New year, new coast path

The latest chunk of the England Coast Path (Woolwich to Grain) came into being on 12 January. Just over eight hours later, I stepped off a train in Gravesend. I visited Pocahontas before setting off. Of course, it’s not a new path, just a new designation — the route to Cliffe Fort (along with the walk-out to the 133 bus at the Six Bells) has been part of the Saxon Shore Way for years.

At 0852, I met the first path closure/diversion, which involved a detour via streets with ill-parked vehicles on the edge of an industrial estate. It was interesting to note that Kent County Council were announcing the diversion of the English Coast Path: this would be my preferred format. I believe the flood of nounal phrases (Police Scotland, England Coast Path and so on) stems from a misunderstanding of translations from Welsh, where there is no genitive inflection and where the noun precedes the adjective. Welsh Water translates as Dŵr Cymru (not Dwr Cymru, which is “Welsh pile of manure”, I am informed), and back-translation of similar organisations became “* Wales”, rather than “Welsh *”. Scotland was next (even though Gaelic does have a distinct genitive form), and the form spread to England in time for the coast path’s designation. I prefer to use the proper adjectival form.

But the walker had to contend with more than grammar — mud (plenty of it) and random rocks made for slow going on the sea-wall stretch. But big skies in colours developing from sunrise to full day, and abundant birdlife, from oystercatchers to a lone curlew, brightened the slog along the way.

Mud along the Thames.
Coalhouse Point and Cliff Fort frame the bend in the estuary

I had not seen anyone between a dog-walker at Denton Wharf (at the end of the diversion) and my approach to the gravel works but, at the path junction, there was a sudden outbreak of tripod-bearers. I was pointed out a black-throated diver, and all the quintuped birdwatchers were looking for a glossy ibis (which also got a name-check in the Guardian’s article about the new path).

I decided to cut through the gravel works to reach Cliffe in time for my bus to Strood, so the fort will need to wait for another day. I timed the bus right, with a 40-second wait. Alas, but I had a 40-minute wait on Strood station platform. I decided that my blue trousers with (by now) brown polka-dots weren’t quite the thing for lunch in London, so I arrived home, tired, hungry and thirsty, in mid-afternoon.

I think that I shall allow the sea-wall to dry out a bit before I tackle the twenty lonely kilometres between Cliffe Fort and the ghost holiday camp at Allhallows-on-Sea. Other walks are available.

It turns out that I was wise to hit Day 1 rather than wait for Day 2: a freight train derailment between Rochester and Strood occurred just after midnight on Day 2, which would have delayed/changed my return home.

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