Leaving Leysdown behind after my walk with Jo on another perfectly sunny day, I had planned to walk a loop through the Swale National Nature Reserve, Harty Church, the Ferry Inn, and as far back to Eastchurch as I could safely go while avoiding the main road.
The sign alongside the road to Shellness is amusing and must be a transplant from an even more remote location than the Isle of Sheppey. The reference to the Outback gives it away, really. Nevertheless, I made a point of informing Friends and Relatives of my itinerary! Helpful and witty comments on social media included “I hope you’ve had your vaccinations.” and “Oh, wow. I’m worried about how you’re going to carry two spare tyres.” I love the sense of humour of the sign’s placement. I wonder how many people stop and read it.
I’ll have to return to Shellness one day, as I didn’t go out far enough, not wanting to intrude. Although the private land doesn’t extend beyond the high water mark, the signs discouraging intrusion into ‘Shellness Estate Limited – Private Estate’ are many and uncompromising. I could only gaze back at the glowing Ness of shells from the footpath in the Swale National Nature Reserve with a pang of regret. My second regret of the day? I wish I’d asked the many tattooed man on the naturist beach for a photo. He was cheeky enough (um, he was NUDE, geddit?) to mention the “breeze” in what I interpreted as an “I dare you to look down” tone of voice. He was in an ideal location to show off his all over tattoos, in any case.
At the far end of the Swale NNR, I met another walker who lives in Minster. He chose not to be photographed, but we talked about travel. He was born on the island and took a year to see Europe and North Africa when he was younger. He said travel makes you more sensitive to people when you have to get out and talk to them. How true. The humanity of people is more evident when you get close up and take time to listen and share. The universality that can be found in a single encounter reminds me that empathy is bounded only by imagination.
I stopped in at Harty Church to sit in the cool interior, enjoy the solitude, evidence of community, and admire the stained glass and woodwork.
Reaching the Harty Ferry Road, I walked toward The Ferry House Inn at Harty where I sat with a very large, very cold glass of soda water, washing down crisps and (vegetarians look away, now) pork scratchings. Wiping clean the packaging with a licked finger and then following up with a Viscount biscuit made for a holiday feeling and delicious if imbalanced diet.
Walking down to the end of Harty Ferry Road, which drops off into the Swale, I got as close to the end of the slipway as I dared, and as close to home as I could. So close, and yet so far.
After consulting the map yet again, I set off in search of the next bridleway toward Eastchurch. And I searched. And walked some more. And backtracked. And looked at the map. Sniffled a bit. Swallowed my frustration and kept looking. And looking. And so to the inevitable drama of a challenge. The map footpath really had no basis in reality. In spite of the legal obligation in England and Wales requiring those that own or maintain the land to keep public rights of way “open and useable”, there were no cross field bridleways to be seen. These are meant to be reinstated to 2 metres in width, but all I could see were swathes of cultivated field after field – pretty, but impassable.
I gave up and headed back to the road after copious, overtired, frustrated tears. Highs and lows. The road was much nicer anyway, shady and easy to walk on. I did, however, muster plenty of energy to curse the signs on each field entrance gate that claimed proud ownership of the the farming of the land. Proud, indeed.
By 7:15 that evening, having been out wandering for ten and a half hours, I rang for a rescue from my lovely host, Sue. She collected me (and a few grateful tears) from the roadside, took me home and fed me her son Rory’s homemade curry. It was the best I’d had in…almost ever.
Friends and relatives, you are hearby informed of my outback travel itinerary
Looking back at Shellness, Herne Bay, Whitstable
So close to Home
The map footpath has no basis in reality
So the road turned or to be okay after all!
Harty Ferry Rd, shady and cool
Feels like a Truman Show sky. It's like this all the way round.
Harty Ferry Road, Sheppey