I have done a couple of posts in recent weeks about runs alongside the Thames at low tide – the first upstream from the Thames Barrier and the second around the perimeter of Thamesmead to Erith. A couple of days after the latter I ventured a bit further downstream to the Hoo Peninsula.
My run started inland at the beautiful Grade 1 listed 13th century church of St Helen in Cliffe, on an escarpment overlooking flooded quarries, drained marshes, the Thames and Canvey Island in the far distance.
My run dropped quickly down to the escarpment to the RSPB reserve of Cliffe Ponds in the flooded quarries, there were hundreds of coots, a few grebes and some egrets in the distance. But the highlights were oddly the plants – the berries, grasses and dying thistles all beautifully offset by the deep waters of the reserve.
The grass on the path around the muddy Cliffe Creek was overgrown and heavy with dew as I made a detour towards the Victorian fort guarding the Thames; the fort itself is guarded by the fencing of a gravel extraction site which almost surrounds it. Cliffe Fort it is visible from the badly eroded path at low tide but at other times would need an approach from the western side.
Just to the west of the fort, close to Higham Creek, is the wreck of the Hans Egede, a Danish wooden boat from the 1920s which is being slowly destroyed by the sea – timbers are now scattered over a wide area after a storm shredded the decaying hull in 2013.
After retracing my route along the the Creek, I followed the wall protecting the drained marshes from the Thames towards the last bit of London – Lower Hope Point, the limits of the the Thames Lightermen and later the Port of London Authority. The land behind it has probably changed little since Dickens used the area as the setting for Great Expectations, and out it the Thames, past Lower Hope, it is easy to imagine the prison hulks moored mid channel in cold mists even in the sunny conditions of my early morning run.
Lower Hope Point was my limit too, it was some distance around the estuary until the next obvious path back, so I retraced my steps a while before taking an old quarry road back to Cliffe.