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Sunday, 31 October 2010

Walk 9 Lower Halstow to Gillingham

Walk 9  Lower Halstow to Gillingham (Medway)

Map: L/R 178
Distance: About 10 miles
Difficulty: easy – mostly flat - can be windy
Terrain: easy but can be muddy, earth/grassed paths, some road.
Access: Car - park in road at Lower Halstow village or Gillingham
Public transport – train to Gillingham, then bus from Gillingham Municipal Buildings (326/327) to Lower Halstow.

Walk through Lower Halstow village until you come to the church which is near the wharf. You meet the Saxon Shore Way here. Keeping to the westward walk towards Gillingham.

St Margaret of Antioch Church at Lower Halstow (one of 250 churches in the UK named after this saint – Antioch is in present day Turkey) is worth a look.The church is of Saxon origin; built in the 7th century, it is one of the oldest in the UK. Halstow means ‘holy place’. 

The nearby wharf, now dotted with a few small boats, was the basis of the area’s involvement with fishing and brick making. Further back in time the Romans harvested oysters here. Examples of Roman bricks and pottery have been found and some have been recycled for use in the church, including some of the roof tiles.

There now follows a rather lonely and bleak walk beside the marshes to the area called Ham Green. Mysterious pieces of rotting wood in various shapes appear in the water. As the path starts to go inland you come to a remote boatyard. The walk across land to Upchurch and then to Otterham Creek is unavoidable.

The quay at Otterham Creek was once important in local brick making. The walk takes you on to peninsula near Motney Hill. This part of the coast has several abandoned and rotting boats of various sizes. Along the walk to Bloors Wharf you get a good view of the ugly Kingsnorth Power Station on the opposite bank. (update - now partly demolished and decommissioned).

Further along is the start of the Riverside Country Park, a pleasant area to the north of Twydall near Gillingham. It is 125 acres of marsh, meadow, pond and grassland. You will soon come to a path (which is not part of the Saxon Shore Way) that leads to the end of Horrid Hill. Follow this to the end. A viewing area here identifies points in the distance and birds that can be spotted. The spit was once part of a cement factory. The name of Horrid Hill is said to have originated from the time prison ships were moored here in the Napoleonic Wars and the dreadful conditions suffered by the inmates.

Walk back to the Saxon Shore Way and continue west. The beach at Gillingham is an unlikely and pleasant surprise. Gillingham is one of the Medway Towns and is recorded in the Domesday Book. In 1667 the town was invaded by a Dutch fleet which had sailed up the river. It was a short lived occupation but one which caused great embarrassment to the Royal Navy. It became known as the Raid of Medway. Notable people from the town include Gary Rhodes (Chef)  and David Frost (TV presenter).

Finish the walk by heading inland to the town and station or car. 

Snaps show: across the river at Horrid Hill; the creek at Lower Halstow; Gillingham Beach; old boat opposite Hoo Salt Marshes.


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