Gravesend via Cliffe to St Mary Hoo

Cliffe has an important place in these walks, partly it was the first walk I did where I thought the pictures told a story, and were more about post-industrial and decay than your usual landscape drivel and where I first had the idea of the Coastal Walks and linking them to my existing River Thames walks. Also it was September 2009, the year I started the coastal walks, and this was an extension to those, even though I’d been walking the river since 1999.

I’m surprised it’s taken nearly 5 years to come back, especially since Gravesend is so easy to reach from London, but I got to Gravesend on the Greenhithe walk, so time to delve into the Isle of Grain.

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Swans and man, 2009

So this is a rare thing a sequel walk, but also a continuation – I started way too late from Gravesend, missed all the buses home (something I did this time too, oh I wish the Hundred & Hoo Railway was still going) so I only got to the first fort, what I thought was Cliffe fort but actually is the Napoleonic era Shornemead Fort. This time I went onto St Mary Hoo – I was aiming for All Hallows and a mythical bus from Grain, but I had to abort as it got too late and too dark.

This one is quite detailed – it was the longest walk in a long while – over 18 miles, and two walks five years apart – but also a lot of post-research about things I found that I wanted to know more about. This isn’t a sign of a shift to professionalism, more an interest in the curious places and things I found.

I still refuse to research an area intentionally before I walk, apart from public transport access. I find it changes your first experience of a place to read guidebooks or sites, it narrows your visceral ‘in the moment’ feelings, findings, mistakes and stumblings down to ones other people have deigned ‘worthy’. Most of the times the enforced or unintentional detours, random finds and happy accidents and the in-between Edgelands areas that aren’t classically beautiful are more interesting than anything you’d find in a book. You can always go back to explore bits you missed or want to look at further anyway.

I did know about the Hans Egede though, randomly via Google Maps image, but all the rest from the first fort was new to me.

This post is brought to you by shopping trolleys, discarded broken plastic chairs, tyres and construction hats – there were so many, I wondered how so many get lost in the river, do workpeople just lose them at this massive rate?

Leaving Gravesend station as quickly as possible, I scurried to the pier. Yes Gravesend has a pier – several in fact. Compared to five years ago where I saw sunken barges and another crumbling wharf (I think gone now?) it seems the area has been tarted up a lot, or maybe it’s just the fact the tide is in hiding all the traffic cones, tyres and shopping trolleys. Confusingly what’s marked as Gravesend Pier on the map is actually a loading wharf, the pier on which you can alight on boats is this one, rather short and stubby, but a pier nonetheless:

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Gravesend Pier, 2009

It’s not changed that much, so I won’t do the before/after…whereas if you were walking along the river front past the St Andrews Art Centre five years ago, you would come across the rather ruinous and derelict Clarendon Hotel, which I was surprised to find in 2014 has been done up and is all shiny and nice. For instance compare the overgrown garden of before:

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Clarendon Hotel garden, 2009

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Same place, 2014 – and the same gates!

Certainly seems like a lot has changed, for instance Fort Gardens has had a 2012 makeover since, and is actually a nice place to visit, whereas before it was rather bare, windswept and foreboding. Now it’s full of kids playing on those far too healthy-looking and gym-like machines that pass for a children’s play park nowadays – brainwashing from an early age, I guess? I don’t remember the Tea Rooms either, or the posh-looking gated estate to the North of the park, looking out of place, all Yacht Club pomp. I do remember a lot of mud, what I jokingly then called ‘Gravesend Beach’ – the bloke above talking on his phone on one of the staves precariously with avenging swans.

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Shopping Canute, 2009

So onwards over the small gated bridge that opens into the Canal Basin (more of canals later) and over into a netherworld of old factories, graffiti, abandoned rubbish and old signs. This is Gordon Promenade, which I spent a long time photographing in 2009. This time I was more interested in the new graffiti, and surprised that people are working here, these factories are still in use. In 2009 it seemed like a ghost town…and yes the Saxon Shore Way runs right through them, although it seems a bit like you shouldn’t be there. Less abandoned rubbish this time, and less survivors from a bygone age – last time there was a whole sofa there. This sign is still there though:

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Albion Marine Engineers 2009

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Graffiti, 2014

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There was this rather interesting sign, this seemed to be a local schools project that indicated the site of a WW2 plane crash – apparently the remains of the Hurricane plane and pilot, a Sergeant Eric E Williams is still buried in there.

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Killer Bunny, 2014

The path eventually becomes a single person fenced path, offencive as John usually says, and a flurry of graffiti in this abandoned area. Not sure who ? is but he liked spraying his mysterious mark everywhere, like a Doctor Who fetishist. I hope he’s called Ron (Mister Ron…Mysteron? Geddit? Oh why do I bother…). I liked this one though – more appropriate as the walk was just before Easter. Killer Bunny indeed.

