Compass points

Now I’ve been to three of the four compass points of mainland Britain.

Southernmost (Lizard point)

Easternmost (Lowestoft Ness)

And now the most northerly, Dunnet Head (which is actually further north than John O Groats)

Just the western most point now to go!

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165. Stanford-le-Hope to Pitsea

December 2006

I did this walk from home first taking the train into London Waterloo, the tube from there to West Ham and a C2C train from West Ham to Stanford-le-Hope. It was a pleasant journey though I had not made as early a start as I’d hoped. It was now December, and daylight is in short supply in this month.

Coastal access was limited on this walk so it was to be another walk through marshes – I’ve come to realise that a lot of the coast is marshes.

I came out of the railway station at Stanford-le-Hope and headed through the church yard. The church was very pretty with interesting brick work on the tower.

Stanford-le-Hope church

I emerged from the church yard opposite a pleasant looking pub, The Inn on the Green. (I was also amused to notice, later on, the differing reactions of the two ladies waiting for a bus when I took the photo).

Stanford-le-Hope

Sadly this was the of the town centre now really as I headed down un-interesting suburban streets back to the northern end of Rainbow Lane, where I joined the roads into Stanford-le-Hope for the train last time.

Interestingly the route I took then seems not to be possible now. I turned right along Rainbow Lane and then turned left on a track (High Road) which headed north east past Oak Farm and Great Garlands Farm.

Country lane near Corringham

But the most recent Ordnance Survey map shows that this road has been sliced in two, with a new dual carrigeway built to serve the new “London Gateway Port” cutting it into two dead-end roads. So I’m not sure if it is still possible to walk this way.

It was a quiet road both in terms of traffic and noise, with large fields on either side, crossed with power lines, probably from Tilbury. When this lane turned off to the left, I could continue ahead on a footpath heading along a field edge near to Old Hall. The path comes out ahead onto the A1014, but just before it I turned right then left again to emerge a little further down the road. The path was not obvious on the ground and I struggled to find it until I spotted the stile I was meant to reach on the other side. This brought me out onto the A1014, another dual carriageway. Thankfully traffic was light (probably because it is the weekend) and once over I could cross into a recreation ground and follow the footpath across it to the church in Corringham.

Corringham Church

Corringham and Stanford-le-Hope were presumably once separate places but they have now merged together. I didn’t know anything about Corringham, but it was lovely.

I followed the path through the church yard to reach a pretty collection of buildings, some half timbered and some clapper-boarded with an attractive looking pub being one of them.

Corringham

Corringham

The path continued past these buildings and beside an attractive lake, Cobblers Mede Lake. It even had a little fountain in the middle.

Lakes in Corringham

At the end I emerged onto a road with the school just the other side of the road. The path continued alongside the school and beyond it was squeezed between another lake on the left and the school fields on the right.

At the end the path crossed a track turned left and bought me out onto another road. This was a minor road that led into the small village of Fobbing to my right. I passed this building with it’s bright coloured doors and a large pub beyond it.

Fobbing

The road here too was quite a steep hill – and there was me thinking Essex was flat!

Fobbing

At the T-junction ahead I turned right down the main road of the village, with a mixture of old and new buildings. Soon I reached the church. It was another attractive church with a nice solid looking tower. It’s been a good day for spotting churches. Less so the coast.

Fobbing Church

As I passed the church I could look back and realised that though Fobbing is now quite a small place it must have once been both wealthy and important since the church seemed to have 3 distinct sections to it, I presumed extensions as the congregation grew.

At Fobbing I had a choice. A path headed north east over Fobbing Marsh, my onward route. Another path headed east over another area of marsh (un-named, perhaps also part of Fobbing Marsh). This second route was closest to the coast but it was basically a giant loop down to the A1014, which I’d have to follow back to Fobbing. In short a lot of walking (about 3 miles) to end up about 20 metres from where I was now, mostly not on the coast.

However checking the map more closely I could see that the southern (dead-end loop path) seemed to have a bridge over a creek. So I decided to follow this southern route, closer to the coast and see if I could devise my own route. I followed the road as it turned left at the far end of Fobbing and then found a path on the right which seemed to go across someones garden then out into the marshes.

Fobbing Marshes

This crosses an over-grown stream and then I turned left on a fairly obvious slightly raised track heading east over the marshes. In fact the path is dry underfoot and quite easy to follow, a relief. The marshes are flat, large and with distant views of the industry around. Though the immediate area is actually pleasantly rural – and not actually very marshy!

