Wednesday 20 July 2011

Friday 8 July 2011

Medway - day 3 - Deadmans Island

Landing point on Deadmans Island
Exposed grave on Deadmans Island
Cockle shell banks
Flowering sea lavender on Deadmans Island
Safe return to Sheppey

Wake at 6:30 to find Dave already packing up camp — I feel happily unwashed and grubby — before we know it, we're pushing the canoe off of Darnet for the last time — another punishing headwind awaits — hug the edge of Nor Marsh — dock, and promptly settle on a bench for breakfast — a chipper Kent bloke barks a few friendly words at us, impressively using the term 'ritzy' — canoe on car, we're off to the Isle of Sheppey — with comments of 'good luck' and 'mind the curse' from local fishermen we paddle off from Queenborough slipway to Deadmans Island — dodge through the yachts on a fast moving tide — hoist the canoe onto a cockleshell bank, dragging it over a human bone or two — check out the uncovered graves — no one fancies eating the samphire here — walk over the sea purslane to a stake-lined channel separating us from Chetney Marshes — dismal impression in the rain — with the tide out, it's a two-man bobsleigh charge across lots and lots of mud — back in the canoe, we edge our way back to the slipway — the yacht club public conveniences allow us to get some dry clothes on — a quick stop on Elmley Island — a long safari drive through the grassy flatlands to the RSPB reserve for lunch — handshakes and smiles farewell

Thursday 7 July 2011

Medway - day 2 - Darnet Island and Hoo Salt Marsh

Kingsnorth power station from Darnet
Darnet Fort viewed from the east end of the island
Pinhole lessons
Wrecks on Hoo Salt Marsh
Hoo Fort viewed from the channels at high tide
Crossing the temporary gangplank to Darnet Fort
Inside Darnet Fort
Waiting for the baked apples to cook

Thankfully, no 4:30 wake-up call to paddle to Deadman's island — with the tide now out, exploring Darnet is the order of the day — after breakfast, a red sailed barge tacks patiently into the wind — the east side of Darnet extends an unexpectedly long way at low tide — we discover lots of bricks, pottery shards, Victorian bottles, and clay pipe stems — photos are taken by all — re-group at the fort for pinhole lessons — post-lunch, with the tide in, we cross the choppy shipping lane to Hoo Salt Marsh — examine the picturesque rusting and rotting boat hulls — an identical fort to Darnet, but without the flooding — float between a portal of two rusty barges to a sheltered inlet and shallow channels — peaceful, calm paddling in the sun — in contrast to the exertion of paddling back across the whitewater shipping lane — cross the perilous gangplank to Darnet Fort — impeccable Victorian construction of thick iron and brick archways — vodka and tonic time — veggie sausages, tomato and chilli sauce, couscous, fire-warmed flatbread and hummus for supper — impatiently, we develop our pinhole experiments with mixed results — the strong wind buffets the tent all night

Wednesday 6 July 2011

Medway - day 1 - Nor Marsh and Darnet Island

Wheeling the canoe down for launching at Riverside Country Park

First stop on Nor Marsh
Dave attaches a solargraph can at Nor Marsh
Approaching Darnet Fort
Base camp on Darnet island
Not exactly the normal camp fare from Dave

A speedy 2hr 15min drive to Riverside Country Park, Kent — look out over Medway's big vista, big sky, and big industry — Dave arrives with a giant canoe strapped to his car's roof — T and I struggle with the single task of getting our backpacks into a drybag — after some brief instruction, we set sail from Horrid Hill — aggrieved to hear that I'm 'the engine', while Dave steers and T's the ballast — murky green water laps at the edge of Nor Marsh, our first stop — thick with gulls and sea purslane — taste the samphire: refreshing and intensely salty at the same time — paddle past the ruined jetty to stop number two — discovered treasure: an Adidas Jubliani world cup football — a solargraph can is attached to a rusting post — Dave mentions these islands might be lost to the sea within 50 years — the strong wind and big waves make paddling tough — slip in behind three sunk, concrete barges to a sheltered landing on Darnet — we explore the island, while Dave sets up camp — the 19th century fort dominates, ringed by a deep moat and brambles — a bee, overladen with pollen, heaves itself about the flowering sea lavender — vodka and tonic with a lemon slice! — an upturned milk crate provides a seat next to the driftwood fire — salad, homemade bread, creamy pasta, red wine: this is not how I remember camping — travel stories over baked apples — the lights of Gillingham and Kingsnorth Power Station glow — a restless night, despite the unbeatable comfort of a sea purslane mattress and the calming calls of oyster catchers

Friday 1 July 2011

Northumberland - day 7 - north coast

Berwick-upon-Tweed walls

Cocklawburn Beach

Road down to Newton Haven

Great coffee and magnificent view from The Barn at Beale — Berwick-upon-Tweed's remarkable town walls — pop in to the excellent Berwick Gymnasium gallery — lay on the picnic blanket beneath overhanging wild rose at Cocklawburn beach, listening to the waves — back of the dunes clotted with yellow and purple flowers — a crumbling lime kiln — the briefest look at St Aidan's Dunes — at Newton Haven a man in a straw hat free-wheels past on a Raleigh Burner, not a care in the world — shallow, enclosed Beadnell Bay — a group of elderly tourists point at things, silhouetted in the sun — snorkel out through the bladder wrack, skimming over the stoney bed — crabs of various sizes and armour markings — T glimpses a camouflaged flounder winking at her — gravity tugs when clambering ashore — warming fish 'n' chips at Seahouses — too tired for evening photography