Well, like so many others it has been a long time since I had been able to get out and do some coastal walking. However, the time seems to have gone quite quickly with the many DIY ‘projects’ I have managed to complete during the ‘lock-down’; I now have a rebuilt kitchen, laundry room, hall, office as well as a pristine garden!
Because I had done no serious walking for over 3 months I decided to ease back into it. Because the planned easing of lockdown regulations in Scotland were not due until 15th July, this meant I would be returning to Kent and the Isle of Sheppey. I opted for two full days of walking, unsure of how my body would react to the lack of regular hard walking exercise.
My first days on the Isle of Sheppey back in March had not been that good, with an obvious disparity between footpaths marked on the OS map and what was actually on the ground! After doing further research I could see that other walkers had struggled to do a complete loop of the island, due to lack footpaths. I decided that I would continue out to Leysdown-on-Sea and then do a circular walk out to the Isle of Harty.
I set off very on a Sunday morning heading to Queenborough on the Isle of Sheppey where I parked. The reason for the early start to the walk was because I intended to walk along the islands northern shore, which could only be completed at low tide or a few hours either side of it. Low tide was 07:30 so I needed to make an early start.
I set off through the almost deserted streets of Queenborough. I soon reached the shoreline of the West Swale which ran into the River Medway. I made my way along the concrete sea wall for a short distance with views across the River Medway to The Isle of Grain. The path then headed inland as I became sandwiched between industrial sites either side of me, including a huge car storage area parked full of imported Vw’s, Audi’s, Skoda etc…The path emerged onto the A249 and entered Sheerness at a place called Bluetown, once a hive of shipbuilding activity but long since gone. After passing Tesco’s I emerged onto the sea defence promenade where I had views NW towards Southend-on-Sea, north out towards The North Sea and east along Sheppey’s northern coastline. I did not know how long I had to complete the shoreline walk either side of low tide towards Leysdown, so I kept up a brisk pace.
I passed by the regulatory early morning joggers and dog walkers as I entered the small village of Minster, here the promenade ended abruptly with the appearance of the cliff-line about 20m high. The whole cliff-line along this section of the coast has been “slumping” at an alarming rate for some time. The walk along the beach was a lot better than expected and quite easy underfoot. I was aware of a recent cliff fall at the end of May 2020, when a house, garage and cars disappeared over the edge. The lady owner bought the property in 2018 for £195,000 as a cash buyer and with no house insurance. A short 20 minute walk along this section of the coastline, would have saved her a considerable amount of money.
I arrive at Warden Point and passed around a few WW2 pill-boxes which had fallen down from above many years before. Here the walking, for a short distance, became quite muddy. I also met walkers who had ventured out from Warden. I spoke to a local man who pointed to a cliff-fall above us that he witnessed only last week. My walking shoes got very muddy at this point, fortunately I put my gaiters on a few miles back, which kept the worst of the mud off my shoes and trousers.
I continued on along the coast and came into Leysdown-on-Sea which had all the trappings of seaside “fun features” but on a micro-scale. I walked a short distance outside of the town and sat down for a rest, the heat of the day and my full-on exertions made me tired. I then had a decision to make. I wanted to include a loop walk down to Shellness Point and then out to the Isle of Harty and back to Leysdown. Unfortunately I would not be able to get the 13:30 back to Queenborough, but I could see from the timetable that there was an 11:30 bus back to Sheerness, which passed Halfway House, which was only 2km from Queenborough. I could easily walk this 2km back to Queenborough, pick up my car and drive back to Leysdown.
I walked back into Leysdown and waited for #360 wearing my gloves and face mask. Paying contactless was really easy. Other passengers got on and off the bus all adhering to the face covering rule. I got off the bus at Halfway House and walked along a proper footpath the 2km into Queenborough. Picking my car up and driving back to Leysdown I could see the town was very busy – I didn’t see any evidence of social distancing, although I did see some orderly queues for shops.
As my feet were hurting I had a further rest before setting out on my circular walk to the Isle of Harty – obviously, this was not an actual island. I set off along the sea bank and could that the tide was well in now. As I approached Shellness I passed by a Naturist Beach. I’ve walked through a couple of such beaches years ago, but at times when the weather had been awful. As I skirted the beach I could see that many had taken advantage of the warm weather – and there were lots of “bums and willies” on show, but a distinct lack of ladies present.
Throughout the day, although very sunny there had been a very blustery wind blowing, which had to this point been at my back; as I turned to walk SW I headed straight into this stiff but warm headwind. I could now see across the River Swale towards Faversham, where I would be walking tomorrow. I arrived at Sayes Court and the nearby Harty Church. At this point I looped back along a bridle path towards Leysdown. At Muswell Manor I came across a statue of the three Short brothers, who in association with the Wright brothers began building aircraft here at the beginning of the 20th century.
Arriving back at Leysdown would mark the end of my waking on The Isle of Sheppey. Lack of footpaths westwards from the Isle of Harty and Elmley Marshes meant my next day’s walk would commence at the small station halt of Swale, back on the Kent mainland.
Distance today = 18 miles
Total distance = 5,912 miles