Medway Riverside, Berlin, Kent and the West Country
Length: 8 km (5 miles). Time: 2 hours at moderate pace + stops. Max height 58m. Total ascent 148m.
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: Pubs, two in each of Lower and Upper Upnor
This walk is remarkable for the variety of scenery met over its short distance, as we shall see from the following route description.
Start off in the pleasant riverside village of Lower Upnor; 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. 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, but we soon leave the path where it turns right, by bearing left out onto an open grassy field. Ascend the field NW to leave it by a footpath at its top-left (NW) corner.
The path levels out, with on the right a playing field, and on the left young woodland on the site of a former Royal Navy barracks and signals station, then further on a garage. Upon reaching the main A228 road, turn left and use the pedestrian crossing to cross over and turn into Chattenden Lane. After 70 metres, turn left into Kitchener Road, noting on your right the army housing which is the first evidence of the once-huge Royal Engineers barracks. Further along the road, you pass what was the base itself, which was largely bulldozed flat, including the almost brand-new multi-million pound hospital, a testament to the foresight and planning of the Ministry of Defence.
Arriving at a roundabout, proceed around it anti-clockwise and leave it WNW at the first exit, the Lochat Road, so-named presumably by droll analogy with the Upchat Road which links Upnor with Chattenden, constructed by the Royal Engineers in the late 1960's. Now follow the Lochat Road for 1.6km (1 mile); as you do so you gradually move into a world that could easily be mistaken for one of the abandoned British army bases in Berlin, filled with ghosts from the Cold War; only the occasional British car indicates the country you are in.
Having rounded a long right hand bend you arrive at a relatively straight stretch of road heading north-east; just before the road again bends to the right, turn sharp left (WSW) onto a public footpath which runs along the left hand side of the underwater bomb-disposal school, happily still functioning for the present, into Great Chattenden Wood. Follow this footpath for half a kilometre (third of a mile), turning slightly right WNW after roughly 200 metres (yards), then later left to head generally west, ignoring any unmarked paths leading off it until you come to a yellow waymarked public footpath on the left. Take this path which leads SSE and follow it as it swings right to run SSW through what is now Ash Wood, finally passing a bailey bridge on the left and crossing over the road it carries to emerge shortly at an open field. At this point we return clearly to North Kent and a landscape that might have been familiar to Dickens. Cross the stile and follow the yellow waymarkers across the field SW to enter Stone Horse Wood.
Pass through and leave Stone Horse Wood by the stile, complete with sliding dog-door, and again pass SW over open field, aiming for the left-hand edge of the next, Haven Street, wood, which unusually for this area is a pine wood, albeit partially screened by deciduous trees. Pass along the edge of the wood until reaching another stile where the footpath turns 45 degrees left (S) over an open field.
Cross the field to arrive at the road, Haven Street, and turn left SE along it, following it around to the south, where it passes a pond on the left. Turn left into Woodfield Way, and after a few metres (yards) take the footpath on the right, turning immediately left again to follow it ESE 200 metres (yards) or so, passing buildings of the Royal Engineers School on the left before you come to a yellow waymarker on the left. Follow the footpath briefly NE to cross to the other side of the ditch and hedge before again heading right, ESE, emerging a few hundred metres (yards) later at the A228. Turn left (uphill) looking both for an opportunity to cross and making sure you do not pass the footpath that leads up the bank on the other side about 200 metres (yards) up the road.
Cross the road and climb the bank to follow the faint footpath ESE across the field until you reach the Upchat Road. Cross over the road and over the stile on the opposite side, and turn right to walk parallel to the road, with on your left initially the woods at the foot of Beacon Hill, then later a new housing development in an old quarry. The footpath makes a short dog-leg at its end before emerging onto the Upnor Road. Note the church of St Philip & St James up the hill to your right, then cross straight over the road (caution: accident black-spot!) to continue along the Upchat Road as it ascends from the other side of the junction. At this point you may continue along the road, or if you are canny you can find a suitable spot after a 150 metres (yards) or so to ascend the bank on your left through the line of trees where it thins out, to arrive at a footpath that parallels the road.
As you walk along the footpath the wall on your left marks the boundary of the Royal Engineers' depot at Lower Upnor then, by the point where you rejoin the road, Upnor Castle. Carry on down the road into Upper Upnor, leaving a road and the car park on your right, until you reach the King's Arms pub which is recommended as a refreshment stop, as is the Tudor Rose at the foot of the High Street that you are about to descend; you may delay your decision as to which to visit as you will be returning up the High Street shortly, though there are two more worthy pubs in Lower Upnor!
Starting to walk down the High Street, the scene is such that you could be forgiven for imagining you were in the West Country, although the white wash-boarded houses are typical of Kent. After passing the Tudor Rose pub, you come to a viewpoint overlooking the River Medway, with the former Naval Dockyard away to your right and Medway Yacht Club downstream on your left. Beside you is the entrance to Upnor Castle - noted for its failure to stop the marauding Dutch fleet when it daringly sailed up the Medway in 1667, which action is well-described and illustrated by a model in the castle. The Elizabethan castle is well-worth a visit if you have the time; it also provides a site for various events, including the occasional al fresco Shakespeare play enhanced by the surroundings.
Retrace your steps up the High Street and turn right along the Upchat Road, branching right onto the footpath you may have taken earlier. This time, however, continue right along the path and descend the rather uneven steps until you reach a pair of railway tracks disappearing into what is now a wall; these are left over from the narrow-gauge line that until 1965 ran from the Chattenden Barracks (more here). Turn right at the road and follow it through Lower Upnor past The Ship pub. Opposite The Pier pub, branch right along the riverside footpath to pass over a ramp (part of the flood defences constructed after the 1953 flooding) and through the AVC car park to finally return to the road and your car. Just before you reach the road again, however, note the inscribed monuments beside the path. They are the London Stones, which mark the limit of the charter rights of London fishermen. The older stone is dated 1204.
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