Posted by: natsevs | December 8, 2010

Stanfor-le-Hope to Minster

Brian dropped me back at Stanford in the morning by Tesco so I could get some new batteries for my radio. I stayed on the road out of Stanford towards the marshes turning right once I had gone under the railway bridge as my map showed a path going along from there. There had obviously been some work done there since the map was last edited as there were now several options on which to continue and I chose unwisely. The path started to loop round to go back on itself which it shouldn’t have been doing. After going in a few circles I asked a dog walker where the path I needed was and she directed me to it successfully. I went over the water ditch on a footbridge and got to Mucking from where, I had some railside path before having to come onto the road. The roads took me to Linford and out of there I had the luxury of pavement but I was still following the roads through East Tilbury to Coalhouse Fort on the riverside. A riverside path went out from the fort through some less than pleasant areas and in front of a power station until hitting Tilbury. Another fort forced me in to get around it and I came to the road once more but I cut off part of it on a path to The World’s End pub. I came to the ferry landing point and walked to the front to wait 20minutes for the next one to arrive.

The ferry cost £3 which seemed like quite a lot at the time for such a short crossing, but I did at least have some pleasant company of two old fellas who chatted to me about land record attempts and other unexpected things. One of them told me how Pocahontas is buried in the Gravesend graveyard but no one knows exactly whereabouts so I went up there to see the memorial to her. Back on the shore, I was following the Saxon Shore Way which took me through the town then into a load of industry. I got through the industry and onto the front where I was onto levees again in front of industry at first then a firing range which was actually being used for once. My brother rang and said it was raining in London and by the time the conversation had ended it was starting on me too. I had my coat but no waterproof trousers so by the time I reached Cliffe fort my legs were soaked and freezing. The Saxon Shore Way cuts a corner there but I stayed on the wall along the front round to the marshes once more and my feet were now beginning to get wet through capillary action. The rain stopped and I began to dry out but over Canvey were the blackest clouds I’ve seen and they started to make their way over the Thames towards me and this time it was even worse. The path to Allhallows did seem to be there at Dagnam so I came in on tracks and through fields to meet Brian near the farmhouse there very glad to get out of the rain and into the warm car.

 

When I woke in the morning it was unusually bright outside as it was actually sunny at last. When I left the house I realised that sunny meant freezing but dry and cold is a major improvement on wet and cold. I took the road to Allhallows then through a holiday park to the shore where a path went out along the defences. I came down from on top of the wall to get shelter from the wind and everything was looking quite pretty in the winter sun. There were lots of waterways through the marshes and the occasional swan or group of swans would fly up from the water as I came towards them and fly by me. There wasn’t much in the way of a path over to Grain so I had to do a loop back to the inland point of Allhallows then get onto roads through little villages to Hoo St Werburgh. Along the way they were building a new road alongside the current one so an earlier route out to paths was blocked and as well as that one of the construction lorries drove stupidly close to me causing me to have to move out of the way quite quickly.

At Hoo I walked out to the marina and got back on the Saxon Shore Way taking me through the industrial estate then along the front dropping onto the beach occasionally. I got to Lower Upnor and onwards to Upper Upnor where I had to walk alongside a military hard with a load of khaki coloured JCBs in. The path came to the edge of the main road that goes to the tunnel. I walked in the opposite direction to the tunnel to cross the road and up a hill to get a good view of the Medway and the old submarine sitting in the middle of it. I came down and along the riverside to the bridge and crossed over to Rochester. Rochester was a nice town, aesthetically anyway, and I made my way along roads near the high street. I continued to follow the main roads to the other end of the tunnel then stayed on them following cycle path signs now heading in the right direction again. The cycle path took me up to university buildings but that was a dead end so I had to climb a bank to a path and get back down to the main road. I got to The Strand and back onto the footpath and it was a more interesting and pleasant run from there along proper paths right by the river. I stopped at Rainham dock car park and waited for Brian to arrive but there was a fair bit of traffic on the road so it was a longer wait than usual.

