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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

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Bourne End to Shiplake

Sorry this post was delayed! You might have noticed the site going down a week ago, well I had to reinstall everything which took days…and after that I didn’t feel like doing much at all.

This is the final walk in what I now call the Mud Trilogy – after this one I decided to stop walking until later in the year because, well, Tim and mud do NOT mix, and on all three walks I ended up in the middle of a swimming pool of mud, a completely sodden field due to a enforced ‘detour’. Yes I’m a bad walker, but avoiding drowning in mud is not fun, and because of the flooding and the especially wet winter, there is a lot of water out there!

There are plenty of walks to come though, both later in the year, and also the last coastal walk – and many years of walks before that.

This is both a continuation of the last blogged walk, Reading to Shiplake – which was supposed to get to Henley but I ran out of time, and an earlier walk from a few years ago which was meant to be Henley to Bourne End, but it also ended a few miles short at Marlow – during a fair I seem to remember with feral local youth gathering in the shadows and the police horse vans moving in en masse (!). So, I had two couple mile stretches within 10 miles of each other, and rather than hop on trains it seemed sensible to just walk it again in full to connect the two parts. So in future you will see some of these sights, but in the other direction, and from another time.

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When I came here in June 2012, typically for summer it was chucking it down (also there was a lot of Olympics-related fun along those stretches but that’s for another time). I’d just missed the train from Bourne End, having had to abort the walk due to rain and darkness (and also not being sure if I would get stranded on the opposite side of the river to the station – always a problem in this part of the world).

So Bourne End made me feel at home again by proceeding to rain as I arrived…deja vu. Sadly the pub I sheltered in two years ago by the station was no more – it was a really nice pub too. Despite the previous days of sunshine, this was suddenly an Arctic wind, and raining…it was supposed to be cloudy with sunny patches, but more cloudy with cloud patches with a touch of rain. Oh and a bit more cloud for good measure.

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So I headed to the river and thus the railway bridge, single track, iron and painted green. Apparently one Callum Dunkin had won the 2013 Rivet Challenge, I have no idea what that is…maybe he had to lick every rivet or something…or paint them institution green. At this point I got a bit confused which side I was supposed to be on, there’s a path on the other side but it’s not the Thames Path, and the station side has the Thames Path one way only, the other way blocked by the usual people wanting exclusive access to the river (which would have not been the case in toll-path days). So finally on the right track, and we’re met by the other thing that’s common in this world (apart from KEEP OUT! CCTV! Pretend legally binding signs, PRIVATE! and FIERCE DOGS!) which is the 6 foot high fence or hedge, usually with a mate on the other side only just over a body width apart. As my partner says, this is offencive (his pun, not mine! Don’t hit me!).

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Hmm, nice view!

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Insert olbigatory snark about the lack of need for ice-cream and cold drinks.

 

So past all the rowing clubs (another staple of this part of the world), intrigued at the 1947 Flood Mark on the entrance to Spade Oak Meadow, I wonder if this year was worse? Oh more mud, you shouldn’t have. Seems even the benches are fed up with it:

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Passing rowers who seem to be taking the shank’s pony route with their boat, and past a rather strange castle type building on the opposite bank, which I’m fairly sure I’d taken pictures of last time – I wonder if I got this far then turned back to Marlow? It looked familiar, then again strange castle like buildings are common around here. As with the last river walk, many signs of flooding and flotsam along the banks, mud and even damage to a jetty which probably broke free or tried to float when underwater. All quiet until Marlow, and the path suddenly stops in a new development, rather unceremoniously. The park is nice (looked on the map, it doesn’t seem to have a name but it’s by Gossmore Recreation Park, or part of it), and lovely cherry blossom which has probably been tricked by the unusually nice weather…it might be regretting that now.

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Path…DENIED!

So round we go, along far too many roads, small windy medieval ones with of course the requisite rich wankers in a chrome-plated 4x4s – it seems along with large Audis and BMWs small roads collect these people like flies. Marlow looked better in the sunshine though, very busy and I found a nice cafe and had a chilli chicken and cucumber wrap which actually was quite nice despite the really odd concept, and a hot chocolate. Back via the Church which I had checked out last time, and again found the path near the bridge, although there was the usual conflicting signs (‘No access to river’ vs ‘Thames Path this way!’ – hmm, I wish signs were more clearly flagged visually as to whether they are for pedestrians or motorists…I tend to ignore signs as a result I have to say).

