Reading to Shiplake

Last year I got as far as Henley on Thames on the Thames Riverwalk – this was the furthest ‘out’ on the western end of the Thames, although not complete. I’d walked to Bourne End and walked the other way from Henley aiming to connect to Bourne End, but it had gotten very cold and no escape route (buses around there) as it was a Sunday so as it got dark ended up with the ‘delights’ of Marlow, which was in full Fair mode with chavvy kids and whole trucks of Police getting ready. So that meant a few loose ends, and sadly this walk was also too far, so that left two small gaps – Bourne End to Marlow and Shiplake to Henley, both of which were covered in the next walk.

Talking of the delights of Marlow, Reading was it’s usual lovely self:

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I know? Makes you want to jump on the train and go visit! The odd thing is, Reading wasn’t bombed into the dust like Coventry or Dresden, Reading is an old historic town. They chose to make it look like this. *mindboggles*

I’d sadly ‘enjoyed’ the delights on a few occasions DJing, one of which was on a barge outside the Reading Festival which ended messily, so let’s just say the Ghosts of Reading Chav rest heavy on this walk. Certainly I recognised a few of the locations as where we’d parked the barge. So I hot-footed it away from the 1970’s horror of the station and eventually found the Thames Path, it’s over the massive road you can see above and then to the left, but well hidden.

So as I walked down the street of probably scarily expensive houses (yes, it’s closeness to London means people actually pay high prices to live in Reading, eyenorite?) I was wondering what evil deed river had done to make the city hate it so. Certainly like many towns and cities it’s back was most definitely turned to the river, in this case a concrete back covered with tags, but shunned it seemed to be. Amazes me that only fairly recently in cities and urban spaces have they learned to ‘use’ the river, with a few exceptions like Kingston and Henley (but even there quite a few massive shopping blocks with bricks walls and no windows by the water).

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Under the bridge, and no Reading Hot Chavvy Peppers (see what I did there?) but there is a nice collage of abandoned signs, an odd floating steering wheel (driving lesson gone very wrong) and the requisite graffiti which failed to make the bridge any more cheerier. There is an interesting walkway into the Thames here though. Onwards along the path with the usual of barges, begging swans, anglers and couples with the addition of some massive families and you get some rather odd features. A floating polystyrene boat with ‘The Ice Age Is Melting’ written on it, anyone?

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And this is unusually creative for Reading, like the David used as a fender and skeleton additions, I assume some anarchists or green campaigners live here and the ‘iceberg’ was theirs…Anyway I like their style.
I kept my camera out for this walk, always a trade-off whether it’s worth missing a shot of a boat speeding by – like the canoeists at the top – for the risk of getting your camera snatched. I have been mugged for my camera, in the rather more posher environs of Naples, and the awareness/waryness of others never goes, you lose that innocence. So I walked very fast, which turned out to be fortuitous later.

So over a small bridge over the River Kennet, there seemed to be a lot of people in visi-vests doing community cleanup, not very effectively. Volunteers rather than prisoners (back to Oscar Wilde again?) I think. On the bridge was this sign. Good luck with that around here:

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As the joke goes (well a different one) ‘well don’t set the alarm, sunshine’

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Not sure about the Jesus Christ tag, but this is a sign on the other side.

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Swan says: ‘nothing to do with me mate. Do you want to buy a shopping trolley?’

Yes the requisite shopping trolleys sur-mer and the funny sight of a gaggle of younger swans doing the swan version of sliding a bannister with the strong Kennet current…And on the opposite bank is the other side of Reading, which is just as garish and bling as the Elizabeth Duke wearing mothers, the romantically called ‘M4 Corridor’, one of the claimants to the UK’s Silicon Valley, vying with the stupidly titled Silicon Fen around Cambridge, the Silicon Glen and the Silicon Roundabout…which at this point we stop and shake our head at their unimaginative and childish names born of idiots spending far too much time in Business School and not down the pub like normal people.

Anyway all you need to know is there are loads of tech companies here clustered around Heathrow and the M4, and for some reason Oracle needs what look like 4 or 5 or more massive buildings. I mean they do databases? Not build cars? Why do they need all that space, the bits and bytes are quite small?

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A very appropriately named barge.

