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The Kentish Thames 5, High Halstow to All Hallows and the London Stone

Summary

A finale to the Kentish Thames walk featuring the ever widening Thames, the famous Egypt Bay, the lost resort of All Hallows and a site of the London Stone which marks the end of the river.

The maps below represent the first part of the walk, followed by the second part.  They are not to the same scales.

Date researched

June 2013

Map

Explorer 163, Land ranger 178

GPX files

main route

Alternative route (alternative section only)

Distance and Time

14.91 Km / 9.26 Miles, 3 hours

Obstacles

At full tide the route along the foreshore at Dagnam Saltings is impassible.  Use the alternative route.

Start and finish points

Start Longfield Road bus stop, High Halstow.  Finish at the British Pilot pub, All Hallows

Getting there

Buses run to the start and finish from Rochester and Chatham on Mondays to Saturdays.  Full details here.

Refreshments

In High Halstow there is a pub about 500 metres to the west of the start point.  About 200 metres south of the pub is a shop.  In All Hallows the British Pilot pub does basic food.  There is a shop in All Hallows near the entrance to the Holiday Park, just off the alternative route.

Public toilets

At High Halstow at the  Community Centre, between the walk beginning and the pub.

Route instructions

Get off the bus at Longfield Road, High Halstow.  This is shortly after the pub if you are coming from Rochester.

1)Walk north up Longfield Road.  Follow this as it turns to the right.

A)You may want to start by visiting the RSPB Northward Hill reserve. Access to this is by turning left half way up Longfield Road.

Turn right here along the Saxon Shore Way.

3)After about 200metres see a path off to the left along a field edge.  Take this. Towards the end of the field the path leaves the field edge and makes for a post marked with yellow tape slightly to the right of the field corner.  This stretch of path may be ploughed up.  If it is please contact Medway Rights of Way prow@medway.gov.uk.

After this post walk north downhill through bushes and trees.  The path emerges at a lane.  Turn left (north) here.  Follow the lane past Decoy Farm to Swingshole where the lane turns into a track.  Keep straight ahead on the track.

4)After about a kilometre on the track look for a stile on your left. Go over this and another stile to the north-west.

5) See a raised bund in front of you.  Ascend this and walk to the right along it, heading towards Egypt bay.

B)This is the supposed site of the prison ship from which the convict Abel Magwitch had escaped in “Great Expectations” . The marshes were less developed at the time and you can imagine what a desperate life it would have been to be imprisoned here.

Continue round the east side of Egypt bay and then bear right following the bund next to the Thames.  Your navigating is now simple.  You keep to the Thames, rounding lonely St Mary’s Bay, and continuing towards Dagnam Saltings.  The path turns south east and you pass through a gate.

6)Shortly after this gate, as the Thames begins to curve away from the path, look for a path which descends to the left, going to the beach.

You must now make a decision.  The main route goes along the foreshore.  At high tide some of the route is likely to be covered in water.  A particular problem can be found at point (7) where there is a pill box in the estuary which marks a place where two inlets meet the Thames.  At high tide these fill with water and there is no way round them.  You need to get beyond this point before the tide comes up.  If in any doubt take the alternative route.

You can find tide tables here

The main route

Descend to the beach and walk east along the foreshore.  Pick whichever route is the most comfortable. The Thames has eroded the land so the foreshore is south of where it is shown on most maps. At point 7 you will see a war defence pill-box in the mud.  This marks the point at which the main right of way joins our route although there are no signs.  After this there appears to be something of a vague path which is above the high water line.

8)Reach civilisation, represented by a large caravan park and a boat club.  Turn left on a concrete path and then right to walk along the Thames on a path next to the boat club.  This soon opens up into the lawns of the Caravan Park.  On your right is a leisure complex with pools and amenities, but this is only open to customers of the site.  Walk along the green promenade to its eastern end.  Pass out of the site into open country.

The alternative route

If you are taking the alternative route continue on the main path to a metal gate.  Here you ignore turns to the right and left and continue straight ahead.

(The route on the left is the right of way through Dagnam Marshes.  I have walked it and do not recommend it.  It is mainly on bunds that are overgrown with grass so that it is hard to see where to put your feet.  It is punctuated by descents to one plank bridges and there are places where it is easy to get lost, ending up on the wrong side of an uncrossable drainage ditch.  At point 7 it is necessary to cross an inlet which is full of water at high tide.  There is no bridge.)

The track continues straight ahead and then turns right.  Soon meet a signposted junction.  Turn left here.  Keep straight ahead, ignoring a path to the right. Shortly after this look out for a partly hidden signpost, and steps on the left hand side of the track, opposite a telegraph pole.  Go up the steps and walk east through the middle of fields.

(When I was here in 2013 the path in the first field was planted over with rape.  If this is the case when you are here please report this to prow@medway.gov.uk.)

Continue more or less straight ahead to Dagnam farm (now a rather incongruous posh house).  Bear slightly left to avoid the house and then keep straight ahead after you have passed it.  Meet a small lane called Homewards Road.  Keep going in the same direction.  This is a one way road.  Any traffic will be coming from behind you.

Shortly, come to a junction.  Turn left here and follow the lane round to the entrance to the caravan park.  Immediately before the park there is a sign on the right indicating a public footpath.  Take this.  At the end turn left on a track.  Stay on the track heading east when the footpath turns right.

F) Pass Slough Fort The fort is sited on a livery yard that offers a petting farm and horse rides

At the end of the track you will see the entrance to the caravan park on your left and a shop diagonally across to your right.  Turn left down the left hand side of the road into the caravan park.  Pass the entry gates.  Just before a chalet on the right near the road you will see a waymark.  Turn right here across the road and down the lawn towards the next waymark, which is on another road.  Turn right down the road and straight ahead at a junction, following waymarks.  The road bears left.  Follow it. When you are nearly at the sea you will see a small footpath next to a caravan, partly obstructed by its parking bay.  Walk down the path to meet the main route at the point where it leaves the site and enters open country.

