ROCHESTER to CLIFFE – along the SAXON SHORE WAY

1-2013-05-05 Rochester to Cliffe58TODAY’S WALK – May 5, 2013 – Sunday morning, drive to Cliffe, park at St Helen’s church, wait and catch bus to Rochester.

Alight from bus, at first bus stop just over the bridge at Stop A in Rochester.  The Sweeps Festival is on in Rochester this weekend, so loads of people ascending on the town.  So glad we decided to park in Cliffe, we would have had difficulty finding parking, and would have had to pay, plus then getting out of Rochester would have been a small nightmare.

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BUS TRIP

Unfortunately on a Sunday the bus service from Cliffe to Rochester goes all over the countryside, so what would normally be a short trip turns into a scenic drive around High Halstow (oh that’s the path where we will walk) and through Hoo, and finally into Rochester.  Never mind, it allowed our simple breakfast of protein shake and the Danish pastry we ate whilst waiting for the bus, to be digested before we started the walk.

WEATHER 

Start: Temp 13C Wind 2 mph Westerly
Finish: Temp 18C Wind 6 mph Westerly
Sunny with increasing cloud in the afternoon.

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Headed off over the bridge from Rochester side of river to Strood side of river, continue along the river front, and then basically just follow the sign posts.  I must say the path is well sign-posted, but it was helpful to have a map, just to confirm and reassure ourselves we heading in the right direction, especially around the river bank and marina, and then through the countryside where we had to hike through farming fields.

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Not far along the river front you turn slightly inland, avoiding the peninsula, and hike up the chalk cliffs hill to Findsbury, there is a church at the top, but we didn’t deviate from path and continued down the other side, crossed the A289 and headed towards Tower Hill, following the fence line of the MOD land.

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Followed the narrow path towards the river, and popped out at the bottom with a view of Upnor Castle to our left.
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UPNOR CASTLE – Set in tranquil grounds adjoining a riverside village, this rare example of an Elizabethan artillery fort was begun in 1559 and redeveloped in 1599-1601, to protect warships moored at Chatham dockyards. Despite a brave attempt, it entirely failed to do so in 1667, when the Dutch sailed past it to burn or capture the English fleet at anchor. Rochester to Cliffe Walk (8)

Walk up the hill before the castle, and then follow the path alongside the wall of the castle.

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Upnor Castle wall.Rochester to Cliffe Walk (10)

FOLLOW THE SIGNS

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WALKING THE RIVER FRONT AGAIN

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LOOKING BACK AT UPNOR CASTLE

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ALONG THE WAY NEAR THE ARETHUSA VENTURE CENTRE and right on the rivers edge are public toilets.  There are none after this point until you get to Cooling.

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THERE IS A SECTION OF SHINGLE WALKING AT THE HIGH TIDE MARK, WE WERE LUCKY IT WAS LOW TIDE, THERE MAY BE PROBLEMS GETTING THROUGH AT HIGH TIDE.  DECISION to walk or not walk along shingle beach, SHOULD BE MADE BEFORE LEAVING LOWER UPNOR, WHERE THERE IS AN ALTERNATIVE ROUTE INLAND.

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Heading into Hoo – PORT WERBURGH
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Rochester to Cliffe Walk (20) Live AFloat – Port Werburgh

Here you will find people who have made the decision that living on the water is attractive. They are a diverse bunch, those who choose to live afloat; they have given up traditional bricks and mortar for the freedom of life on the water. Being close to nature with ducks or swans outside the bedroom window gives a different slant on life.

Living afloat is not without its problems. Boats tend to need more maintenance and they tend to not appreciate in value the way that houses used to. Sometimes moorings are difficult to find, but here at Port Werburgh there is a space that could be just right for you and your boat.  Extract from Living Afloat

Rochester to Cliffe Walk (21) Low tide at Port WerburghRochester to Cliffe Walk (22)HOO MARINA – the path is along the fenced yacht clubs – not along the river front
Rochester to Cliffe Walk (23)Finally past the Hoo Marina you come out to the open fields and the Hoo Flats of the River Medway.
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Rochester to Cliffe Walk (25)HEAD ALONG THE WALL – you can see Kingsnorth Power Station in the distance.

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Rochester to Cliffe Walk (27)Lovely decaying boats in the salt marshes – always a struggle getting good photos in the middle of the day with sun in the wrong place.  But with a little help from Picasa I manage somehow.