Wander through containerland, and enjoy the strangely happy giant head and then we find the remains of the Thames and Medway canal built in 1824. In 2009 this had a sign, but it’s now long gone. Turn the corner up Mark Lane past the marine debris of old anchors, chains, and a lightbuoy tower which seems to have been boarded over now, and looks a lot less photogenic – vandalism?

Past the Ship and Lobster which looks like a nice small pub, the small sort that used to be common along the river serving the Watermen, and onto the concrete sea defences. Still much rubbish here, and eventually ends abruptly with graffiti and abandoned shopping trolleys – well it did in 2009:

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Phatz, 2009

I guess Phatz (or is it Phats?) would be happy to know his yellow scrawling graffiti is still standing five years later, if rather faded…with a new addition to the side. Wasone? Wosine? Not sure. The shopping trolleys infest the whole area, less than before but still lurk around the odd corner.

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So over the wall and onto the green yet rather pockmarked sea defences – too dry to be muddy thankfully. Signs of fires, wooden and plastic flotsam, discarded signs and collections of rocks almost like neolithic man had decided to remake huts again in this abandoned landscape. Passed a few people fishing – that’s new, didn’t see anyone five years ago. Dog walkers don’t seem to come here though.

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These strange buildings are still here, if less colourful now. I wasn’t sure back then if it was some kind of Stalinist Holiday Camp, but I think it’s something to do with Milton Range. I half expected these to be gone, it looked like they were being demolished, but not so. There are a lot of ex-ranges near here – if Google Satellite is to be believed it looks like Milton Ranges is still used.

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Shornemead Fort in 2009

On onto Shornemead Fort, which if you read the Wiki entry seems to been a bust, as forts go. Dating from 1790, you can still wander around it, although it’s crumbling. Also last time there seemed to be some work done there – apparently it was the RSPB blocking up the tunnels, which it got too late then to explore the fort, so I missed that chance. Sounds like they were flooded though. I remember in 2009, pre-Smartphone wandering for miles trying to find a bus, and eventually walked to one of the near train stations I think. I also didn’t have a torch and it got very dark, with no lights in the area…

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Shornemead Fort in 2009

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More spontaneous graffiti in front of the fort, 2014

And onto Cliffe Fort proper…walking along there was more signs of fires, I guess people come here at night for a BBQ or something – many tyres, bottles, rubbish, cones, and even more discarded construction hats.

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Then I see a rather worrying sign – that the path is closed due to coastal erosion. I pressed on, half expecting at any moment to plunge into the murky depths. I had reason to go anyway – not only does it seem the other paths around there are flooded, but there was the wreck of the Hans Egede which if I’d known about back on 2009 I might have pressed on to see – certainly it was probably more intact then. But first I found a more modern wreck…a BMW? There aren’t any roads, and most of the area is flooded, so I really did wonder how they drove this here:

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The Hans Egede was a 1920’s boat, which had been used as a hulk since the 1950’s. It eventually sank, and they beached it here. Although I was more worried about the state of the tide being too high, that wasn’t a problem it was the direction of sun that affected my shots of this…there are some rather strange ruins behind the wreck, bits of Nore Fort. This was a Maunsell army fort like the ones that became legendary in early pirate radio (e.g. Shivering Sands which became the tragic Radio City after Lord Sutch sold it, Red Sands was Radio 390), but a ship hit them and four of the stationed crew died, so they were eventually dismantled, then moved here.

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This is all that remains of the Brennan Torpedo an early guided missile system. Cliffe Fort itself is private, part of the gravel extraction company lands. Amazed something hasn’t been done with it, given it’s size and apparent importance. It’s now flooded though, like quite a few forts in the area. I doubt the gravel extraction helps the erosion or the flooding!

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The erosion actually turns out to be this small affair, which you can actually just walk around along the beach, or along the fence if you’re careful. I passed some giggling ramblers looking at a map who seemed rather bemused (yeah, I don’t get on with Kendal Mintcakes) so I felt the need to press on and prove them wrong. After that you reach a lot of gorse and scratchy bushes, remains of the rest of the fort and WW2 military ruins (which aerial shots show you how large it is in fact) which you can walk along the remains of the road and look at some of the parts outside the gravel works to the right of that aerial shot, which are I think more modern. Some have gone into the Fort, but given that it’s private and flooded I wasn’t going to do that. Disused buildings creep me out, anyway.

Continuing on past the muddy remains of Cliffe creek (I wonder if munitions ships docked here?) and onto what the RSPB called euphemistically the Flamingo Pools, or Cliffe Pools. These apparently are the remnants of diggings for the cement works, which along with the scary sounding asbestos factory in nearby Higham was the main industry in the area – and one other, which we’ll get to in a bit. There is strange flotsam around here, so much wood and plastic gets swept down here, you can see why people create fires along here since unusually there is so much timber and even the odd escaped sofa or surreally placed table:

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And yes more of the escaped hats and cones…

After Cliffe Pools I was starting to get concerned about time, I’d judged the walk as being 12-13 miles but I was 6 miles or more from All Hallows…I decided to walk on, and eventually find an ‘out’ to try and connect to the bus later on coming from Grain. There’s only one big main road, and although the times were questionable I was sure the bus must pass through there. This turned out to be a mistake, since after Cliffe Pools and the map (Osmand/Open Source Map or Google Maps) suggesting you can escape at certain points, you can’t. There is water ditches and ponds, and large fences and Keep Out signs to make sure you don’t – I suspect some bits are leaky or accessible, including Mead Road, but it seemed the land owner(s) were trying their best to stop any kind of access to the path. This became more of a problem later.

