Saturday August 17th 2013
Another early start this morning and the same route into Kent, but this time we got off the train a station earlier. After a quick loo stop at the station we wandered through the main street of Faversham where a farmer’s market was in progress. Somehow buffalo or kangaroo burgers for breakfast just did not appeal so we called into Tesco for some slightly less exciting sandwiches and drinks.
The first part of the walk was across the short bridge at Faversham over Faversham Creek which was full as it was high tide. Immediately we turned right and began the walk up the western side of the creek past some very pretty small houses. A short detour behind an industrial site ended in a grassy path right beside the creek and our first taste of the embankment with was to be our companion for the rest of the day. The creek was full of interesting boats of all kinds and we were particularly taken with some old sailing barges. The boatyard we had walked through at the end of the previous walk was busy and seemed to have a collection of ancient railway wagons which we had not spotted before. Various old buildings on the opposite bank had been converted into flats but our side was empty – just grass.
The path curved slowly left as we reached the top of the creek. The views inland were lovely; flat marshy grassland and Faversham receding in the distance.
Soon we reached Hollowshore, where Oare Creek joins Faversham Creek and, once again, in order to cross it we had to turn sharp left and walk along towards the village. First we admired a very ancient pub called The Shipwright’s Arms. It is timber framed and crooked and the word smuggling seems to be embedded in its history. It is very remote and must actually be quite a creepy place on a foggy winter’s night.
Oare Creek is quite short and it was an easy walk along it into the village looking at the boats tied up at the wharves along the way.
We had a brief rest at the bridge in the centre of the village before setting off once again up the other side. It very quickly became rural this time and there was little to see although the emptiness has its own appeal.
Soon we had left both Oare and Faversham Creeks behind as we emerged back beside The Swale again. Across the water now was the Isle of Sheppey and our first landmark was the site of Harty Ferry which had been one of the main routes across to the island before the first bridge was built. In the distance we could see the white concrete of new bridge catching the sun.
A gate signalled the entrance to Oare Marshes which is a nature reserve and site of special scientific interest. We have very little knowledge of birds but were fascinated by some which had formed straight lines across a pool just inland. We met some birdwatchers and they pointed out black headed godwits which, apparently, love it here because they have long legs and along curved beaks which mean they can continue feeding after the water had risen too high for other birds. The birdwatchers also suggested that we look out across the water when we reached the bird hide as from there they had spotted some seals on the mud banks. As it was about 12.30 when we found the hide and it had just begun to rain, a stop there seal watching seemed like a good plan. We think there were some seals out in the distance but we only had a very basic pair of binoculars with us so we couldn’t be sure. Still we enjoyed lunch looking out over the muddy creek from which the tide was fast receding. We speculated about how people reach the boats moored in the middle of the creek and decided that, for most of the day, it wouldn’t actually matter as the boats were just sitting on the bottom.
Much refreshed we walked on along the embankment, stopping for a breather a couple of times beside the remains of old jetties, a tantalising reminder that this area had once been much busier than it is now. Soon, we began to notice the wind rising and the cloud cover coming in. The wind slowly but determinedly became stronger until we were struggling to keep upright. We were on quite a high embankment with marshes inland and water on the other side so were in a rather exposed place and it was far from pleasant.
Soon enough though we rounded the bend and began to walk south along Conyer Creek towards the village of Conyer. Now we were walking into the wind and, although it was not cold, it was certainly very strong. We decided that we would stop at Conyer, call into the pub for refreshments and make the decision there abut carrying on. Soon the path wound into trees which gave some welcome shelter from the wind. On one side we could see an orchard of cob nuts; we were really in the Garden of England now. After the trees, we picked up the lane leading down the edge of Conyer Creek and soon found the pub. We stopped there for a welcome cup of coffee and a study of the maps, the sky and the bus timetables.
The plan for the day had been to walk into Sittingbourne, which involved walking up the other side of Conyer Creek back to the Swale, then further along the embankment to Milton Creek, which has Sittingbourne at its head. Realistically, heading back out onto a windswept embankment for another three miles, then walking the two miles along the creek side into Sittingbourne did not appeal. The weather forecast had been for rain late in the afternoon and the sky was now completely grey but what decided things was a check of the bus times revealing that the two-hourly bus into Sittingbourne was due in about twenty minutes. There was time to visit the loo and walk the few yards to the bus stop.
The bus was in and, as if to confirm our decision, it began to rain. A very kind bus driver let us shelter on the bus and was very interested in our adventures. He was also kind enough to suggest the best place to buy some food for the train home once we got into town.
So we enjoyed the trundle into Sittingbourne, bought food, caught the train to Gillingham where we changed onto a Charing Cross train. Then we had a problem. I usually phone home to let my husband know what train we are on so that he can meet us at the station. But the phone was not in its usual pocket. I emptied the whole rucksack slowly. No phone. Jen emptied hers. No phone. Hmm. I was sure I had packed it in the morning. At Waterloo, we set off to find a payphone and that is not easy now. Searching for one and a loo stop meant that we missed a train but we did eventually get sorted and home. A few phone calls fairly quickly located the phone under the table in The Ship Inn at Conyer where it must have fallen out when I got my purse out to pay for the coffee. The kind manager there sent the phone back home to me the following week none the worse for its adventures.
Running Total 598.9