Swale to Sheppey (19-05-2014)

This walk is all about the caged bird. Do they sing? Well the ones in the reserve make hell of a noise, whereas the ones in the clink probably don’t dare sing because it’s bad for your health – the cows will get you. All told a walk where I finally get onto the island of Sheppey, but run out of time and when dashing for the last train, then find out their roads are unwalkable.

And I know – long time no see. For various reasons, including illness and thus the walks last year ending in July, and other things I’ve not updated since last June (!). I have a few 2014 walks to post, then I’ll delve back into the archive, 2013 and beyond!

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Here’s the new Sheppey bridge, there are two bridges to Sheppey, the local 1960’s Kingsferry Bridge that also carries the railway and the centre part lifts for shipping, and the big recent massive motorway bridge from 2006 which you can see above. Certainly the former is quieter so I took that since I’d missed the 334 and I didn’t fancy waiting…it seemed a long way across the bridge and along the busy road – even though it’s a local road, it’s not much quieter than the main motorway! You can see the abrupt exit of the path…crossing the road there you take your life in your hands! Maybe next time I’ll take the bus.

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Mr Glove Feels How I Feel About The Traffic…

I wasn’t sure which way to head but I’d see the bird/nature reserve on the map and it was the only way along the coast. Seems like Elmsley has done some rebranding? Later turns out I was correct, it was RSPB but has now gone independent.

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I followed the path past the farms, the CCTV signs (?) and the burnt out settee (??) and saw rabbits. Eventually I came to the track for the reserve, it’s signed but noticed there is a closing time, 8pm I think it was when I was there, but I suspect that’s for cars…no idea if there is access after that time. Turns out the other side is quite leaky, so I doubt you’d be shut in, but might be a long walk around or an ungainly shimmy over a fence or gate. Be warned to protect the birds from predators they have high gates here…

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Not a high fence, but a wet one. Good for horse trials though?

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‘Cheap cheap…guano going cheap…’ this bird wouldn’t leave me alone, noisy fucker.

I seemed to be the only one walking, there was a noisy bird stalking me above making a lot of noise even though I stuck to the path…must be used to drivers only. They were all driving around, single males, stopping and looking very furtive…it seemed more like a cruising area than a bird reserve? Very odd…I guess this is what twitchers ‘do’ – but like past experience of RSPB places it’s all motorism, car parks, not made for pedestrians or those arriving on public transport. Which I find really odd since you’d think they’d be more, well, ecological…given the horrors going on near John’s ‘Villa’ in Burnham-on-Crouch (more of that on a later walk) in the name of creating a bird reserve – actually just finding a dumping place for CrossRail rubble – there’s a lot of strange not-that-ecological bird-brained stuff going on. It does seem the birds matter most, but the means aren’t considered? It’s not like cars are particularly friendly to birds anyway.

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Trying to avoid the bird who wants to re-enact Hitchcock for some reason (swearing at it didn’t help, I just hurried on along the road), this place is waterlands, with grazing cows and distant factories, which makes for an odd juxtaposition. Don’t get to chummy with the cows – John hates cows, he’s scared of them. I’m not, but these lot seemed to gang up on me, and I had to make a sharp exit. Maybe they are camera shy? Or represented by Getty?

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They’re coming for you, Barbara, They want to talk to you about the steaks you’ve been eating…

As you get closer to the coast you find rather overgrown sea walls, with annoying signs telling you not to look over them because it will ‘disturb the birds’ – it seems the birds are already disturbed, proper mental in fact. So you trudge on for a bit, but rebel I am I later popped up to have a look…path was so overgrown it was unpassable. I just got so bored of seeing a green bank though, I had to go look. I didn’t see any birds, actually. Or much of anything…

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Ahh! At last a bird. Err…a dead one. I doubt in a nature reserve crows and ravens get the same ‘respect’ (i.e. shot or ringed necks) they do in farms. I wonder how this one died – car strike? Rather pretty house here – barn I guess….there isn’t many distinguishing features in Elmsley apart from the hides, the mad birds, the cows and the odd ruin/barn. This one you can see miles away, I have loads of pictures of it.

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Rather worrying is this sign about a sewerage pipe leaking. Next to a nature reserve? I could rant all week about the various Water companies, they always go on about how they own so much land and thus protect wildlife, but quite often end up polluting it, wrecking it, creating massive ugly canals and earthworks, and a lot of signs telling you that instant death will befall you if you even breathe on their equipment. It seems their very M.O. is at odds at actually preserving nature, quite often unless they unusually leave it alone in the case of some ex-reservoirs. But then someone usually has the bright idea of filling the lake with grotty yachties, tourists, birdwatchers and their motor cars, or build over it with houses.

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Still that means this is somewhere that has some right of way. I’ve left the reserve via their massive gate, and now on a track. It’s marked on the map…no signs telling me it’s private, so I trudge on. It’s getting a bit late and I need to get back to Queensborough or Sheerness station – planning for Queensborough via Eastchurch but there are some surprises in store. My how the caged bird sings…

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Loads of canals and windpower here, there’s a windpower farm ahead. The map seems strangely fuzzy and incomplete, but I had heard mention of a prison…

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The loneliest bus stop, next to Her Majesty’s Pleasure. I suddenly come out of the track into a prison! I pause, wondering if I should be here? No signs, and examining the bus stop reveals that normal buses do stop here, so there must be some access, right?

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Err…I wasn’t planning to investigate further, honest!

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The rabbits LOVE the green grass between wire and walls, I guess it’s a no-go zone and they are left alone. Maybe they are trained to eat escaping prisoners? Rabbit guards.

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After wandering though with camera, doing my confident ‘I’m supposed to be here, don’t bother me’ routine I find this sign at the entrance. Oops. Why no sign on the other end? Do people never walk from the Nature Reserve or farm? There was a sign also saying not to take pictures….err…too late. Partly why I didn’t post this at the time, I was a bit wary. But this was a genuine mistake, and I wandered past many staff and wasn’t accosted. But headphones on, camera in hand and marching on, I guess I looked determined, or something?

I then try and walk along the road from Eastchurch to Queensborough. It starts off OK, but the pavement runs out. By now it seems like it’s local rush hour, and many cars are whizzing by at 40-60 miles an hour. It’s scary, and unwalkable. Thing is, there doesn’t seem to be any other paths, along the coast or here connecting Queensborough with this part of the island…it seems to be one of those situations where you have to ride the bus. But I needed to get to the train so I couldn’t wait for the cars to pass, I had to march on. Not fun.

I looked so scared that a passing police car stopped…he asked if I wanted help, I said yes because there wasn’t any pavements. So I got a lift to the station! This meant I actually caught the train, and got home in good time. One of the few times I’ve been relieved to see a copper.

So next time I’m going to get the bus from Sheerness or Queensborough past Eastchurch, and only walk what I can and take the bus back – or do it all by bus and just walk from Sheerness to Swale, on the other side. That looks doable. My rules are to walk around the island, but looks like unless I wade along the mud for 20 miles and probably find a few more prisons, this isn’t possible.

Can’t We Get Rid Of The Pointless Stats?

Food
1 1/2 litre of water – I do take too much sometimes!
Wheat free rolls? I have memory of something like that…such a long time though!
A few M&Ms and jelly snakes for instant energy.

Music

Fleetwood Mac – Fleetwood Mac, Mystery to Me, Future Games, Heroes Are Hard to Find, Penguin and Bare Trees – a whole lot of Bob Welch era early 70’s Mac! 9/10
When In Rome – The Promise 12″ – 6/10

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