On this walk I was continuing along the Thames estuary and it soon dawned on me that I had seen the last of sandy beaches for a while, as the coast began to change from sand to mud. Despite this I started and finished in two lovely towns and still found plenty of interest on the way.
I started off by driving from home to Faversham and parked in the station car park. It was a nice straightforward journey as Faversham station is just a short distance from the M2. I didn’t have long to wait for a train and soon reached Whitstable. Once again I was very lucky with the weather, it was another warm sunny day.
I walked through the streets of Whitstable to reach the coast, as the station is about half a mile from the coast. Whitstable was a nice town though with some interesting characterful buildings and shops. It seemed a wealthy place and I gather it has become very popular with people working in London who want to live by the coast.
Soon I reached the harbour where I finished last time.
There were several fishing boats in the harbour and wooden sheds around the harbour which I think are used for drying the nets. It is nice to see there is still some fishing industry here. Beyond that the harbour was rather more industrial then I had expected, with chimneys and cranes much in evidence.
The tide was out though, so most of the boats were resting on mud rather than floating in water. I initially had to follow the road but once around the harbour there was beach. There are wooden groynes all along the beach and they are close together here. Ordinary this would make walking along the beach hard but as the tide was so far out I could had beyond their reach nearer the shore where there was open beach to walk along.
Though it was clear that the coast had changed. No longer were there wide open sandy beaches. This beach was part mud with marsh plants growing on the beach. It was not the most inviting of beaches.
I was surprised how quickly things had changed. Walking out near the shore it was now firm mud, rather than sand that I was walking on. Though this soon turned softer and the beach was becoming more mud than sand. Thankfully by now there was a promenade so I retreated to the firmer footing of the promenade. Here there was a welcoming looking pub, the Old Neptune. It was a white clapper-boarded building a style I like.
Beyond this the promenade had houses fronting right on to it. Lovely to be so close to the beach but not much privacy with the crowds walking right past all the time.
I soon passed what looked like the remains of a pier or jetty, with just some rotting timbers remaining whilst the beach looked more like builders rubble at the top.
Soon though it became a bit more rural in feel with beach huts lining the shore backed by trees.
Just past here I came past an unexpected sight. Hovercrafts travelling over the beach and shore (3 of them, in fact). I did wonder if someone had branched out from Jet Ski hire to Hovercrafts!
I’d moved at some point from Whitstable to Seasalter though I was not really sure where one ended and the next began. Looking out to sea I was surprised to see just how far the tide goes out here. The sea was now just a thin blue strip on the horizon, with large expanses of sand and mud between me and the sea.
I suppose it shouldn’t have been a surprise really. Southend is not much further up the coast on the other side, famed for it’s long pier and I was also heading into another estuary, this time the Swale which separates the Isle of Sheppey from the main land. In fact I could see Sheppy ahead clearly now. The land (at low tide) between me and it is called the South Swale Nature Reserve.
Looking out to sea I could also see the famous Oysters on the sands for which Whistable is famous.
Soon I had reached the end of Seasalter, too. After the ubiquitous caravan park the beach was now more remote feeling and natural with some dunes beginning to form at the back by the sea wall. I was still following the Saxon Shore Way but it was now a narrow path following the grassy bank behind the sea wall between the road.
Thankfully it wasn’t a particularly busy road. Inland the landscape was now fairly featureless, flat marshland. Soon the road turned inland and I passed a few more beach huts. But the sea wall and the path now turned a bit inland. I realised I’d reached the end of the open coast now.
Ahead I was to be following the banks of the Swale between the mainland and Sheppey. Protected from the waves by the Isle of Sheppey the coast was now becoming marsh land rather than beach.
The path followed along the top of the grassy bank as far as I could see into the distance.
It was rather featureless, but the path was easy to follow being recently mowed grass and it was peaceful too. However it did soon turn back to be right behind the shore where there was still a bit of a beach, though it was now very marshy and muddy and covered with broken bits of concrete.
