Monday, 21 September 2015

Riverside Country Park, Gillingham, Kent

1 1/4  hour drive from Harringay and a lovely walk along the Medway estuary awaits. The smell of the sea, boats bobbing, oyster catchers crying over mudflats, long views with industrial landscapes in the distance and the occasional rusting barge sinking into salt marsh. In season there's even a lido and miniature railway. 

How to get there
By car via the Blackwall Tunnel  or A13/dart crossing/M25 to the A2. As it becomes the M2, off at J1 to Gillingham and through the Medway tunnel. Then follow signs to Rainham (not Gillingham) and at the roundabout turn left, following the sign to the 'The Strand'. 

You could get to this walk via train from St Pancras, catching a train to either Gillingham or Rainham, and walk a mile to the park, but like any fare along Eurostar's route it's pricey and make the journey from Harringay almost 2 hours. 

The Walk 
A 'there and back' walk along the Saxon Shore Way, the one below is 4 miles in length so 8 miles in total.  If like me you still use maps, the one you want is Ordnance Survey Explorer 163. 

These estuary walks seem particularly beautiful in the Autumn. Early mist on the water, the sun's slanting light creating sparkly black and white vistas as you walk into it and soft warm landscapes as you look back. 

When you park up at The Stand, you arrive at a rather seasidey flat grassy municipal area, the lido giving it a slightly old fashioned feel.  

Always tempted by an outdoor swim, I've made a mental note to return between the end of May - early Sept to take advantage of  adults only 'lane' swimming from 8:30- 9:30 am before the walk. 

The Strand Lido, Gillingham, Kent

The Strand Lido, Gillingham
I wish I'd known about this place when the kids were little, the lido has a lazy river, there's an outdoor kids pool and loads of other stuff.

As you walk in front of the lido to begin the walk, the Medway opens up. We sat there for ages drinking it all in as we sipped our breakfast coffee and biscuits. 

Early morning, looking out at the Medway from The Strand Gillingham Kent. 

The Medway estuary is full off small islands. As you walk along the estuary quickly opens out, its vast mudflats scarred with channels. 

The massive decommissioned Kingsnorth power station comes more clearly into view and in the far distance you can make out the cranes of Thames Port on the Isle of Grain.

Medway mudflats from Riverside Country Park looking over to Kingsnorth Power Station. 

After a short detour around a small industrial estate, you continue along a causeway. 

Saxon Shore way running along a causeway alongside the Medway 
Around 2 miles into the walk you come across a  peninsula ending at Horrid Hill.

Looking towards Horrid Hill from the Saxon Shore way at Gillingham. 

The beginning of the causeway to Horrid Hill looking across to Kingsnorth Power Station. 

Remains of Horrid Hill's industrial past, part of the cement works which closed in 1913

View from Horrid Hill across to Motley Hill 
At the end of Horrid Hill you look back at Sharp's Green where you have just walked, famous for smuggling in the past. 

The view from the end of Horrid Hill back to Sharp's Green . 

We haven't yet ventured as far as Motley Hill, another day. The new tower blocks at Chatham come into view as you return.

Back near Gillingham you can also  clearly see Hoo fort, build on the island of Hoo Ness in 1871. 

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