Stage 6

Stage 6

Map of stage 6 day 1 day 2 day 3 day 4 day 5 day 6 day 7 day 8
(Click on the map section to jump to the description of the day)

Getting To The Start - Friday, July 9th

As regular readers will know it is a racing certainty that if Roger is travelling and it is early July there can only be one reason - The Walk is about to happen. This year though things are slightly different. He's not driving South down the A1, battling with the juggernauts and the usual ration of incompetents and impatients (many soon to be in patients no doubt), but sitting rather comfortably watching the scenery glide by and letting the train take the strain. I know this sounds like some rail marketing guru's drivel but it was true. On this particular day, and on most days judging by the frequency of the trains between Newcastle and London, the railway is working rather well.

On arrival at Kings Cross I heave my rucksack onto my back and make my way down the platform searching for Brian. Brian's train was due before mine so he should be waiting on the platform. And there he is! Rucksack at the ready, prepared to do battle with the not so rugged coastlines of Essex and Kent.

We cross London by tube to Liverpool Street and wait for our train to Dovercourt. On arrival at Liverpool Street we have about 30 minutes to spare. We take a gentle stroll in the streets around the station. Brian tries to recognise features from his time as a student in London some 25 years ago and fails. We are very impressed by a massive sculpture in the modern style that consists of giant sheets of steel twenty feet or more high, balanced against each other. Apparently they are not joined in any fashion at all; they just lean against one another and lend mutual support. They are not even wedged into holes in the ground. On our return to the station we are both amazed at how free of litter the station is, especially as there are no rubbish bins in sight.

We take our seats for East Anglia. There is something odd about the coach we choose. After about five minutes we work it out - it is a smoker, the only one in the whole train. We move to another coach and get settled in for the second time. At Manningtree we have to change trains and there is time for a cuppa in the station buffet. We do not succumb to the temptation to taste the ale.

At Dovercourt we get down to the serious business of the week. On with knee supports, tighten the laces, out with sun hats and we are off - the adventure is about to start again. We head for the prom and have little difficulty in remembering the features of this little town - a good thing really, as it is only a year since our last visit - and confirms that senility has been postponed a little longer.

Day 1

Day 1 walk map graphic

As we head out of town along the coast we look back at the cranes of Harwich and Felixstowe. We can see two ships approaching and one leaving, reminding us how busy these two ports are. Our train down the branch line to Dovercourt passes the container port for Harwich. On each side of the track there were hundreds, if not thousands, of containers awaiting trans-shipment.

The scenery is fairly dull - chiefly sea marshes and mud flats to our left and some not too inspiring countryside to our right. This is a fairly gentle introduction to the toils of the next week. As we walk we resume our debate as to how we handle Essex. We have been discussing this on & off for a year now and have not resolved the issue. The problem is similar to the one we encountered when negotiating the Wash, only more so. The first twenty miles or so to Clacton-on-Sea are relatively straightforward. The only "obstacle" is Hamford Water - a large inlet of mud flats and low islands. The mouth of Hamford Water is just over a mile wide, but to reach Walton-on-the-Naze one has to go round adding 8 miles or more. At Walton one has to decide whether to walk round the Naze, a 2/3 mile long nose shaped promontory jutting out to the North of Walton.

Just past St Osyth, South of Clacton, things start to get difficult. First one has to cross the River Colne. To do this one has to go upstream 8 miles or so to Colchester, avoiding several creeks on the way. Things do not improve on the West Bank of the Colne. One could follow the riverbank and detour round yet more creeks to reach the next major hurdle - The River Blackwater. Again it is upstream, this time to Maldon to get across the river. This too has some not so little creeks and inlets that have to be negotiated. Once at Maldon one has to return 10 miles or so to reach the coast. After a further 7 or 8 miles one's progress towards Foulness Island is blocked by the River Crouch. Once again 10 miles or more have to be walked to the lowest bridging point at South Woodham Ferrers. So Maldon to South Woodham Ferrers via the coast is nigh on 30 miles, cross-country it is little more than six! All in all it would make more sense to walk direct from Colchester to Woodham, but there are few footpaths. The thought of mile after mile on the road is not appealing.

