Our walk this Sunday was ably led by our husband and wife team, Fraser and Vera. The walk was in an area not usually on the IVC agenda, so was particularly interesting. In addition, it fitted very well into the daylight hours available at this time of year, with a start which was not too early and a finish comfortably before the setting of the late autumn Kentish sun. The Saxon shoreline, rolling countryside and a good dose of Kentish history were highlights of a nice sociable autumn walk.
Fraser boldly points out the way ahead to Halstow and the Medway shore.
Here is what is in store for you about our late autumn IVC walk in Medway country. As usual, I've tried to present our experiences in reasonable time order. Enjoy your browse!
Some of us came to Newington from Rochester, via the high speed line from St Pancras and Stratford. For me, hailing from Essex, this reduced the journey time from over three hours to just about two hours - most welcome for Sunday travel. An almost end-on view of the Queen Elizabeth Bridge was an interesting feature of this journey, both in the morning, and - lit up - in the evening.
The Q.E. Bridge forms part of the Dartford Crossing, the only part of the M25 not actually a motorway - hark ye, all ye quiz aficionados. It can only get better for lovers of quiz questions, for the bridge is not a cantilever bridge, nor is it a suspension bridge.
It's of a "cable stayed" construction - so there!
This is the south-facing view from Rochester Station. If this view looks rather French, that's not surprising, for both Cathedral and Castle (on the right with flag) can boast a Norman pedigree.
The view to the north of Rochester Station is characterised by the more colourful untidiness of a dock-side scene.
And so to Newington Station, where four tracks suggest that Newington is bypassed by many through trains, including the local HST services from Saint Pancras.
The community of Newington has some interesting features, including the 12th century church of Saint Mary the Virgin and - for Kent - the almost obligatory round oast-houses.
Fronting the station forecourt there is what looks like a former pub, now no long catering to the palates of thirsty travellers. One of the features that remain is this rather weathered corner crest, with a Latin inscription of which only probably the least important word (EST) is still readable.
In the old centre of Newington we come across these oast-houses, typically Kentish of course, and in true modern Kentish fashion, now converted to a "des res". The economies of scale have long since crept up on these traditional vestiges of beer brewing.
Close by is Newington's Grade I listed 12th century parish church of St Mary the Virgin.Click on the picture
to enter a feast of local and not so local history.
Near the church, hiding behind a wall, is this "ye olde" Tudor building,
nicely restored for modern day cultured existence.
Next on our walk is Lower Halstow, which we reach by traversing open country with views to the North across the Medway Estuary. Lower Halstow is our lunch stop and our gateway to the Saxon Shore Way.
Fraser boldly points out the way ahead to Halstow and the Medway shore.
And this is what we are looking at. Close by we have the outskirts of Lower Halstow, and beyond, across the Medway Estuary, we see signs of human industry
- cranes, warehouses and more, lining the shore.
We tarry a while for a group piccy.
Then it's off to the "Three Tuns" ...
... whose sign we show here in glorious close-up.
Here is the pub ...
... and here are some of us enjoying a few quiet moments of post-prandial reflection ...
... before we continue our walk.
The church of Saint Margaret of Antioch, on the edge of the Medway,
guides us to the Saxon Shore Way.
This building is one of the oldest churches still in use in England, parts of it dating back to the 7th century, to Saxon times. However, it was locked, so we could not appreciate the history within.
A mile or so of indented shoreline from Lower Halstow to Ham Green was our experience of this part of the Saxon Shore Way. This gave us an interesting balance between the open Kentish seascape and the rolling landscape of the inland part of our walk.
And so we reach the Saxon Shore Way which links Gravesend and Hastings, following - where possible - the coastline as it was about 1500 years ago before Romney Marsh existed and changes in the cliff lines to the north and south occurred.
In view of Lower Halstow's church ...
... we are greeted by this sailing boat, probably originally used for transporting goods, ...
... but now serving as a café for walkers, tourists and visitors.
Onwards we do go, enjoying the great outdoors, barely a metre or so above sea level.
Scrub and a few trees and ...
... quite a few sailing boats.
Here we are, enjoying ourselves and absorbing the ambience
- but there's always one looking the other way!
(Apologies - the evening light was not on my side.)
After Ham Green, we say goodbye to the Medway, and turn inland to apple orchards and more Medway views. Upchurch, with the church with the interesting spire, is next on our agenda. The churchwarden is very forthcoming, and gives us some time to look around the church before locking up for the day. As we leave Upchurch we pass "Snaffles", which shop suggests to us that local equestrian activities are alive and well - certainly in this corner of the county.
The evening sun casts long shadows across the apple orchards, ...
... whose trees are weighed down with fruit ready to be picked.
Apples for the desert table or apples for the cider-makers, or both?
Here is a small framed view across the Medway ...
... here is a wide-open expansive view across the Medway.
And so we reach Upchurch ...
... whose nicely carved village sign suggests a rather fruity existence in this neck of the woods.
The village sign, appropriately in the centre of Upchurch, is close to the church, which, as so often, is also suitably in the centre of the village.
As we come round the corner, the interesting spire catches our attention.
The church catches some of the evening sun, and beckons us to look within ...
so why not click on the picture
to do just that?
As we leave, we have another look at the "candle-snuffer" spire. The church clock tells us it's about quarter past three and approaching the end of a late autumn day - an enjoyable day for us.
We assemble at the churchyard gate, ready for the "last leg" of our walk.
As we leave Upchurch, the "Snaffles emporium" tells us that ...
... devotees of the equestrian art are nicely catered for around these parts of the county.
The final stretch of our walk is probably the hilliest of our foray into this part of the county. We time it well, reaching Newington Station nicely before sun-down. We pass a brightly painted invitation to the "Holywell Lane Garden Nursery" and a road sign weighed under with local possibilities of where to go. The local sheep have the last word, "baaing us out" at the end of the day.
The "Holywell Lane Garden Nursery" ...
... proudly advertises its presence to passers-by.
A plethora of local destinations seems to have almost toppled this road sign onto its side.
The local sheep have the last "baa-baa" of the day.
We reach Newington Station well before the sun casts its last rays of the day. Perhaps not quite enough time for a quick beverage in down-town Newington before the next train. However, the homeward journey is quite eventful, with the conversations about our experiences punctuated by the floodlit view of Rochester Cathedral and Castle and the lights gracing the Dartford Crossing Bridge. So ends an excellent late autumn IVC day in the country!
It's time to say: "Thank you Fraser and Vera for suggesting and leading this walk. Thank you everyone for your company. Thank you to the weather gods for bringing good walking weather." The walk was well planned and made for a successful and enjoyable late autumn IVC day out in what was, for most of us, a new venue near the Capital.