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A lovely walk in a remote and isolated corner of Kent.
OK, so the Isle of Sheppey is a holiday destination for Eastenders, and a prospective site for Boris to put an airport - yet it is also a unique place with an unbelievable and fantastically varied history.
Did you know? :-
- Native Islanders are known as Swampies.
- Sheppey is the cradle of powered flight in Britain.
- It is home to the strange and mysterious hamlet of Shellness, where legend has it that the inhabitants eat their own young...........If this information doesn't put you off, this might - Shellness also has a nudist beach nearby.
- Sheerness is home to a colony of scorpions
- There are 3 prisons on the island.
- Shurland Hall, where Henry VIII once stayed has been renovated in keeping with its heritage by the Spitalfields Trust.
- The historic Dockyard and Bluetown has a Nelson connection. (the dockyard is now closed but regeneration may be on the cards as the Spitalfields Trust are due to renovate the wonderful Regency Terrace back to its former glory)
- Near Sheerness lies the quirky and charming Queenborough, and its creek (see it in the raw, now before the masses find it and it becomes another gentrified tourist destination like nearby Whitstable)
- The island is a base for the official - Monster Raving Loony Party.
- Sheppey has some of the most important nature reserves in the UK.
A Church of isolation and beauty, St Thomas the Apostle is a very special place. For more info and photos see my tripadvisor review or www.hartychurch.org.uk - This is the Church official website.
Not far from the Church is the Ferry House Inn - there are fabulous views across the estuary from here , and its an ideal place to stop for lunch either before or after the walk (I recommend the bar menu for wholesome, simple pub grub)
If you wish to stay in the area the inn has accommodation, from rooms on site to lovely cottages in the local countryside.
Note; The walk is not circular, but if (like me) you don't want to retrace your steps and there are 2 drivers in your party - you can take 2 cars, park one of them at the destination - then drive the other to the car park at the start of the route. Afterwards, drive back to collect the other car. (N.B. the last part of the drive beyond Muswell Manor is via a rough track)
This is an easy walk of around 5 - 6 Km. Starting adjacent to the private and mysterious hamlet of Shellness the route runs along a dike with the Thames estuary to one side and the marshes to the other.
You might see an old Thames barge sailing past, and you will see and hear a variety of birds and other wildlife, and you may even catch a glimpse of the elusive wild black rabbits that live around here. Take your binoculars as the 'Big Skies' and remote location mean you will often see rare raptors too.
Once across the bridge onto the Isle of Sheppey, follow signs to Leysdown. Bypass Leysdown and stay on this road until you reach a bend in the road, bear left at the Muswell Manor park site and continue as the road becomes a rough track and you will eventually reach a small car park. From here you start the walk :-
- Go up the steps and through the 'kissing gate' and with Shellness hamlet behind you, walk along the dike.
- At the halfway mark you will reach a hide on your right - usually used for birdwatching
(at present it is closed awaiting refurbishment)
- Continue along the dike all the way to the end.
- Then walk diagonally, to your right across the field* to the track that leads to the old ferry road (*there is sometimes livestock in this field)
- Go through the kissing gate, on the left is a propeller like sculpture in tribute to the the local area as the cradle of flight. This was the location of the first powered flight in Britain.
[The incscriiption on the sculpture makes sense when you know Brabazon took a piglet named Icarus on one flight with him]
- Walk along the track until you reach a junction.
- Turn left at the junction - with the Church in front of you - ahead.
A flat, circular route of 12.9 Km. For more info and to download route map go to www.kent.gov.uk and search 'Isle of Harty Trail'