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Reading to Goring

Otherwise known as Path Wars: Attack of the Cyclists, this was a walk back in May continuing the walk from Reading to Goring & Streatley. Original plan was just to go to Pangbourne or Tilehurst if the weather changed or I had to abandon, but actually the weather was fine and I made good progress. I knew that after Goring it was a bit fun to work out the next exit, so that was another walk.

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First up was the Victorian drinking fountain on the Thames Promenade car park. It had seen better days, but an amazing survivor from days when public drinking water was a health issue. It was erected in the 1890’s to commemorate Frank Attwells, Mayor of Reading 1891-2, in fact he died in office – I assume put up by his wife Sarah, who died in 1905 and was also commemorated. I wish modern fountains were as grand. As usual, it had become an impromptu dumping area for rubbish 🙁

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Walking onwards past the very pitchurskew canal boats and very posh houses on the other side of the river, and the swans, ducks and geese en masse. I was struck by the view across the fields of what looks like a disused Leisure Centre, or at least a very beat up one. In it’s sorry state, it reminded me of a concentration camp, a sort of Ghetto of Fun. Those places creep me out, in fact, the enforced jollity factory nature makes me think of people or leisure being processed, like a sort of meat. It’s one of my favourites, hence why it’s the featured image at the top.

Also being late afternoon on a sunny day there were many people leisuring themselves on the river, along the river playing table tennis in their gardens or just enjoying the sunshine. Hate to think how many millions those houses are worth. I seem to be making a habit of taking pictures of canoeists and rowers recently, and this was not an exception:

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Cuteness to the max were the baby ducklings and baby swans, a contrast to the dark thoughts about factory fun palaces. But it was a nice stroll along the river, and the Promenade is quite wide and thus you don’t mind the cyclists whizzing by. This was an all too brief respite, sadly.

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The promenade narrows into a small path along fields. You’d think this would mean the cyclists would slow down, but not at all. The path is at some points barely wide enough for two people to walk side by side, at some points only big enough for one person. Definitely NOT a cycle track. I looked around for signs, but apart from a later No Motorbike sign I saw none until later…but surely cyclists had more sense than to bomb down a single track path en masse?

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You can see from the picture how being passed by cycles at speed walking on the path might be not only intimidating, but dangerous. Many cycles passed me, quite a few at speed helmed by Lycrablokes with expensive mountain bikes. This is a cycling rat run! But I mean it’s not like there is anything suggesting that you shouldn’t ride down here or anything…

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…oh.

There are quite a few gates after this, but it seems that the cyclists don’t take the hint that like commuters and towpaths, maybe bombing down small paths isn’t that pedestrian friendly, nor encouraged (otherwise why are the gates there to make cyclists dismount?). Apparently according to one I accosted, 30+ bikers use this route. It’s the Thames Path, which usually doesn’t allow bicycles, but the bloke was using the classic ‘there’s no sign telling me not to’ argument which is always the response of someone who isn’t thinking, or usually doing something they know is anti-social. I pointed out that there are many things that don’t have signs, like not killing people or not being a complete dick…doesn’t mean you’re allowed to. Sadly I think Thatcher’s Children and beyond have the idea that they are entitled to do as they please as long as the Nannystate has not explicitly and visibly forbidden it. This is why we have so many silly redundant signs for people like this, like ‘Danger! Kettle Is Hot!’ and ‘Warning! River Contains Mud and Deep Water’ – because if there isn’t a sign they bleat as they sink below the muddy water. Let these (not) grown-up children drown, I say. It’s Darwin in action.

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Happier thoughts, or trying to have them as you come along side the brick railway embankment, lots of old fading graffiti, CND signs, skulls, that sort of thing. You try and ignore the bikers bombing past within an inch of your nose – even though there are a few families with pushchairs, I hate to think what happened when they screeched around the corner and there wasn’t space for either bike or chair. It’s quite dark here, with trees, a bit cold actually even with the sunshine. But you happily stroll on until the path suddenly and inexplicably runs out. Name and shame time here: ROEBUCK FERRY COTTAGE – COME ON DOWN!

