One of "the 20 Best Walks in Britain"
Length: 7.8km ( 4.8 miles). Time: 2 hours at moderate pace + stops. Max height 53m. Total ascent 96m.
Starting Point: The car park in Lower Upnor (Grid Ref: TQ 7627 7128). Drive right through Lower Upnor, past a pair of tight right-angle bends at the Arethusa Venture Centre (AVC; Postcode ME2 4XB) and turn left into the car park behind the AVC.
Refreshments: The Pier and The Ship pubs in Lower Upnor; cafes in Hoo and Hoo Marina.
Because the route uses both high water and low water options of the Saxon Shore Way, at least the return, beach section must be undertaken when the tidal height is less than 4.5 metres; you can check tides here.
The route of this walk featured in a book entitled something like "The 20 Best Walks in Britain". I don't think I'd make such a high flown claim for it, but it is pretty unique for its combination of a walk along a flat ridge, and two quite different aspects of the shore of the River Medway.
Turn right out of the car park and note the military pill-box on the left. This was built hastily in World War II as part of the (fortunately-untested) GHQ line, which ran from Somerset to Yorkshire, and was optimistically intended to stop Hitler's forces after an invasion; more of this later. Turn right again at the tight right angle bend in the road to leave the river - take care: traffic! Instead of taking the next, left hand bend in the road, proceed straight ahead north-north-west (NNW) up the hill on a public footpath.
The path passes through pleasant woodland; follow it as it bends around to the right and levels out somewhat at the top of the first uphill leg, then take the right-hand fork to arrive at a viewpoint looking along the length of Chatham Reach, with the former Naval Dockyard on the left and Upnor Castle on the right. Continue along the path as it swings left, steeply uphill; when you reach the road note the wind generator on the left, which not only supplies power to the house on your right but also to the national grid.
Follow the road as it crests the hill and starts to descend until a footpath comes up quite unseen on the right - unless you spot the sign for it on the left hand side of the road! Take the footpath E along a narrow alley, and follow it as it becomes a metalled track along the open ridge, past a somewhat less-convincing wind generator, a large farm, then after a further half kilometre (third of a mile ) some farm workers' cottages. After a further 400m (yards) take the footpath that leaves the track to the left N just before a hedge and more houses.
After 50m (yards) turn right to follow a footpath to and through the churchyard. Continue along the road passing the now-closed Bridge Tavern on your left until you reach Vicarage Lane, signposted to Hoo Marina, on the right. At this point you have the option of visiting Tagg's cafe on the corner opposite for a tea, coffee or cake, or a supermarket a little further along the road that you have been following. To continue the walk, turn right into Vicarage Lane and follow it past Butt Haw Close to take the next turning on the left, Abbott's Court Road. Walk along the road for 700m (half a mile) until you pass Hoo radio transmitter mast on the right, and take the footpath on the right SE. Follow the path to the left around the building and on to the river bank.
Climb the dike, noting more evidence of the GHQ line, including a large pill box that would have housed both machine and anti-tank guns covering not only the fields to the east but also the river before the sea defences were built. From the top of the dike you have fine views over to the 19th century Darnett and Hoo forts, and at low water the extensive mudflats popular with wading birds. Turn right to walk W along the dike to reach the motley collection of light industry, boat yards and clubs adjacent Hoo Marina. Follow the Saxon Shore Way as it winds its way through the various premises; in Hoo Marina itself (just before you reach Hoo Ness Yacht Club) there is another cafe, open 7 days a week.
After you leave the metropolis of Hoo Marina, the footpath leads you down onto the beach, at which point you find yourself walking beside the much-eroded remains of Cockham Wood Fort, built in 1670 in response to the Dutch raid of 1667. Owing to the increasing strength of the Royal Navy, the fort never saw action and was completely abandoned by 1818. Further along the beach you encounter a further GHQ pillbox with the starting hut of Wilsonian Sailing Club atop it, and another a few hundred metres (yards) further on. As you continue along the beach, try to imagine the scene 100 years ago, when in good weather it was covered with day-trippers and bathers, brought from the Medway Towns by a tram which ran to Frindsbury.
The beach ends at the Medway Yacht Club hard, constructed originally as part of the D-Day invasion plans, when men and equipment embarked from Upnor for the beaches of Normandy. Just beyond the hard you can, at low water, see the 'barge blocks' on which sailing barges were beached for maintenance when the site was previously the Blue Circle Cement Company's barge-yard. A couple of hundred metres (yards) further on you will be back at the car park, when you have the option of following the river's edge in to Lower Upnor village and visiting either (or both!) of the pubs.
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