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A better class of Keep Out sign in Marlow, you know, Probably an edict from the Marlow Society. Keep Out Thy Prole!

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Sundial near the Church, Marlow

So leaving the Hyacinth Bucket World of Marlow, onto to Temple and Hurley lock…took some nice pictures at Temple Lock and Hurley Lock, where they do kayaking, they have a weir just for it, apparently! There was a group out there doing what ever kayak people do, usually getting wet and splashing about in loud clothes. You can see pictures of that on the Picasa album.

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Detour! How I hate the word ‘detour’. Along Blackboy Lane (I’m not saying anything) there apparently was subsidence, so the path was re-routed inland, along the barking dogs from hell, of the sort that threaten to jump the fence and go for your throat (and it was a small fence) and over a swimming pool in field form. I was not happy…

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I wonder if there really IS subsidence, the locals around here can be odd about the path…it’s certainly somewhere I passed two years ago, gnomes and bird sculptures, mock Tudor, miniature clocktowers, Swiss chalets and duck houses, fluttering Union Jacks and Pirate flags for the wags, tupperware boats and pseudo-thatched cottages that bedevil the work of Martin Parr. Little England en rivière. I took many photographs of this last time, so wasn’t repeating it now – that’s for a future post.

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What isn’t Little is the Deer Park at Culham Court, which the path takes you through (the featured image). Very grand, and the deer were out in force, as is the CCTV cameras disguised as bird houses…I noticed those last time. I decide to take the inland route, I’d done the outer route last time, via Aston Church but turning along the road to Remenham rather than the Thames Path. It was sunset and just coming into Henley…I rushed this because I had to meet John later than night, but I really didn’t want to come back. I knew there were trains every 20 minutes from Shiplake, which is very good – and was aiming for the earlier one, so the last few miles got rather rushed.

It wouldn’t be a walk near Henley though without a shot of Temple Island…this grand structure is actually the posh form of one of those little green tents, it’s a fishing lodge designed by James Wyatt.

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So past Henley and along to Shiplake via Marsh Lock and weir. It’s unusual because the walkway heads out into the Thames and back around the lock, it’s rather grand especially with the amount of debris – including small boats and trees – that had been swept into it and trapped there, and the high water leading to dramatic, crashing noisy waves.

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Onto Shiplake itself over some more muddy meadows (oh joy). Eventually via a rather mud-locked bridge and onto a small track, and suddenly come out to see a gigantic train set:

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This according to John is Robert McAlpine’s house, he of the building firm. Looks like they are doing up his garden, guarded by a classic hut with security guard and CCTV warily in place (I think I got an ‘Oi!’, but headphones were on, it’s public path/road and didn’t feel like having to defend my legitimate right to take pictures so I kept going). Italian sunken gardens and a miniature gauge train, with a St Moritz station…this is where your building fees go! He’s neighbours of Bolney Court, which I mentioned in the last blog post in the 18th century blocked the tow path from continuing, and looks like the later arrivals have continued this tradition…I walk along the road with ‘BEWARE FIERCE DOGS!’ signs and wonder if this person is taking the piss with their housename:

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Riverbank? RIVERBANK? Yes I’d love to see the riverbank but your frigging house is in the way, and all the rest of yr mates…Then at the end of the lane the path veers of, and just like the start of the walk corralled into high hedges and big fences…and onto the Shiplake station. I’d misjudged it by about 20 minutes, but there was another train, and I knew I’d still get back to London in time, if a little later than I wanted. In fact, turns out I could have just made an interchange at Twyford that was late, but lack of information meant I just missed it. Still arrived quicker than what the Network Rail app said, though….

You can find the full set of photos on the map below or at the Bourne End to Shiplake Picasa album.

Pointless Stats

Music

Doctor Who – Whispering Forest 5th doctor serial off Radio 4
Anandar Shankar – pretty sure I was listening to this too
Jarvis Cocker’s Sunday Service on Iggy Pop – Jarvis’s last 6Music show before Iggy Pop took over

Water
1 litre of water

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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

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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…