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Here is the gate. I pissed on it to show my ‘appreciation’

Yes it’s one of the destroyed ferries, I guess the path would have switched to the other side at some point, but not any more. So you have a happy traipse along a massive road for several miles ahead of you. Before heading up to the massively and impressively over-engineered bridge, you see this strange pub sign. Maybe the Cottage used to be a Hotel? Maybe you could get through there? No sign of the Hotel, and give the sign’s repair, looks like it hasn’t been running for some time?

Not shown is the ‘Welcome to Reading’ sign behind it, tempted to add sarkily ‘Enjoy our crazy cyclists’. It’s a good thing those cyclists were quite often doing some sort of sprint back up the path back where I came from, because on the bridge and beyond they weren’t that welcome. The bridge not having ramps or any concession to cyclists again suggests they weren’t in the right, either.

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Over the railway bridge and up onto the quite busy road, you after a short while come to another path, through a private wood. This makes it very clear that there are no cyclists allowed. Yippee! Problem is, the wood is far too short, and you get dumped into a very strange Surrey-like housing cul-de-sac. Not unpleasant, but a long way from the river (now the other side of a railway too) and not exactly green nor pleasant. This is the delights of Purley, and after a mile or two of it’s never-ending middle class estates, you’ll be tired of it. It’s one hell of a detour so some people can play ping pong in their garden!

There is another classic Thames Path misdirection trick here though at the junction of St Mary’s Avenue where it says ‘Thames Path to the Lock’. This skirts along the edge of the housing estate but doesn’t go near the river for quite some time like it might suggest. Ignore that and head down the avenue towards St Mary’s church if you want a much nicer walk along the river. This must be some weird way of appeasing the locals that they get their path in peace without pesky walkers? Very odd, and not the first time I’ve seen signs directing you AWAY from the actual/nicest path. I’d always prefer to walk along the river, rather than up a small road across an estate, any day.

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So if you walk past the church along Waterside Drive to Brading Way you’ll see a path off Chesnut Drive to the river. This is where you’ll find a Path Ends 100m sign back where you came from – the exciting end of that path is pictured above. The inhabitants of what seems to be 26 River Gardens, Purley are building a really ugly building, as well as blocking off the path for everyone. I suggest if they want to sell you that building tell them where to go, since not only does it look fucking awful, it follows that if they treat us mild walking types badly they probably then have no scruples in other dealings too (Hello Google! Hello Estate Agents! This is a lesson in name and shame, allow public rights of way or I’ll call you out and lower your property prices :-P)

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A much nicer sign reminds you this is Wind in the Willows land, Kenneth Grahame not only grew up in Cookham – we’ll visit there in an earlier walk – he died at Pangbourne near here. By which I mean he lived there, it wasn’t some accident or suicide tourism (Come To Pangbourne And Die! Oh You’ll Laugh!’). As a result you do see a lot of Ratty tat, but this one on a barge is really nice.

The River Gardens looks severely private, and tries to give that ‘you shouldn’t be here air’ but actually it isn’t, as you will find the gate to the a well hidden, (possibly intentionally) footpath sign. This part of the walk is beautiful, the best part, and you can see why the locals might want to keep this secret.

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COOOOWS! The river meadow walk along to Mapledurham Lock is very peaceful, and a nice respite from all that tarmac and concrete. At the lock you’ll join the path from St Mary’s Avenue, and be grateful you didn’t go that way. I promise you.

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The lock has a nice looking cafe but it was closed. ‘OPEN FOR ICES DRINKS CRISPS…ALSO PLANTS’ – yum! Plants!

Onward past the lock and again, some amazingly scenery across the river – towards Goring Heath looks like it has some landscaping – remains of gardens? But on your side there is also Much Pichtureskew. Wow. Such lovely. So photo.

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Quite a few boats along the river, the high bank makes this look like it’s actually sailing on grass, not water.

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I’d love to live on this boat – old school and an amazing setting.

