I step down onto the platform at Rochester station in spitting rain – a fitting backdrop to the miserable high street and desolate sea front. In the distance the stark profile of Kingsnorth Power Station rises up out of the mist on the water and soon I move into futuristic bus stations and dockland development – evidence of the Medway development plan.
Following instructions from a man in a high viz jacket (who doesn’t wear them these days?) I set off down a very busy road as there doesn’t seem to be a path following the water. As hundreds of cars whiz past my right ear I turn my eyes left to a beautiful brick wall, so out of place next to a motorway. This wall marks the boundaries of Chatham’s historic dockyards and at the bottom of the hill I see the grand entrance – not for the public though, so I walk on.
After a while, just when I’m beginning to despair of ever finding somewhere with a toilet, a huge low level shopping park comes into view. Piped music and groups of squawking scantily clad teenagers send me scurrying past, but on the quay is a restaurant with a friendly young man, every inch of his body covered in tattoos, who serves me tea and gives me directions. I sit and shudder at the massive billboards advertising “riverside living”, pictures of happy smiling people arranged to camouflage the greying woodwork and flaking paint.
A crane catches my eye as I move on to yet another busy road which will take me past St.Mary’s Island and onto The Strand, where I will pick up the Saxon Shore Way.
The Strand looks a little desolate in the drizzle and there is no-one around to try the mini railway or the technicolour ice creams – good weather for ducks.
From then on it’s a lovely walk through Riverside Country Park, wide grassy paths curving around the peninsular, the obligatory wrecks listing in the mud and the constant call of sea birds. Apart from a mother and four children out for a walk I meet no-one and at the bottom of Otterham Creek I turn on to a road that will take me all the way to Upchurch. I have half an hour to sit and wait for the bus to Rainham so I allow myself a swift half in the pub.