Otterham Quay Rainham To Sittingbourne
It’s the 15th February 18 and today I am walking from Otterham Quay Lower Rainham to Sittingbourne with Darran Terry. I had been looking forward to walking this section for sometime having had good childhood memories of walking in this area when I was in my teens. Sadly though much of the foreshore at Horsham Marshes has been shut to walkers for shooting activities, which is a crime in my eyes. As a young man I had fished this area and had walked the raised seawall though this section without a problem only five years previous. There is now a work yard which seems to have encroached on to the edge of the marsh blocking the path to the grassed sea wall. Warning signs now say “keep out shooting at all times”. So the next closest route to the foreshore here was to follow the Saxon Shore way via Wetham Green and Ham Green. At Ham Green we rejoined the seawall at Twinney Creek and the expanse of the River Medway opens up here at its widest point. This area is known for its historical marshes once connected to the Upchurch peninsular. Slayhills Marshes, Greenborough Marshes, Millfordhope Marshes and Burntwick Island to name but a few all settled in Roman times and used to manufacture Roman pottery.
Darran walking the sea wall toward Halstow Creek and Lower Halstow.
At Lower Halstow by the tiny church is moored the Edith May Thames barge sitting beside the small harbour side. She is currently offering teas, coffees and lite bites in the summer months to passing walkers and cyclists, however her positioning here is not just convenience, but historically correct, because for over 100 years Lower Halstow was at the centre of barge transport carrying bricks to London and other destinations to build our big cities. Sadly the brick trade in Kent is on the wain, but Lower Halstow harbour side will always remain an evocative place which would not look out of place in a constable style painting.
Further along the foreshore we arrive at large open wetlands of Funton Creek and Bedlams Bottom. Here we sit for a spot of lunch on the Saxon Shore foot path below Raspberry Hill. For me the big skies here meeting the Shade river inlet is one of the best views in Swale.
After lunch we head off towards Chetney Marshes and around Bedlams Bottom for the second part of today’s walk. This large area of marshland is thriving with migratory birds and a Birdwatchers paradise.
After a short distance we come across the rotting hunks of a group of Thames barges, a bit of research later at home suggests that at least two of these could be the racing barges Sirdar and Veronica famous in their day when this type of sport was fashionable. When I was in my teens I remember barge races on the river Medway and I seem to remember it was very much my thing. All with burgundy red sails it was a sight to behold.
We arrive at the Swale Estuary a strip of sea separating North Kent from the Isle of Sheppey and only bridged by the new Sheppey Crossing and the older Kingsferry Bridge. Originally the Swale was a river valley however rising sea levels occupied the valley and formed the Swale we see today. Now it’s a National nature reserve and special protection area.
Swale in Old English means “swirling rushing river” or “rushing water” and as such it needs a good bridge to cross it. At this point the new Sheppey Crossing constructed in 2006 at a cost of £30 million meets the older Kingsferry bridge a combined road and rail vertical lifting bridge opened in 1960. The first bridge crossing recorded at this site was in 1860 as part of the London, Chatham and Dover Railway and this was replaced in 1904. However disaster struck in December 1922 when the Norwegian cargo ship Gyp collided with the bridge damaging it so badly that it took ten months to repair and re-open it, eventually it was replaced again by the current Kingsferry bridge.
Turning slightly inshore the path goes around Ridham Dock and through the old Ridham Sidings, again part of the Saxon Shore Way. This photo of the old track work means a great deal to me, because I used to work here as a Freight Guard and Trainman D at Gillingham depot. I have many happy memories working at Gillingham and shunting the coal trains and cargo at Ridham, Queenborough and Sheerness all on the Sheerness branch line. The point handle in the photo I have actually operated.
Nearing the end of today’s walk and the path returns back to the foreshore behind Kemsley paper mills north of Sittingbourne. At the Lilies the Swale opens up into a larger river heading out to sea. 16.69 miles. Please remember I am walking the coast in aid of Demelza Children’s Hospice and any donation no matter how small would be very much appreciated. Please see the Donate link on the home page. Thank you Shaun