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Friday, 12 November 2010

Walk 11 - Frindsbury to Hoo St Werburgh on the Hoo peninsula

Walk 11 -  Frindsbury to Hoo St Werburgh on the Hoo peninsula (Medway)

Map: L/R 178
Distance: About 6 miles
Difficulty: fairly easy – mostly flat a few hills going inland
Terrain: easy, pavement and mud/grass track
Access: Car parks at both ends
Public transport – Strood Rail Station at the Frindsbury end, bus 191 will return you to Strood from Hoo St Werburgh

Follow the footpath/cycle path to the north east through Frindsbury. Arriving at a reasonably pleasant paved area you get a good view back across Limehouse Reach to the places visited on the previous walk. The path goes inland soon after this as access to the commercial area on the bank is not possible.

Follow the path back onto the riverside until you get to Upnor Castle. This is well worth a visit. The Elizabethan castle was of great strategic importance. Latterly it was used as an armoury and explosive store. The floors are wooden so that sparks would not ignite the explosives and there is a fascinating spiral staircase. Further information can be gleaned from an audio commentary provided at the entrance.

Follow the path along until you get to a children’s boating/sailing centre. If the tide is out then the next section can be walked along the coast, if not there is an alternative route inland. Carry on past the marina at Hoo St Werburgh. Kingsnorth Power Station dominates the landscape beyond here. It is an oil/coal fired power station that was due to be closed in 2016. (Update - it has) The owners decided to build a replacement and this caused a great deal of protest, including a climate camp, from environmental groups. News came through recently that the plans have now been shelved.

Further down the path is a small airport with a few hangars. When I walked past there was a keep left sign at the edge of the grass – how did it get there and why? Further on is a view across the marshes towards the cranes, refineries and jetties near Elphistone Point. Container ships moving in and out of Sheerness on the Isle of Sheppey are a regular sight.

Return along the bank and cut back inland to Hoo St Werburgh. Hoo indicates a coastal peninsula and this village is one of several in the area to have it as part of its name. St Werburgh was the daughter of King Wulfhere of Mercia born around 640; she was a nun who lived in Hanbury, Staffs. Her body was moved several years after she died and was miraculously found to be intact. This was thought to be a sign of divine favour and her tomb became a place of pilgrimage. The church here has a unique coats of arms belonging to King James 1 and Queen Elizabeth 1 – they can be seen inside.

If you have a car it would be worth taking a trip to nearby Cooling where the unused church of St James has several small children’s graves clustered together. These provided the inspiration for the start of Great Expectations – as did the nearby marshes – setting for the horrific end of Magwitch.

Snaps show: circular staircase at Upnor Castle; the airfield near Stoke Ooze with the keep left sign; Lower Upnor looking towards the marina at Hoo St Werburgh; child graves at St James Cooling.

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