Of course Essex has not finished with the determined coast walker yet. After the Crouch the River Roach hinders ones progress. Although not on the same scale as the Blackwater and the Crouch, it is a river too far. Brian and I have calculated that we could spend the best part of a week going from Clacton to Southend, little more than 20 miles as the crow flies.

After that things do not improve much. Shortly after Southend one reaches industrial Thames-side, with its grim marshes and the huge oil refineries at Canvey, Coryton and Thameshaven. This brings one to Tilbury and the ferry to Gravesend - the lowest, and our chosen, Thames crossing.

Our debate centres on how we negotiate this part of England. I am typically impatient and see no joy in spending days walking round the rivers. I want to walk to Colchester and then use public transport to get to Tilbury as quickly as possible. Brian, more in tune with the ethos of our walk, feels we should do more walking. Deep down I know he is right but .....

As we head off in the warm late afternoon sun we fail to resolve the debate. As with so much of our walk we tacitly decide to make it up as we go - a very pleasant and relatively stress free way of progressing that has served us well in the past. We have decided not to walk round the Naze.

As for today we have to leave the coast after 4 miles or so and head for Little Oakey. Enquiries made when booking our digs in Great Oakey revealed that the only food available in the two villages is at the Cherry Tree in Little Oakey. We are therefore forced by circumstances to visit the pub. We arrive shortly after 6pm but the chef doesn't start till 7. We shall have to wait. We stoically put up with the inconvenience, and in an attempt to relieve our disappointment we sample a rather good selection of ales. After a pleasant meal and some good conversation with other clients we leave along a country path for Great Oakey and our digs. We are ready to settle down for the evening but our hosts seem reluctant to let us away to our room. After some gentle chat we are finally able to go up, get showered and plot the following morning's progress. As I unpack my rucksack I realise that my sun hat is missing. I had it earlier that evening and conclude I must have left it at the pub. A good start to the week.

Day 2 - Saturday, July 10th

Day 2 walk map graphic Photograph

The day dawns fair and if we are any judges of weather it will be hot today. Our breakfast is good, and our hosts regale us with stories of the local water board and Horsey Island - a local beauty spot. Amazingly my hat has returned. Having spent a night enjoying itself at the pub it must have sneaked in during the night and hidden itself away in a little used pocket in my rucksack. We ask to fill our water bottles and our hosts insist we use the filtered water rather than the ordinary tap water. If I lived locally I think I might be a little concerned to know that a retired water worker drinks nothing but filtered water.

We set off through Great Oakey and miss the turning that would have meant less road walking. We do not lose any time or distance as we are able to join the footpath a few hundred yards further on. The path takes us cross-country to the coast at Beaumont Quay. It is only 9.30am and is already very hot.

The walking is fairly easy apart from one field where a crop of peas has been planted close to the path. At Beaumont Quay we see a boat gently rotting in the creek and the remains of a quay. Once again we are walking on the earth embankment of the sea defences. To our right the land is low-lying and relatively flat. To our left we see the mud flats and the small islands between Hamford Water and Walton Channel. The largest, Horsey Island, can only be reached by causeway at low tide.

Initially the progress is easy, but after White House the going gets tough as the path is overgrown. The vegetation pulls at our feet and legs. Fortunately things get better after about two miles. All very tiring, especially as our weather prediction has proved to be deadly accurate - it is very hot!! Roger falls asleep at one of our stops and Brian insists I said "milk and no sugar" when woken!

Opposite Horsey Island we walk inland to Kirby-le-Soken so we can join the road to Walton. We could continue around the coast a little further but we feel we do not have the time if we are to reach Clacton today. We still have not resolved what to do with Essex, but little do we know that the decision is being made for us.

We stop at the village pub for an orange squash - much needed after a morning in the sun. We follow the road into Walton-on-the-Naze. Brian's feet begin to hurt. Although we are walking on the pavement, one car driver, with a brain somewhat smaller than the average pea, manages to catch Brian's arm with his wing mirror.