But after much furious walking you leave Reading behind, and onto the delights of Sonning Lock and St Andrews, the church at Sonning. Some real money has been spent here, on the amazing gates – nice idea to make the gates in memory of someone – and in past history. It’s right by the Blue Coat school so I don’t know if it or the chapel (St Olaf?) have anything to do with them and their 1950’s modernist glass block, but it wasn’t open so I couldn’t find out. It’s nice to see a church that isn’t just Victorian pomp, that has some genuinely old bits on it. << Pevsner eat yr heart out! Check my descriptive abilities, Mr EE!

I think shortly after this a sausage roll strangely stopped existing in the vicinity of my mouth. Alas poor roll, I knew it well.

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Over the bridge and across the road and over a small pedestrian only bridge and onto the other side of the river. It’s obvious the Thames is still running high, and very fast from the floods earlier in the year, and remains of the flooding which took out boats and houses alike are everywhere, as well as the tide mark of mud on the path.

Which sadly wasn’t all dried out as we will find…

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I think you’ll find your ‘status’ is at the bottom of the Thames, LOL.

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After a few more barges just before the Lynch, we come to one of the victims of the flood. After seeing the pictures of various locks and places I’d walked neck-high in water and with various plastic Rich Men’s Toys making sastifying glugging noises, I’d thought I’d see more carnage on these walks, which wasn’t the case. But this barge shows you what happens if no-one loosens the ropes during a flood. It was probably abandoned or the owner was away…if not I hope they got out quickly.

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So past the fields with electric fences, over the massive ponds of water and mud *sigh* and onto Shiplake itself, where the path got rather interesting, and a classic case of the local landowners and newly arrived arrivistes conspiring to try and delete existing rights of way. At Shiplake lock the path veers inland, and according to the signs, goes across the fields away from the Thames. This makes no sense, and also according to my OpenSourceMap and Ordnance Survey  there are paths along the river…in fact there used to be one from Mill Lane, looks like the new homeowners there have blocked it off for ‘private use’ – I found the other side ending as a gate under the rail bridge. Who approved this, or another landgrab? Looks like the Ramblers had to go to court to enforce right of way in 2010-12, and the landowner is trying to make it as difficult as possible.

And plenty of homemade signs trying to redirect you back to the lock, and we have CCTV *smileyface*. Right. Always the first sign of a landowner trying to dissuade people from a public right of way when the DIY signs start appearing, like some Terry Prachett skit. At least they didn’t use!!!! loads!!!! of exclamation marks!!!!??

Talking of which, there is a path marked on both OSM and Ordnance Survey going around from there, from the Shiplake rail bridge around the river to Lashbrooke Ferry. You’d not know this from the ‘helpful’ signs, (there’s also a path across the field too as part of the Wokingham Way, and also might have difficulty getting there as the landowner has left a downed tree blocking it. I almost tore my trousers on barbed wire trying to get around it. I’m starting to really wonder if this is intentional…

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That looks really beautiful, I’m glad I don’t have to walk over that field….oh.

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It’s not dead, it’s sleeping…probably bored with all the battles over paths.

Then you get to Lashbrook Ferry, and a sign helpfully details the history of what occured in the past might have bearing on the present. I tweeted recently about Harvey Milk and that one victory is a victory forever – but the other side is if you allow one small defeat, then the powers of darkness pile in. One such defeat was Bolney Court, who stopped the tow path in the 18th century from going past their land, with much outrage and the need for the ferry which closed in the 1950’s leaving the path stranded. And then like the little minded folk of Mill Lane it seems their friends joined in (apparently one fellow neighbour is Robert McAlpine, yes THAT McAlpine. I’ll show you pictures of his miniature trainset in the next river blog!)

There is a path across the fields, I think the one they went to court over – different to the Wokingham Way before – across all that mud. Oh. Joy.

Well at least I don’t have to walk all the way back, I guess?

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I have to walk through this? NOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Curse you Mud! Curse you Bolney Court and yr rich yet tasteless friends!

I walked across the fields to be greeted by this – yes this definitely confirms the local landowner HATES this path, and is trying to make everything difficult for walkers. They must be stopped. Otherwise the likes of Bolney Court will win, and this will become another Windsor Great Park, or many of the other detours 100-200m from the river that I’ve had to endure on these walks – usually with the nice bonus of a 6 foot fence or hedge both sides.