 

I wasn’t going to be staying with Val and Brian the next night so I had packed up in the evening and finished it off in the morning. We all drove back to Rainham dock and Val and Brian walked with me for a bit with Amber and Berty (their dog and a friend’s dog), it was clear again and very cold. They turned back after 10minutes or so and we said our goodbyes before I went on to Motney Hill and back in before heading onto the Upchurch Peninsular. There was a mixture of path and road round there, with the paths largely going through pear and apple orchards. Coming in towards Halstow on the sea wall there were 2 or 3 wharfs with houseboats and all sorts moored up by them. When I got onto Raspberry Hill I was back onto the footpath out to Chetney marshes where I stopped to have lunch whilst hiding behind a levee from the wind. The path doesn’t go right to the end and there were signs telling me I wasn’t allowed to do so either so I stayed on it crossing to the opposite shore and down to the Kingsferry Bridge over to the Isle of Sheppey. There was supposed to be a path off from the road almost straight away but whilst the sign was there the path was not. There was a dirt road going parallel to it further on though alongside the railway track so I followed that, climbing over a gate in order to progress.

I found the path once past some farm buildings and followed it to Rushenden accompanied by the stench of the sewage works upwind of me. Out of there I was road walking to Queensborough and onwards to Sheerness via Bluetown which looked like it might have been nice once. I walked the promenade through Sheerness having to do a bit of beach walking when it disappeared for short stretches. Out of Sheerness I kept to the road to Minster and when I got there I had a promenade to walk on again. A muddy cliff/slope starts to rise up on the opposite side on Minster but I stupidly decided to stay along the bottom even when the promenade ended and I was walking on worn paths before dropping to the beach. I thought I might be able to avoid the built up areas on top and camp on the slope, but I realised very quickly how stupid that idea was. There was all sorts of debris on the beach, from the cliffs above more than from the sea, making it look eerie and a bit like a battlefield or something. The beach itself was more clay than anything else so wasn’t your traditional kind of beach. A way along there were four blokes stood on the bottom of recently slipped part of the cliff drinking and looking dodgy but they didn’t say anything to me as I struggled past.

In the end I realised I would either have to walk well into the dark or try and get up the cliffs as the light was already starting to fade. I got to a point where landslides had results in a climbable slope. I managed well until I got nearer the top where the incline became steeper and the mud seemed to get slippier. I was pretty worried about sliding all the way back down if my feet went and was grabbing hold of whatever vegetation I could to take as much weight off my feet as I could. It took a few attempts at the last climb before I got to the vertical bit and lifter myself on to the top, knackered and muddy. I was rewarded by the sight of a tall fence a metre in from the edge blocking off my route inland through a caravan site. I followed the fence along to where impenetrable bushes blocked my way and the alternative was a drop down to the beach. Walking back the other way I narrowly got round one bramble bush without falling off the edge to come to the same scenario. I could camp there on the ledge or I could climb into the caravan park which had people walking and driving through it giving me odd looks, obviously wondering how I got on the other side of the fence. The one bit of luck I had was that a little foot high fence resumed on my side of the fence from the site side as a remnant of previous boundaries that had been taken by the sea long ago. I could get on that fence and throw my bag over keeping my fingers crossed that I didn’t damage anything in it. Then I quickly scrambled over it myself with no finesse at all then got out of there as quickly as I could before anyone came and confronted me. Once out of the site I was on road and camp spots were non-existent. My only option was a community forest consisting of loads of newly planted trees meaning that the grass and brambles were still able to get plenty of sunlight and grow high. The result of that was that there wasn’t a single flat spot and the densely planted trees didn’t leave much room for a tent. I got the tent up with difficulty in the dark and got in hoping it wouldn’t fall down.

 

I would like to thank Val and Brian Perry again for giving me a bed and ferrying me about for almost a week especially when the round journey was up to 2 hours at a time. I am very grateful

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