Swale to Sheppey

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

Teynham to Swale (Isle of Sheppey Bridge)

Another continuation of a walk last year, one I did from Faversham via Oare via the impossibly picturesque Harty Ferry, this time I took the Chavelin to Strood and changed for the world’s slowest local service to Teynham. Best thing about Teynham is the road out of it towards Conyer, but it looks like it has other delights as well:

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Walking towards Conyer via the path across the fields there’s various farm buildings, mud (hmm), horses, and later on a Church and the usual cars bombing down tiny lanes at 40-50mph, the usual Kent thing (I was thinking something similar to Kent about those drivers….). Still this definitely is a working landscape, with orchards, abandoned and still in use farm buildings:

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Walking the winding windy path and over the water sluice (or is a lock? Seems to have collected vast amounts of rubbish the same), the busy marina and the couple who seemed to be sleeping in the middle of the day on the bank of the Conyer Creek from the Swale (I suspect they were just sheltering from the winds, despite the nice sunny looking day, it was blowing a gale). Previous walks I had been frozen and boiled depending on where the wind was, so this time I had extra layers, although given the really nice weather in London that day, I was surprised how cold it was by the Swale.

Passing various dog walkers, and a view of the busy marina then onto the Swale which is a really impressive view. Although the sailor in me sees the patches of smooth and ruffled water and says ‘shallow, mudbanks, DANGER!’. Old habits die hard. I can even tell you what those signs are, they are rather unofficial/ad-hoc port and starboard channel indicators, although the closeness says it’s a pretty small channel. Certainly Google doesn’t bother to mark it properly, and it was mostly mud when I went by…I’m guessing the marina has a small window of escape and entry!

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Contents of every sluice, lock or canal, like, ever. Surprised no motorbike, child’s bike or shopping trolley, then again any supermarket is miles away.

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No idea about these spiralling marks, it’s almost as if the rabbits have been taking LSD then chasing each other all at once…

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Views over to Sheppey remind me of Scotland, and I look for ruined houses but actually see wind farms and power plants. Despite the wind it’s a brilliantly bright day, and flooding is still in evidence in the fields the other side of the sea wall. Then again, quite a lot of this area has dykes and ponds anyway, so it’s hard to tell, but I saw quite a few drowned gates so I’m guessing this scene wasn’t normal, and is most likely fresh water rather than sea water.

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Ahead is Milton Creek, which seems oddly appropriate because if your idea of Paradise is post-industrial, factories and shipwrecks, then you’ve found it…but these are remains of a maritime  ‘Paradise’ (for whom?) which has since been lost, as well. I stumble onto the remains of two very old looking wooden barges, or barques (the three masted sailing boats used in trading) sticking out of the mud like beached whales, or whatever cliched metaphor was passing that day:

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The size of the beams says old, I’d say a century or more…they shifted to iron boats around the turn of the last century. But the new ‘Paradise’ can be seen behind, of the factories beyond, reminding you for all your nostalgia and Ye Olde Worlde, this is a working landscape. And I doubt one that was that hospitable back then, even with the austerity and Victorian rewrites of history currently going on. Let Them Eat Cupcakes!

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I’m a big fan of wrecks – in fact spent last night reading about ghost ships, real and fictional, partly inspired by the search for the lost Malaysian flight – funny how Wikipedia journeys divert quite quickly. So you’ll see quite a few on this blog – although not as much as I’d like, quite often wrecks get removed for safety of shipping (or to be scrapped or refurbished) or are quite difficult to get to and photograph. But I always spot them – and after this I saw many tell-tail rows of wooden beams in the mud, so there are quite a few other wrecks here I think.

So onward to Milton Creek…further upstream there is the remains of a quay, which makes me wonder if the boats were to do with the brick factory there. As far as I can tell the factory is that old, but large fences now shut it off from the creek and the old quay. Lonely tires and a wheelbarrow sit on the mud. Everything goes by road now.

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This would be a common theme from now on, a big contrast from the previous walk via Harty’s Ferry. Picturesque Lost, with the Kelmsley Down paper mill looming large, in sight and smell. I was sure this was some big agricultural or chemical plant, turns out it’s a paper mill that has been there for over a hundred years, originally run by Frank Lloyd. I saw some railway style signs near the plant, which makes sense now as the Bowater Paper Railway has become, with a few stops and starts, the Sittingbourne and Kemsley Light Railway. I must travel on this next time I come down, if possible. So maybe those wrecked barques actually travelled to Spain, and brought esparto grass for the paper mill? A romantic thought.

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A Picturesque Modern Landscape – Take That, Gainsborough.

Onto the motorway bridge, and trying to cross and find the path on the other side. Strange that the new Swale Country Park – which would explain the strange little parklet on the other side of the river – doesn’t actually facilitate linking from the coastal path?

So passing the rude chalk signs from children and a dead fox on the bridge, tail swinging in the breeze, you have go over the bridge, leg it over the Armco fence on the other side, go down the steep bank with newly planted trees, and a gap in the wooden fence which looks intentional, if not actually marked. This is not connected planning, it seems they assume everyone is either going to drive there (the park looks like an expectant car park in fact, with a few signs and a sculpture) or walk up the river. They’ve never obviously considered that people might walk along the Saxon Shore Way into the ‘park’ or want to walk along the several paths fanning out from there. Very strange.

