Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Saxon Shore Way Part I: Hoo to Upnor

Get ready for a bunch of photos and a long blog post (or two). 

Somewhere along the line I picked up a booklet about a walk called "The Saxon Shore Way". I've found that one of the many legs of the walk starts from a village called Hoo to another little village called Upnor, where Julie happens to be working some days. I've been feeling pretty darned adventurous ever since my little adventure at Upnor Castle the other week so I decided I'd try the walk alone and meet Julie upriver in "Upper Upnor" - (sorry if this is confusing). Anyway, I had her drop me at the starting point early in the Hoo Marina. We had a bit of trouble finding the trail, but after talking to a few fisherman and shopkeepers we finally came across the green signs. 

I was a bit surprised when I started out, as the path cut through a very industrial and stingy part of the marina. Despite the location, the greenery was still photo worthy. Not long after I began, I was greeted by a proud Greek man who asked me to take a picture of his boat. He looked as if he'd just docked in from Santorini, and not in the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants sort of way :/ I was a bit creeped out to say the least. Before I escaped the awkward conversation he warned me about a "jungle bit" along the shore and a rising tide. "Great" I said to myself. Not only did I have to worry about a creepy sailor following me into the unknown, I was also going to drown in the tide. Nevertheless, I was determined to reach Upnor. I settled down as I continued down the path until I discovered a very eerie looking dummy (or was it?) inside one of the houseboats (below). I thought to myself, "what next?" 

As I approached a very quiet pebble beach I was shocked by the sight of an ancient sunken ship. The weird thing is, since my walk, I haven't found anything on its history (strange right?). While I was in the presence of the decrepit and waterlogged mystery I felt shivers down my spine, it was like something out of a movie. After snapping all the photos I could, while walking extremely fast in my wellingtons, I spied yet another mystery down the shore, an old fort made of red brick. Unlike most of what I'd seen already, it was expected and explained in my booklet. It all seemed pretty familiar, seeing as there is also a photo of a red bricked structure on Google Maps (here), which I'd seen before pre-adventure. As I approached it however, I noticed what looked like little figurines standing on atop the bricks. I did a double take about four times before realizing what they were - gnomes. 

What the heck. It is everyday that you come across a gnome collection in the middle of nowhere, on a  sparkling boat filled shore, bordering a moss covered wood, and less than a mile away from both a sunken ship and a full blown 15th century castle. It was all too much to take in so I did as I always do in such situations, snap a couple dozen photos for proof. Later on after researching my "gnome find" I found nothing about the ones along the river, but learned a great deal about the legends and history of gnomes (read here). Seeing as one of the most well known legends regards gnomes as "guardians of hidden treasure", I'm determined to go back and poke around. My fear however, is that I should be cursed or taken away by some otherworldly being like Princess Irene in the Princess and the Goblin (1991), or even worst, like the baby in Maurice Sendak's strange children's book Outside Over There. Okay ... maybe I'll take Andrew with me. 

Anyway, continuing my descriptive story of the Saxon Shore Way ... I was nearly to Lower Upnor, a hidden away treasure of an ancient fishing village upriver from the castle. The view of the castle as I approached was breathtaking. There it sat behind the mist and the countless masts. I felt more at ease as I found a spot on a sea wall in the harbor to eat my pack lunch. My mom, who's since told me that I could have been kidnapped, wouldn't have approved of me sitting so high above the mud and seaweed covered shore. Even so, I was feeling adventurous enough to dangle my wellingtons over the edge while I enjoyed the view. I watched as an older man pulled a small boat upon the dock towards the yacht club and admired his apparent love for the sport. 

Time was getting on and Julie was bound to wonder where I'd gone, so I decided to continue despite  my wanting to watch the boats all day. I followed the green signs through the village where I stopped to read a memorial stone and take a photo of a Arethusa, a woman statue with one exposed boob. Before I entered what seemed like a secret stairwell, I stopped to listen to a mixture of dove coos and rustling leaves. I witnessed my first falling leaf as I trekked up the steps in my boots. I realized, shortly after reaching the top of the stairwell, that I was following the back wall of Upnor Castle. Before I knew it, I was at Upnor High Street, minutes away from the castle and from Julie. 

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