Higham to Gravesend walk

Birdwatching and nature walk - the Thames Estuary, Hooe Peninsular and Cliffe Pools RSPB Nature reserve.


This is a list of previous times this walk has been done by the club (since Jan 2010). For more recent events (since April 2015), full details are shown.

Date Post # Weather
Sun, 14-Oct-18 Sunday Walk - Hoo Peninsula, Cliffe Pools RSPB Reserve, Thames Estuary: Higham to Gravesend 3 dark foreboding skies turning to persistent light to moderate rain
Sun, 21-Feb-16 Sunday First Walk - Thames estuary bird life and marshes 14
Sat, 24-Jan-15 Higham to Gravesend, via Cliffe Pools 30
Sat, 24-Jan-15 Higham Circular, via Cliffe Pools
Wed, 12-Mar-14 Higham Circular, via Cliffe Pools
Sun, 14-Oct-18
Sunday Walk - Hoo Peninsula, Cliffe Pools RSPB Reserve, Thames Estuary: Higham to Gravesend
Length: 18.5 km (11.5 mi)
Ascent/Descent: negligible; Net Walking Time: 4 hours
Toughness: 2/10
Take the 10.26 Rainham (Kent) Thameslink train from Kentish Town (calls St. Pancras 10.32, Farringdon, Blackfriars, London Bridge 10.48, Deptford, Greenwich etc.), arrives Higham 11.49.
You can also take the 10.52 Sittingbourne train from St. Pancras I’nal (Stratford I’nal 10.59), change Gravesend (11.17/11.43). High Speed surcharge needed!
Return trains from Gravesend: Stopping services to Charing X (via Hither Green) on xx.18 and xx.48; High Speed trains to St. Pancras (via Stratford) on xx.42, Thameslink services (via LBG and St. Pancras) on xx.59.
This is a flat walk on the periphery of the Hoo Peninsula in northern Kent that visits the RSPB Reserve at Cliffe Pools, one of the most important wildlife habitats in the UK. You also take lunch in the interesting village of Cliffe whose history can be traced back to Norman times and possibly earlier. At low tide the extensive estuary mud flats are exposed and there are more opportunities to view the bird life. This walk is best done in autumn or spring to get the best out of the bird-watching opportunities as you walk around the path bordering the huge lakes and mud-flats of Cliffe Pools and by the river Thames. It is not a typical countryside walk and you are aware of the industrial heritage of the area but the spectacular landscape of open water, marshes and big skies is evocative and atmospheric with a rich sense of history. There are gravel working operations at Cliffe Fort but this does not detract too much from the walk.
Lunch: The Six Bells in Cliffe (5.9 km/3.7 mi, food 12.00-18.00).
Tea: not much, how about a Costa Coffee?
For summary, map, height profile, photos, walk directions and gpx/kml files click here. T=swc.209
  • 10-Oct-18

    As the author of this walk I feel duty bound to tell you that the Saxon Shore Way is badly eroding and its probable that when you start on this path there will be a sign telling you the route is closed. However it is still passable but obviously you do this at your own risk. In particular when you reach the short stretch mentioned in para 22 of the walk instructions you may have to do a bit of scrambling up a bank. I have been unable to ascertain what, if any, work is being done to repair the path.

    As Thomas's post makes clear this is not your typical SWC walk. Pretty it ain't but it is different (see the photos on the walk's page) and there are some good birdwatching opportunitiesat Cliffe Pools.

  • 10-Oct-18

    Well, as per April and August comments in the 'Comments' section of the walk (the August one by our reliable 'Man in Black' amib), the path has been repaired. We'll find out on Sunday...

  • 16-Oct-18

    3 set off on this journey under dark foreboding skies turning to persistent light to moderate rain . The descriptions are all correct...this is not a usual Saturday country walk...but it is certainly not without interest. The Hoo Peninsula feels a very remote sliver of Kent with quite a stark Dickensian feel (perhaps the weather)...The morning largely crosses or skirts some horse paddocks and arable (or formerly arable) fields where we did forage some delicious late season pears in an abandoned orchard...The morning instructions required some interpretation at a few points -- but we did manage to arrive in Cliffe where we all enjoyed a Sunday roast -- slow in coming; but vast in serving....After lunch the real highlight...through the Cliffe Pools RSPB Reserve...where we spent some time looking at birds and the ghostly apparition of a cruise ship moving up the Thames in the fog...very atmospheric...Although some path closure signs do remain posted, the path around Cliffe Fort is indeed repaired -- though there are some very small sections of erosion a bit further along...causing no major difficulties. We were then surprised to meet a few ponies which turned into a huge herd munching the grass along the long riverside stretch into Gravesend...Arriving on the outskirts, you then pass through an area of delightful dereliction -- worthy of a Dickensian novel (which we figure will soon be razed for upmarket riverside flats). As we were just on time for the hourly Thameslink service, we opted to go directly to the station for the 17:59...forging bevies...though some google research did show an interesting mirco-brew/tap pub very near the station probably worth an investigation when next passing through...

