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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2 Responses to 157. Swale to Rainham

  1. snowgood says:

    I’ve almost no knowledge of this area – which is less than an hour from my home. Somehow it looks less inviting than much our coastline.

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