Saturday, 24 January 2009

Saxon Shore Way Day 4 Faversham - Herne Bay

Faversham Town Hall
In contrast to the last section it was a crisp cold day, with excellent visibility and a brisk wind along the seafront. By now it was November and I could feel the end of the walking season upon me. The question for me was whether I would manage to complete the hike by the end of the calendar year, as I still had another section to do after this and time was running out.
Faversham Quay
I parked in Faversham near to the train station and walked down through town. Already there were Christmas decorations up, although it was still at least another six weeks to go before Christmas. Once past the market hall in the centre of town I walked along Abbey Street, where there was a plaque announcing that it was a fine medieval street that had been saved from destruction in the 1950s. Once at the end of the street I left the town and entered open countryside, continuing along Faversham Creek. On the opposite bank was a housing development in keeping with many other new build projects that take advantage of brownfield port related sites. As with others it was not terribly inspiring although luckily it wasn’t very big.

Wharf Building
On my side of the creek was a wonderful old wharf building that had been tastefully turned into flats. I ran into my only navigational problem of the day when I lost the waymarker and the map didn’t help me. I soon discovered that I was supposed to continue in front of the boatyard next to the wharf. The landscape ahead was very flat, with the marshy countryside criss-crossed with drainage ditches. The path continued over an unusual bridge and on round the creek to eventually meet the Swale once again, only a few metres from the last section but almost ten miles of walking later.

Through The Rushes
As the path met the Swale once more the character of the path changed as it swung round to meet the sea wall. It wasn’t too long before the water next to me changed character too, as The Swale was left behind and I finally reached the open sea after many miles of estuary like scenery. The water was fairly choppy and away in the very distance the wind turbines from the offshore wind farm. Initially it wasn’t obvious that these were offshore as they appeared to be immediately behind the houses at the eastern end of the Isle of Sheppey. However this proved to be an optical illusion as further along the sea wall their true position was revealed as being some considerable distance offshore.

Temporary Housing
Away in the very distance was Whitstable, the first of the seaside resorts on the North Coast of Kent. The path continued almost straight along the seawall with Whitstable never seeming to get any closer! It was a lonely stretch, well away from roads and the only person I saw was a lobster fisherman in a small boat offshore.

Crossing the Railway
Eventually I reached Ye Old Sportsman pub and this marked the end of the lonely Swale coast and the start of the seaside resorts and very developed coastline. Firstly there were rows of beach huts and these then gave way to more substantial houses, yet in a beach hut style. The area known as Seasalter was like a temporary village that could be removed at any time. Eventually the path worked its way around the seafront to Whitstable Town Centre, crossing the railway line and passing many more beach huts in the process.

Old Neptune
By now it was noon although because of the lateness in the year, the sun was still really low in the sky and the shadows were very long. Just before the town centre, the path passed by a row of white houses sporting some very colourful paintwork on the detail of the plasterwork. These picked out symbols and pictures, many with a seaside theme adding to the character of the area. Opposite was a clapperboard pub known as Old Neptune that must have fine views across to the Isle of Sheppey. A little further along the coast was The Old Favourite, a salvaged fishing vessel now displayed in a little enclosure between houses.
Candy Stripes

Although the port of Whitstable promised much, it was almost impossible to see into the working area of the port when up close. This was a little disappointing as it seems to be one of the few working ports in this area. The path keeps away from the town centre too, so only hints of what makes Whitstable popular with tourists was possible. The path leaves the town by way of another sea wall and this continues almost uninterrupted all the way to Herne Bay.

Whitstable Front
Unlike earlier sections of the walk, this part of the Saxon Shore Way was frequented by a lot more walkers, probably due to the fact that it is a pleasant place for a stroll without being too far from civilisation. All along the sea wall were dozens of beach huts, many with some very colourful paint jobs. The sea seemed to get rougher as I continued along the wall and as I left the section with the colourful beach huts, there was a disused looking tugboat out in the bay being tossed about quite violently.

Approaching Herne Bay
A little further on was a curious sign advising that naturism would not be condoned. I wasn’t quite sure what this meant, but I certainly wasn’t going to put it to the test on this cold and blustery day. The sea wall finished here and there was a small area of exposed shingle that looked as if it was constantly being sculptured and re-sculptured by the incoming waves. No doubt this little section of beach receives more than its fair share of wave action since it is the only part not protected by sea defences for some distance.

Herne Bay Sea Front
I was soon back on the sea wall again and the next seaside town of Herne Bay loomed large. It was a much more uninteresting section of seawall without any beach huts and only the long lines of bungalows and seaside style properties to look at. The path turned a corner at Hampton Pier and I could then see the main part of the seafront including the much-reduced pier. It was very much in the same style as Sandown on the Isle of Wight, although I could see that it had once been much longer as there was a marooned piece of pier still standing alone in the sea some distance offshore. What was left was a very disappointing and rather ugly structure that was not all inviting and very dated from the 1970s.

Herne Bay Pier
I did not linger very long in Herne Bay, stopping only briefly for lunch and revisiting the park where I had visited in the summer. By now all the flowers were gone and it was not nearly as inviting. I quickly left and got the train back to Faversham to be reunited with my car.


  1. Very nice to read your accounts of the Saxon Coast Way. I too have walked a lot of the long distance paths around the South East. I enjoyed this section, at the height of the summer. This is where I discovered Whitstable. I arrived there for breakfast and it was during the Whitstable Oyster Fare. The fish stall was amazing. This is where I discovered samphire, the edible seaweed. They also were selling octopus! I eventually walked onto Herne Bay, as I'd started early, I gave myself generous rest stops for a beer and a chance to take off the walking boots. Then onto Reculver to the Roman fort. As I was really in gear by now I made it to Birchington to catch the train back to London. Not quite enough energy to make Margate. I enjoyed your accounts of this walk - I found your site when researching Sittingbourne for a project. Nice to know there are similar solitary walkers like myself out there. Unfortunately I have been walking less and less now I have two young daughters but maybe one day in the future I'll get out again.

  2. Thanks for your kind comments. The Saxon Shore Way is one of the most enjoyable walks I have completed. I too have two young daughters and my time seems to ever more precious. My walks tend to be less ambitious now as a result, but the great news is that I very recently completed my first railway walk with them! May not be too many years before solitary walks become a thing of the past...