All Hallows

C) Wikepedia says about All Hallows “It was just after the First World War that Kent County Council and London County Council proposed the transformation of the remote and inhospitable marshland hamlet of All-Hallows into a major seaside resort, after the fashion of Victorian Herne Bay. By the 1930s the river front at Avery Farm, about a mile north of the village, was set to become a holiday resort.

Alhallows-on-Sea was planned as the best holiday resort in Europe, and was to have the largest swimming pool in the UK with the first artificial wave generator in Europe, and an amusement park four times the size of the Blackpool pleasure beach complex……..

The railway line was constructed with these proposals in mind. A large 1930s style pub, the British Pilot, was built”

A vaguely art deco block of flats was also built.  But the rest of the development never happened. Nowadays All Hallows consists of some 1960’s housing, a 12th century parish church (grade one listed) and the large Haven Holidays caravan site with its rented and owned caravans and chalets.

Some people get snotty about caravan parks and regard them as a blot on the landscape.  Certainly many site owners do their best to play up to this stereotype by cramming too many vans into a site.  Other people get snotty about All Hallows, arguing that it is a mud resort, not the seaside.  Tom King, author of the Thames Estuary Trail, reports that, as a child, his wife could be reduced to tears by the promise of a visit to All Hallows.

My parents had a caravan when I was young and I think that the detractors miss the point. The point of a caravan is to get away from it all, to go somewhere where your day to day cares have no place and to be different from what you normally are. Other ways of doing this are to retreat to your shed, or your hobby, or to jet off on a mini break, or to buy a second home.  But if you want to avoid jet set pollution, or taking someone else’s home, a caravan fairly near your home is ideal.  If there are facilities on site to keep the kids happy and a safe enough environment that you do not need to supervise them, so much the better.  And what could be more different from where most people live than All Hallows, where you can take in the wildness of nature and then retreat to the safety of your caravan?

You might be interested in the Trip Advisor reviews for the site. It looks as if the site has emerged from a period when it did not deliver what it said in the brochure, but now things are looking up.  Notice that no one criticises the lack of beach or having to stay in a caravan.

9)But for a walker, a caravan site is not getting away from it all enough, and our walk needs a destination.  Carry on along the river bank.  The navigation, on top of a bund, is easy.

10)Continue until the path turns south beside the river Yantlett.  This is our destination.  In the estuary before you you can see two edifices, pointing towards the sky.  The furthest of these is the London Stone.

E)The London Stone marks the southern end of the Yantlett Line. The northern end is marked by the Crow Stone in Southend.  Historically the Yantlett Line marked the boundary of the City of London’s ownership of the river bed and the foreshore.  The City controlled all of the river west of here as far as Staines.  Nowadays these rights are vested in the Port of London authority, which also controls the estuary from Teddington Lock to Margate.

According to Wikepedia “The overall height of the monument is about 8 metres. The main column has an inscription, now illegible. The plinth on which it stands has an inscription listing various worthy gentlemen who were probably involved in the re-erection of the stone in Victorian times. They include Horatio Thomas Austin and Warren Stormes Hale, sometime Lord Mayor and founder of the City of London School.”

People have made their way out to the London Stone at low tide, but have returned very muddy!  I have not tried it and cannot tell you how safe it is. Make sure you know what you are doing before making the attempt.

Why end here?

There are many places that could be seen as the end of the river Thames, but I think her is the best candidate.  Grain faces the Medway rather than the Thames and east of here are places that make successful claims to be seaside resorts.  We do not talk about Southend on Thames or Whitstable on Thames.  West of the Yantlett Line Canvey, Leigh and All Hallows say that they are “on sea”  but not everyone believes them.  Beyond this point we may be in the Thames estuary, but we are not on the river Thames.

And we have, like the caravanners, “got away from it all” to somewhere probably very different from where we have our day to day lives. At first sight there is no one here, as you might expect if you had got away from it all.  But of course we are not alone.  In “the Thames Estuary Trail,” Tom King records being taken to examine the mud under Southend pier where he was shown oysters, prawns, shanneys,  pea crabs, peacock worms, starfish and other species. No doubt many of them are here too in the mud.  Your ears will tell you why the river Yantlett is considered an ornithologist’s paradise.  Where the grass is unmown it is also teeming with life.  And before you is the Thames and the sea.  Walkers often say that they go in to the mountains to realise how small they are, but great rivers and the ocean can have the same effect.

When it is time to go retrace your steps for about 500 metres.  You can then see a track going off to your left, initially downhill and then through a gate.

11) Follow this track back to the British Pilot Pub.  The bus stop is opposite.

.E)The British Pilot is hardly changed from when it was built.  It is a typical example of the post first world war style where it was decided to replace the old Victorian gin palaces with something more salubrious.  How long can pubs like this continue to survive?  It is now the only pub in All Hallows.

On the opposite side of the road is another caravan site. This is on the site of the old All Hallows Station. The site is private, but from the main entrance you can just see the old railway water tower, which has been preserved.

Just up the road from the bus stop you can still see the 1930’s flats that were built at the same time as the station and the pub.  What must it have been like to live in them when none of the nearby houses were around?

If you are lucky, your bus to Rochester will be a double decker and you can climb upstairs to enjoy the view on the way back to the known world.

Thanks to Medway Council rights of Way Department for advice about navigating Dagnam Saltings. However responsibility for the route is mine alone.