Fobbing Marshes

At a fork in the footpaths I turn left to follow the route closest to Fobbing Creek. I’m briefly next to the creek, now almost a river with another raised bank ahead. I suspect this area was once more marshy and these raised banks protect it from the tides so the land is drier.

Fobbing Creek

Oddly ahead the path turns to the right, away from the creek then turns left, back to the creek, forming a big U-shape. I follow it. To my right now is the “moveable flood barrier” marked on the map. This crosses the much larger Vange Creek.

Moveable flood barrier on Vange Creek

I had wondered if it might be possible to cross Vange Creek here. However the land beyond is a mixture of industry, old wharfs and a rubbish dump, with no roads and no paths. The barrier I can see is big, much bigger than I expected. Clearly with the fences around it there is no way to cross it. So I give up on any thoughts of trying to cross it.

As my path returns to the banks of the smaller Fobbing Creek, there is another barrier. Well more of a damn really, over Fobbing Creek. It is not a public right of way. But there is a stile and no signs saying “Keep Out”. So I cross the stile onto the damn. An Environment Agency sign tells me that I am in fact on an “Ooze Dam” and gives the grid reference.

Fobbing Creek

I think this may be a nature reserve, oddly there were signs for both the RSPB and Essex Wildlife trust I noticed, so I am not sure who owns it (I think the Essex Wildlife trust had recently acquired it from the RSPB). However there are no “keep off” or private signs, so I follow the raised bank, again not a right of way, on the western bank of Fobbing Creek.

The creek soon widens as it joins the larger Vange Creek. The view across this creek is quite a contrast. The sun has come out and I have the natural un-spoilt creek (well, more mud flats really, since the tide is out) with the chimneys and industry ahead.

Vange Creek from Vagne Marshes

I continue on the sea bank path as it turns left along the south edge of another creek called “Parting Gut” (sounds more like a medical condition).

Ahead I reach a fence of some sorts but the gaps between the slats are so wide I can just walk through, so I’m not clear what it is for. At tit’s inland end I rejoin the public footpath. I’m pleased to have managed to make a more coastal route and also one that does not require me to double back, though I’m not clear if it’s strictly a legal route.

The mouth of the creek is another of those barriers. To my right the creek is mud flats. To the left there are so many reeds you would barely realise there is water there at all.

Creek on Vange Marshes

Now the footpath leaves the raised sea bank and heads over a field. The route on the ground is unclear so I had just to the left of a brown coloured building I can see ahead since this is also marked on the map and the path clearly goes just to the left of it.

Vange Marshes

The walk is difficult but as I reach the track I’m met with a locked gate. I’m certain this is the public right of way as the grid references from my GPS matches where I thought I was on the map. So I have to climb over the gate onto the track, and climb another gate on the other side to continue. I reported these padlocked gates to the appropriate authority who told me they had visited and found the gates were unlocked. Hmm.

Beyond these gates the path proves very difficult. There is no route on the ground and I come to a water channel. The path goes right across it, but there is no bridge. So I turn right back towards Vange Creek where it is narrow enough I can scramble across. I was hoping not to have problems now I was back on a proper right of way, but I’m wrong.

There is no sign of the path on the ground now so I head in broadly the right direction until I reach a line of trees behind which is another creek.

Footpath over Vange Marshes

So I turn left, keeping the banks of the creek on my right until I reach a track. It is the track I crossed earlier, where the locked gates were. So I should have walked on that. I could follow this ahead to where it joined another track going left to right to Marsh Farm.

I cross this track and once again the footpath disappears. I’m left trying to make my way over boggy areas of grass, mixed with streams, long grass and boggy areas.

Vange Marshes

I make very slow progress. Eventually I reach the north edge of this area with the railway line now to my left. I crossed a footbridge (so this is the path) but then followed beside the railway line, because it was drier here, though it is not the right route. At the field end I turned right and rejoined the proper footpath to go behind Vange Wharf. Here the path is very overgrown.

I soon reached the access road for Vange Wharf where there is a railway crossing so you can reach the A13. But the A13 is a busy dual carriageway here with no safe route to walk or cross it. So reluctantly, I keep to the path. I pass a metal gate where there is a footpath sign to Pitsea station. However it’s back to a boggy overgrown path. I make my way as best as I can across this area to end up next to the railway again.

Past this the path becomes a track. This soon leads to a foot crossing over the railway line. Here I made a mistake. The footpath continued a bit further north towards the A13 then it turns right. I turned right too early. I end up in a scrappy area of waste ground and assumed the path goes through here. I find a reasonably easy track to follow through this. I can follow this to the railway line. There I come to a locked gate, with spikes on top. It soon dawns on me I’m not on the correct path. I try to look for another way out, but there isn’t anything easy. I could go back to the A13 but I don’t want to.

