Tucked away behind a busy retail park is the Sitttingbourne & Kemsley Light Railway, run by a group of enthusiasts who despite vandalism and indifference on the part of the local population, have managed to keep this lovely little steam engine running. We jump on and rattle and puff our way up to Kemsley Down, where we will pick up the Saxon Shore Way.
The sun is already beating down as we clamber out of the wooden carriages and make our way through the engine yard and out onto the coast path. Past the massive paper mill and a weighty tanker bringing gypsum from Rotterdam, we follow the path up the creek, marshlands to the right of us and industrial buildings to the left. After an hour of easy walking the sweep of the Kingsferry Bridge appears in the distance, two monumental pillars supporting a rail bridge running alongside it. We watch a couple of high masted sailing boats, flying French flags, gliding up the river and wonder how they will get past but they stop and turn around – it is a dead end.
There are groups of people hanging around under the bridge, it’s a place for water skiing and scooters, burly men in wet suits wait their turn, wives picnic on the bank overlooking the muddy shore, a strange place to spend a bank holiday afternoon. We carry on to the accompaniment of frogs croaking loudly and hoarsely from the streams running alongside the path, which then turns left into Chetney Marshes. Skirting the shipwrecks at Bedlams Bottom we find a sunny spot for lunch and a snooze before heading up Raspberry Hill (no raspberries) to get slightly lost in the orchards and ploughed fields where the farmer had decided to ignore the public right of way. Forced to walk on the narrow road to Lower Halstow we are relieved to see a wide grassy coast path winding its way into the distance – this will take us to Upchurch and an ice-cold beer.