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Blog Now With Extra Photies!

I’ve now decided that Picasa is the best place for my photo galleries, as much as I distrust Google and pay for Flickr the latter seems oddly inflexible for a paid site with geotagging and feeds/API (they won’t even work with any of the WordPress maps I found, or have a limited 20 or 50 photo in a geoRSS feed? Also no idea how to create a compatible KML or geoRSS with all the images in a set – shame because I prefer Flickr). Picasa has a nice map, and more importantly a KML/Google Earth file that works with the map below! So either look at the pictures along the walk (you might want to click the expand icon for fullscreen) or see them on the Picasa site. You’ll see that there are quite a few older walks already geotagged on Picasa, and I’ve been punting the best ones over to Panoramio too. All my Thames River pictures are tagged ‘riverwalks’ (don’t click on the tag, it oddly takes you to some shite G+ page – search for it within my photos) or ‘coastalwalks’ and will be so for future uploads.

You will now see the geotagged photo albums on the Map of Walks too (I did try and add them individually but like with the map below strangely Picasa doesn’t show every picture in it’s KML files, even for small amounts. Oddness)

Pointless Stats

Music

Boccaccio Belgian New Beat – good for getting away from chavs 8/10
Sabina – Toujours  – very good album, a bit slow for walking 7/10
Frank Eddie – Let’s Be Frank – free and great sampleage from one half of Lemonjelly, Fred Deakin 9/10
Infinite Radio & The Shadow People – good heavy psychedelic post rock for ranting at landowners and their wicked path destroying ways 8/10

Food & Drink

Not much, some M&Ms and I think the other poncey Sausage Roll from a previous walk, and maybe the remains of some Prawn Cocktail crisps.
1 litre water

Bognor Regis to Selsey via Pagham Harbour

I was aiming at least a post a week or so, but a sudden change in the weather to warm early Spring (for which I suspect we’ll pay later in Spring, usually means a wet April that) meant I started the season early for this year.

In boating of all sizes they do something called a shakedown cruise – it’s the first voyage either of the season or that particular boat if it’s new/refurbished…and this is where you find out usually all the stuff that’s broken, all the things you’ve left behind, or taken too much of. It’s like you’ve kind of forgotten all the ways of the previous year…this walk was my shakedown cruise. I forgot my shades so was squinting in the sun and at the alien storm-ravaged landscapes (more of those later) and I didn’t believe the optimistic weather report so took my big coat and boy did I swelter. That’s easily done with coastal walks since they tend to either lie or make out it’s lovely and warm but ignore the big fuckoff breeze that means it’s actually arctic. I never understood why they measure the temperature in a shaded sheltered box, like wot no-one else has around them, anyway? Bognor was very proud of theirs, they had a special fancy iron fence and sign for it!

And as you can see if you can get over my uglymug in my previous post I wore my Putin As Village People Jim’ll Paint It tshirt which seemed totally lost on the locals. Oh well. Philistines!

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…just not their sausage rolls. Or shingle.

So walking from the station I needed to get supplies – I hadn’t gotten my new supply of emergency M&Ms yet (like runners and their jelly babies, when you’re cold, wet, everything is closed and you are miles from anywhere you cannot underestimate the fortifying power of an instant sugar rush). I usually like sausage rolls, but sadly went to the only place I could find, Greggs which was completely rank. Funny how I’ve worked with guys who swear by (not at) Greggs but they are usually of the twentysomething sort that does not worry about becoming a lardy blob like their products yet. Annoyingly I saw a much nicer looking place nearer the seafront, I should have bought something there, or another one. I was still hungry even after eating the horrible one.

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So onto the seafront – classic 1950’s fare, mostly…with the love of concrete and parades, and a small pier-like-thing. Mostly closed kiosks as too early in the season (although I’ve found beach cafes and kiosks need no real reason to close at random times of the year even during the season) but I got a coffee from a friendly place that was open – and unsurprisingly doing a roaring trade. Kids and families on the beach, loads of groynes which people either sit on or use as clothes hangers, or in warmer times use as diving platforms for the completely insane. Old people, electric carts, wheelchairs…crazy golf, old Palmist sign, and a very impressive grand-looking Royal Norfolk Hotel.

