October 12 2020 – Isle of Grain, Kent.
Day one of two.
It was totally predictable to be honest; I take two weeks off work, and plan to go away with my camera for two of those 16 days. Firstly my main camera is broken, at least this time it is repairable, but it is in the shop for at least two more weeks. Secondly, the first full day of drizzle and rain of my two week break is day 11, the first of the two day road trip.
The Isle of Grain has fascinated me, admittedly in a fairly minor way for a while now, the main attraction being the Grain Tower Battery, a fort built in 1855 as part of the defence systems for the rivers Thames and Medway. The fort is about a hundred metres off-shore but is accessible at low tide, it does look pretty cool. In my pre-travel research I also discovered a lot of other forts and castles around the north Kent coast, so planned on a two day excursion to the area. Day one focusing on the Isle of Grain and the Thames estuary and day two the Isle of Sheppey and the River Medway.
But first, I had Oare Gunpowder Works in Faversham to visit. I liked it, just the sort of place that appeals to me, especially in this drizzle and gloom. Lots of overgrown brick work, quicky things, mould and bits broken off. There were a few other people there which was almost a shame as it would have been much better to have been there in complete peace and quiet, alone.
I was relying on Google Maps to guide me around the confusing mess of small roads in and around the Isle of Grain, though it just did not cope with there being a couple of closed roads. My first stop was to be Shornemead Fort. Was to be. Google Maps took me on a four mile loop to get around this closed road, just to put me back right here again. I saw two vans at least three times going in the opposite direction, to me obviously as confused and lost as I was. They were trying to escape, I was trying to get in.
Eventually I managed to get on to the single road that goes to the fort, only to find it fenced off where it appears to go under a railway track. OK. Plan B. Drive to Cliffe Fort and then walk back along the seafront. The road the Cliffe Fort was much easier to find, except it is a private road belonging to an aggregate company that seem to be digging most of this part of Kent. The Fort is on the edge of the Cliffe RSPB reserve and it appears to be a mile long walk to Cliffe Fort. It was raining and later than I wanted to be because of the traffic, the wet roads and the faffing while Google Maps drove me round in circles, plus I was getting hungry having not had lunch and it was now early afternoon.
Next stop. Slough Fort in Allhallows. In a positive turn of events I actually managed to get to the fort this time, sort of. It was closed off the public with a nice high barbed wire fence surrounding it and a locked gate barring access. I am not sure if it is actually open to the public on other days. Maybe the next stop….
The next stop was to be my last one for the day, The Grain Tower Battery, and I knew this would not be fenced off. It is in the sea.
I finally stopped at a convenience store in the town of Grain and grabbed a couple of sandwiches before driving off to find somewhere to park on the seafront as close to the fort as I could get. The worst of the rain had abated, a leaving a fine light drizzle.
There were some friendly horses in the field opposite where I parked my car, next to a stinking factory. I had no idea what they were making way out here but it did smell bad. Not horse bad, chemical bad.
I had timed things right and arrived as the tide was on its way out. The fort is about 100 metres off shore, and there is a clearly defined stone path out to it. Thankfully, that mud was very sticky and mid gumboot deep. I am glad I had the gumboots in the car.
I am not sure what the thing is on the tip of the Isle of Sheppey on other side of the River Medway, though I do attempt to get closer to it tomorrow.
Reaching the fort I soon realised that I would not be going to try to get up and in. There is a rickety old ladder, tied on and together with bits of rope. If I had been with someone else I would have gone in, but I was not prepared to take the risk on my own. One slip, and well when the tide came back in I could be in serious trouble. Next time.
I took a walk around the outside and took a few photos,
then headed back to shore, and the safety of firm land.
I walked along the sea front a bit as I had seen another interesting looking thing from the road, the roadside being heavily fenced off and very deeply buried in bramble. The sea-front side was surrounded by water as. I didn’t bother trying to get in.
I was really pleased to get to the Grain Tower Battery, it was the primary reason for the trip. However, it was a disappointing day, the weather and driving conditions were not fun, the bizarre directions I was given by Google Maps didn’t help with how I felt on the road. That most of my objectives were to be unattainable left me a bit disappointed. I was also a little unhappy with the quality of the photos I got on the small camera.
I stayed in a hotel near the M25. I wanted to spend some time finishing a first draft of the short story I have been working on for weeks, seemingly never getting the time or the right mood to write. Happily though, tonight it all came together. There is a way to go but the story is, I think, coherent and complete.