Saxon Shore Way at Reculver
The Saxon Shore Way is a 163 mile walk which starts at Gravesend in Kent and finishes at Hastings in East Sussex. The path which opened in 1980 allows a walker to roughly follow south eastern England's coastline as it was 1500 years ago. The path is named after a line of Roman fortifications built in the third and fourth centuries AD to counter Saxon raids. Four Roman forts lie along the route, at Reculver, Richborough, Dover and Lympne. This was the abandoned defensive line through which Germanic tribes came in the fifth century following Rome's withdrawl of its troops. The picture here shows the path near Reculver. England's coast has changed dramatically in this area. When the Romans invaded in 43AD the present Isle of Thanet was separated from Kent's mainland by the Wantsum Channel, three miles wide in some places. This channel offered a short cut up to the Thames Estuary for ships from the continent, and was therefore strategically important. That's why Roman forts were built at each end of the Wantsum Channel at Reculver and Richborough. Now all that's left of the Wantsum Channel is the River Stour.
Saxon Shore Way at Cooling, Kent
The extent of coastal change since the fifth century is revealed by many other sections of the walk. In the section pictured here at Cooling village in Kent the old shoreline is clearly visible as higher ground in front of you. On the right was once the sea.
It is not only natural processes which have changed the coastline. In the section of path that runs from Cliffe to Cooling in north Kent it is possible to see the influence of important industrial activity. After leaving Cliffe village the path passes a gravel works and continues on to the shores of the Thames Estuary. Here clay quarries were dug to support the cement industry. This resulted in flooded lagoons into which dredged mud from the River Thames is disposed. These artificial lagoons provide valuable habitats for birds, plants and insects.
Upnor, on the Saxon Shore Way near Chatham,
For the serious walker there is plentiful accommodation along the route - see our accommodation in the south east pages. The Way can also be walked in short sections. Good places to start would be Reculver, Richborough, Dover, or Hastings. The sections I know best are in the Medway area. I suggest parking in the car park at Upnor, having a drink in that charming village, and then taking a walk along the path. You could go east, following the river towards Hoo. The paths follows a wide open stretch of the Medway sweeping around a long curve. Leaving the village you will pass Upnor Castle, involved in a daring Dutch raid up the Medway in 1667. Many ancient artifacts have been found along these beaches. A collection of such objects can be seen at Upnor Castle. Approaching Hoo, look back at Upnor Castle in the distance. This is the view that Turner used in his painting of Upnor Castle in 1831, now on display at the Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester. Alternatively from Upnor you could walk west towards Strood. This route goes past Manor Farm, with its late Georgian farmhouse, and huge medieval tithe barn. This barn was used to store contributions of produce demanded of tenant farmers by a local lord of the manor. The path then passes close to All Saints Church at Frindsbury, which in part dates to 1127. Continuing on down Donkey Hill, and along Canal Road, you will see the remains of a canal that once linked the Thames and Medway. The pier here offers good views across the water towards Rochester and Chatham.