I’VE DONE my favourite walk at least a dozen times, and it’s never been the same twice, writes Tim Relf.
That’s the thing about marshes: the scenery changes. It changes depending on the time of year and the weather and what stage the tide is at, for marshes are a place in permanent flux.
My walk is along a stretch of the Saxon Shore Way beside the Swale estuary in north Kent. I usually start from the village of Oare, walk round to Conyer and then retrace my steps.
It’s not a particularly long walk – I guess it’s not much more than 10 miles – but in the crowded south-east, where it”s often impossible to get away from the noise and hubbub, this is one place where you can find solitude and tranquility. (There are also a few nice pubs nearby, another essential component of any walk.)
This is an open, desolate landscape. First thing in the morning, or last thing at night – when the landscape is often swathed in mist – it can seem an eerie, mystical place.
Winter is my favourite time of year. Overwintering birds abound, and the nature reserve here is famous for its birdlife – a wetland site of international importance. Birdwatchers may well be the only people you”ll see out here some days, if you see anyone at all.
You can sit on the sea wall – the estuary on one side, farmland on the other – and watch the tide rising slowly. On cold, still days, the water is as flat as a mill pond.
You can look across to Fowley Island (the island of fowl), watch the tide rise, and listen to the dink-dink-dink of yachts” masts.
My favourite time of all is low tide, when the view is of a flat, mudscape, riven with inlets and patches of water. Some people say the smell of the mud at low tide is horrible – but for me, it’s the smell of childhood, of hours and days spent outside walking and fishing in marshes like these along the north Kent coast.