Rochester to Cliffe Walk (28)Looking back towards the church spire at Hoo St Werbugh

Rochester to Cliffe Walk (29)A terrible zoom photo of the Hoo fort – built in the 19th century – with another rotting boat in the foreground.

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TURN LEFT HERE – before you reach the power station you turn left along the marked path – leaving the river behind and head into the countryside.

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FOLLOWING THE SIGNS – nothing could be easier – walking tracks were quite varied, from smooth concrete pavement, to tractor tracks, to grassed and overgrown tracks.

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No matter how far we had walked away from the Medway – we could still see the power station.Rochester to Cliffe Walk (33)

Luxury pathway !Rochester to Cliffe Walk (34)

Artichokes growing – and a lovely hike up the road, to Roper’s Farm and then a rough terrain farm track, with loads of mud.Rochester to Cliffe Walk (35)

Cross over the mineral railway which runs from Higham to the Isle of Grain.Rochester to Cliffe Walk (36)

THERE BE MUDRochester to Cliffe Walk (37)

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A lovely little path between young trees – watch your footing – loads of rabbit holes.

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Heading towards High Halstow – a short distance along Britannia Road – the path – well overgrown with the new summer growth.  Now there is no way you could get me to walk this overgrown track if it were in Australia, my fear of snakes would just not allow it.  But here in England walking through the countryside is absolutely bliss – no fear!  I love it!

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Through the middle of a field.

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And the middle of another field.

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Woodlands north of High Halstow – somehow we missed the tiny opening in the undergrowth, but managed to find another further down, and joined the correct path.

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Perfect sit down lunch spot (or was that second lunch?) – loads of bluebells here and a lovely old forest.

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Walking down out of High Halstow nature reserve.

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Fabulous views over the marshes, as we head down – and a lovely surprise an apple orchard in full blossom.  Heaven.

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We hung out here for a little while – so, so beautiful – and the smell was divine.Rochester to Cliffe Walk (51)

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Out of Northward Hill Nature Reserve and head straight for the farm – walk right through it.

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and out the other end – sign posted all the way.

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Here we did a bit of road walking – no path beside the road – so jumping into the hedgerow to get out of the way of passing cars – love it!

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Now coming into Cooling – still no footpath along the road.

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Cooling village – the Saxon Shore Way path takes you into the village and then veers off the main road and behind the houses for safer walking.  There is no footpath alongside the road in the village.  However, if you do this you will miss the only public toilet (see photo above, bottom left) since Lower Upnor.  We kept to the road and walked through the village and made a stop at the toilets.  Relief!

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Keep walking the road until you reach Cooling Castle.

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Cooling Castle was built in the 1380s by John Cobham on the edge of marshes at Cooling, six miles north of Rochester, Kent.  It is now about two miles inland.
It was besieged by Thomas Wyatt the younger during Wyatt’s rebellion in 1554; Lord Cobham surrendered after a brief resistance.  Though he claimed to have surrendered to superior force, he had previously sympathized with Wyatt’s cause, and he was briefly imprisoned for his role in the affair.
The castle has also been the property of the Lollard leader John Oldcastle – executed for his beliefs, and later the source for Shakespeare’s Falstaff – through his marriage to Joan Oldcastell, 4th Baroness Cobham.
During the 1990s, the property was owned by the Rochester bridge wardens.
The more recent residential parts of the castle are still in use – as of 2006 it is owned by musician Jools Holland.  The main part of the castle is in ruins with a private house inside.  The gatehouse is in good condition and can be seen from the road. The barns at Cooling Castle are mainly used for weddings and civil events.

The castle was put on the English Heritage “Heritage at Risk” register in 2009.

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Just past Cooling Castle there is a footpath through the field.

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More field and water hopping.

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Another road walk to the next path through the field.

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Here is the only spot where the sign did not match up with the path.  The sign pointed through the field but there was no sign of a path.  Walked past the sign about 100 metres past the lamp post to find the path.

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Finally, walk through the field and pop out at Cliffe.  Keep following the signs, we followed back to Six Bells pub and St Helen’s Church carpark, where our car was parked.

rochester to cliffe map

WHAT A GREAT WALK!

Rochester to Cliffe Walk mag