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Another fun thing is finding the path. I took a few pictures of the Saxon Shore and footpath signs, this is because they are so sparse. Even with a GPS and knowing the path was there, I  managed to miss the shoreline path past the Kelmsley mill. I ended up at the exciting evirons of the a bridge under the motorway, confused. This of course was really well sign posted, as everyone wants to walk along a busy motorway, don’t they? Hold that thought. Anyway I had to double back, and on past the mill. It smelled, but not as bad as the delights of what came later. You can see through the fence lots of underground vats marked with ‘Leachate’ on them, it all had the hallmark of Three Mile Island or Springfield Nuclear Plant. I hurried past, and onto a tempting remains of a landing platform…knowing how evil the mud was here though, I wasn’t going to try. Amazed it was all open though…

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Remains of tank traps? Or remains of industrialisation?

More jetties, cranes in a more working disposition, and other factories followed – including turning one corner, a factory processing manure. Even on a cold day like this it was steaming – I assume they were using it for creating nitrates, but the smell of the paper mill was sweet roses compared to this…I gagged and got away as quickly as possible. My escape seemed successful until the path seemed to run out, and turned into a precarious concrete pathway with a gate at the end. Nice view of the bridge, but looks like there isn’t a path round here.

This is Ridham Dock – apparently the new place that the material for paper arrives after Milton Creek was Lost to Silt. So much for Paradise – and this path. So I had to double back. I’d seen the incredibly muddy path full of massive pools of water as I passed and thought to myself ‘You won’t catch me going down there!’ – and I now had to take it, skipping around the mud, water and insects as it was now getting towards sundown. Thankfully I didn’t have to go back past the manure plant though.

The detour was an odd one, intially along the sort of road you wonder if it’s really a road or just some leftover from the war or private way…with the port on the right hand side and fences upon fences to stop you going in. There’s a footpath which follows the road, gladly along a sort of causeway but with scratchy bushes and thankfully little mud. There is a ditch full of water between you and the road, so it’s not easy to escape. And at the other end, I stumbled over the remains I suspect of the other side of the railway, I guess Ridham Dock had a now disused connection to the Swale/Sheppey mainline? Rubbish was scattered everywhere, but this line wasn’t going to run with rag-tag barbed wire fences and concrete blocks on the line:

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So leaving the scratchy path over the remains of a crossing and across the road, I ended up on the right path again to the Swale and towards Sheppey Bridge. It was starting to get really cold now, and the sun was going down. I was glad to be mostly away from all those insects though. I passed some ruined and not-so-ruined boats, there seems to be a little anchorage by the bridge – must go back there and take pictures in decent light – some interestingly wrecks and graffiti:
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As I got near to Swale station, which is just before Sheppey Bridge (which is an ingenious double decker design, and the trains go on the lower part) I saw a train pull away. I swore, and checked my train schedule – I knew they ran til late, but I’d timed it very badly, next one was in an hour. So I thought I’d try to walk to Sittingbourne, rather than not-sit in an empty open station (no seats). Surely there must be a path, or a way along the main road?

Big mistake, crossing the main road there several times was fun, but there seemed to be no path or right of way along the most direct route along the motorway. The only way I could see is walk via Iwade, which means in part walking away from Sittingbourne then back – 3-4 miles. Unlike the motorway, not as the crow flies. So dejected I went back to Swale station to wait for the next train. I sat in the bus stop as it was the only seat nearby – yes they had just stopped too, it was 6pm, and all the buses seemed to finish by 5:30 or earlier – wonderful sunset though.

I was also rather damp too, since under the station there is a little tunnel for the local access road to go through, which was leaking…and a driver of course drenched me, probably intentionally. These two things did NOT endear me to Swale, or the locals who seem far too enamoured of their cars.

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A list of buses not turning up at this stop until tomorrow. How, err, helpful.

So the train eventually came, and I got the hell out of Swale, thankfully. I must watch the train times next time. I had glanced at them to make sure they existed, and knew there was buses to/from Sheppey, but I’d not taken note of the frequency. Usually it’s enough that there IS a bus or a train service at all, that’s cause for celebration. Anything more in this Land of The Car is a bonus.

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You can now see all the pictures from this walk in my Teynham to Swale Picasa album, or some of them on the map below.

Pointless Stats

Music

Various tracks friends had sent me:

Anandar Shankar and Bollywood music – very good 9/10French Ye Ye pop – Chantal Goya, Marie Laforêt & Francois Hardy was so so, but France Gall was really good 6/10
Lovely Eggs – very funny 7/10
Dory Previn o.O demented psych or what?
Cristina’s ‘It’s That All There Is?’ – equally demented.

Track find of the walk – by the Paper Mill Free Design’s 2002 – Hit Song came on…pure demented oddness, like jingle writing and pop song colliding in over cheery knowingness because ‘we did all this time and it didn’t work’. Could sarcasm be sung so sweetly?

Food & Water
One half of a 2 pack of a poncey M&S Sausage Roll – too much wheat/onion!
Half a pack of Prawn Cocktail crisps also left over from the last walk
Probably a few M&Ms
1 1/2 litres of 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…

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.