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The Kentish Thames 1- Dartford to Greenhithe

Summary

Wild riverside ramble by the banks of the Darent and the Thames, featuring stunning views of the Dartford river crossing.

Distance, Terrain and Time

7 miles, 11 kilometres, level, walking time 2.5 hours

GPX file

Introduction

This is Kent, but not the garden of England.  It is the Thames, but not the picturesque Thames of Oxford or the familiar London river.  This is a walk through the edge lands, where everything is in a state of flux, where the normal rules do not apply and the land is constantly under threat of being overwhelmed by the river or the Thames Gateway project to warehouse the poor, or both; where human endeavours, great and marginal, crop up quickly, flourish and decay, leaving only remains; where the desolate heathland, which once covered much of England, still remains.  This is the wild, wide, working Thames, frightening in its potential power.

Obstacles

This can be a lonely walk. Enjoy this if you like it.  Take a friend if not.

Start and finish points

Start Dartford Station TQ543744. Finish Greenhithe Station TQ585748

Getting there

Train or bus to Dartford Station (buses arrive slightly to the south of the station)

This series of walks form a link between the Thames path, which is now extended to the mouth of the Darent, and the Saxon Shore Way.  There is no bridge over the Darent north of the A206 Dartford By-pass. The best way for through walkers may be to walk down the west bank of the Darent and then alongside the river Cray. A kilometre of main road walking then follows until you can join this walk at point 2.  Alternatively head inland to Slade Green station and get a train to Dartford.

For an entirely surreal experience the walk can be combined with a visit to the Bluewater shopping experience.  Buses run between both Dartford and Greenhithe to Bluewater.

Date researched

15/10/12

Maps

Explorer series number 162 Landranger series 177

Refreshments

Shops and Cafes in Dartford, Asda shop and café on route at Greenhithe, 2 pubs off route in Greenhithe.

Public toilets

none

Route instructions

The route starts at Dartford station.

It was on the London platform of this station that Mick Jagger met Kieth Richards again.  They had previously known each other at infants school in Dartford, but had lost touch. They found that they had a mutual love of blues music and went on to form the Rolling Stones.

The exit is on the south side of the station.  At the time the route was being researched the station was being rebuilt.  The exit was at the south east side of the station.  From this exit walkers should turn left on the road and then left again to cross the river Darent on a wooden footbridge.  The completed terminal building may be the other side of the road but you should still exit the terminal going east (to the left as you face away from the tracks)

On the bridge over the river you will find signs for the Darent Valley Walk which lead you straight ahead through a car park and then left on a road that passes under the railway.  At the end of this road turn right across a busy road and then left almost immediately, down a road through an industrial estate.

1)Take the first ungated turning on the left.  This looks a bit like an entrance to an industrial unit, but if you continue you emerge again on the banks of the Darent.  Turn right immediately before crossing the river.  You have re-joined the Darent Valley Walk, which you will follow to the Thames. Up to the A206 your route is right beside the river.

2)When you reach the A206 the legal right of way goes across the road, but unless the river is very high it is better to follow the river under the bridge.  From now to the Thames the route runs on top of the flood defences, so twists and turns, but the way is clear and waymarked.  This area is called Dartford Marshes

3) On reaching the Thames you are forced to turn right.  A splendid vista opens up.  On your left is the awesome Thames and ahead of you the Queen Elizabeth Bridge, a mighty piece of architecture. If you have had enough a track just after point 3 leads back to point 1 (Further up it can be heavily used by lorries)  But if you want to continue, walk along the top of the flood defences.  The right of way runs on the nearest one to the river, but you may get better views from the more southerly defence, which is a little higher.

A narrow path leads between the Thames and the semi derilect Littlebrook power station.  Notice the injunctions to potential demonstrators on the wall.  These are the result of protests at a nearby power station against continued use of coal for power.  Littlebrook was never threatened.  Across the river you may see ships manoeuvring at the container dock to the west of the bridge.

Go under the bridge and continue along the river until your way is blocked by industry. (4)Follow the path to the right.  This brings you out to the road.  Turn left and walk  for about 20 metres.  Do not attempt to cross the forecourt of the Asda petrol station, but instead turn left, down a sunken path which runs alongside the petrol station and then behind Asda.  Emerge into a new housing estate and keep straight ahead.  You arrive at a square. Turn right here.  You can see the pedestrian entrance to the Asda café and supermarket here.

Leave the square by the exit road and turn right at the junction with the main road (The pubs of Greenhithe are off to the left).  Walk ahead to the large roundabout and then left up a hill to Greenhithe station.  Buses to Dartford and Gravesend also depart from the station.

© Copyright Chris Smith