After leaving Gerry’s place, it was wonderful to wander along the path out of Conyer. I do like a majestic pylon.
I was feeling pretty pleased with myself, too, for having found a ingenious way to carry my water bottle which had been transferred from hand to hand the day before in a mini weightlifting exercise that was proving tedious.
Tha Swale was a full tide when I got to the mouth of Conyer Creek, which made me think about Andrew, the artist I’d met the day before who had been waiting for high tide to allow him to get into the creek and head toward home in Canterbury.
The Saxon Shore Way stretched ahead of me in a lengthy walk to Iwade. I expected to meet fewer people on a Monday and this proved to be the case, as the only person I talked to along the stretch heading to Sittingbourne was Stewart, who works for the Environment Agency.
The Swale at high tide is expansive and beautiful, a long stretched line of horizon that photographs don’t properly convey. I love the feeling these kinds of places give me – the precious, mortal insignificance of my existence in a vast world, the feeling that I am here for a hugely privileged speck of time and had better make the most of it. I sat here, on what must have been an old slipway (correct me if I’m wrong) for my lunch of breakfast bars (stuffed into my bag by my lovely family on my tearful departure – I didn’t even know what they were doing at the time).
I took out the treasures given to me by my friends, laid them in the sun, just to look at them. Not for long though, or the chocolate would melt!
Things went well until I got to Sittingbourne, and the timeline of this can be revisited on Instagram. Once I managed to find the Saxon Shore Way footpath again, it was a disappointment behind the Paper Mill but I made my way as best I could through brambles, nettles, thistles and all the lush overgrowth of summer. I was overtaken (no surprise there) by Steve and Paul on a better stretch. They had walked from Kelmsley, and proved to be my trusty guides through the Industrial land that makes up the Ridham Sea Terminals. There is one sign. And a lot of lorries, and dust, and road and dust. I left them at the Kingsferry bridge full of gratitude for their help and companionship along the way.
The road to Iwade after this was straightforward, and I have never been more pleased to see a handwritten sign letting me know I had reached my destination! I must be a peculiar sight as I’m walking because when I stopped in at the first place that I might ask for some water, I got some very strange looks!
I’ve only met Carly briefly before through mutual friends, but when she opened the door, she gave me a welcoming hug, sat me down, introduced me to the children, Cerys and Evan, and made me a fabulous cup of strong tea. Bliss! She carried on with the ironing while we chatted away and the kids watched after school TV. I felt right at home slumped on the sofa like a old pillow, which is pretty much how I felt! Carly works within school hours and is able to be with her children outside her work, and we agreed that ‘part-time’ really isn’t if it also includes managing the lives of young children. The scenario was so familiar, and I was made to feel right at home.
We had a lovely sit down family dinner, with everyone sharing their days at school and work together. Evan really knows his flags! Brett works in Ramsgate, so has long days, but he did the washing up after dinner (I did offer!) while Carly got the children bathed and ready for the morning. Family life. Brett and Carly have an easy sense of humour and a lovely family – it was a treat to be with them.
Next morning, I had tea and toast and the place to myself to write. I set off just after midday, heading for the Island of Sheppey, with my packed lunch and Oreos. After a fruitless search for a footpath, I backtracked and headed for the road again and for the Kingsferry Bridge.
Thank you Carly, Brett, Evan, and special mention to Cerys, who very sweetly and without complaint, gave me her bed for the night. See you soon!
Leaving Conyer Creek
The Swale at high tide, expansive
Behind the Paper Mill, Sittingbourne
Steve and Paul, my rescuers!
Arriving in Iwade
Carly, Brett, Cerys, and Evan
Breakfast at Carly's and Brett's
Looking back at Iwade
Footpath, need to backtrack
Heading for the bridge
Sheppey Crossing and the Kingsferry Bridge
Carly made me lunch! Complete with Oreos! Heavenly!