I’m feeling pretty exhausted again, after what was in the end, not a bad day. This is probably because I’m reaching the end of this accumulative journey and it’s probably taking its toll. I’m surprised I’ve got this far with only a few niggles and no major injuries (fingers crossed). I carry a first aid kit in my bag and an emergency ‘phone ,just in case. The weather was warm, but overcast with a light breeze, so this was the best I could hope for.
I regretted ending last night’s section just before the Sewage Treatment Plant at Belvedere, which was not a good thing to contend with first thing. Apart from the aesthetics of the old brick pump-house museum at the start, the smell soon became unbearable as I passed the functioning site and I had to hold my breath until I had passed. I suppose at least it was out of the way. The route continued towards Erith. To begin with the river wall was so hight you couldn’t see much over it, but as it continued it was possible to see ove the increasingly widening Estuary. It was quite bleak and desolate, with little greenery and increasingly industrial. The overcast sky and dramatic clouds also helped give it a dramatic edge and i’m sure it made for good photography. It was interesting to be able to see over to the other side, where have also run and to see it from another perspective.
I was heading towards Crayford Ness, which is apparently one of the few salt marshes in Great Britain. It is also where the Thames path exension, as far as could see, ends. The path through is a bit away from the edge of the river, due to the marsh, but beautiful for its rugged grassiness. The path was a bit stony, but what could you expect? I knew the path would lead to an extended diversion at around 5 and a half miles. The approach was marked by a huge metal recycling plant that leads you to the tributary river Darent, with the imposing Dartford Creek flood barrier, leading south. Since there is no bridge, there is no choice but to divert down and back up the other side, which is what I did, all 3 and a half miles down and 3 and a half miles back.
I’m all for lovely country strolls along a river and through nature reserves and this is great for a slow drifting walk, where you have all the tie in the world, but here, it was frustrating in the heat of the day and added quie a number of miles to the journey. Also, whilst the path along this river itself is pleasantly dramatic, the industrial estate, busy dual carriage-way and bridge you have to cross to get to the other side is not. However, knowing I would be approaching mile 11 at the top spurred me on, as this would be more than half way of what I had calculated to about an 18 mile journey.
It was also not too far to the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge, the high bridge that takes cars one way to the south of the river, about a mile and a half further on. It was quite breath-taking to pass below it, where I decided to take a breather and some nourishment to keep me going. I noticed a small makeshift memorial under the bridge near to the riverside, with 3 Tee-shirts held down at their corners with rocks, a few candles in jars and some photographs. Presumably this was in memory to 3 small boys, who had perhaps drowned?
The route beyond leading to Greenhithe was quite bare and stony, but it gave a good open view of the widening river. it lead to another diversion, which I knew about, around more riverside industies and a huge Asda. I was momentarily disoriented, but remembered from the map I had consulted numberous times, that I would need to take a left along Manor Road for about half a mile before rejoining the river. It wasn’t very pleasant in the dry, dusty heat of the day and I was also starting to tire. The route back onto the river was a bit confusing, with a few dead ends and private no-access areas, but it wasn’t for too long.
Here was the path that would lead to another salt Marsh at Broadness, north of Swanscombe and close to my destination at Northfleet. To begin with the path ran close to the river , but then just as I was looking forward to reaching the tip, evry path that coul have led there was preceded with agressive red ‘no entry’ ‘private land’ signs. I’m not sure why; they didn’t seem to indicate danger, but since I’m not expert and I didn’t want to be stopped, I did what I was told. The path cut off quite a chunk of what are Swanscombe Marshes, but which is a nature reserve in itself. However, it led me directly to a huge industrial site, where there was no access and the only way was to go round it. I got a little lost and asked a truck driver how I would get back to the river. he told me that I was already very close to Northfleet, but that if I continued round and turn left at a set of traffic lights I could get back to the water’s edge.
This was quite a detour and I didn’t really know where I was going, but I was reassured that I was close to the end of my journey. The path wound its way round to another , more open dusty construction site, which strangely had a pedestrian footpath right going through it. Sadly, after checking with a cyclist going the other way that I was going in the right direction, I found out that this footpath’s days are numbered and will no longer exist once the development is built. I can’t believe that has been allowed to go through.
You could just about see the river through all the dusty work and detritus as I continued along this strange footpath. My journey ended today at a very short section back at the water’s edge, ironically called the Shore. This is where I will start again tomorrow. As I walked down the path leading to where I am staying tonight, I noticed that I would need to take yet another diversion…