Frustratingly, I can Pitsea station, where I’m heading. It’s just across the road which is just the other side of the fence. There is a level crossing across the road. Eventually I realise I might just be able to squeeze around a small gap in the fence where the level crossing mechanism is and then get over the fence as here there is only a small gate with no spikes on top. I manage to squeeze through hoping no one at the station sees me!

Relieved to be off that horrible path and back on the public road, I could finish here at Pitsea. However it has not been a long walk (albeit it not an easy walk) and ahead there is another small area of coast that is accessible to the public – Wat Tyler Country Park. At least being a country park it should have easy family-friendly paths. So that is where I went.

The route is initially not pleasant, along a road with another private road off to the left and then passing the sewage works. However soon I reach the start of the country park and there is grass next to the road I can walk on. The country park is basically a dead-end with Timberman’s Creek to the west of it, Pitsehall Creek to the east and Vange Creek to the south, so it’s a small spit of land surrounded by creeks.

Wat Tyler was the leader of the peasants revolt against the poll tax in 1381. He marched a group of rebels from Canterbury to the capital, where he was killed by officers of King Richard II. I’m not sure if he ever reached this part of Essex. It seems unlikely given it’s the wrong side of the Thames to be on if coming from Canterbury.

As I entered the country park I tried to make my way to the western edge, beside Timberman’s Creek. However I got a bit lost in the woodland and made a couple of wrong turnings before I found the way. I followed this around the edge of the creek though I turned inland to explore a view point made out of an old World War II pillbox. This was in fact the end of the strongest World War II defensive barrier (so the sign said), called the GHQ line.

Wat Tyler Country Park

From here I returned to the coast and was soon walking beside Vange Creek, just a short distance from where I was earlier. Although the tide was out, leaving mud flats, it was still very pretty in the now low setting sunlight.

Vange Creek from Wat Tyler Country Park

Vange Creek from Wat Tyler Country Park

I continued past the Wharf at the south eastern corner and stopped to take in the fine view over the creek.

Vange Creek from Wat Tyler Country Park

The sun was however nearly setting so I soon headed north along the path close to the eastern side of the park where there was a miniature railway. This bought me to the main visitor centre area where the was a pretty thatched cottage and a couple of other interesting buildings.

Wat Tyler Country Park

Wat Tyler Country Park, Pitsea

I imagine they are open during the day when the park is busier, but they were all closed up now.

I soon reached the end of the country park having made a circuit, or as close a one as I could and returned along the road back to Pitsea station. From here I took the train to West Ham to pick up the tube to Waterloo and then the train home.

This was an odd sort of walk. The first part was pleasant, through some pretty villages but not really coastal. Then for a while it was a nice walk through the marshes on the sea bank path. But this soon deteriorated to a frustrating battle through boggy marsh with no visible path and then a further battle with a level crossing barrier. However Wat Tyle country park made an interesting end to the walk with the lovely views over Vange Creek.

Here are details of the public transport needed for this walk:-

C2C trains run every 30 minutes between Pitsea and Stanford-le-Hope seven days a week on the following service. London Fenchurch Street – Southend Central : London Fenchurch Street – Limehouse – West Ham – Barking – Upminster – Ockendon – Chafford Hundred – Grays – Tilbury Town – East Tilbury – Stanford-le-Hope – Pitsea – Benfleet – Leigh-on-Sea – Chalkwell – Westcliff – Southend Central. Trains run twice an hour, seven days a week. It takes 6 minutes between Pitsea and Stanford-le-Hope.

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

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England completed

Today I’ve completed my coastal walk around England as I’ve walked the final stretch of coast in England. That means I can now never go to the coast anywhere in England without saying “I’ve been here before”! I’ve not done it in order which is how I came to end up completing my walk in the village of Paull near to Hull, having walked there from Hull city centre. It was in truth a walk I had been putting off which is how I came to do it last, as much of the walk was beside a busy dual carrigeway but it was actually much better than I expected as there was a proper footpath and cycle path I could use on this section.

So, one country down, two to go (or possibly 3 if I decide to do Northern Ireland).

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164. Tilbury to Stanford-le-Hope

November 2006

It was time to move on to a new county. Having started off really enjoying the coast of Kent the last few walks had been mostly marshes and industry and I was getting a bit bored of it. It was time to cross the Thames into Essex.