All these were quickly left behind and became mostly dog walkers – I didn’t veer off with the road and stayed on the beach where I saw some rather odd looking rocks, then the remains of a Mulberry harbour or prefab landing craft from WW2 looking more like a downed AT-AT walker:

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These things are littered across this coast, as during World War 2 for the Normandy landings the Mulberry Harbours were created in a fair amount of secrecy, but unsurprisingly for a floating lump of concrete some of them failed and got left where they sank. There is one in the middle of Langstone Harbour, which on one of my next walks I’ll probably go see.

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At the end of the beach you come to some rocks – not sure if this is accessible all of the tides, but a small set of steps means you can get around and onto a new beach, one that looks far less accessible to the outer world. There were dog walkers and locals here too, but certainly with the houses there didn’t seem to be that many ‘outs’ so be careful if unlike me you don’t want a long walk. There seemed to be a path out via the outfall halfway along – but you might be a little trapped here.  I took photos of the surf, the staves which looked quite dramatic against the spring sunshine, and caught nets and ropes, as the staves always seem to catch these, a bit like beards do soup.

Further along you have some quite fancy beach houses, kind of thing Jarman used to love:

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At this point as the beach was purely shingle it reminded me how much I hate walking on shingle, pebble beaches and the like. It’s exhausting, hard on the ankles, and after a few miles you either try and walk along the water which tends to be sand or small pebbles – at risk of getting wet – because the sheer existential crunchy boredom of walking on shingle is getting to you. In my notes I just put ‘fucking shingle’ which in two words pretty much gets it. I’ve walked miles and miles on shingle before – around Dungeness there is nothing but – but still will try and walk on anything but.

I suspect this bird had had enough of shingle too, and decapitated itself, probably on a passing sharp flint. I know how it feels. SHINGLE DIE DIE DIE.

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So onto Pagham harbour, which having not walked here I wasn’t sure but seems to have subsided and changed a lot because of the severe storms a few months ago.  Harbour is a bit euphemistic nowadays, it’s more like a succession of sandbars then a large muddy lagoon which seems popular with bird people. But the landscape was almost martian, or Saharan – very strange, pools of water, large sand areas looking inviting but also seeming a little quicksand-like, islands of shingle that you could temptingly paddle over to then get stranded as the tide came in.

Sort of place that’s ideal for children, or at very least conveniently losing a few to the tide. Five Go Mad And Coastguard, that sort of thing.

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I think the tide was out…

So crunching onward, past the rusting harbour entrance and curious crows, via the worryingly previously flooded path and onto the harbour itself.
Mud, mud, glorious mud, nothing quite like it for sinking to the bottom never to be seen again until 2459. (hold that thought)

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No it’s not bone, it’s wood. I like it’s boneyness though.

So there’s beautiful scenery, there’s birds, mudflats, paths, shingle, Pagham Church…so what’s missing? Mobile homes of course! There’s a rash of them all over the South coast, like some mutation of a Caravan virus leaving blocky Stepford ideas of holidays and health. There’s a new parking lot of them (I don’t think there is a collective noun for them, so I claim it should be a ‘parking lot of mobile homes’ – or a scourge. A scourge of mobile homes. That might be better) here, depressingly…

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I mentioned mud – well this is going to be a recurring theme of the next 3 walks. Mud. Mud vs Shingle, who would win? Mud, I think, since I can walk on shingle thinking how much I would bash each stone into tiny bits. Whereas mud, of the much glutinous sort, has usually to be navigated around.

This is the current path just after the delights of the Scourge Of Mobile Homes. Bring your swimming costume! Ford across with you pack above your head and think you’re in the jungle!

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I’m only usually wearing cross-trainers* (they are waterproof, North Face Hedgehog XCRs – OMG I HAVE BECOME A TRAINER BORE – sorry) so I had to go around, as there is a gate to the shoreline, which was almost as bad as this in parts, I have to say. Obviously like many places flooding and rain still have left their little H20 presents for us to all enjoy. This is generally why I don’t walk this early in the year, it’s May or July. To give you a hint of what the shoreline was like, here’s a later demonstrative example:

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A lot more mud. May it stay where it is and not bother me again.

