Gillingham Pier To Otterham Quay Rainham
It’s the 19th January 18 and due to a family bereavement this is my first coastal section of the year. I have been scratching at the door to get out and finally I can get going on this years walks. Today I was joined by Darran Terry & David Beech for the small section from Gillingham Pier approach road to Otterham Quay lower Rainham. Gillingham Pier has many fond memories for me having grown up around the boats in its harbour and fishing from the harbour side. My Dad had many friends here and even ran the site for a while. Originally the site of Gillingham Fort built in 1669 to defend Chatham dockyard the pier has gone from a bustling harbour to a small marina housing a fraction of the boats it once use too. Modern housing has encroached onto the site and its charm has waned. However, on the plus side the Pier now houses the famous PS Medway Queen, one of the heroic Dunkirk ships used to ferry soldiers retreating from the ever advancing German army during World War ll. She carried out seven trips during Operation Dynamo’ in May-June 1940 and is said to have rescued 7000 men. http://www.medwayqueen.co.uk/
The river Medway is a real gem in my eyes, but then I would say that being a Gillingham man. However taking away my local enthusiasm for this river, it has loads to offer, water activities, walking, bird watching and is drenched in history. It is a very atmospheric place and a photographer’s delight with rotting boat hulks, mud banks and loads of beautiful wading birds. The sunrises and sunsets are a real delight with big skies above this great river. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/River_Medway
Following the Saxon Shore Way through the Strand Leisure Park and past the small industrial area of Steelfields the foreshore opens up and you can clearly see the Cinque Port Marshes, Copper House Marshes and the large Nor Marsh. This muddy estuary is full of wading birds and a birders delight, I spot Shelduck, Avocet, Pintails, Wigeon and Teal straight away some in their hundreds. Soon we are at Sharp’s Green and Horrid Hill again in my youth a place busy with boats of all sizes. Now all that remains is a few rotting hulks and the beached rusting hull of the Steam Tug Waterloo.
Another unknown wooden rotting hulk at Rainham Creek with Motney Hill in the background.
Many of you already know that another passion of mine is Mudlarking and being a privileged member of the Society of Thames Mudlarks, I am always looking for other mudlarking sites on other rivers. Mudlarking is finding little treasures long since lost or dropped by our ancestors into rivers. Otterham Quay has loads of broken bottles, pottery and once I even found a small spot of broken 2nd century Roman pottery out on the mud. So looking for this same spot again I edged myself safely out on to the mud and on to a potential midden mound close to the sea wall. This Small mound turned out to be a Victorian dump from a boat commonly found both on the river Medway and river Thames. Encouraging both Darran and Dave to follow in my footsteps, I soon found two clay pipe, two small ceramic jars for fish paste and a small complete vegetable opium pain killer bottle by Davis. https://digital.lib.ecu.edu/20960
Now when I said encouraged to follow in my footsteps, sometimes that’s lost in translation and poor Darran decided to follow around eight foot away and to the side of me. To my surprise and to some mumbled profanities Darran found a mud filled drainage pipe leading into the river from the walled marsh behind. Sportingly and covered in mud to his waist Darran allowed me to share his plight in photographic form. Always remember river banks and muddy estuaries can be dangerous places, so please leave Mudlarking to the professionals. 7.81 miles.