Castaway beach – faraway in time

It’s remarkable how a shift in thinking can change your relationship with a place. My decision to collect plastic along Castaway Beach has given me a real spring in my step. The number of castaway plastic items littering this beautiful place is staggering. Doing something about it is uplifting.

Yes, its an effort, an hour walk to the sea, along the creek  and an hour back,

another hour combing the mile or so stretch of sand, seaweed, pebbles and shingle.

But it is a fascinating and ever changing landscape to explore. The beach is situated on the edge of Nagden Marches, behind a concrete sea wall.

Opposite is the beautiful and strange Isle of Sheppey, in centuries past the winter camp of Viklings and invaded by the Dutch in 1667. The sea in-between is half sea, half estuary. It goes out far at low tide leaving a vast mud flat dotted with beautiful tufts of sea grass and wading birds probing for worms, molluscs and othe invertebrates.

So ordinarily, my head is lifted to the sea and sky. But during plastic collection it is turned down. There is a rich array of plastic to be found from large objects to tiny such as childrens drinking straws and plastic bottle caps.

to strange and curious surprises that make you scratch your head

Walking off the beaten track on a beach can also bring you across things you would rather not have seen, like this poor young gannet

But looking down brings you into another world and allows you to see details you would otherwise have walked past, objects that are as beautiful as the sunset, vast blue sea or crashing waves above and in front of you.

Solutions – inside and outside

I was thoroughly enjoying walking the snake of the creek to the sea wall. Years beore I had run along the same path but didn’t notice as much as whilst walking. The sense of space, the huge skies, the peace and wildness allowed me to step outside of the clamour, hassle and brute noise of the built environment. Even the electricity pylons appeared, in this landscape beautiful, like a range of Eiffel Towers ranged across the skyline. I had been told by a twitcher peregrine falcon’s used them as resting and lookout posts.

However, after a few trips I started to notice litter spread confetti like along the beach. it depressed me, I got to griping about humanoids as my brother refers to people. Rather than enjoying the landscape I felt increasingly uneasy about being there.

 

Walking back along the creek I noticed plastic and litter there as well, strewn along the grass and mud. It was beyond sadness, I was astounded that people did nothing about it. How can people enjoy the beauty of this wonderful place and do nothing about this terrible pollution?

I found I was talking about myself. It had never ocurred to me I should do someting about it. Rather I had retreated into bitterness and blame and this was ruining my walks. I began to feel guilty and resisted what I knew to be the right thing to do – pick the bloody stuff up and do something about it. I became miserable. I came out to walk not to be a litter collector. Why me?

Walking on the beach I saw the Brent geese gathering in their thousands, their hollow honking echoing around the bay. I walked back along the creek and saw a marsh harrier wheeling around like a feathered stealth fighter and I started picking up plastic and stuffed it in my bag.

It didn’t require any thinking, just doing and I began to feel better.

 

First Steps

I have been walking down to the sea wall for a number of months.  On gray, leaden cloud days when my heart sinks I force myself out. It takes about 80 minutes from door to sea, it takes 2 minutes for the clouds to lift from my mind. To get there involves walking through Abbey Street through the town, through Standard Quay with its predictable shabby chic antique shops, wine bar and vinyl shop and on through to Iron Wharf. This a boatyard of many years standing dating back to the days when Faversham was an port of some regional significance.

Iron Wharf – for such a place to exist in these cleansed days is extraordinary. It gives shelter to hundreds of boats from a mercifully few sleekish yachts, to rotting hulks and large Thames barges under reconstruction.

Once there was a branch railways that came off the main Faversham to London track down to the wharf, there are still many old freight trucks, all with their own history to tell

A fascinating old lady lives in one of these old carriages. She doesn’t suffer fools gladly myself included.  I made the mistake of saying hello and sharing my observation that it must be a lovely place to live

“It would be if it wasn’t for people who come by and ask damn fool questions”

I love people like this, irrascible outsiders who need no affirmation. They give you a spring in your step, allow you to see it is possible to re-draw the map. Her home is delightful, a small railway freight truck, she has a wood buring stove inside.

I admit to being a little obsessed by her house, outside is always changing, always interesting.

Leaving Iron Wharf you cross over a rickety bridge and as soon as you are over you can feel the wind and space. Wending your way alongside the meandering creek, the sound is of lonesome curlews, startled cries of redshank and oystercatchers.  When the tide is out and the banks are bare it can be a mournful feel but there is real beauty in the contrast between this and the nearby town.

There are many memorable sights such as this pirate galleon that listed sideways. The galleon was moored on Iron Wharf but wanted to avoid mooring fees and drifted downstream. Modern legend, created only weeks ago but as potent as hundred year old myth, has it that the owner hired a digger which ended up in the ooze. Driven mad by his predicament he went to the local pub and started to drink heavily. Enraged by an eighty year old man who objected to the mess his muddy boots had left on the floor he proceeded to beat him savegely and hospitalised him. The galleon owner reportedly fled to France and has not been seen since.  Such are the wonders of these wide open spaces. Not least of which is that, unlike in the town, people stop and say hello and sometimes speak, often of interesting and stimulating things. Once over the bridge onto the marsh people change, their relationship one to the other. It does not happen all the time but much of the time. Why is this? This particular walk is not unique, it happens often once you leave the outskirts of a town- only a few paces outside the pavements it is as if we remember we are of the same family. It is not just greenery, it doesn’t happen in town or city parks. How wonderful this is.

The same landscape changes every day with the light and seasons, my mood changes also but I always return home feeling better than when I left.