RSPB – Cliffe Pools, Rochester - 28 November 2019

A small group of Thursday walkers braved the cooler weather to take a stroll around RSPB at Cliffe Pools near Rochester.

A 40-minute drive from Leybourne took us to the church of St Helen’s in Cliffe. The church is known by some as the Cathedral of the Marshes.

Outside St Helen's  Cliffe

A free car park outside allowed us to prepare for the walk. Before starting we visited the church and were welcomed by some members who were clearing up from an event the previous evening. The church attracts a congregation of about 70 on a Sunday and, also like us, is committed to a full cycle of fund raising for upkeep and maintenance.

We strode off and after taking a wrong turn on footpath to nowhere, we regained out direction and made our way towards the sea defence wall of the River Thames. At almost high-tide large ships were moving seaward. The view from the wall showed a clear panorama across to Essex, from London Gateway Port in the east towards Tilbury in the west.

We continued our circular walk having complete six miles in bright, but cold, conditions.

The route, showing unintended diversion!

Back to the car, and a short drive to The Cliffe Café in Salt Lane. Having been warmed by hot mugs of builder’s tea and a tasty light lunch we departed for out last stop.

We headed to St James’ Church, Cooling. The Friends of St James’ Church work closely with the churches Conservation Trust in maintaining this wonderful building. Charles Dickens used the churchyard of St James' Church as his inspiration in the opening chapter of Great Expectations, where the hero Pip meets Magwitch the convict.  The site - on the Hoo Peninsula with marshes stretching north to the Thames estuary, is dramatically desolate and bleak in winter, recalling the sinister opening scene in David Lean's 1946 film of the book.

St James', Cooling
Selfie, with Magwitch.