I had puzzled about where to cross the Thames. The lowest crossing is the Tilbury to Gravesend ferry. I had wondered about walking across the Dartford bridge, but a bit of research found that this was impossible. I thought I read that if you arrived at the bridge there wanting to cross you would be driven across. It turns out this service only exists for cyclists not pedestrians (why?). So the first place I could walk across was the Woolwich foot runnel and that seemed too far. I had briefly considered walking as far as Tower Bridge but then I saw how much industry I’d have to walk through (especially on the north bank of the Thames in London) and decided against that.

So I decided that for my next walk I’d start at Tilbury. Ideally I’d take the ferry across from Gravesend, but that too presented it’s own practical problems. If I drove to Gravesend to do so I’d need to take the ferry both ways (as I’d need to get back to my car at the end) which seemed unnecessarily inconvenient and expensive. Or I could take the train, but that would cost almost double the price because (for some reason) at off-peak times the price difference between a single or a return train ticket is usually about 10p, so in effect to travel out to Gravesend and back from somewhere in Essex would cost almost double than a return on the same route.  So in the end I decided just to start the walk from Tilbury and not bother with the ferry, after all I’d not be walking when on the ferry anyway.

So to Essex. Now here is a confession. Before this coastal walk, the only time in my life I’d ever even stepped foot in Essex before was to go to Stansted Airport. I didn’t know anyone that lived there, I’d never visited there and it was generally regarded as fairly flat, so it didn’t feature highly on my walking plans, either. But I actually rather enjoyed my walk around it’s coast, I was surprised by how rural and tranquil most of it was and the numerous creeks and estuaries (I read that Essex actually has the longest coastline of any county in England).

I decided to travel there by train rather than driving. To drive I now had to drive almost exactly half way around the M25 whichever way I went (or straight through London, but that would be slower). On the train I could take a more direct route and, as at the time, I already had a train season ticket to take me into London for no extra cost, it made sense.

The rail line out to Tilbury starts at London Fenchurch Street. This is an unusual station in that it is (I think) the only central London terminus that does not have a tube station within it (the nearest one is at Tower Hill). So I decided the simplest option was to take the train to London Waterloo then take the Jubilee line from there onto West Ham station. This had a direct connection with the line out of Fenchurch Street and the trains to Tilbury and so worked out quicker. It was a pleasant journey. I even had the rare privilege of a carriage on the Jubilee line entirely to myself as we got further out of central London – not something that happens often I imagine.

Jubilee line train

From there I found the train on to Tilbury Town operated by a company going by the strange name of “c2c”, whatever that is meant to mean. But I was pleasantly surprised. The train was modern, clean, on-time, not crowded and comfortable, unlike the run-down vandalised trains I’d encountered in Kent.

Sadly it was not all good news. I could get as far as Tilbury Town station. But the ferry from Gravesend was a mile away. There used to be a railway station right next to it (Tilbury Riverside), but it closed in 1992. This was because with the opening of the first tunnel under the Thames at Dartford in 1963 the Tilbury <-> Gravesend ferry had declined in importance, particularly when the M25 opened in 1986, providing a faster route for many. Fewer and fewer people used the station until it was closed entirely.

The first part of my walk was therefore a mile of road walking. I exited the station on the side for the town and turned right along Dock Road. I took the first road off to the right Soon on the right I came across a sign for Tilbury Fort, which I knew was on the riverside. This took me on a combined foot and cycle path over the railway line on a large bridge. There was another thing I noticed – the bridge was really high. I realised why as I was crossing – the trains on the north side of the Thames are electrified with overhead wires rather than 3rd rail that is used on the south side, which means bridges have to be higher to get over both the tracks and wires. Once across the railway I was on the busier A1089. Fortunately, it did have a pavement.

The road became increasingly industrial, with the docks on my right and and railway off to my left. I came to a couple of roundabouts and came to the waterfront, overlooking what is now the London International Cruise Terminal. If you come on a cruise and it claims to stop at London it’s probably actually stopping here in Tilbury, Essex (I wonder if they mention that in the brochure?). This is because these days most cruise ships are so large they cannot get further up the Thames. Only smaller boats can get under Tower Bridge to moor up in the Pool of London between London Bridge and Tower Bridge.  The cruise terminal now uses the old railway station building.

The Thames at Tilbury

All sorts of jetties now occupy the front of the station one of which (I’m not sure which) is used by the Gravesend ferry.

Tilbury Cruise Terminal

Just past this I could begin on a path beside the road which led to the Worlds End Pub. It did seen an apt name.