The next three/four hours are spent following the coast down to Clacton. Apart from a couple of miles between Frinton and Holland-on-Sea we are walking on promenades or manicured links. This stretch gives us our first real sea views of the day. After Frinton our progress is quite slow. The sun is still hammering down and Brian's feet are giving him more and more trouble.

We arrive at Clacton at about 6.00pm. We are both hot and tired and ready to settle down for the night. None of the guesthouses near the town centre have any vacancies. We go to a taxi office and borrow their yellow pages - still no success. One of the cabbies tells us the pub over the road has rooms. The pub is large and has definitely seen better days. Saturday night is Karaoke night and there is a private party in one of the function rooms. Whilst there may be better accommodation elsewhere it is now 7.00pm and we have had enough. As soon as we are settled in our room Brian assesses the damage to his feet. There are large blisters on the heel and ball of both feet. The pain is intense whenever Brian stands up and going out for our supper is agony for him. On our return to the pub Brian expresses real concern about his ability to continue the walk. The Karaoke and party do not interrupt our sleep - we are well in the land of nod.

Day 3 - Sunday, July 11th

Day 3 walk map graphic

Brian's feet have decided how we are to tackle Essex. They didn't exactly say "Hey lads we don't fancy all that walking to go 20 miles along the coast". But they made their point of view perfectly clear by shouting and screaming every time Brian put any weight on them. Rather than call it a day so early Brian searches out for some insoles for his boots and wants to see what is possible. This year, more than previous years, he needs this walk.

The decision is to give them a gentle try out and as much rest as possible. We plan to get the train to Southend, but will spend the morning strolling (or hobbling) to Jaywick about 2 miles down the coast. Normally this would be a pleasant relaxing walk, especially as we will not be carrying our packs. Unfortunately it is anything but pleasant for Brian despite the warm summer sunshine.

We get the bus back to Clacton and are treated to a tour of the housing estates of Jaywick and Clacton. We both enjoy the train ride to Southend. Brian takes a trip down memory lane as we pass Southend Airport - it was never this big. As we stroll/hobble through the town looking for digs Brian tries to recall the town from his visits as a student. Much has changed in the intervening years. After we are settled in our digs Brian feels that he can try a little more walking, especially if we leave the packs behind.

Day 3 walk map graphic part 2

We take the bus to Shoeburyness about 4 miles to the North and walk back along the sea front. It is a glorious summer afternoon ands there are lots of people out enjoying the sun. During the bus ride to Shoeburyness we kept a weather eye open for likely watering holes to call in on the way back. Somehow they appear to be fewer and further apart when walking back. On arrival in Southend we have good old-fashioned meat and two veg evening meal in a typical seaside town restaurant. It was excellent value.

During the evening we have more debate on the state of Brian's feet. The two walks without packs have been tough for Brian, and his feet are still painful. Rest has helped but maybe not enough. After much poring over maps a decision is reached. Brian is reluctant to abandon the walk, but his feet are in a bad way.

Brian wants to see what his feet are like in the morning, do a little walking and then use public transport to by-pass industrial Thames-side. We will walk towards Leigh on Sea to the West of Southend and see how far we, or rather Brian's feet, will take us. When we reach Leigh we will call it a day and catch the train to Tilbury and the ferry to Gravesend. There are stations every 1 - 2 miles between Southend and Leigh so if things get too bad we will be able to cut our losses and take the train a little earlier. At Gravesend, rather than walk through industrial Kent, we will take the train to Faversham. In this way we will be able to walk about 4/5 miles and so give Brian a chance to assess his feet, but also there will be plenty of opportunity to rest them.

Day 4 - Monday, July 12th

Day 4 walk map graphic

Another hot day. Brian surprises himself and me by walking to Leigh. We can clearly see the North Kent coast across the Thames estuary as we make our way along the prom, only a few feet above the water line. There is a fair amount of shipping in the river heading for Tilbury or the oil refineries further up the Thames; or heading into the Kent ports of Sheerness and the Isle of Grain just about opposite us.

