boats resting on the mud. As I continue, on the opposite bank is a wharf where cranes unload from boats but it is marked as a tip so I suspect it’s scrap metal.

Otterham Creek

I’m now following the spit of land marked as Motney Hill and I can follow it for about half a mile until I am approaching a sewage works at the far end.

Otterham Creek

Here I have to cut inland onto the road leading to the sewage works passing a couple of isolated houses. It does not seem a great place to live on a little peninsula next to the sewage works!

The track is soon alongside the water again, now on the west side of this peninsula. This is Rainham Creek and it is now quite misty, but I can see land in the distance, which I think is Horrid Hill an even narrower spit attached to the mainland.

Rainham Creek

Next time I’ll find out what is so horrid about it. I can also make out the power station at Kingsnorth in the distance. through the mist.

Rainham Creek

However I’ve reached the end of this walk and I follow the roads inland for about 3/4 of a mile to reach Rainham Station, where I returned to my car and drove home.

This was not one of the best coastal walks. Whilst it had some nice areas, such as around Iwade and the lovely village of Lower Halstow, a lot of the walk was on inland paths and roads as quite a large area of the coast is without public access here. I was also disappointed that the Saxon Shore Way was poorly signed and simply didn’t seem to exist in places and the other footpaths were no better. Perhaps the England Coast Path will improve matters here when it reaches this part of Kent.

Here are details of the public transport needed for this walk

Trains run approximately every 30 minutes between Rainham (Kent) and Swale but you need to change at Sittingbourne. If taking the train to/from Rainham be sure to select Rainham in Kent because there is also a station called Rainham in Essex. It typically takes about 20 minutes by train between Rainham and Swale, including the change.

South Eastern Trains London to Medway, Faversham, Ramsgate and Dover : St Pancras International – Stratford International – Ebbsfleet International – Gravesend – Strood – Rochester – Chatham – Gillingham – RainhamSittinbourne – FavershamWhitstable – Herne Bay – Birchington-on-Sea – Margate – Broadstairs – Ramsgate. Trains run hourly seven days a week. In addition there is also an hourly train from London Victoria, Bromley South, Longfield and Meopham which then joins the router above at Rochester. This also runs hourly giving two trains per hour between Rainham and Sittingbourne. The trains from London St Pancras are faster and more expensive.

South Eastern Trains Sittingbourne to Sheerness-on-Sea : Sittingbourne – Kemsley – Swale – Queenborough – Sheerness-on-Sea. Trains run every 30 minutes Monday – Saturday and hourly on Sundays between Sittingbourne and Swale.

Here are the complete set of photos for this walk : Main Link | Slideshow

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