The Worlds End Pub at Tilbury

The banks of the Thames here were briefly undeveloped, with mud flats and the great hulking power station a bit further along the shore. I passed along the sea wall here, now a footpath to reach Tilbury Fort.

Tilbury Fort

This is owned by English Heritage and open to the public and parts of it date from the 16th Century. It is a very interesting castle with a moat on 3 sides and the Thames on the south side. It was built to defend the Thames and London from attack from France. The entrance was through an impressive gate house. I would liked to have taken a look but it was now November and I knew I’d not finish my planned walk before dark if I did.

So I had to make do with peering through the gate house instead. It did look pretty interesting.

Tilbury Fort

I continued along the shore past the fort, but too my irritation there was no path and it was soon blocked by a gate (looking at the map now I think a path has since opened).

Tilbury Fort

The Thames at Tilbury

So I had to head back to the Worlds End Pub and follow a path marked heading north from here. This was clearly once a road, but is now closed to cars.

Disused road at Tilbury

It still had the white line down the middle, but was being taken over by vegetation.

At the end I rejoined the public road. Sadly this time there wasn’t a pavement. The road soon turned to the left and just after this I could pick up “Public Footpath 146”, as the sign informed me. This ran along a raised bank with the road leading into Tilbury power station just to my left. Soon it turned right, away from the power station road and alongside a little area of water, mostly hidden by trees. When this ended I continued on a concrete path by the sea wall.

The view was not promising! A sewage works and then the power station beyond that.

Tilbury

I had seen that this part of Essex was industrial from my walk along the south side, so I suppose is was not a surprise. However soon this opened up to a path right along the shore of the Thames again.

The Thames at Tilbury

It looked like the sort of path that might flood at high tide given the washed up debris about but it did not seem likely today. The path runs right along the shore in front of Tilbury Power station and underneath a couple of jetties and pier that service it.

Tilbury Cruise terminal

The Thames at Tilbury

In fact though I hadn’t realised it, there are actually two separate power stations here, one fired by coal and another by oil. The oil one had shut down in 1981 and had been part demolished. The second one, the coal one was operating at the time I walked here, but has since closed (it closed in 2013). The jetties were I think for unloading the coal shipped in. I passed under the jetties and soon reached the end of the power station.

Tilbury Power Station

At the end of the power station the map showed the public footpath headed away from the sea wall beside old land fill areas and the like. Thankfully I found this diversion was not necessary (and in fact didn’t seem to exist). I could continue alongside the sea wall. When this ended I found there was a pleasant footpath over the marshes.

Footpath near East Tilbury

It passed a few former industrial structures (old piers etc). It was not marked as a right of way (the footpath meandering about a bit inland) but seemed well used, mostly by fisherman. I was actually quite relieved about that because I always feel a little nervous in remote industrial areas so it was good to have the fisherman about too.

The Thames estuary at Tilbury

Soon the un-official path I had been following joined the route of the official path again right along the coast. I was surprised to see there was even a brief sandy beach!

Beach beside the Thames at East Tilbury

The path crossed a couple of little streams inland.

East Tilbury marshes

Ahead I came to a derelict old jetty with a concrete tower. I imagine it was from World War II but not entirely sure of it’s use. It looked a bit like a water tower on closer inspection.

Coalhouse Point on the Thames estuaty

Ahead I came to another interesting fort. This one is Coalhouse Fort. This is more recent than Tilbury Fort, dating from the 1860s. It was used until the 1950s when it was closed and became derelict.

Coalhouse Fort, East Tilbury

A local preservation group has now taken over to maintain and preserve it and they open the fort on occasional open days. Like Tilbury Fort, much of the moat is still intact and still full of water. It was very pleasant with a little park in front of it.

Coalhouse Fort, East Tilbury

On the other bank too I could see Cliffe Fort and the industry that surrounds it.

The Thames near East Tilbury

I passed the entrance to the fort and although the fort was closed to the public when I walked past the main gates were open so I could at least look over the low wooden fence and see inside.

Coalhouse Fort, East Tilbury

Coalhouse Fort, East Tilbury

A lot of original features seemed to be intact with old railway tracks heading off into the fort. Another one to come back and visit another day.

Coalhouse Fort, East Tilbury

I could actually walk the coastal side of the fort and at the end a public path continued along the banks of the Thames.

The Thames near Tilbury

This path continued right along the banks for about 1 mile. There was old industry (mostly gravel and sand extraction) marked on the map to the left but it is now disused and slowly returning to nature.

East Tilbury Marshes

The tide was going out now, revealing large areas of mud flats.

