One of the largest of UK estuaries, The Thames Estuary is also one of the busiest shipping routes, and yet there are many little-known places along the river. As part of Estuary 2016, we asked writers and artists to share their favourite walks.
WALK 1 - JULIAN HOFFMAN
Estuary Walk: Cliffe Pools, Hoo Peninsula, Kent
Start point: St. Helen’s Church, Cliffe, Hoo Peninsula
End point: St. Helen’s Church, Cliffe, Hoo Peninsula
Food and drink: Six Bells Pub, Cliffe
Highlights: 13th century church of St. Helens, Cliffe Pools RSPB reserve, largest avocet colony in the UK, extensive river and marsh views, estuary skies and marsh harriers.
There are so many fabulous walks on the Hoo Peninsula, that wonderful spur of land that juts into both the Thames and Medway estuaries from the north Kent coast, that it’s hard to narrow it down to just one. But for a compact walk that takes in culture, nature and history on this largely unsung, beautiful and evocative peninsula, I would recommend the Cliffe Pools route that follows the seawall towards the Thames. You begin at the immaculate 13th century ragstone and knapped flint church of St. Helen’s in Cliffe, the village sitting atop an escarpment that commands dramatic views over the marshes of the Thames Estuary. And in the northwest corner of that graveyard stands a restored charnel house, one of only a few still to be found and kept in use until the early 20th century for victims of drowning, a poignant reminder of how many souls the great river took as it fuelled the growth of the imperial city.
WALK 2 - ANDREW KOTTING
Start point: St James Church of England
End point: Isle Of Grain Repeater
Highlights: Grains Tower
WALK 3 - NICOLA WHITE
Start point:St Mary’s Church, Lower Higham, Kent
End point: Cliffe Fort
Highlights: St Mary’s Church, The Hans Egarde ship
WALK 4 - TOM KING
End: St Mary's Bay
Length: 6.25 miles.
Map ref: St Mary's Marsh stretches from Ordnance Survey ref West 785780 to East 830788
Thousands of south Essex people look across the Estuary to St Mary's Marsh every day, yet how many have actually set foot there? It is certainly worth the journey across the Thurrock Bridge to walk the Kent shoreline and to explore this huge, remote, green place, the wildest stretch of countryside on the Thames Estuary. There is also the boon of seeing Southend, Leigh and Canvey as you may never have viewed them before, as distant, slightly mysterious presences across the water. St Mary's Marsh is Charles Dicken's country, the setting for arguably his greatest novel, Great Expectations. But watch your step. I once fell into a drainage ditch on St Mary's Marsh, while I had my nose stuck in a copy of the book. Read more.