So having survived the mud barely, onto the bridge. Cute man with white beard there (sorry no picture, seemed rude) holding court, he looked familiar. Onwards along the top of the harbour – at least the paths here are raised, so were dry, mostly. Very beautiful views across the marsh/grass land.

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This is where the mud kicked in again…the rest of the path as it turns south follows the shoreline, which made the previous Paddling Pool look like a puddle, and with extra scratchy gorse or some spikey evil shrubbery. BONUS!

So I backtracked…and saw that their were paths across the fields so I could go round, and rejoin the shore. This ended up with me lost in the middle of a very muddy field, trying to re-find the shoreline path, and failing. And sinking slowly into the mud. Gladly I saw no farmers with shotguns, in fact the fields seemed abandoned with open gates. I suspect the farmer got tired of all that mud too…I found the end of one of the paths walking along Church Lane, so no idea how it got there, since I saw no gates just hedgerows and barbed wire. And a LOT of mud. By this time, this mud thing was getting really old.

The plan was to continue round Pagham harbour to join the bit I started last year, where I walked from West Wittering to Selsey, and did part of the other side of the harbour – when there was less mud, of course. It was starting to get dark, but I had a torch and the buses run later. As I got to the busy main road at where the RSPB welcome centre is, with the pavement of course on the other side, then managed to dash across without being killed for the path. To be greeted by…you guessed it – not just mud, but another party pool. At this point, I called it and decided I had linked the two up sufficiently – because last time I walked miles up the Selsey Road, so if I walked to Selsey I’d connect the two walks.

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So walking along this busy road, just thinking ‘I’m glad this pavement is here, it would suck without it’ – guess what? The pavement ran out. It’s not fun walking along a road with 30-50+ cars a minute and no pavement or much of a verge. Dangerous in fact – this is the problem of empty buses and trains and everyone driving in these areas, no-one around rush hour can walk the roads, and even other times. I got to the place I remembered from last time, and then flagged down the bus. This is Stagecoach Gold (cue fanfare) which replaces a dead railway line to Selsey called the Selsey Tramway. They’re very proud of it, it’s frequent but it has the world’s slowest WiFi. I mean, it’s slower than mobile data, it’s that slow. At least this time it actually worked, last year it wouldn’t even let me connect.

So that was my first walk of 2014. Learning points? Fuck mud, fuck shingle, avoid Greggs and wear less clothes. Which I did next time, and freezed my balls off, which is another story.

You can find more pictures and a fancy map over at the Picasa gallery, or see some of the pictures on the map below.

Pointless Stats

what’s a walking blog without some Bridget Jones Diary level statistical fluff? Can’t promise to make this a feature, or even do it again!

Music

Art of Noise – Into Battle  7/10
OneOhTrix Point Never – R+ – 9/10
Metronomy – Love Letters 9/10
Best track – Supreme Cuts – E2

Food

1 sausage roll (Greggs, never again)
1.5 litres of water – I took this amount, I didn’t drink it – what am I Flipper? But way too much.
1 pack of Frazzles – I forgot they’re made of wheat. Oops. Sorry eczema/stomach. Itch. Itch.
Ham and cheese panini – on the way home. See wheat. Really have to be careful, although travelling and allergies really don’t mix, you can’t really insist on Gluten free Alfafa Cakes with a drizzle of Virgin Balsamic at some seaside cabin with press on letters and cracked plastic tables. Not that I’ve ever even HAD alfalfa, far too healthy. But you get my drift.
I can of JD and Coke. Hey, it’s medicinal. I was aching.

* Yes I wear trainers but not walking boots – I used to, really posh Swiss ones, but they become a bit too slippery and heavy for walking. Thing is, on scrabbly pebbles, diagonal wet or scree cliff paths or climbing rocks – or even ice you need something that can grip. Traditional boots give support, and yes you can ford streams with them, but they make your ankles ache with their weight and are shit on smooth rock or even wet grass. I’ve found cross-trainers, the waterproof ones for those insane people who run along tops of cliffs and cross-country are the best trade off. Maybe not when it’s muddy, though…

Greenhithe to Swanscombe and Gravesend

Smile it’s just aliens…graffiti during the walk

First of the River Walks (and the last one I’ve done to date) to be posted here, and it’s the closest I’ve gotten to UrbEx for a long while. I’d seen some interesting pictures of Swanscombe peninsula, but also heard they are building a Paramount Theme Park there despite it being the site of neolithic settlements, WW2 ruins and the remains of a cement factory – and some rare jumping spiders – so I made it a priority to go and document before it all gets Mickeyfied. I wasn’t disappointed.