The Port of London boundary stone at Chalkwell
The Port of London boundary
stone at Chalkwell

At Chalkwell we pass a marker in the river. Closer investigation reveals it is a boundary stone marking the limit of the Port of London Authority's powers.

We also spy a flotilla of small boats heading out to sea. They look no bigger than the small cabin cruisers one sees on the rivers and canals. The walking has been very urban and typical turn of the century English seaside. On the approach to Leigh the railway comes close to the sea, (or should we call it river?) and the architecture changes. We are passing through Old Leigh and the buildings are much older. It all makes for a pleasant change. We pass a row of sheds devoted to the shellfish industry. They are quiet now but no doubt they will be hives of activity when the small boats return.

Our onward journey to Faversham reveals just what public transport can be like. The train to Tilbury is punctual and within 10 minutes of our arrival at Tilbury a bus comes to take us to the ferry terminal. The trip over the Thames is quite interesting and as we leave the quay we see the defunct and quietly decaying London International Cruise Terminal. We can still see the platform that was used by the boat trains bringing the travellers of the pre-package holiday era.

On the Gravesend side we walk through the bustling town, buy some excellent sandwiches on our way to the station. Our train arrives on time and we are off, change at Rochester, a five minute wait for our connection and before long we are in Faversham - no fuss - no bother. In fact all the trains we have used (and will use during the week) provide us with a very good service.

At Faversham we find digs via the information office. The two middle aged ladies of middle England seemed more intent on scoring points off each other than helping us. Despite their interchanges they know their accommodation. Their recommendation is first class and we find ourselves billeted with Leslie Jameson. She knows one of the ladies at the information office and her opinion of her is quite forthright and accurate. Lesley is a woman of mature years and a bubbly vibrant personality. She has recently returned from working for a charity in Vietnam. She went out to do a specific role and ended up doing just about everything.

Brian's feet are now feeling the strain but Brian feels that if we have a day of rest they may recover sufficiently to do some serious walking. We decide to stay an extra night and we will try to do some walking on the day after.

A Day Off - Tuesday, July 13th

The day starts with something of a setback which resolves itself almost immediately. At breakfast we enquire as to the location of the local launderette. Leslie tells us there is no laundrette. This is a blow as doing the laundry is ideal for Brian - no walking involved. However the wonderful Leslie says she will do it for us! As a result we have a very lazy day. The morning is spent strolling and hobbling through Faversham and catching up an a little reading in the library. Lunch has a very continental air as we sit in the sun at a pavement cafe. During the afternoon Brian returned to the digs to get the weight of his feet while I stroll some more round Faversham. In the evening we have a super meal in the pub. Brian is feeling somewhat better this evening and we will be walking in the morning.

Faversham is dominated by the Shepherd Neame brewery. There must be a score or more pubs in the town centre and nearly all of them advertise the local beer. In the past there were more as we see two or three old pubs in the centre of town which have been converted to other uses.

Day 5 - Wednesday, July 14th

Day 5 walk map graphic

Today is the day of decision. Brian's feet are better but still very tender. How he copes with the walk today will decide our actions for the rest of the week. We are committed to at least 5 miles once we leave Faversham, as we will be out in the country until we reach Seasalter just outside Whitstable, but our first target is Whitstable via the Saxon Shore Way. This long distance path starts at Gravesend and will be our companion for some distance. It leaves Faversham along the river towards Nagdon Marshes.

The path is reasonably sign posted out of Faversham, but we have some concern when we reach a small boat repair yard which blocks our path about a mile out of town. The local postman doesn't know where the path goes, but a worker in the yard tells us the path goes straight through. At various points we see evidence of Faversham's long defunct connections with the maritime trade.

At Nagdon we follow a path across the fields to the coast and so miss a big bend in the river. The day is just right for walking, it is cooler and we have good views across to the Isle of Sheppey and inland. In the middle distance we see a farmer working his fields, and further away the main road and railway are clearly visible. The walking is easy as well and we make steady progress just inside the sea wall.