The Thames estuary at East Tilbury

Near these old jetties the path came to an end. The map suggested the path continued on the banks of the Thames for another half a mile or so to some “Travelling Cranes” but it was fenced off.

So I had to turn inland here on another path along the south edge of Mucking Marsh (I think it is actually an old landfill site, so lives up to it’s name!). I was soon passing along a field near to East Tilbury, with the houses close by. Soon I was turned left with the path to run parallel with the edge of East Tilbury.

East Tilbury is one of those planned communities. The Bata Shoe Factory was built here in the 1930s. The owners of the factory developed East Tilbury for their workers (though the shoe factory has since shut down) and most of the houses date from this period. My path passed a park and then reached the road. Here I turned right passing East Tilbury station.

I continued along the road to reach the end of East Tilbury and the start of the village of Linford about 100 metres later! I passed the church on my right.

Linford church

A gap in the wooden fence past this led to a footpath which was a shortcut through a small area of woodland. There were in fact quite a number of paths here (probably well used by dog walkers) but I headed in the rough direction of the path on the map and soon emerged onto Walton’s Hill Road. This was a busy road with poor visibility and no pavement so did not make for a pleasant place to walk.

On my left I soon passed Walton Hall Farm which has a museum and a small farm open to the public. Beyond this I continued with the road which soon paralleled the railway line. The road clearly used to have a level crossing here, but it had closed.

The road soon turned left away from the railway again but a footpath continued ahead beside the railway which I took beside a field.

Footpath in Mucking

This soon met the road again but this time it was a more minor road leading to the small village of Mucking. I crossed the level crossing (this one does still exist) and continued along the road.

Mucking is unusual in that it’s on this dead-end road. I continued on the road passed the church which is now a private residence rather than a working church.

Mucking church

Just past this there is a footpath off to the left. Interestingly now at the end of the road there seems to have been a nature reserve created, Thurrock Thameside Nature Park which is now owned by the Essex Wildlife Trust. So there is additional access along the coast now. This opened in 2013 (by David Attenborough, no less) on what was land fill at the time I walked here. It shows what can be done!

However when I walked here this didn’t exist, so instead I turned left on this footpath into Stanford Warren Nature reserve. Here a pleasant track led over marshes and across a creek. It continued between lakes.

Stanford Warren nature reserve

This soon emerged onto another road. My destination, Stanford-le-Hope station was just half a mile along this road. However I decided to continue a bit further first.

So I turned right through more of the nature reserve back alongside Mucking Creek and back to the Thames.

Sunset over Mucking Creek

Here a pleasant path continued along the Thames. It was now nearing sunset and the light was lovely. On reaching the banks of the river I could see back to the Travelling Cranes I had passed earlier. They looked strangely beautiful in the early evening sun, catching the last of the suns rays.

Sunset at Mucking Marshes

I’m not normally one to find industrial areas attractive but the light made it really quite beautiful.

Ahead though the view was of more industry. There was a large oil storage depot and another power station beyond it and an oil refinery beyond that. Something to look forward to for next time!

The Thames estuary at Stanford-le-Hope

Now with the sun almost setting I took one last photo looking back over the cranes now in dusk. This landscape has changed now. The oil refinery ahead has since all been re-developed into the London Gateway Port.

Sunset at Mucking Marshes

It was a beautiful sunset. The path ahead was supposed to continue a little further before coming a dead end but after a short distance you are expected to walk across the mud flats I think where the banks have eroded away.

Sunset at Mucking Marshes

So I abandoned that as not safe and so turned inland along Rainbow Lane (a track that is also a bridleway). I continued ahead on this in the fading light passing a sports ground and to the road.

Sunset over Stanford-le-Hope

At the end of this sports field I turned left, passing the other side of it on the left and then turned left again to continue ahead to Stanford-le-Hope station. I had about 15 minutes to wait for a train back to West Ham where I then returned home by tube and train via London Waterloo.

My first walk in Essex had been an interesting one. It had turned out more pleasant than I expected with a path along the banks of the Thames for much of the walk and despite some industry much of it was actually reasonably rural. The lovely sunny weather and beautiful light helped, too. The two forts were very interesting and I even found the industry visible at the end strangely pretty in the lovely light of dusk.

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

C2C trains run regularly between Tilbury and Stanford-le-Hope : London Fenchurch Street – Limehouse – West Ham – Barking – Upminster – Ockendon – Chafford Hundred – Grays – Tilbury Town – East Tilbury – Stanford-le-Hope – Pitsea – Benfleet – Leigh-on-Sea – Chalkwell – Westcliff – Southend Central. Trains run twice an hour, seven days a week. It takes 9 minutes between Stanford-le-Hope and Tilbury Town.

