Cliffe to Greenhithe - April 21st 2022

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My Walk

The start of today was very much a repeat of yesterday – lovely sunny day, big breakfast, 170 bus into Strood and lunch sandwich bought. The 133 bus arrived on time and by 9:15 I was back outside The Six Bells in Cliffe. I began retracing my steps back to where I’d left the ECP yesterday at Cliffe Creek. As I walked past Cliffe Pools there was more wildfowl than yesterday to be seen, mainly gulls. After 1½ miles I was back where I’d finished yesterday and I was walking down the left hand side of Cliffe Creek towards Cliffe Fort.

 

Much of Cliffe Fort was obscured by a large gravel extraction plant, to such an extent that I completely missed seeing it! In my defence you can’t access it because of the plant’s boundary fences. I was more concerned about passing beneath the conveyor belt that was loading gravel onto barges. I did however see the remains of 1 of only 7 Brennan Torpedo launch slipways. This was built in the late 1890s and it’s hard to believe torpedoes were launched and controlled from shore by means of wires and a steam engine!

 

As I walked down the narrow finger of land from Cliffe Fort to Higham Marshes, I encountered an ECP sign that was absolutely counter-intuitive in as much as it wanted me to turn left rather than right. Ahead of me was a man walking his dog and they had turned right. I decided to follow them and I soon got to see why the ECP sends you left; it was necessary to cross the remnants of a small stream that today had a few planks of wood to enable you to cross it. I can imagine when it’s really wet that you’d need wellies or even worse to cross it. Having subsequently Googled this, I now see that the ECP effectively avoids this crossing by doubling back on itself for a slightly longer walk. The Saxon Shore Way on which this section of the ECP is based manages not to need this detour – bit strange!

 

Carrying on, I had the river on my right, the Higham and Shorne marshes on my left and Gravesend getting ever closer ahead of me; it made for really pleasant walking. Shornemead Fort came up next. This was completed in 1870 and was finally abandoned by the army in the 1950s. Building on a marsh isn’t a great idea and the fort suffered a lot from subsidence. In the 1960s much of the fort was demolished leaving just what can be seen today.

 

After Shornemead Fort, the walk continued for another 1½ miles before hitting the first of many jetties at Gravesend. On a cold and miserable day I can imagine that walking past all these jetties could be quite depressing but on a day like today with lovely warm sunshine I found them strangely attractive – I know, it’s probably me who’s strange!! After passing the PLA site at Denton Wharf, I encountered the first ECP diversion of the day. The diversion took me past one end of what remains of the Thames & Medway Canal. This originally ran from Gravesend to Higham but over the years much of it has been filled in.

 

The diversion took me through an industrial estate but was quite short. I emerged into the Riverside Leisure Area, a most unexpected, large, green oasis of calm with a lake and an attractive promenade fronting the river. As it was lunchtime I chose to sit on a bench and eat my sandwich overlooking the river and the Tilbury Cruise Terminal.

 

After lunch I continued my walk through Gravesend. Very soon I came to LV21, an extremely red, 40 metre former lightship that is now a floating arts space for Gravesend. Next came the really pretty Gravesend Town Pier, from where the regular ferry across to Tilbury runs. Shortly after, I encountered the second ECP diversion. This one was much longer than the first and took me along a main road through Northfleet. Eventually I emerged onto a large industrial estate, with a huge Lidl Distribution Depot and a Kimberly-Clark factory where they manufacture Andrex loo rolls.

 

Following the ECP signs brought me to a gate that had a warning sign advising me that the path was about to pass through a working site; in this case, mortar and cement transportation. At first I thought this couldn’t be right and I retraced my steps back to the last ECP sign in case I’d made a mistake. However, ‘No’, the ECP does indeed continue through the site! Immediately after this, the path continued alongside a huge piece of land in the process of being levelled following demolition of previous buildings. The site was going to become a new housing development named Harbour Village at Ebbsfleet Garden City.  

 

The path continued through another industrial estate and emerged at the ground of Ebbsfleet United FC. From here I was directed into yet another industrial estate. However, after about ¼ mile (thankfully) the path took a left into Botany Marshes. Thank goodness – this was more like it – an area of green on the Swanscombe Peninsular. It was hard not to see what I really wanted to see – the tallest electricity pylon in the UK. This one is 623 feet tall and is taller than the BT Tower. It carries the 400 kV Thames Crossing power lines across the river to its twin in West Thurrock. I soon reached it and was able to get right up close to it. It’s a very impressive structure (again – I get excited about things like this!). From here I could see across to Thurrock and the other pylon.

 

After the excitement of the pylons, the path continued down the Swanscombe Peninsula in the direction of Greenhithe. As if I’d not had enough excitement today, the Dartford Crossing came into view. It looked pretty amazing looking at it from the riverside. I reached Greenhithe at about 16:30 and headed for the railway station, from where I got the train back to Strood. As I hadn’t had my mandatory end of walk pint & cake, I found an amazing, quirky little pub in the railway arches at Strood called the 10:50 From Victoria. I sat in the warm afternoon sunshine winding down from today’s walk with my pint and cake, looking back on what I’d seen today.

 

This is probably going to be controversial but despite the unpleasantness that was Nortfleet, I found this walk to be the most enjoyable and interesting of the 3 ECP walks I did between Grain and Woolwich.  It’s a walk I’d happily do again.  

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Grain to Cliffe
Greenhithe to Woolwich 
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