At Seasalter we have a welcome cuppa and Brian is feeling more confident about his feet. We reach Whitstable at about 2.30 and we are both ready for a drink and a rest. We spy a likely looking pub on the sea wall near the harbour. It is closed! As we sit on the wall recovering from the shock another group arrive and are as disappointed as we were when we tell them it is closed.

Whitstable, like Morpeth in Northumberland, shows signs of a mediaeval street plan. There is one long main street where the buildings have narrow frontages and long rear gardens. There are many side passages linking the main street with the foreshore. We find the tourist information office and learn that there is not much accommodation between Whitstable and Herne Bay about four miles away. One piece of good news is that Brian feels his feet will last to Herne Bay.

Working on the sea defences at Tankerton
Working on the sea defences at Tankerton

We set off down the main street and back to the foreshore. We pass a very industrial harbour area. At Tankerton we watch a barge building up the beach defences. The barge is massive with a huge pile of sand and gravel at one end and a JCB taking great scoopfuls and dropping them over the side. A tug cuddles up close to make sure the barge doesn't move. The landscape is totally urban all the way to Herne Bay with few gaps in the houses.

We are very surprised at the lack of accommodation in Herne Bay. We learn later that Herne Bay caters mainly for the day trip market rather than the week away people. Eventually we settle on a hotel on the sea front. Our room is very comfortable and has a sea view, but is more expensive than usual at £20 pp. Brian's feet are painful but have stood up well to the day's efforts. We have gone further than either of us had dared to believe. The day's rest at Faversham and some insoles for the boots have worked.

Day 6 - Thursday, July 15th

Day 6 walk map graphic Photograph Photograph

We set out for Margate and are still following the Saxon Shore way. We can see a tall building on the horizon. We had noticed it the day before but could not work out where it was. We ask a local who tells us it is in Southend. We can also see lines of ships in the distance - parked up for what reason we know not.

There is some open country between Herne Bay and Birchington, the first of the five "towns" that comprise Margate. The land rises on the outskirts of Herne Bay and we have a taste of the countryside. This bit of high ground makes a very welcome change as we have been walking at sea level nearly all week. We take a rest on the hilltop and admire the views out to sea and inland. This bit of "mountaineering" is soon over as we drop down to sea level past the ruins of St Mary's Church at Reculver, a very small collection of buildings that hardly warrants being graced with a name. The Saxon Shore Way turns inland at Reculver and follows the line of the coast as it was in Saxon times when the Isle of Thanet was an island. Our path is along the Wantsum Walk for the remainder of day as we head off along the concrete sea wall towards Birchington.

Today has been another hot day, but thankfully not as hot as the last four days. As we pass Margate Hook, a sandbank about two miles out to sea, we see our barge from the previous day picking up a load of aggregate for the beach at Tankerton.

Cliffs appear at Birchington and we walk on top rather than along the promenade at the bottom. The scenery is relentlessly urban however as we pass row upon row of large Victorian and Edwardian houses. We can now see 12 ships parked up waiting for something or someone. Beyond them there is a steady stream of traffic heading to & from the Dover Straits.

Our progress to Margate via Westgate-on-Sea and Westbrook is interspersed by a running commentary as Brian reminisces about family holidays of 30 years and more ago. We also recall our holiday with John and Graham as 16 year olds. It was a first holiday sans parents for all of us - although Brian's Mum & Dad were in town.

During the day Brian has had a wonderful idea. We should stay two nights in Margate. On Friday we can set off in the general direction of away and get the train back to Margate from Ramsgate or Sandwich or wherever we decide to stop. This will enable us to have the luxury of carrying just the day's provisions instead of full packs.

It is about four PM when we arrive in the centre of Margate. We are both looking for somewhere "nice" to stay at. Brian is keen to stay fairly near the centre because he wishes to be close to Dreamland - the town's funfair and the focus of many of our memories. Also staying near the centre means we will be close to the station - which appeals to both of us. Unfortunately we are both tired and our judgement is clouded. The place we select is, on the face of it, a suitable resting-place. It is near the station and the central area, the room had an en-suite shower, and whilst it had slipped a bit from its prime it seemed satisfactory. Only later did we realise that it had not slipped a little, but it had plummeted from its glory days to a rather tatty & seedy present.

