Day 72: English Coastal Path

D72: DAGENHAM to DARTFORD

Monday 16th May 2022

Today miles: 22.9 Total Miles: 1147.6

It’s now midweek and what a difference a day makes. I’m walking along the pavement at the side of the A13 and despite only being 7am the traffic is nose to tail. It makes me think about just how lucky I am to live in a rural area and I’m able to walk to work in less then fifteen minutes. After 3 quick but noisy miles I moved off the A13 and onto the A1020 towards North Woolwich and for the second day in a row I happened to chance upon a McDonalds restaurant. On arrival at the Royal Albert Dock an hour later, I decided to walk along the signposted Thames Path (rather then the quicker and shorter road) thinking it might be rather nice. Huge mistake. I walked along the path and on reaching the edge of the Thames I noticed the area is heavily littered with rubbish and more alarmingly there’s hundreds of small nitrous oxide (laughing gas) canisters scattered along the path. As I continued along the Thames Path there’s a plain concrete wall on one side and a high metal fence on the other. This open air cage continues until I’m finally faced with a padlocked gate, which I did manage to work my way around. Minutes later I found that the marina lock is also inaccessible. There’s also a lot of building work going on and it’s caused several of the streets to be fenced off. After a lot of twisting and turning and an equal amount of frustration I managed to make my way onto the Sir Steve Redgrave Bridge crossing the Royal Albert Dock. The frustration quickly evaporated as I watched the low flying aircraft coming in to land at London City airport.

In less then ten minutes I’d finally be at the Northern entrance to the Woolwich foot tunnel, it’s the first opportunity for pedestrians to cross onto the Southern bank of the Thames. The tunnel, designed by engineer Maurice Fitzmaurice was opened in 1912 and is 504mts long. On arrival at the Southern embankment I’m immediately walking past the impressive buildings at Royal Arsenal and it’s notable how the Thames Path on this side of the river is much cleaner and much more pleasant to walk along. Over the next four miles I took several short breaks. The landscape then changed dramatically from rather pretty residential to rather less pretty heavy industry. The first opportunity I had to grab something to eat and drink was when I arrived in Erith, I wandered slightly inland away from the Thames Path to get myself some snacks.

I reached Crayford Ness and the mouth of the River Darent around 1pm and still had plenty of time to reach my hotel in Dartford. There’s a huge flood barrier gate at the mouth of the River Darent but it’s not accessible to pedestrians. I now had a nice four mile walk along the edges of the river. On one occasion I even lay down in the grass and had a nap for an hour. It was nice to have the Queen Elizabeth II bridge in front of me for the next section but it still looked so far away. The walk around Dartford Marsh was uneventful and despite having already walked twenty miles I actually felt pretty fresh. I studied the map and decided to be sensible and leave the path at the last public footpath heading into Dartford. The path was wedged between the sewage works and the power station and I just hoped it was in good order. The path, which is actually a bridleway leads to the corner of the Littlebrook Nature Reserve. It wasn’t very wide and a little overgrown, there’s no way a full grown adult horse could get along that path. Anyway I arrived at my hotel around 5pm and after getting cleaned up I head downstairs to the Brewers Fayre restaurant and enjoyed a proper meal and a single pint of lager.

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