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So walking along precariously along the top of the sea wall, it’s pretty bleak, with only lambs and sheep for company (sometimes they break out and graze by the river, a strange sort of pastoral scene in the industrial landscape). The monotony is only broken by odd piles of rocks, I’m guessing to sure up the defences, and the equally neolithic monument marking the Eastern limits of the Company of Thames Watermen and Lightermen.

After a while you come across some really strange sets of ruins, initially looking like dead farms and barns, but after a while the serried ranks seem strange. This apparently is the remains of the Curtis and Harvey Gunpowder and Explosive works…yes like Foulness Island currently is, and other parts of the area munitions were made here until the 1920’s. A very dangerous place to work also! I guess it makes sense since it’s so remote, but the crumbling buildings are rather spooky. Looks like you might be able to get access or at least look closer via a road that runs up. On the other side, it wasn’t obvious HOW you could get out, or connect. Maybe I missed this in the twilight…there are paths marked, but as you got there, no sign of them. It’s a very large place – look it up on Google satellite maps. Tempted to go back and explore further, although apparently there is shooting here, so I will stick to tracks and roads unless it’s completely open.

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Talking of which, it seems one of the landowners blocked the public right of way entirely with a large black vinyl fence,no stile or anything (later ones had a cut out area to do so, but not this one). No official signs about closing the path – which are needed, it’s a public right of way so I think a local byelaw or council ruling has to be passed before it’s stopped – nor sign of a detour, official or otherwise. So I swore and precariously stepped around as you can see it goes right up to the edge of the sea wall. No idea how the landowner can block a public footpath like this? I wonder if the Ramblers would be interested.

They seemed to be doing some works here, and had fishing (or shooting?) positions, but no sign of a way out inland – there was supposed to be a path where the black fence is above, but it seemed to be one long muddy ditch/stream. So I was starting to get worried, All Hallows the next reliable ‘out’ was many miles away and it was getting dark…and obviously would be missing the bus. But at least there were scenes like this to look at:

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So eventually I found a way out, after Decoy Fleet (interesting name) the path branches inland at St Mary’s Bay towards St Mary Hoo. It was seriously getting dark at this time…fine as I had my torch (you can see my torch-enabled night photography below) but then the path went uphill sharply across furrowed if thankfully dry fields with no obvious path…so I ended up using my phone GPS and OSMAND ‘blind’ – left a bit, right a bit, like I was in an episode of Knightmare. Eventually I found a track, then the main street and onto St Mary’s Hoo, which looked nice if rather abandoned in the dark, very few lights. Early to bed people?

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The walk to the main road was eventful also – I decided to walk down the Ratcliffe Highway which despite the name was one of those incredibly busy single carriage roads that carries far too much traffic even at that time of night…which like the walk to Southminster which I’ll detail in future was scary since without pavement or even verges it’s not always safe to walk along, day or night. Thankfully it was a short walk and got to the main road at Fenn Street. I saw from the map there was a pub which is partly why I went this way, to call for a taxi then wait in a nice warm pub…to find that the Fenn Bell Inn is no more. Signs are still there, but looks like it’s not a pub, or was closed (on a midweek night in the evening?).

So eventually found a taxi to come out, and took the taxi to Strood. I could’ve walked it, but as you can see this walk had already ballooned to 18+ miles (so much for the rough estimate of 13.5 that Maps Ruler 2 app gave!) and I didn’t want to walk the 3-4+ miles to civilisation across busy roads (although thankfully with pavements). Certainly looking at the map Higham might be better for Cliffe if I want to go back there, or investigate the peripatetic buses from Strood or Gravesend to Grain – there are buses to St Mary Hoo so I can get there, I found the bus stop near Fenn Street. That would be a weekday or Saturday event though, since Sunday buses are mostly fat chance in that area, apart from the main Grain bus. But I’d like to explore Cliffe more – the wreck and the works, and the walk to the failed sea-side town of All Hallows should be interesting also…but I think two separate visits.

You can see the photos from the 2009 Cliffe Walk, and the 2014 walk to St Mary Hoo – a lot more extra shots of the Hans Egede, the car wreck, graffiti, far too many shots of flotsam, the Explosive Factory and many many sunsets!

Bognor Regis to Selsey via Pagham Harbour

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

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

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

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…just not their sausage rolls. Or shingle.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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I think the tide was out…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pointless Stats

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

Music

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

Food

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

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

Greenhithe to Swanscombe and Gravesend

Smile it’s just aliens…graffiti during the walk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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