The 2,700-mile England Coast Path will be the longest continuous coastal walk in the world when it is eventually complete, and the latest stretch of the trail is now open, spanning 29-miles from Whitstable to Iwade in northern Kent. The section is the fourth to open in Kent, bringing the county total up to 173 miles - and giving more people more access to the English coast.
Jim Seymour is Natural England's Area Manager, and said: “At a time when the benefits of connecting with nature are clearer than ever, it’s fabulous that we are opening up this 29-mile walking route on the north Kent coast.”
The route brings with it new rights of access to a coastline which includes beautiful beaches, dunes and cliffs.
The route brings with it new public rights of access to a coastline which includes beautiful beaches, dunes and cliffs. The walk begins in the picturesque seaside town of Whitstable, which is renowned for its annual oyster festival and colourful high street (with an excellent record shop, bookshop and cosy pubs).
Before you leave Whitstable, stop by The Lobster Shack for good food, check out the Fishslab Gallery, formerly a fishmongers, or visit Whitstable Castle.
From Whitstable Harbour, the new stretch of path runs west, past fishing boats and market stalls along the boardwalk to Seasalter. From here, you can see the Isle of Sheppey to the north, sitting in the Thames Estuary, before continuing on to the Swale, where tidal waters are bordered by salt marshes and mudflats.
This is an area rich in wildlife, and in winter, you won’t have to look hard to find it - from dark-bellied brent geese and dunlin to curlew, ringed plovers and oyster catchers, with their long, bright beaks and distinctive call.
Faversham Creek takes you inland to the town of Faversham, the oldest market town in Kent, and home to hundreds of listed buildings. The historic barges of the Standard Quay will guide you to a swing bridge, and on the other side the path continues alongside narrow creeks to Oare. Stop by the Shipwright’s Arms pub for a good pint or a hearty lunch. It’s a 17th-century pub with decor inspired by maritime history, looking out over the sea, and is one of various places rooted in the local community that the trail will hopefully benefit.
This new trail has a spectacular landscape and captures how important the north Kent coastline has been over the ages.
“The nationwide promotion of the England Coast Path should also benefit the local economy by bringing walkers past the many local businesses on this route; to shop, for refreshments and to stay,” says Seymour. “This new trail has a spectacular landscape and captures how important the north Kent coastline has been over the ages with many interesting and historic sites.”
Leaving the Shipwright’s Arms, it’s further on north, up to the Kent Wildlife Trust’s Oare Marshes. The Trust write that the reserve is “of international importance for migratory, overwintering and breeding wetland birds, the reserve consists of grazing marsh (one of a few left in Kent) with freshwater dykes, open water scrapes, reedbed, saltmarsh and seawall.”
There’s also an interesting history here, as the location was once a crucial part of the gunpowder industry. The nearby Oare Gunpowder Works Country Park was described by Edward Jacob in 1774, who wrote that “upon the Ore stream, there are gun powder works in private hands, which make considerable quantities thereof, for the use of the East India Company, and other merchants. These mills likewise are enlarging & improving every day, more particularly in the act of drying the gun-powder, which is then effected by the means of a constant stream of hot water, conveyed under the copper frame whereon it is placed to dry. This new contrivance is said to answer the purpose exceedingly well.”
Via Conyer Creek, another great site to see wintering birds, the route will bring you back to the Swale estuary, and the segment ends in Iwade, close to Swale rail station, which can be reached in under 90 minutes from London.
Mike Hill works for Kent County Council, and added: “The north Kent Coast has some of the richest habitat in the UK; the salt marsh and mud flats supporting huge colonies of over-wintering birds. It is a coast with a rich history in trade that supported the growth of towns such as Faversham and Whitstable, now firm favourites with visitors to the area.
“The [...] access rights offers the chance to explore new areas of the coast, boosts the local economy and contributes to the health and well-being of residents.”
The route is the latest exciting walking trail to open as part of the enormous England Coast Path, and being a hike near London, it’s sure to be a popular segment too. It’s great to see more of the country opening up to walkers, granting access to Britain’s coast - and boosting local economies in the process.
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