As the weather was glorious (again for a change) last Sunday we decided to go for a walk and stop by the River for a picnic.
We started our walk in Mark Lane, Gravesend following the disused Thames & Medway Canal (about which I will write another post one day when time permits!) for about a mile.
The canal is quite overgrown but is a haven for all sorts of wildlife nowadays including voles and a good spot for birdwatchers, even though the main rail line from Gravesend to the Medway towns runs along the opposite bank.
As you walk along you will pass the National Sea Training College where many thousands of British merchant navy seafarers have learned their trade over the years. It was good to see the Red Duster (merchant navy ensign) flying proudly over the building.
A little further along, resembling Fort Knox, is the Metropolitan Police Specialist Training Centre which opened in 2003. The site covers an area of 38 hectares and looks like a mini city. It has been fitted out with various mock street layouts including houses, flats, shops, a bank, a pub, a night club, a football stadium, an underground station and even a train and an aircraft.
Officers from the Met receive fire arms and public order management training. My office is very close by and we usually refer to it as "playing cowboys & indians" judging from the noise of gunfire and explosions coming from their direction!
Just past the training centre we took a turn off to the left by a large pylon and headed towards the river bank for our picnic. We got there just in time to see a container ship called the Maersk Jeddah making her way up to Tilbury Docks.
Ships change pilots at Gravesend for the trip into Tilbury and also pick up their tugs if required. From the top of the bank, which forms part of the Saxon Shore Way, looking down river you get an excellent view out across the marshes towards the estuary.
The view upriver is unfrotunately not quite so easy on the eye - Tilbury Power Station over in Essex and the various jetties and boatyards on the Kent side.
As we had little man in tow and his legs were beginning to ache (mainly due to chasing his football rather than too much walking....), we decided to follow the Saxon Shore Way back towards Gravesend.
As you head up river after approximately a mile you will come to a pub called the Ship & Lobster which is well over two hundred years old and is known and the first and last pub (on the River Thames.)
It is well worth calling in for a drink or two and, if you find yourself in the area one weekday lunchtime, taking advantage of the very reasonably priced menu. The pub has a colourful history which I will relate in another future post. If you pass the pub you will find yourself back in Mark Lane at the start of the canal.