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Thursday, 23 September 2010

Walk 4 Faversham to Sittingbourne

Walk 4 Faversham to Sittingbourne (Kent)

Map: L/R 178
Distance: 12 miles approx
Difficulty: quite easy but can be windy and cold at times
Terrain: quite easy, mostly earth/grassed paths and pavement
Access: parking at both ends
Public transport: train links between the two towns

Leaving Faversham carry on up the east side of Faversham Creek along the Saxon Shore Way.
Although marshy and sometimes bleak, the often lonely walk has its own quiet atmosphere. The views are renowned for their variation in light.

As you turn westwards along the River Swale you will see a hide for keen birdwatchers. The nearby Oare Marshes are part of a nature reserve supporting a wide range of wetland birdlife.

Soon you will come across the old Harty Ferry landing. This used to link the shore with the Isle of Harty (which is part of the Isle of Sheppey) on the opposite bank. If the weather was calm the ferry was rowed across and had to cope with the treacherous currents in the Swale. There is a record of a ferryman having been drowned in the 1800s. The ferry men had a monopoly and were reportedly sullen, sometimes asking the passengers to help out!  The ferry was last used in 1946 having been made redundant by the building of bridges. A bascule bridge (meaning part of it can be raised using weights) at Kingsferry was followed in 1960 by a reinforced concrete bridge, then a further bridge was built recently. 

Walking past Teynham Level and the marshes inland, Fowley Island can be spotted in the estuary. A popular annual yacht race takes place around the island organised by Whistable Yacht Club.

Soon the path sweeps inland to the village of Conyer with its marina. Continue up the west side of Conyer Creek. Much of the land in this area has been reclaimed from the sea. Smuggling was supposed to be rife in the area. An interesting signpost on this bank indicates distances to Dover, Faversham, Sittingbourne and Inverness. Why the latter is there I have been unable to discover. For the record, it is 1151 miles to the latter!

Opposite the Saxon Shore Way is Elmley Island (part of the Isle of Sheppey). It was near here that James 11 was arrested by fishermen in 1688. He was reportedly on the Elmley ferry (no longer exists) when first trying to flee the country.
Some wrecks can be seen (not just boats, a car was poking out of the water when I walked it) especially at lower tides. At an area called The Lilies the two bridges to the Isle of Sheppey can be observed. The older one is lifted every day to let shipping through. Kemsley paper mill was still open and could be seen on the opposite bank when I walked this stretch. A 2’6” gauge steam railway (Sittingbourne – Kemsley) is/was on the other bank. It was open to the public but was closed when the mill land was sold. I understand it is due to reopen in 2011 when viaduct repairs have been completed. (Update - it reopened to the public in May 2011 and is a popular attraction).

The walk finishes with a walk down Milton Creek into Sittingbourne. Although the area has a history since Roman times, the walker mainly sees the more industrial, commercial and residential aspects of the town.

Snaps show: rusty hulks at Faversham Creek; the old Harty Ferry point; boats at Coyner Creek; the end of the path at Coyner Creek.

Friday, 10 September 2010

Walk 3 Herne Bay to Faversham

Walk 3 Herne Bay to Faversham (Kent)

Map: L/R 179 and 178
Distance: 12 miles approx
Difficulty: quite easy but can be windy off the estuary
Terrain: quite easy, mostly earth/grassed paths and pavement
Access: Good train links

Follow the Wantsum Way which changes into the Saxon Shore Way.The flat, sometimes bleak, looking coast has pebble, mud and sand beaches. Pass through Hampton with its small concrete pier used for fishing, nearby is the yacht club. Then through Swalecliffe with its wooden holiday homes close to the sea.

Tankerton is next with its colourful beach huts. In 2005 these were up for sale at £15000 (no mains services and rather open to vandals!) This area has the rare hogs fennel, also known as sulphur weed, growing, distinguished by it's yellow flowers. The beaches here were part of a thriving copperas or green vitriol industry in the 17th and 18th century. This was extracted from stones on the beach and used to make nitric and sulphuric acid. One use was for chlorine in the textile industry.

On the east side of Whistable Harbour is the site of the first steam operated railway. The trains went to Canterbury; known as the Crab and Winkle line it was closed in 1952. A plaque gives further info.

Whistable has been famous for its oysters fro 2000 years and has the largest oyster beds in Europe. The pungent smell of the fish market dominates the area. Nonetheless, the quaint properties make this an attractive walk. There would be more of these buildings but, many years ago, a candle knocked over by a monkey in a workshop caused a major fire. On the west side of the sea front is Cushing’s View where the Isle of Sheppey can be viewed and, on a clear day, Southend on Sea. The actor Peter Cushing lived and died in the town and enjoyed this view. The local museum has further info. The diving helmet was invented in Whistable and, occasionally, there are exhibitions and demos.

As you come out of Whistable you pass the Old Neptune Inn which was locked in by ice in 1956. Go through Seasalter which takes its name from salt pans which once existed on the shore. A church stood near here serving the salt works in medieval times. The sea defence wall was built after extensive flooding and stopped the industry.

Walk beside South Cleve, South Oare and Nagden Marshes. Don’t expect to meet many people! There are old rusty hulks in Faversham Creek. Follow the path along the creek side into Faversham. The area was once the centre of Britain’s explosives industry. It is well worth a visit to the local museum to learn about this. The Shepherd and Neame Brewery (oldest independent brewer in the UK) is in the town and produces excellent beers. Tried, tested and vouched for!

Snaps show: Cushings View, Whistable; The Old Neptune Pub, Whistable; The fish market; private beach at Seasalter.