I had tried to explore at the end of a previous walk, and in the dark without a torch followed the old factory road which was marked on the OSMAND map* as being open. I arrived to find a 6 foot gate. Locked. I ended up having to vault over it…funnily enough as I found on this trip, there is a path open 24/7 just a few metres down from there, but as I expected, no lighting.

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Wondering if there is anything more soul destroying than rail replacement bus services. Packed ones at that.
Sun Jul 28 18:26:44

Starting at Greenhithe Station which like all the chaos around London Bridge station and also further along towards Gravesend meant the rail replacement ‘fun’ mentioned above…more of this later. When I finally arrived, I walked along the front, a beautiful day. Local residents of the flats near the river do seem to like putting up fences, it’s obvious some of the gated-estate types don’t like the oiks perambulating down the front. Barges full of scrap metal pass by, and the chimneys and windfarms in the distance bellow and hover (or whatever it is windfarms do). Eventually passed by to the rather abandoned looking part with new flats built above and a large sea wall and path below. Local kids seem to love to graffiti and chalk on this wall, as to whether Jamie is a large gentleman of the homosexual persuasion we will never know.

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After these flats they were building some new ones, I think access to this was why the gates were locked. But oddly you can just walk into the peninsula path along the river via a concrete staircase that seems to go nowhere. The grass and the view is beautiful. I passed a pack of a local family who had been fishing, probably off the pier, who eyed me warily and shouted for their kids to come up to the front…they were particularly ugly kids, so not sure why they were concerned.

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Not some Mad Max dystopia, this is the disused loading pier, I assume for the old cement factory. Obviously not been used for some time.

There was what seemed to be some sort of remains of a dry dock or wharf, or truck loading area ramp…lots of disused spraycans, remains of fires, dangerous iron cable, smashed bottles and yes, graffiti.

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Following along a path that unlike the fly, fresh or fishing parts had not been walked on much for a while it was so overgrown and onto the real star of the walk – the creek harbour. I’d found this via satellite map, and then looked up pictures of it, many rotten or abandoned boats it seemed. Well, not abandoned at all, there were people there working. Apparently to man I met up with later when trying to find an exit (wary of another 6 foot vault) it’s a boat club and harbour, owned and run locally. He didn’t seem concerned by the Theme Park, so maybe it won’t affect them?

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Anyway the growing grass and the tide being out gave it an air of a harbour abandoned by the tide, or boats sailing along on grass:

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I wandered around while hearing banging and work from one of the caravans or boats. I half expected to be hastily ejected, but there are footpaths than run through here, so you should be OK. I walked around the headland, and past a scary looking radar? antenna tower that’s run by the Thames Harbour Authority or Port of London. It’s not clear if you can follow the shoreline along past that, it looked totally overgrown, interspersed with abandoned vehicles, skips and a digger. So I walked along the roads, remains of the works that used to be here. Here’s one now, which seemed to be chemical/unstable, so good luck to the Theme Park with that clean up!

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I rejoined the shoreline and intended to walk along past what seems to be a container facility or sand extraction works, but it seemed far from easy to go down that way. Looking on the satellite map later confirmed I would have literally had to walk across the factory wharf, which given it’s still operational I doubt they’d be happy with. One for another day. I loved the gloaming and the shots of the river though, almost Dutch or Venetian in tone, the East End Canaletto?

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So I walked back, bumping into a local who showed me the way out via the path I avoided last time. Now the saga of getting home…remember those ‘Engineering Works’ mentioned at the start? Well cue over an hour of just missing buses, or getting to Stonebridge station and not being sure if trains were stopping there (yes even those ‘Press for information’ booths didn’t seem to be responding). I ended up walking to Gravesend and getting a train back from there, as I knew the Chavelin aka HS1 called there late, even if the local Greenhithe/Stonebridge services were screwed.

