Day 003: Cliffe to Grain
Distance: 19.16 miles
Ascent: 400 feet
Weather: Wet & Misty morning, Sunny & Windy afternoon
Accommodation: The lodge guest house
The weather as forecast was wet in the morning, and would mean my first decamp in the rain. I thought about what would be the best tactic for a while and eventually went with the simplest. I packed the whole backpack up inside the tent, covered that in its rain cover, placed it outside and then just raced to get the tent down as quickly as possible to hopefully keep it as dry as possible. In fact with the weather as wet as it was the tent was fairly wet once packed but not much you can do about it.
I was off around 7.30 and it was still quite dark, so started the day with my headtorch on. With the dampness, mist and solitude it was fairly magical walking through Cliffe Pools Nature Reserve and out onto the sea wall. I weirdly didn’t mind the rain in the morning and plodded alongside the sea wall quite happily, there was not much of note until I reached Lower Hope Point where I came across a little monument that was precariously standing at a jaunty angle. It was very hard to read, but from what I could read (and googling this evening) it states that it marks the eastern boundary of the jurisdiction of the Company of Watermen and Lightermen of the inner Thames and was erected in 1861. Lightermen carried cargo between ships & quays on the river and Watermen carried passengers. This guild is actually still going, though without a bit of work I’m not sure this monument will be for much longer.
I had been plodding along at a good pace and around 10 o’clock the rain stopped, and the sun actually came out. After about 8 or 9 miles of following the sea wall, Allhallows on Sea came to view about 1 mile ahead where I was going to stop for lunch, and I thought 'that’s good I’ve covered the ground well and will get an early lunch about 12.' But this being Charles’ Walk nothing is ever that simple, I had read that the start point for this last bit of path to Allhallows was hard to find, but I found it easy enough, and it was quite a fun path winding its way through the swamp/marsh, along little ridges with loads of improvised bridges where the sea had reclaimed the marsh. The path briefly diverted into a farmer’s field and then there was a style out of the farmers field the only issue is it went straight into a stream (maybe there was a bridge once). So I decided to carry on along the farmers field but when I reached the end their was no way out of the field, I had no alternative so decided to throw my bag over, and commando crawl under the bottom piece of barb wire. Now in the next field I had the task of getting over aforementioned stream, it was not massively wide (though would not have been able to jump it without slipping back in without a backpack, yet alone with one) but it was deep. I found a load of wood clumped in one area in the water and managed to throw a sleeper size bit of wood just about across the gap and slowly teetered across to the other side. I then just had to walk through some shallow water to reach the path which this time did take me all the way to Allhallows, but what should have been 20 minutes probably took nearer 50 minutes.
Allhallows was a strange place, this is probably just because it is winter and most of the static caravans, which far outnumber the number of houses, are empty at this time of year. So, the whole place felt completely dead. The little shop was open though so got some lunch and ate it on the little common. I decided not to hang around as wanted to get to Grain.
I headed back out onto the marshes and when I reached Yantlet Creek, I saw the memorial that was marked on the OS map and it turned out (after googling) to be the London Stone. This marks the end of the Port of London’s jurisdiction over the River Thames, and it has a twin marker on the other side of the Thames called the Crowstone somewhere that I am not expecting to reach for almost another 11 months!
During planning I noticed a little causeway that crossed the Yantlet Creek to a track, near to a military firing range, but it wasn’t marked as a right of way, and I had read it was not possible to cross, so my proposed route went further inland. But on reaching the causeway it was clearly crossable and though there was a fence there was no sign saying no entry, so I crossed the causeway and then followed the track that skirted the military firing range. This was great as it both kept me closer to the coast but also knocked 4-5 miles of the distance.
As the causeway had reduced the distance I decided it would be good to do the short Grain loop about 2 miles today so that tomorrows route would be shortened.
This enabled me to sea Grain Tower, built originally in the 1850’s. This is an impressive structure. It is based along similar lines to the earlier Martello Towers (of which I will see many in the coming months.) It had a significant barracks block added during the Second World War which is a rectangular structure standing on stilts to the side of the original tower linked by a bridge. This addition plus the observation tower rising high above, alongside the partially decaying nature of the structure makes for an impressive site. At low tide you can walk out to the structure and I believe climb up to the top of the observation tower which unfortunately I couldn’t do due to the tide. I think that someone will convert this into a party mansion for themselves, maybe this is a mad idea but it is an incredible structure, in an incredible location, very close to London, and I believe it is now privately owned.
Also around here it looked like the beaches were pebbles but on closer inspection they are 100% shells.
Due to the charging issues I had with my powermonkey explorer, which meant I knew I would have no mobile and thus internet for blog this evening. I (or more exactly my brother as I couldn’t get online) booked me into a cheap lodge in Grain for the night. A cheap and cheerful place, though the owner had no issues with my muddiness and kindly let me cook in his own kitchen. This enabeled me to charge devices, check if it was a one-off issue with the powermonkey, keep to schedule on the diary and contact people who have messaged (apologies if I have not responded to you yet but hopefully you appreciate it will not always be straightforward for me to do so quickly.) I also can’t lie a shower was lovely and sure the bed will also be great tonight.
So an almost completely smooth day, and one I really enjoyed even with the rain.