5495 miles already walked

A Cold and Lonely Start to 2018 (Sittingbourne to Gravesend)

The New Year began with the wind punching me backwards and sideways as I pushed out of Sittingbourne, under the Sheppey Crossing bridges, and up alongside the River Swale.  It was impossible to hold a camera steady, so few pics available.  I eventually pulled into the lovely haven of Upchurch where the Village Hall committee kindly gave permission for us to use their car park.

Kent, is renowned for its orchards: I passed quite a few but nothing to pick. Across the way I could see the Hoo Peninsula (Isle of Grain), the Kingsnorth Power Station building and other industrial landmarks - all waiting to be experienced.  And did you know, Gillingham is the home of that engineering masterpiece, the Jubilee Clip, invented by Commander Lumley Robinson Royal Navy who had worked at Chatham Dockyard?

Chatham Dockyard was closed, but I did manage to get permission to visit the old Dockyard Church, now a university lecture theatre.  Rochester Bridge, overlooked by its castle, provided my crossing point over the River Medway into Strood. Here I ‘pinged’ a second-hand Russian submarine from the Cold War era moored up. 

On the north side of the Medway at Lower Upnor, a memorial remembers the Training Ship Arethusa which used to be moored off from 1933 – 1974. With a low tide I soon learned why my nickname is Hippo, but I managed to wallow through. There then followed a long industrial trek out to Grain.  HGVs, various types of power station and a now largely redundant container terminal were all seen in their full glory.

Walking down the north side of the Peninsula gave me my first views of Father Thames.  The wind chill factor was a fitting backdrop to this bleak and desolate place: I could have got lost, and never been found.  During a 15.5 mile walk I encountered 3 people at the end of the day, otherwise, my only company was a flock of sheep and some ponies. 

The last stretch into Gravesend was one of contrasts - Milton with its rundown, vandalised and litter strewn paths was followed by a smart Gravesend: a town proud of its long maritime links and once home to a training establishment for British Merchant Navy seaman. A ferry service across the Thames to Tilbury runs from the Town Pier building. Extremely tempting, but as I’d agreed to walk up the south bank of the Thames (and back down the north), I couldn’t jump aboard.

It will be interesting to see how many extra miles this Thames ramble will put onto the Victory Walk……