Being so close to London I wasn’t concerned, and like the Bosham walk it was interesting how along the river there are industrial wharfs and factories you cannot walk along but run even late on a Sunday night, banging and crashing. (You can’t even walk along the front even when marked – the bit by Northfleet works / Robin Creek had a path marked and was there, but blocked off due to redevelopment – then again as we know OSMAND and the Hike Bike map can’t been 100% trusted!).

So at least I could tick off Gravesend, that was the part of the reason for that late night walk too, as that meant I had connected all the way to Cliffe – where Boris wants his blessed airport – a walk I’d done many years previous.

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<geek alert> * Yes I use OSMAND, with vector amps usually with the Hike/Bike layer for double checking. I’d love an OS 1:25,000 maps without paying paper prices on mine. not sure Ordnance Survey have ever really gotten mobile, with their expensive or restrictive licensing. It’s like OS think walkers and ramblers are their to be endlessly squeezed for money. Most app devs seem to get scared off, or the app is useless for walkers at the less restricted or open 1:50,000 or 1:250,000 levels. Great for drivers, walkers and bikers less so. It’s not what I call ‘open’ anyway – and we already paid for this so a bit loathe to pay twice, even if it is now £1.99 per tile. Their OpenData maps almost got used here but it wasn’t flexible enough, the track colour didn’t seem to be able to be changed and got lost in the noise, and no altitude or distance. It’ll be interesting to see if OS allows any decent walking apps to use their maps though… </geek>

Beaulieu River walk to Buckler’s Hard

This was a somewhat aborted walk from Beaulieu Road station to Buckler’s Hard – it took so long to get to the river, 5 miles, and South West Trains ‘chaos’ at Southampton (which seems to be a depressingly regular occurrence on that line) made me hours late.

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As I tweeted: “Got to Southampton; usual South West Trains nightmare. All trains via Brockenhurst cancelled, refused to part refund me. Typical SWT fuckup” 4:48 PM – 5 Sep 2013

This meant several things – I was walking so fast I only got a few good photos, the light was failing anyway, and I only got to Buckler’s Hard then had to phone for a taxi later, so I had a nice meal at the Master Builder’s Hotel there, the South African bear seemed happy to have family drop by! I aim to go back and finish this New Forest walk, but need to leave hours early for the inevitable ‘drama’ caused by SWT. I’d just missed the sporadic summer-only tourist bus from Lymington which had just stopped for the incredibly short season, and other buses just stop at the village. I mean it’s not like people might want to go there in, say, September or October, or March, May or April? There’s nothing like, say, ooh a Maritime Museum or a large house with a Motor Museum or anything? No wonder people drive…

“Only got as far as Buckler’s Hard from Beaulieu Road…wanted to go further but didn’t fancy walking in the complete dark… damn you SWT!” 9:41 PM – 5 Sep 2013

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Locals leaving bottled water out with an honesty box. You see, there are nice people… The interesting thing is there are several ‘outs’ from this walk, obviously one direction it’s all the way to Lymington, something I didn’t want to do in the dark without a clear path, but I think the tourist bus visits a few places inland, but a good long walk if the trains aren’t screwed, or you can get the buses from Lymington. The other side you can get buses from Fawley and nearly all the way to the Calshot fort, which it seems Southampton is sprawling and crawling down that side of the Solent…they are hidden as ‘suburban’ services but are surprisingly late and frequent.

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I so wanted to own this boat! *sigh*

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They seem to be very proud of their boat that was in some Bond film, for some reason…looks like the sort of shambles most Harbour Masters and boatyard workers splutter around in.

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Bosham to Fishbourne via Chichester

I thought this was my last walk of 2013 (working backwards) but it seems it’s the penultimate one – I did a walk to Buckler’s Hard in September before my IBS/wheat allergy got too much (I know what causes it now, but back then it knocked out a few months of walking).

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“Apparently I am going to BOSHam according to the guard. Sorry, even locals pronounce it Bozumm (Bos-ham, no gap tho) #yourenotlocalareyou”
5:25 PM – 29 Aug 2013

Anyway as you can see on the handy map below, this was from Bosham railway station to Fishbourne station (past the Roman Villa in fact), connecting to the almost hidden footpath running around the top of the creek. My dad has a mooring here for his yacht, and I grew up either bobbing up and down listening to curlews, or hanging around the pub or church waiting for him to row back. Strangely I’d never walked here though…always business (the business of sailing, which always seems to include a) getting wet and b) dawn starts, both of which I hate).