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

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163. Gravesend to Cliffe

March 2005

More marshes was the theme for this walk. I did this walk in reverse and about 18 months earlier than my previous walk. The reason for this is that I had earlier had the idea of walking the Saxon Shore Way (before I decided to do the whole coast), which starts at Gravesend and it follows the Saxon route of the coast (where it is not lost to the sea) which means that in places it is more inland than the route I had walked. However I’m sorry to say that this walk put me off following the rest of that route.

I started by taking the train to Gravesend, first taking a train into London Waterloo and then crossing to Waterloo East for a train on to Gravesend. I soon wished I hadn’t. The train was in a dreadful state with graffiti scratched into the glass of every single window, making it hard to see out, missing and ripped seat cushions and the toilet was broken. To cap it all one of the (cardboard) adverts even fell from it’s slot onto my head when the train went into a tunnel because it caused a gust of wind through the train. It only served to remind me why I avoided travelling by train as much as possible in Kent (things have, thankfully, improved greatly in recent years, after the decay resulting from years of being run by Connex South Eastern).

Having reached Gravesend I walked through the town centre to the water front. Gravesend is not a nice sounding name for a town. After all a Grave is where you end up when you are dead and well that very much is the End, yes. It was a misty damp day but on reaching the waterfront there was a pleasant little pier.

Gravesend Pier

It serves a useful purpose too. Gravesend is actually the lowest point the public can cross the Thames from Kent to Essex. A passenger ferry service crosses the Thames here from Gravesend to Tilbury. The first crossing for vehicles is further upstream, at the Dartford bridge/tunnel that links the M25. Though pedestrians are not permitted on the bridge. The lowest point you can legally cross the Thames on foot is therefore the Woolwich foot tunnel. However a new ferry service is planned to run between Queenborough on the Isle of Sheppey and Southend which, if it is successful, will save future coastal walkers the need to walk through the industry and marshes beside the Thames.

The pier was located in a pleasant little square with a pleasant looking white clapper-boarded pub.

Pub near Gravesend pier

I set off east from here on a tarmac path next to the Thames and with a garden on the other side. Though the town seemed very neglected, there was a vast amount of litter on the path.

The Thames at Gravesend

Ahead I soon came to another pier.

Royal Terrace Pier, Gravesend

This turned out to be the Royal Terrace Pier. It is owned by the Port of London Authority. I walked past the entrance to the pier, alongside a rather ugly office building used by the port authority.

Royal Terrace Pier, Gravesend

Sadly I had to turn inland here as the road ahead was a private road with barriers across leading into the port area. Thankfully the inland diversion was short and soon I could turn back onto the coast to what was the New Tavern Fort. It was originally completed around 1783 and used during numerous conflicts, including World War II. Now it is open for the public to wander about and it was an interesting place with many of the old guns still there.

New Tavern Fort, Gravesend

At the end of this the path passed the entrance to a marina and then entered an industrial area and … oh dear. This was one of the grimmest paths I’ve ever walked.

The Saxon Shore Way at Gravesend

A litter strewn path past run down industrial buildings and car scrap yards (you can just see the Saxon Shore Way sign at the top left).

I hate paths like this, as areas like this tend to attract all sorts of dodgy characters, as well as vandalism and there is nowhere to escape, hemmed in with fences on both sides. I was glad to emerge unscathed into Wharf Road. Though this too, was grim. Again, surrounded by industry, dirt and dereliction. At the end of the road I could turn left onto another industrial road and follow a path past more jetties and industry. It was a horrible path but it did bring me back eventually to the shore.

The Thames near Gravesend

Here there were numerous piers and jetties used for what I’m not sure. Underneath them was a shingle beach where some people were searching it with metal detectors. I don’t know what, if anything, they might have found.

Soon the path became green on the landward side, with a thin strip of grass alongside the water, though industry behind it. Past what looked like an electrical sub-station (probably connected with Tilbury Power station on the opposite bank) and suddenly the industry ended and I was in open marsh land.

Marshes near Gravesend

However I was still somewhat hemmed in because to my right only a few metres inland from the path was the Eastcourt Marshes firing range. The path along the shore is just outside the range and is open all the times as far as I know, but the range did not appear (or sound) to be in use, probably because it was Saturday.

I continued on the now peaceful riverside path though with the mist there was little to see initially. After about a mile I reached Shornmead Fort.

