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Thursday, 7 October 2010

Walk 6 Warden to the Ferry Inn, Isle of Sheppey

Walk 6   Warden to The Ferry Inn/Harty Ferry (Isle of Sheppey)

Map: L/R 178
Distance: 13 miles approx there and back - half this if you leave a car at each end 
Difficulty: quite easy
Terrain: quite easy, mostly earth/grassed paths
Access: Car only. Car parks at Warden and The Ferry Inn.
Public transport: Train to Sheerness and bus to Leysdown on Sea (a bit further round from Warden).

Walk in an easterly direction from Warden towards Leysdown on Sea. The coast around Warden Point is inaccessible due to erosion. Prisons dominate the centre of the island.

It is a reasonably pleasant walk to Leysdown on Sea, particularly if you like mobile homes! Leysdown has been popular with Londoners and is popular because of its amusement arcades. I went here on a January day when it was deserted apart from a solitary bingo caller’s voice echoing around the street. The Sheppey Light Railway stopped here in 1903 and there were grand plans to expand the resort and build hotels. These never materialised and the railway was closed in 1950. Leysdown is the site of the first aircraft factory in the UK built by Short Bros in 1909. After a year it was moved inland to Eastchurch. The beach is mainly shingle.

A rather bleak walk (during the winter anyway) continues to Shellness. There was a somewhat remote café further along when I went there. A group of ramshackle buildings surrounded by various objects suggest beachcombing is someone’s hobby. You will arrive at a point where you have permission to remove you clothes on what must be one of the less likely nudist beaches on the UK coast.

Shellness has a housing estate with high security and, what appears to be, exclusive access to some parts of the coast. A Roman beacon and watchtower were positioned here to warn of invasions. The area was used for similar reasons in WW2 and there are a few concrete constructions around which may be from this time. Past Shellness and walking south west there is a large RSPB nature reserve. There are good views across the Swale and back to Whistable.

After a while the path cuts inland and you arrive at the fascinating church of St Thomas the Apostle which overlooks the Swale. It is described as Kent’s remotest church. There are very few houses nearby now but the graveyard shows that this was not always the case. Several Christians make pilgrimages here to attend a mass held on the first Sunday of every month. The church was built in 1089 and added to later. It has no electricity – just oil lamps and candles. Most of the more recent burials in the 1800s appear to be the victims of drowning. Next to the church is a derelict building which was once Harty School attended by 20+ children in 1923.

Further along and dropping back down to the coast is The Ferry House Inn. The ferry was the most important line of communication to the mainland. The landlord of the inn still holds the rights to the ferry. The road to the ferry can still be seen with views across to Nagden marshes near Faversham. Talk of reviving the ferry has remained just that. The area is considered a ‘magical’ spot by some with the ever changing light.

There looks to be a shorter walk across the marshes for the return journey. I always get rather nervous about chancing these marsh walks especially during a rainy winter. I followed my tracks back to the car at Warden.

Snaps show: St Thomas the Apostle Church at Harty; Ferry House Inn; derelict building possibly part of old school; view to Shellness.

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