Day 4 – 10 March 2013 – Gillingham to Sittingbourne

It was good to be back on the trail again – not that I have been neglecting my walking boots!  Since my last Coast Walk jaunt, I have done a couple of days on the Wessex Ridgeway with Vicki and Jon, and a week in the Sahara desert, trekking with camels where I made some lovely new friends who are going to sign up for bits of the coast walk.

It is fair to say that the North Kent coast is very different from the Sahara….

I set out from Gillingham at 11.15am about an hour later than intended, owing to “overrunning engineering work” on First Capital Connect.  However, with the evenings getting longer it did not matter too much.  I started at Gillingham rather than going back to Strood, as the latter is quite far inland down the Medway Estuary and Gillingham is the nearest point back on the main Medway coast.  I have decided that it is quite within the spirit of the enterprise to stick to the coast and not go in and out of all of the creeks, rivers and estuaries.

I am still on the Saxon Shore Way, which here hugs the modern coast.  Although still on the River Medway, the strong winds and lie of the land made it seem far more like open sea.  It was pretty rough that day, and the water was coming up onto the bank.

The Saxon Shore Way is very poorly waymarked, so I spent a good deal of time with my map wrapping itself round my ears as I tried to determine the route.  In particular, on the Iwade peninsula, the map shows rights of way, but on the ground there are extremely stern signs forbidding entry to areas of bird nesting.   Much of the walk is on a raised bank at the water’s edge with marshland to the inland side.  I saw a few more interesting birds this time – but nothing especially unusual: Canada geese, some rather nice mallards and a few ducks of the Jemima variety.

It was a day of fairly easy walking – pleasanter than the last stretch, although still pretty bleak, and with the sight of some Kentish Apple Orchards to lift the spirits – no blossom yet, but buds coming through.  The Sheppey Crossing was a landmark for a fair part of the way – readers of that classic novel “Katherine” will remember that the eponymous heroine spent her childhood in the convent on the Isle of Sheppey,  however, I was not tempted to cross to it.  One of the highlights of the day was the little church of St Margaret of Antioch right on the banks of the Medway.  One of the oldest continuously used churches in England – see more here http://www.flickr.com/photos/22124479@N03/5064776997/  203

I arrived in Sittingbourne just in time to see the train I had hoped to catch depart – but I had a stash of chocolate and pistachio nuts left, so didn’t mind too much.

I am delighted to say that my friend Deborah is joining me on Sunday 17th for the leg to Faversham, and that I will be accompanied over most of Easter.  Beth will be contrasting the Sahara with Kent on the Herne Bay to Margate stretch, then that stalwart Bridget will join me at Dover, with Chris and Rita coming along from Eastbourne.

The link below goes to a map to give an idea  of progress to date, from the “n” of London on the far left, to Sittingbourne on the right.

Map overview 1

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