The remains of Shornmead Fort

This was an old military fort built in the 1860s which is now disused and derelict. What is here now is a small fraction of what was once here because many of the buildings were demolished in the 1960s. It was last used during World War II.

Beyond the fort I soon reached a small lighthouse out in the estuary, Shornmead Lighthouse.

Shornmead Light house

The tide was now going out to reveal the mud flats of Shorne Marshes Nature reserve. Though there was little wildlife to be seen.

Higham Saltings

Past the nature reserve the path soon turned left with the shore and became almost a causeway. To my left, the mud flats and water of the Thames whilst to my right a man-made lake has been formed by gravel extraction.

I continued on the path and soon reached another derelict old jetty with all sorts of bits of wood rotting in the estuary.

Old jetty near Cliffe

Just past the pier there is the obvious remains of a wooden boat. This turned out to the remains of Danish schooner, the Hans Egede. It had been used as a coal barge and sunk here whilst being towed.

The wreck of the Danish Schooner Hans Egede

Just past the ruined boat I came to another much larger fort, Cliffe Fort. This was also built in the 1860s. It too is derelict having being last used during World War II.

Cliffe Fort

It was purchased by the owners of the gravel works nearby and is now flooded inside. The path was now squeezed between the front of the fort. I was tempted to take a closer look at the fort, but just beyond it was a large pier.

Cliffe Fort

Here the aggregates company use the pier to load onto boats for onwards travel. To my surprise (given it was Saturday) this process was happening just as I happened to be passing, with a large ship being loaded up and high-vis jacketed men about.

Cliffe Fort

So I decided against any attempt to explore the fort further, since I was likely to be spotted.

The path took me right under the conveyor leading to the ship which was a surprise. Here I could see the huge pile of material that had collected under the end of the conveyor, almost reaching the end of the conveyor.

Aggregates at Cliffe Fort

The industry ended abruptly and the path then continued behind a concrete sea wall, turning to end up on the south side of Cliffe Creek.

Cliffe Creek

As before, it was a shame to see the huge amount of litter washed up beside the banks of the creek. At the end of the creek I turned left with the path to what was obviously once an area of industry (probably further gravel works) and turned right on the track between the lakes formed from this work, now Cliffe Pools Nature Reserve. The track was mostly between trees and I followed it to Allen’s Pond and ahead on the track called Pickle’s Way.

This leads into the village of Cliffe where I passed a run-down looking pub (The Victoria Inn, since closed) and then the pleasant white clapper-board buildings of this attractive village.

Cliffe

Cliffe

This time as it was actually earlier than the last walk I wrote up, I was able to see the attractive church, free from scaffolding. The stone work was unusually striped and the walls castellated. It is a beautiful little church.

The church at Cliffe

Cliffe church

I was glad to have walked in this direction, as the walk got gradually better rather than gradually worse as it would have been had I been walking towards Gravesend. From here I took the bus to Strood, a little further along on the same line as Gravesend and from there take the train home (no adverts fall on my head this time, at least!).

This was not a walk I would choose to repeat, especially around Gravesend, but even in this unpromising area there was a lot of interest such as the old military forts. It’s just a shame they are not being cared for.

Here are details of the public transport needed for this walk. There is an infrequent direct bus (route 417) from Cliffe to Gravesend. Otherwise there is a more regular service from Cliffe to Strood where you can then return by train to Gravesend.

Redroute buses route 417 : Mon – Friday timetable and Saturday timetable : Cliffe – Lower Higham – Shorne Country Park – Shorne – Denton – Gravesend. 3 buses per day, Monday – Saturday only.

Otherwise take this bus and then the train.

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.

Southeastern trains London to Medway Towns to Ramsgate : London St Pancras International – Straford International – Ebbsfleet International – GravesendStrood – Rochester – Chatham – Gillingham – Rainham – Sittingbourne – Faversham – Whistable – Herne Bay – Birchington-on-Sea – Margate – Broadstairs – Ramgsgate. Twice per hour Monday – Saturday between Gravesend and Strood and hourly on Sundays, taking 10 minutes. Trains run the full route hourly and there are two an hour between London and Faversham.

Southeastern trains London to Dartford and Medway Towns : London Charing Cross – London Waterloo East – London Bridge – Lewisham – Blackheath – Charlton – Woolwich Arsenal – Abbey Wood – Dartford – Greenhithe – Gravesend – Higham – Strood – Rochester – Chatham – Gillinham. Twice per hour seven days a week. Takes 11 minutes between Gravesend and Strood.

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

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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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