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Friday, 1 October 2010

Walk 5 - Queenborough to Minster (Isle of Sheppey)

Walk 5 Queenborough to Minster (Isle of Sheppey)

Map: L/R 178
Distance: 6 miles approx
Difficulty: quite easy
Terrain: quite easy, mostly earth/grassed paths and pavement
Parking: OK at both ends
Public Transport: Train to Queenborough via Sittingbourne, bus back from Minster to Sheerness station.

There is a path that comes out of Sittingbourne and follows Milton Creek and works its way round until you reach Swale Station. Part of this path was closed when I was in the area due to the building of the new bridge to Sheppey. This narrow part of the River Swale, is probably not worth the effort, especially as there is no shore access on the island until you get near Queenborough on the Isle of Sheppey so this walk starts there. The Isle of Sheppey means the Isle of Sheep.

From Queenborough station walk to the Town Quay and then to Queenborough Park. The town has strong naval and royal connections. Edward 111 had Queenborough Castle built here in 1360 for his wife Phillipa – hence the town’s name. The front here is quite pleasant with The Old House at Home pub (nice and friendly for a pub lunch and/or a drink). Outside there are seats with views across to the Isle of Grain.

Queenborough was given the right to export wool by Edward 111. Nelson took his naval exams at nearby Sheerness and was a communicant at Queenborough church - he lodged in the town’s high street. Daniel Defoe thought little of the area describing it as a ‘miserable dirty fishing town’. In World War 2 a mine-sweeping fleet was based here to protect the Thames.

All around the Sheppey, North Kent and Essex coast you are likely to hear occasional loud bangs. These may be from the military ranges on the Essex bank but it could also be the army carrying out regular controlled explosions on World War 2 bombs or mines still in the estuary.

Opposite Queenborough is Deadman’s Island; Napoleonic prisoners who were kept in ‘hulks’ on the Medway are buried here. The path goes inland to the north of Queenborough to by pass a very large dock. The walk to Sheerness, which is by road, goes past the new docks – a major facility for the import of cars and fresh produce. The old main dockyard was closed in 1960. Naval ships were repaired there for 300 years and were partly designed by Samuel Pepys. The ‘Blue Town’ area housed the dock workers. Sheerness was also the site of the Royal Arsenal until 1960. Sheerness was so called because of the bright water of the Medway.

Pop into the town to look at the iconic clock tower. Walking eastwards out of Sheerness you will see a high sea wall, built after major floods in 1952 and 1987. Many small boats assembled here before departing for Dunkirk. 

The beach between here and Minster was deserted when I walked it apart from two suited figures from the Mormon Church who tried to persuade me to watch one of their videos. What were they doing there? Notices on the sea wall warn against eating shellfish from the beach without thorough boiling in fresh water. I wondered what was being put into the sea.

There are many caravan sites, of varying quality, on the walk to Minster. At Minster Lea beach the sea was frozen in 1789 with a sheet of ice spreading across to Essex. At the furthest eastern point of Minster there is a view of Warden Point.

Minster derives its name from the monastery built in the town in 670. You can visit the Abbey Gatehouse Museum and the remaining tower. The old parish church contains Roman tiles and Norman features. Minster in Sheppey (to distinguish it from Minster near Ramsgate) is mentioned in The Old Curiosity Shop.

Snaps show: Queenborough Park; looking towards the Medway at Queenborough; interesting garden on the lonely walk near Warden point; Minster beach.

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