The shower only gave cold/luke warm water. No hot water in the tap, tea & coffee were available on the landing below - but only dirty mugs and sugar lumped by the drippings of tea & coffee. We could have left and although we discussed this option we didn't bother.

Brian's feet again stood up well in to the day's efforts but were still tender. Brian likened their condition to be only marginally worse than he would have expected at this stage in previous walks. We spend the evening looking for somewhere to eat and re-visiting the ghosts of our school day holiday. We find the street where our digs were, but we cannot find the guesthouse we stayed in. Dreamland, the fun fair, has changed but is still one of the larger ones in the country. The roller coaster is still very big but doesn't seem as intimidating now.

We get the impression that the town has gone down hill since our visit - it is all a bit seedy and frayed at the edges. On the way back to our tip we are assailed by a strong smell of seaweed - the beach is covered in tons of the stuff.

Day 7 - Friday, July 16th

Day 7 walk map graphic Photograph Photograph Photograph Photograph

We set out for Ramsgate along the promenade past Cliftonville. Some of the boats that have been swinging round their anchors for the last two days have moved off. We both speculate why they were waiting and where they had gone, but our ideas became sillier and sillier. We see lorries collecting the tons of seaweed from the beach. It is easy walking on the prom and after a while we decide to walk on the top of the cliff rather than at sea level.

Our progress is uneventful on flat land. We are never far from houses all morning. The only bit of excitement in this morning session was just before the North Foreland where there was a bit of a climb between Kingsgate and Joss Bays. We have to resort to the road for a few hundred yards between them because someone has built a big hotel on the cliff. We pass North Foreland lighthouse on our right. This is rather strange as the sea is on our left. The builder must have had a strong mercenary streak and worked out that a good way to build a light 100 feet in the sky is to start building it on top of an 80 foot hill, even if it is some two hundred yards inland.

As we enter Broadstairs we pass some very expensive & exclusive houses - one even has a sign indicating the tradesman's entrance. Broadstairs is a lovely town full of Dickensian connections. The town is a complete contrast to Margate looking as chic and affluent as Margate is down at heel. We stop for an orange squash, which at 20p a pint is the cheapest ever!

Roger at Dumpton
Roger at Dumpton

We continue to make steady progress past Dumpton Gap. There is a lovely little beach here and we stop for a well-earned cuppa. As we approach the harbour at Ramsgate we see the Sally Line ferry leave for Dunkirk. At the foot of the cliffs on the West side of Ramsgate there is some major engineering work underway as they build a new approach road to the harbour.

On the outskirts of Ramsgate we see the large sweep of Pegwell Bay and, at the far end, our destination for the day - Sandwich. There is another short section of relatively open country between the two towns. At Cliffs End there is a replica Viking longship on display, complete with shields and oars and dragon's head. A little further on we pass a large overgrown concrete apron close to the high water mark. We think it is all that remains of the first commercial cross channel hoverport.

Viking ship at Pegwell bay
Viking ship at Pegwell bay

Our route takes us through Pegwell Bay Country Park. Even here mans urban urge is not far away as the looming presence of the closed Ebbsfleet Power Station towers above the park. There are several paths through the park all clearly laid out but their destinations are not so clear. The information board in the car park states that one of them leads to the power station - which is good news as that is on our route. Unfortunately the path markers through the park don't say which one.

By following paths that head in the general direction of the power station we eventually get fairly close. Between the power station and us is the main road; a fence and a line of bushes and plants which Brian recognise to be water loving. We cannot see a ditch because of the dense undergrowth but even I can recognise a willow tree. We press on in some trepidation; the thought of walking back a mile and half to the car park is too much to bear. We dislike doubling back at the best of times, but this is not the best of times. Ideally we would like to get the 16.30 train from Sandwich to Margate and time is getting on, but we don't know how fast. Brian's watch stopped as we entered the Country Park and mine got left behind in Clacton. By trusting to luck and driven by the blind faith, so typical of the British, that everything will turn out right we relatively quickly find a route through to the main road and come out opposite the power station.

