CSCC Reports 2010: Thames Source to Sea - Isle of Sheppey - September 2010
Chris, Jackie and I travelled to the Isle of Sheppey with our sea kayaks for a weekend of paddling (17-19 September). We camped in the garden of the Ferry Inn which is at the end of a very long bumpy road littered with road kill. On our first night we were the only people staying there which meant that I was woken, not by children running around as per usual, but by the call of sea birds. The campsite is free, if you promise to eat in the pub which isn't a problem, but be warned, a shower costs £3.50 and doesn't last long. Also some insect repellent is a good idea, because it's marshy.
Saturday dawned bright and dry and after having a cooked breakfast at the Ferry Inn we set off for the north side of the Island. The main trip was from Sheerness to Whitstable and back to Harty Ferry (on the south side of the island). Sheppey is noteable for its fossils and we spotted people with hammers hunting for them on the beach. There was also plenty of evidence of WWII fortifications on the island - with concrete installations leaning at crazy angles. Offshore gun platforms on stilts were visible and also in the distance we could see slowly turning turbines at one of the many windfarms which are now springing up around the Thames estuary.
As we passed Warden Point, Chris's Thames odyssey finally ended. Well done, Chris! I still have one more section to do, as I missed doing it with the club (from Erith to Gravesend).
The sea had been very flat and calm and winds light, but we were feeling a bit tired by the time we made it to Whitstable. As on the previous club trip, we sampled the delights of the fish restaurant by the concrete works for lunch. We had oysters, calamari and lobster soup washed down with half a pint of oyster stout. Fantastic!
When we arrived at our destination my GPS said we had done 17.9 miles. This was a long way without much tidal assistance, but there was no time for a rest, as I had to drive back to Sheerness with Chris, so that we could pick up his car. We got lost looking for the sea front and after three wrong turns I was driving pretty slowly, thereby attracting the attention of the local constabulary. I immediately spotted that I was being followed and so I drove round town at precisely 30mph with the police on my tail in a sort of homage to the OJ Simpson chase until we finally reached Chris' car. After a brief conversation aimed as ascertaining whether I was drunk, our new friends decided that it was safe to leave us to it. I was glad that I had been so disciplined at lunchtime.
On Sunday we did a much shorter paddle. It was a windier day and the Swale looked pretty rough, but we experienced few difficulties in ferry gliding over towards Oare Creek (near Faversham). We then went on a bird spotting session - we saw egrets, dunlins, plovers, terns, cormorants, oyster catchers, martins(?) and there was a possible sighting of a marsh harrier. The bird sanctuary was crawling with twitchers, but unlike them we didn't need binoculars!
We paddled up the Oare creek looking for "Brigadoon", Stephen's new sail boat. Sadly we couldn't find it, but we did find some interesting looking hulks and the Shipwrights Arms, an excellent pub adjoining the creek where we had lunch. Jackie tackled the biggest pie I have ever seen, but none of us was brave enough to sit in the "haunted" seat adjoining our table.
The slipway where we left out boats was incredibly slippery with mud and we were lucky to avoid ending up looking like festival goers at Glastonbury. However, the paddle back across the Swale went smoothly and Chris gamely bailed out to give Dan some rescue practice. On returning to Harty Ferry Jackie and I washed the mud off our clothes in more conventional fashion and we all headed home.
Our thanks go to Chris for organising a very entertaining weekend.