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Anyway away from the grotty yachties it’s quite nice, although you need to know the times for the path as part of it marked on the map is tidal. In fact if I’d arrived a bit earlier I could have head around this house, rather than heading inland up the road by the disused boat yard, which as you can see from the pics I was obsessed by. Anything rusting or ruined, I’m there…

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Not exactly sure what this little one was doing there by the ruined yard…I hope not trying to get on Duck Dynasty?

Heading past the Ye Olde Celticky Craft Shoppe and being equally surprised and saddened it was still there, and onto the Church yard via the gate. Obligatory picture of a tombstone:

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I could bore you with pictures of the medieval-looking-but-probably-not clubhouse (I think it’s a clubhouse, or a storage barn) and the quay, but like many elements of Bosham these have been much photographed. Tide was going out by this time I think, so I could go around the road by the pub, it’s a classic place where people park and don’t realise the road floods there. The local pub has many amusing photos of this. Strangely when I was there, there was a fire engine on call…not sure what that was about as there wasn’t a sign of a fire. Cat up a tree?

Around the bay, and it’d not be a photo tour of Bosham without the equally obligatory sunset shot of the church. I’m not joking when I say that on certain days the photogs are like flies around here, it’s as bad or worse than Reculver – somewhere we will talk about in the future.

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And so around the shoreline…I then found there is a ferry across from Itchenor which I’d never ever heard about which was good news. I’ve not really explained the rules, yes there are rules about this mad quest – but one of them is I can take ferries or bridges across the mouths of rivers if they are there. This means I don’t have to walk along every little frigging inlet, this meant I could skip Appledore and all that…which was very good news as on a previous trip I followed an old path and was faced by a dual lane motorway and no crossing or bridge trying to walk from Chichester to Appledore…I still would love to walk there, but it means I don’t have to.

So I headed across the fields and country lanes to Fishbourne. It was getting dark, but was amused to find that farmers now harvest at night. Although the night time tractor traffic across those little lanes was fun in the dark, I did have my trusty torch to point myself out to drivers. I walked across a very dark field (with voices coming from the field, but didn’t hang around) and watched the stars while listening to my iPod. I seem to remember I had a Chinese and a scamper for the train at Fishbourne station, but made it. What a difference having a smartphone makes in both looking up timetables and local takeaway opportunities – in past walks the lack of info, and good maps made it quite fraught. And hungry at times, too.

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Photographs of the whole trip are now uploaded to Picasa or some are on the map below.

Welcome to Walking the Wrong Way

Walking the wrong way: down the path less travelled and getting lost on the way. Walking into the wind or sun. Walking without a map, without water, without sun cream or warm clothes and missing the last bus. Walking only on sunny days and not in rain. Walking across military ranges ignoring the keep out signs, past nuclear power plants, walking late at night along cliffs.

I’ve done all of these, survived to tell the tale and did them intentionally and unintentionally. And I’ve learned quite a lot along the way – a random squiggly line that is still err, unsquiggling?

Here are photos and reports from those journeys, past and future, an artistic exercise and Loneliness of the Late Disorganised Walker in one mad man’s idea of walking around Britain and up the Thames in tiny stages only on nice days (rain? Ugh!) and to where there is a pub or a chip shop (usually just closed, because, well, they hate tourists).

My River Walks I’ve already walked from Henley to Swanscombe Marshes along the Thames, since 1999 (back to when I used a film camera – scanning those might be harder), and a few years back I started my Coastal walk around Britain. Last count I’m over 50 miles from Chichester to Teynsham in Kent. OK I’m not exactly in a hurry, but I suspect the 6am-starting cagouled Kendal Mint Cake types forget it’s not about getting there, it’s the journey along the way.

And anyway they drive cars, those cheating, planet-destroying, recycling yobs (hey there’s nothing more ironic than a National Trust Car Park!) – and I have to rely on public transport. And as you will see, that’s sometimes harder to plan than the walk itself.

And check out the fancy map! Not much to see yet apart from my test posts, but yes, every walking post and even posts and pics along the way will be geolocated, and most likely have a GPS GPX track (either in fancypants plugin form or just an image) and details. And a lot of rambling probably…(no not that sort, well yes that sort, both really).