View over the Swale

It’s not often that you get that big sky perspective in this country but a visit to Oare Marshes may just help.  The North Kent marshes are an undiscovered treasure. They make up a large area of low lying land on the banks of the Thames estuary.   I feel rather embarrassed to admit that having lived in South East London for so long, well over 30 years, I have only just discovered them. The combination of wet grassland and mudflats is exactly the type of landscape you think about when you read or watch a film version of  Dickens’ Great Expectations. They provide the perfect habitat  for many varieties of birds as well as providing natural flood protection for London. They have been designated an Environmentally Sensitive Area.

If you turn on to the Harty Ferry Road at the Three Mariners in just less than two miles you come to the Oare Marshes. You will see cattle and sheep grazing on the wet grassland. The marshland is home to many other species of wildlife.  When I visited earlier this month just over 159 different species of birds had been recorded since the beginning of the year.  The latest sightings included the Bearded Reedling, Hobby, Garganey and Cetti’s Warbler.  A common sight on the marshes are the twitchers that walk in groups from one view point to the next burdened by large telescopic lenses.

At the edge of the marshes you come across the Saxon Shore Way which traces the coast as it was in Roman Times.  In this section it hugs the Swale and you have good views over to the other shore and the Isle of Sheppey. Up until the Second World War an on demand ferry was available from Harty over to the Isle of Sheppey. There is no longer a ferry service.  You can walk from Harty Ferry, through Oare and into Faversham.

If you approach the marshes from Oare I would suggest that you make a stop at St Peter’s Church.  Its location, just overlooking Oare Creek, ensures that you get some stunning views.  There are a couple of well positioned benches available so that you can really take in the scenery.  The church dates back to the 13th Century and is beautiful in its simplicity.  The walls are napped flint with a striking clay tiled roof.  It is often open for visitors.

St Pete's Church Oare

The newly commissioned Allan Beckett memorial window is a poignant reminder of Kent’s strategic role in the Second World War.  A mulberry tree is the central feature of the window.  This represents the Mulberry harbours that Alan Beckett helped to design and build.   These were floating harbours towed across the English Channel and assembled on the Normandy coast soon after D Day.  Alan Beckett was a civil engineer and a local yachtsman who lived and  sailed in this area.