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Canterbury Ways: a horseshoe walk along the Saxon Shore Way and Wantsum Walk

April 19, 2015 · 15 comments

Date walked: 27th October 2014

Map used: OS Explorer 150- Canterbury and the Isle of Thanet

Distance: About 8 miles

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Upstreet, on the A253 out of Canterbury, is something of a walkers hub, with three designated paths converging on the Great Stour river at Grove Ferry, just a couple of hundred yards down the hill. Today I caught the bus out of the city again but  now headed north from Upstreet, towards the North Sea.  The Saxon Shore Way shares the same route as the Wantsum Walk, at this point but even together those walking them had made little impression on the young crops.

The saxon Shore way near Upstreet, photographed by Charles Hawes

It’s always a bit unsettling to march across a planted field

Despite this being the season of fungi I had seen few mushrooms on my walks from Canterbury, but this Shaggy Parasol was a perfect specimen.

Shaggy Parasol mushroom on the Saxon Shore Way near Upstreet, Kent, photographed by Charles Hawes

Good enough to eat if I could have got it home in good condition. On the other hand, Anne wouldn’t have eaten it.

The low-lying nature of the land was soon apparent as I reached Sarre Penn, part of the drainage system of the Chislet Marshes.

Sarre Penn, near Upstreet, photographed from The Saxon Shore Way by Charles Hawes

A bit grotty! High nitrogen from fertilisers?

 It’s surface was covered in a blanket of weeds, but a little further on the surface of the still water was pretty clear.

Sarre Penn on the Saxon Shore Way, photographed by Charles Hawes

And clearly preferred by Swans

Leaving the stream, the track  brought me to a little hamlet of Chitty and on leaving it gained a tarmac surface for half-a mile. A field of young brassicas, also undeterred by walkers,…..

Brassica field on the Saxon Shore Way, Kent, photographed by Charles Hawes

At least I could walk between the rows here.

  ……led to the little village  of Boyden Gate.  The very plain Wesleyan chapel is now a residence.

Wesleyan Chapel at Boyden Gate, Kent, phtographed from the Saxon Shore Way by Charles Hawes

Simple even by Wesleyan Chapel standards

The path turned off north again and the fields were now occupied briefly by apple orchards, providing me with a welcome snack (windfalls of course).

Apple Orchard near Boyden Gate, Kent, photographed from The Saxon Shore Way by Charles Hawes

More fruit lying around on the ground (see previous post)

The route then adopted a minor road as it approached and then crossed the Thanet Way (walking on it is not recommended).

The A299 in Kent, photographed from The Saxon Shore Way by Charles Hawes

Otherwise known as the A299

A  gentle rise in the path across a field brought me to another small road where a very smart black mock-mill stood attached to a smart house.

Chislet Mill near Reculver, photographed from The Saxon Shore Way by Charles Hawes

The original was burned down in 2005

I could see the sea! (a traditional game in my family was to shout this out from inside the car). The path took a wide track under the railway line and made for Reculver.

Upstreet to Reculver-15

I usually make you look up the back story  by giving you links about places but here’s a little extract from Wikipedia about Reculver.

“It once occupied a strategic location at the north-western end of the Wantsum Channel, a sea-lane that separated the Isle of Thanet and the Kent mainland until the late Middle Ages. This led the Romans to build a small fort there at the time of their conquest of Britain in 43 AD.”

The first thing that was great about being at Reculver was that wonderful exhilaration of being next to the sea. And for once I had no objection to the array of white wind turbines, they made no great impact on the steely blue horizon.

Wind turbines off the coast at Reculver, photographed from The Saxon Shore Way by Charles Hawes

They might be red herrings as far as our power needs is concerned.

The next most striking thing at Reculver is the twin towers of the ruined St Mary’s church, where several families were picnicking.

St Mary's Church, Reculver, photographed from The Saxon Shore Way by Charles Hawes

Thanks to Lightroom once again for my vertical towers. (they don’t pay me for these plugs)

It’s difficult to imagine how much the lie of the land (and sea) has changed over the last 2,000 years, English Heritage have provided a picture.

Explanatory board for the Wantsum, photographed by Charles Hawes at Reculver.

I can just about read this on a big screen with my glasses

 

The Saxon Shore Way turns West here and follows the coast to Herne bay and Whitstable but I headed east on the Wantsum Walk into what was once open water and is now a cycle route and footpath.

The Wantsum Walk at Reculver, Kent, photographed by Charles Hawes

In fact if you had a buggy you’d be aright, too.

On the shore, several Cormorants were hanging about.

Cormorants on the coast near Reculver, photographed by Charles Hawes

You don’t have to do much if you are a Cormorant

A very pleasant mile later had me contemplating staying on the path to Birchington as I sat by a pond where the route also splits and heads inland.