The next couple of miles into Sandwich are not very pleasant. We have to walk along the main road, past the power station on our right. As soon as the vista opens up on that side to reveal some countryside the high hedges on our left are replaced by fences and factories. The roar of the traffic passing us at close quarters accompanies all this. Fortunately the verges are wide which takes a good deal of the stress away if not the buffeting from the big lorries. As we approach Sandwich we pass the largest car graveyard either of us has seen. The cars are stacked 3 or 4 high for acres.

The main road bypasses Sandwich but we still have to walk along a road into town. We walk past the huge Pfizer pharmaceutical factory, which must be the largest employer for miles around. An ancient bridge and the old town walls greet us on arrival at Sandwich. As we walk through the town we are struck by how quaint it appears. As we make our way to the station The Saxon Shore Way crosses our path on its way back to the to the coast. In the event we are in plenty of time for our train.

Our last day of walk supper in Margate turns out to be a grand experience. We eat in a very good Italian restaurant opposite the tourist information office. It is Friday night and there are only two other diners. We are surprised. The food was excellent. The staff attentive and willing to chat - they had plenty of time as during the whole evening (we left about 10.00pm) there were only eight customers. In Leeds or Whitley Bay he would have been turning people away. Brian was so concerned that he suggested, more than once, that they should up sticks and move North!

Our host explained how Margate had declined. When package holidays became ever more popular through the 70's and 80's Margate took the easy option of quick money. Many establishments took in Social Security Bed & Breakfast "guests". This undoubtedly kept some of the guesthouses in business but these clients don't have money to spend in the shops. This short sightedness has now been recognised but the damage has been done. There are attempts to revive the town but our host thinks it will take some time. At the end of a very convivial evening we return to our digs via the pub and sea front.

Day 8 - Time to go Home - Saturday, July 17th

The next day we pack up and prepare to go home. We need vittles for the journey and dump our traps in the left luggage lockers while we trek across town to the sandwich shop. We just about prove that you can get a pint into a quart pot by cramming our rucksacks into a locker that was not made for two. On the way back to the station we see a small crowd gathered around some mini grandstands we saw being constructed the previous day. It is the UK beach Volleyball championship. We watch for a few minutes before returning to the station and boarding our train to London and all points North.

On arrival at Victoria we decide to walk across town to Kings Cross. We pass both Westminster Cathedral and Westminster Abbey. As we approached the Abbey I expressed a wish to visit. The length of the queues soon dissuaded me. Two out of three people appear to be tourists and the Abbey is not the only crowded place. The Houses of Parliament also have thousands milling around outside. We carried on along Whitehall to Trafalgar Square and had our lunch in St James Park. Our progress up Tottenham Court Road was impeded once more by the large crowds of tourists. We reached Kings Cross in good time for our trains. We had a last pint of orange squash which was nearly £pound;2 a glass!

This year's walk has been very different to previous years. So much of it has been through urban environments. In previous years we have walked through towns big and small, but nothing to compare with Walton to Jaywick; Shoeburyness to Leigh; and Seasalter to Ramsgate/Pegwell Bay. Such urban walking is not as pleasant as walking through the countryside where there is an enhanced sense of peace and getting away from it all. Another difference this year was the absence of beach walking. I don't recall us stepping onto a beach in one of the 70 miles of this year's walk, except for the 5 yards or so to reach the cafe at Dumpton Gap. Beach walking can be a real pain, but somehow I missed it.

My journey home was un-eventful until leaving the Metro station at Tynemouth. The old rucksack gave a slight creak and groan as I hauled it onto my back for the last few hundred yards home. It sounded a little bit like I felt. As I stepped off the footbridge there was a loud creak and a sudden lurch as the strap broke! Still it could have been worse we could have been in the depth of the country.