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You can see what I meant about landscaped, those hills aren’t naturally like that.

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No idea what birdy this is. Grebe? Crested grebe? Big bird? Blue tit? Red Metal Headbanger Bird? IHNI. I usually get annoyed at those signs everywhere which you hope to have interesting local info, and usually all have the same canned info that this place is the place in the world you’ll find a Lesser Great Crested Booby Fartywhoopbird and a really rare Blue Buttocked Ant, or something. I’m sure someone loves those, but I’d rather not know what type of grass is so special it grows upside down, or whatever it is. Give me historical info! Walking info! A Map? Just something that isn’t just ganked from an Osborne House Nature Book?

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Proud of the timing of this picture…was already aiming and the crow just photobombed me. I have two shots, with and without. This is my favourite. Nothing else to report here, really. PICCIES!

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It was around here the insects started to get a bit much, and I saw more rowing & canoeing. There seems to be several canoeing schools here, and one especially at Pangbourne – I guess that’s the embarassingly titled ‘Adventure Dolphin’ – and Goring. And onto Pangbourne Meadow – with sadly the return of the bicyclistes. The path diverts somewhat at Pangbourne, as they haven’t finished replacing the Whitchurch-on-Thames tollbridge. Yes they still have one of those, no idea how they kept their sticky hands onto it…but it’s all a Big Hot Industrial Mess at the moment.

You can still get over the river on a footbridge though. I was 50/50 whether to stay and find a nice pub, but it was only 8pm and I could see Goring & Streatley was only a few miles away. I watched a canoeist do endless eskimo rolls from the bridge and shuddered – I once did one of those PGL/summer camp things, but never could do canoeing because I couldn’t swim, so got left alone on the shore for hours. Very boring, but I hate being underwater…truth was I was dreading doing those rolls anyway. What happens if you can’t get back up?

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St Mary The Virgin, rather than St Mary the Complete Whore, St Mary The Scarlet Hussy, St Mary Does Oral Count? and St Mary Will Shag Anyone For Chips, I guess?

This is where it gets rather odd, not sure if it was the bridge or lateness but I got a bit lost around the mill – the path to the church is well hidden. Then through the very pretty churchyard, past the Tudor houses (ooh nice pub! Boo! Now having second thoughts about that eating/drinking thing…) and onward past about 10,000 galleries. It seems Whitchurch exists for small galleries and tat shops. Well it certainly doesn’t exist for footpaths, pavements or easy rights of way, that’s for sure.

When you find Hartslock Bridleway, apart from the severe looking PRIVATE CARRIAGEWAY type signs which are slightly off-putting, it’s very much a direct mostly un-rivered (is that a verb? Is now) slog to Goring. It gets quite steep in places, and sadly I couldn’t get a good shot of the sunset. On the upside, I didn’t get a shot of the sunset. So it works out really (I know, I have to take them even though I never post them, because it’s JUST SO CHEESY).

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One of the interesting things is the sudden arrival of pillboxes. No, not the drug sort, the military sort, out of the blue. You’d not think sleepy Pangbourne or Goring as being the frontline of the Second World War, but on my next walk I spotted quite a few RAF bases, such as Abingdon and Benson – and a few that the Yanks won’t give up. So I guess they were worried about crack German Barge Commandos, slowly making their way up the river in Cammo Narrowboats, pretending to be tourists when all tourism had stopped…no, that wouldn’t work. The mind does boggle, but then again I guess small boats could make their way up river, so hence the pillboxes along it. There were many more on my next walk…this deserted one looked rather poetic in the forest. I didn’t go inside…far too late, dark and I hate those kinds of spaces!

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As it was nearing the elections, I found it funny someone had thrown blue paint on the UKIP sign in one of the fields. Really, if you were voting UKIP you should not only be ashamed, you shouldn’t really be advertising it. I ended up at Goring & Streatley station just in time for the train, was a bit of a scamper but made it, so went back to Reading. I went to get some coffee, and had an interesting conversation with the Reading University student serving me. I mentioned the cyclists and she said she was from Oxford and cycled everywhere there, but in Reading the traffic was too much, and she gave up after a week. She wondered where the cyclists were…suddenly it made sense! The cyclists were using the paths as rat runs to avoid the cars…so much for Reading the new silicon city!