The Isle of Sheppy was getting closer as the Swale narrowed. It was more interesting to look at than I expected. I was expecting more marsh, but I could see a few small hills and a few more of those white clapper-board buildings.
Soon though the beach ended and the sea wall was then facing mud flats and marsh.
The Swale seemed a popular boating place, perhaps a bit like a narrower Solent, with numerous yachts and sailing boats to be seen. Ahead between me and Sheppey was another spit of land. This is the other side of another creek. Ahead there is another smaller estuary, Faverham Creek and this is the other side of the creek mouth in a place called Oare. I can make out a bird hide at the end, but there is not a lot else to see.
So I was now turning further inland to make my way around Faversham Creek. There isn’t a bridge instead the coast path (or the Saxon Shore Way, as it is here) heads right around the inland side of the creek in the town of Faversham.
I quickly realised that Faversham Creek was something of a graveyard for boats. Several rusting hulks were visible stuck in the mud on the other bank and leaning at odd angles. I would see many more of these wrecked and abandoned boats around the rivers and creek of the North Kent coast.
I wondered what their story was and puzzled why they just get left. I assume that local Councils do not have a responsibility to remove abandoned boats as they do cars.
Some even still had fishing equipment on them although it was clear they were no longer used since the boats filled with water on each high tide. I passed under electric cables, a row of pylons marching across the marshes (to the Isle of Grain, I think).
I zoomed in on a remote pub The Shipwrights Arms on the other bank. If it wasn’t for the sign I’d have guessed it was a house. Looking at the photo, the whole building looks a bit crooked to me!
I continued along Faversham creek which was now getting gradually narrower and shallower. It was, it has to be said, not the most interesting of landscapes. There was just the creek, marshes and trees.
It seemed, though it was hard to tell now, that the tide was coming in as the creeks were at least mostly full with water which made them more attractive.
At a place called Nagden I briefly had to go inland behind a few cottages but then it was back to the creek edge. I soon passed a smelly sewage works and then could see Faversham ahead.
The banks of the creek were once again lined with rusting old barges. The Private Keep Off seemed rather irrelevant on this one, it didn’t look like it had moved in a long time the way the marshes had grown around it. Though inland here was a boat yard so perhaps it was in a long line waiting to be restored.
Past this there was a lovely old mill ahead. It bore the name United Fertisliser Co Ltd though on the other side Oyster Bay House. It had either been very well kept or recently restored, it was a very attractive building.
I continued past these beautiful half-timbered buildings. I was liking Faversham very much already.
The beautiful buildings continued and I spent a bit of time wandering about the historic quay area of Faversham which had some very interesting and well preserved old buildings.
I was liking Faversham. Near the end of the quay I soon passed the Brewery as Faversham is home to the Shepherd Neame brewery whose beers can be bought far and wide in the UK.
I continued from here along the attractive High Street, lined with more old buildings, some of them half timbered too.
This is something I think we do very well in the UK. In many towns abroad such areas becomes the “Old Town”, visited by tourists but not much used by locals. But here we continue to use these old buildings for modern shops and the like so they remain the working heart of the town. Look at the dates on some of these, 1697 and 1570.
Yes there is no doubt Faversham was a very pretty town and I had enjoyed my walk around it very much.
I then headed from the High Street back to the station for the drive home.
I had enjoyed the start of this walk along the coast at Whistable but had enjoyed less the walks along side the marshes and estuaries of Swale and Faversham Creek where I soon found the landscape to be flat and rather un-interesting. But it was nice to find such a pleasant town as Faversham to have ended in. It would be a nice place to come back to next time, too.
Here are details of the public transport needed for this walk. Trains run twice per twice per hour between Faversham and Whitstable taking a little under 10 minutes.
South Eastern Trains London to Medway, Faversham, Ramsgate and Dover : St Pancras International – Stratford International – Ebbsfleet International – Gravesend – Strood – Rochester – Chatham – Gillingham – Rainham – Sittinbourne – Faversham – Whitstable – 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 Faversham and Whitstable. The trains from London St Pancras are faster and more expensive.