Sun, 21-Feb-16
Sunday First Walk - Thames estuary bird life and marshes
Extra Walk 209 Higham to Gravesend
Length: 18.4km (11.4 miles) Toughness: 3/10

10:16 Gillingham train from Cannon Street (London Bridge 10:20, Lewisham 10:28) arriving at Higham at 11:13.
Or 10:27 Ramsgate train (high speed service) from St Pancras (Stratford International 10:34), changing at Gravesend (arr 10:44; dep 11:07) on to the above train from Cannon Street.
Return trains from Gravesend are to Cannon Street at xx18 and xx:48 (journey time 47 minutes), or to St Pancras at xx:12 and xx:42 (journey time 24 minutes).

This is not a typical countryside walk but the vast open spaces of the lower Thames estuary offer a spectacular landscape of open water, marshes and big skies that is evocative and atmospheric with a rich sense of history and the area’s industrial heritage. In its revised version this walk proved popular on its first outing last year, and as the tide recedes in the afternoon, exposing extensive mud flats, there should be ample opportunities to view the bird life on the RSPB reserve around Cliffe Pools and the river Thames.

The recommended lunch stop is The Six Bells (01634 221459) in Cliffe. Do phone ahead to let them know how many walkers will be lunching there.

You will need to download the Walk Directions.
  • 19-Feb-16

    Hope to join this walk, keeping a check on the weather.

  • 21-Feb-16

    14 on this walk including Chris L who had set out an hour early to research a possible route incorporating the interesting village of Cooling which has a fine pub and a church mentioned by Dickens in Great Expectations. Its real Magwitch territory out there in the wilder hinterlands of the Hoo peninsula. Weather was w= mild-windy-with sun-in-the-afternoon; perfect for this type of walk.

    The group - including two young women first-timers enjoyed the "different" landscape of this part of Kent and the Six Bells served up some excellent meat roasts (all under a tenenr) which is all they do on a Sunday. I felt a bit envious of a family group who had a superb buffet laid on for them at the pub after a "blessing" service at the nearby St Helen's church where I and another walker had lunched on a bench next to the Victorian Charnel House! (Its not as bad as it sounds; the churchyard is quite lovely with some terrific views over the Thames Estuary.)

    After lunch we meandered along the trails through Cliffe Pools meeting an Oxford Birdwatching Group with some very expensive kit before we reached the Thames itself and headed along the Saxon Shore Way to Gravesend. Although flat, with the wind whipping off the river right into our faces it was quite a trudge along the 6km path to the "industrial sector" of Gravesend where I stopped for a quick coffee at a Costa's before being whisked back to Stratford on HS1. A different day out, enjoyed by all I think, especially if you like big skies and expansive waterscapes and an opportunity to reflect that our most important and often interesting environments are not necessarily twee "country" villages and "national parks".

    I have added some further points to the walk comments page.

  • Karen

    A very pleasant day out. Took our time in the morning so as not to arrive at the lunch pub too early. Despite an unusual business model involving hopeful diners calling ahead and ordering what they wanted to eat (choice of 3 roasts), and then waiting about 40 minutes once they arrived at the pub, the food when it came was very nice.

    In the morning we traversed a field of curly kale, green on one half and dark purple on the other; the purple variety was new to most of us. In the afternoon, a nice birder allowed us to look through his expensive telescope and pointed out the teals, widgeons and godwits for us. Had a bit of a climb where the path had collapsed, but nothing a group of fit walkers couldn't handle. A nice bit of sunshine in the afternoon, then a few kilometers walking straight into the wind. Certainly blew the cobwebs away. The views out over the estuary were impressive. The last kilometer or two, through the semi-industrial outskirts of Gravesend are not the prettiest, but after battling the wind on the shore of the Thames, I was glad of the shelter provided by the derelict buildings, barbed-wire-topped fences and stacks of containers.