Pool on the coast near Reculver, photographed from the Wantsum Walk by Charles Hawes

A solitary swan whooshed by to make a reasonable but “could do better” landing on the pond, its large webbed feet surfing for the last 10 yards.

Swan on a pond near Reculver, photographed from The Wantsum Walk by Charles Hawes

They are far more elegant on the water than out of it

I decided to turn south, following a drainage channel where two more juvenile specimens were cruising.

Upstreet to Reculver-28

This time, the path went over the railway line, rather than under.

Upstreet to Reculver-29

At the crossing of the A299 is an industrial estate where a field has been planted with Photo-Voltaic panels. We’ve got some of these and apart from them not performing as well as I would have hoped, I can’t shake off a conviction that these “alternative” energy sources are a very unreliable, expensive and fundamentally irrelevant response to our need for electricity.

Upstreet to Reculver-31

St Nicholas at Wade boasts a fine church faced with flint…

Upstreet to Reculver-32

….and some pretty houses.

 

Upstreet to Reculver-33

I went in search of St Nicholas Court, shown as an antiquity on my map but found myself wandering around some farmyard and feeling intrusive, so I gave up.

From the village a mile’s trek across fields running parallel to the A28 brought me to Sarre, just a couple of miles down the road from Upstreet and a convenient place to catch the bus back to Canterbury, where toasted teacakes awaited, natch.

 

 

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

David Marsden April 19, 2015 at 7:01 am

Very nice, Charles – that church is remarkable and looks like it’s been filched from Italy. I can’t believe there are many blog posts about the Wantsum Walk (which I’ve never heard of). Dave

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Charles April 19, 2015 at 4:48 pm

Yes, very italinate, isn’t it. You saying this walk is boring?

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David Marsden April 20, 2015 at 5:55 pm

Hehe. Not in the slightest. (And I’ve made a note of italinate).

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Anne Wareham April 19, 2015 at 12:18 pm

Not a single sheep!

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Charles April 19, 2015 at 4:47 pm

You can’t have sheep all the time. Get over it.

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Anne Wareham April 19, 2015 at 4:51 pm

You clearly weren’t looking properly.

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Paul Steer April 19, 2015 at 8:17 pm

St Mary’s is a very unusual church and very beautiful.

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Julia April 19, 2015 at 8:50 pm

and not many, if any, people.strong pix Charles.

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Charles April 20, 2015 at 8:38 am

Thanks julia, do you prefer not to have people in the blog pics?

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John April 19, 2015 at 9:05 pm

I’m going to get controversial (I like that). So St Mary’s is an unusual, beautiful, church. St Nicholas’ church is fine. My take is that “St Mary’s church is an unusual building” and, were it not for its religious connotations, would be ok too. But a former Wesleyan chapel is plain.

It says a lot about modern society that places of worship are assessed on the basis of their architectural (or photographic) merit. This is the main reason why I walked away from my “Church in Wales” upbringing and became a non-conformist. Bricks, mortar, ritual are all transient. Put people into any building and you have a community.

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Charles April 20, 2015 at 8:51 am

I’m not sure how to respond to this. Any building might be of interest architecturally or photographically. Most churches were created as impressive buildings supposedly to the glory of god, though I’m sure the sponsors of the building must have shared in the glory. Clearly the builders of the hundreds of simple chapels by the Wesleyans and others thought that ostentation wasn’t for them. The fact is that we have abandoned the church as places of community as we have moved away from Christian worship, leaving buildings empty and sold on for conversion to other uses. It seems to me that the buildings are rather more robust than the communities they once housed. And perhaps more worthy of preservation than redundant congregations.

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Paul Steer April 20, 2015 at 12:07 pm

Now that is serious food for thought.

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Charles April 22, 2015 at 6:42 pm

Go on then….share your thoughts.

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Paul Steer April 23, 2015 at 8:37 pm

Took a long time – but here goes. I agree with John, buildings are buildings and the church is a living body of people connected in faith in Christ. However, I admire the craft, skill and art involved in grand church buildings and the real sense of spirituality that can be experienced within them. I have experienced this sense both in non-conformist ‘simple’ buildings as well as in cathedrals – but perhaps this is because I carry the awe within. I often wonder about ‘redundant congregations’ – we become redundant when we deem meeting together is irrelevant – perhaps there has always been an invisible church – those who carry faith within but have never found the organisation of the church helpful or relevant – the body of the church is organic and was never meant to be an institution, perhaps that is why the buildings outlive the congregations?

Charles April 23, 2015 at 10:58 pm

These are excellent thoughts. Thank you, Paul.

Reply

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