As I tweeted back then, it did seem an own goal though, the problem with doing that is not only does it annoy the likes of me, it also means motorists don’t get used to cyclists. The same argument over riding pavements I had with Critical Mass people applies here – that separation/avoiding traffic doesn’t work, it means the drivers get away with bad habits and never learn, and the pedestrians get annoyed with the bikes in their space. I walk on footpaths to avoid traffic, the commuter rat-run that goes through where I live 4-7pm, the idea is to get away from people and traffic. This completely fails if then the traffic then comes zipping by at high volume?

Return of the Pointless Stats!

Food

A few M&Ms – I think I ran out
1 litre of water
1 Cappuccino

Music

Disco – loads of 70’s & 80’s Disco and No Wave such as
Disco Not Disco 1 & 2 8/10
Ben Liebrand – Grand 12 Inches 1 & 2 10/10
Sage Francis – Sick of Li(f)e mixtape especially Origin To Descent and Years Demo – 9/10
Random Bootie mashups – pretty good, 7/10

Naughty Bicycles photographed for abandoned name & shame FB group or blog called ‘2 Wheels Bad’:
5

Canoeists photographed (no shame):

21 (!)

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!

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

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

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>

The rules

United Kingdom has over 7,000 islands, rocks, tidal sandbanks and abandoned shopping trolleys, so even as haphazard a walk needs rules…what is part of the mainland, and do I need to walk up ever little inlet? If you’re walk along the coast, then what exactly is the coast?

Well I’ve decided:

  1. The coastal path is the main guide, if it goes there so will I. The coastal path isn’t everywhere though, and sometimes it strangely skirts inland for no reason, in those cases I will make a judgement call usually based on time and tiredness whether I want to walk along the coast proper. I do prefer walking along beaches or cliffs than some inland path with no view. Although safety concerns come in, I have walked around a headland for miles along the shoreline then found the sign ‘Danger! Quick Sand!’ on the other end…
  2. It’s part of the mainland and thus part of the coastal walk if there is a physical connection during most or all of the tides. A connection is a bridge, a walkway or causeway available most of the time. I’m not walking all the big named islands, that you can only get to by boat, although some I’ve visited already. Thus Isle of Sheppey counts, so probably will St Michael’s Mount when I get there if the tide allows, many piers and headlands, but not Guernsey or The Isle of Man.
  3. It’s only in the running to be even considered if the piece of land is above tide all the time. No sandbanks, tidal islands, etc. however accessible.
  4. When land is private or disused I usually walk along the beach as between high water and the water is actually owned by the Queen, if it’s physically or safely possible – I’m not walking at the bottom of a tidal cliff! They like to put up signs telling you otherwise, but unless you are the MOD (headed by the Queen) or the Queen you can’t actually have a private beach. Not along the waterline. I have walked 5 miles along shingle beach by a firing range before now – with no exit!
  5. Regular ferries are allowed across estuaries and rivers, although I’ve found precious few of these. I don’t have to actually ride the ferry, just walk to where the ferry is, if it’s out of hours. Regular means running most or all of the year, not some ad-hoc summer-only man in a boat. This also applies to my Thames River Walk too.

All of these are at my own judgement, if the walk can be a lot easier and quicker then I will break them, but only in cases where there isn’t really a guide either way (a path for instance, I will usually devolve to that) or the state of tide or weather is against me. I’m not going to schlep all the way back because the tides were wrong to walk around some rock! But if it’s there and the tides are good, then fine.

Some might get interesting when I get further into areas that don’t have paths (if I get to Wales or Scotland for instance) although their roaming laws are better now, but I bet the curse of the Mythical Private Beach is strong there…if a man with a gun is saying don’t walk, I’m not going to walk.

Welcome to Walking the Wrong Way

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

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

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

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

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

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