At the top of Church street we turned left past a small cottage which I was assured was once a pub and onto the start of the footpath. The ground was heavily waterlogged from the recent rain and we had walked but a few yards before the path became impassible having turned into a small pond. Alternative routes were sought to the left and the right but here streams were found to block the route. After some deliberation we retreated a short way and entered a field looking for a way round. However after some time spent circumnavigating the field we found our route once again blocked by a stream.
It was felt best to try an alternative path altogether via the church. We retraced our steps through the village, passing a somewhat over excited Alsatian dog whose owner looked on impassively as it barked at us furiously before reaching the level crossing and finally on to the marshes.
We were now not at the beginning of the day’s planned route but rather the end point and so it was felt best to try and rejoin the intended path. We climbed a gate and began traversing a field. Overhead were two sets of impressive pylons and a number of telegraph poles. PH had brought along some stills from Green on the Horizon and attempted to correlate the shots with the landscape before us. Meanwhile PC took out his iPhone which it soon became clear was the only map/navigation device we had.
After some zig-zagging to avoid the more waterlogged parts of the field we found ourselves in the bottom corner close to the original path but with our progress frustrated once again by a stream. This would become a regular pattern throughout the morning, as it would seem that all the fields on the marshes are surrounded by streams or drainage ditches. Each field has one or more gates leading to another similar field. However upon entering the field it is far from clear where the next gate is, if indeed there is one as some fields are effectively islands. On repeated occasions we arrived at the edge of the field within sight of our intended destination but thwarted by yet more water.
This maze like reconnaissance went on for about an hour and a half with much criss-crossing and retracing of steps. We passed through fields of sheep and cattle that looked on bemused at the lack of progress we were making. PH began suggesting that we should perhaps rewind altogether and take the designated footpath. PC ignored this suggestion but began to spend more time peering intently at his iPhone.
From the estuary wall (also known as the Saxon Shore Way) we could see over to Kings North power station, which was pumping out grey smoke into the already leaden sky. Whilst no doubt environmentally unfriendly it was a pleasing sight. A few yards further on we had an encounter with one of the many Shetland ponies that have now inexplicably taken up residence on the marshes. PH attempted to feed the pony some tangerine but the rather mournful animal was not the least bit interested letting the fruit fall to the ground.