11 July 2011

Cliffe Marshes Walk

Walking through the night for the Relay for Life, made me think that I ought to get back to exploring the many countryside walks around the Hoo Peninsula.

So on Sunday I headed for Cliffe, where there is no shortage of interesting walks. In fact, the newsagent/post office on Church Street (near the Six Bells pub) has a good stock of leaflets about local walks, produced by the Friends of North Kent Marshes.

Setting out from Pond Hill in Cliffe, I followed the Thames and Boundary trails (both sharing walking route RS82), which are part of the RSPB Cliffe Pools Nature Reserve. These trails lead past the pools and then on towards the sea wall - along what seems at times like a never ending gravel track.

When arriving at the sea wall, I turned right to walk north east, passing Lower Hope Point and Redham Mead, before stopping for a tea break at a point overlooking the site of the old Curtis & Harvey Explosives works.

This closed in the 1920s, but even now with relatively few of the hundreds of buildings still easily visible from a distance, it is clear this was once a very important part of our local military heritage. Although few would have known it was there at the time, given its ‘top secret’ nature.

The inward view of Cliffe Marshes is really impressive, even though the landscape seemed endless with the tea having run out and the long walk back to Cliffe still to go!

The other side of the sea wall is a little less than idyllic. Unless you have a thing for oil refineries of course. The River Thames generates lots of rubbish. I lost count of the number of Port of London safety helmets washed-up on the shore - it must cost someone (probably us!) a lot of money to keep buying replacements.

Whilst walking along the sea wall, I was stopped by a couple who were out exploring the area because of its connection with Stanley Kubrick’s 1987 Vietnam war film ‘Full Metal Jacket’ (pictured below). Apparently Cliffe Marshes doubled up as Vietnamese paddy fields! I didn’t know anything about this, but I checked the internet when I got home and it’s all true - you learn something new every day.

Just before reaching Egypt Bay, I turned onto a track and followed the signs pointing south westerly to Cliffe. There’s quite a few ditches to cross on the return journey and, at one point, I had to ‘walk the plank’ in order to rectify a mistake caused by my less than perfect map reading abilities.

After 3 ½ hours walking, and having covered a distance of about 8 miles, I eventually arrived back in Cliffe via Wharf Lane.

A really enjoyable walk on a nice summer’s day.