On Sunday the 16th June 7 Nomads led by Matt traveled to Queenborough in Kent to explore the Medway estuary. The weather had been forecast as sunny spells, but was looking ominously grey as we set out from the spit in front of Queenborough yacht club onto the Swale, which separates the Isle of Sheppey from the Kent Mainland. Paddling in waves, albeit small, was a new experience for some of the group, so we took it easy across the Swale pausing at a concrete boat in the centre of the channel, before following the opposite shore in the Medway direction to find the entrance to the creek to the south of Dead Man’s island (seriously).
It didn’t take long to find the creek, looking very muddy indeed, and as we proceed up it Matt explained the island was named for the 300 yellow fever victims who were buried there in the 19th century after their boat was quarantined on its return from foreign shores. Unfortunately the quarantine served for nothing as they all died and now lie on the island.
Graves aside, the creek was very muddy and shallow, as it wasn’t yet high tide and a few hundred yards up we had to take a quick ‘tea break’ to wait for the tide to rise some more. The expected water arrived promptly and we continued to the west end of Dead Man’s island onto the south shore of the Medway proper opposite the Isle of Grain.
Pretty soon we came across several interesting wooden ship wrecks sticking out of the mud with frames, rudder posts and some hull planking intact, so we paddled in and around these taking a look.
Next came the only man made stretch of shore lined with interlocking bricks to protect some sort of electricity pylon, after which we entered the mouth of Stangate Creek into a strong wind with our destination, the old barracks building on Burntwick island visible half a mile away on the far shore.
The wind was kicking up quite a choppy swell, despite Stangate Creek’s short reach, and after quickly checking everyone was OK to make the crossing we set off. The strong side wind made it quite a slog, but after 10 or 15 minutes we were across and admiring a sea bird colony, the derelict barracks building and two gun emplacements built to protect the Medway anti-ship boom in the 19th century.
Sheltered now by Burntwick island we carried on a little further up the Medway to a convenient beach by a rusty iron building and chimney and sought shelter for our traditional Nomad picnic lunch stop (and Tony’s traditional lunchtime sleep). The derelict barracks building’s just visible in the background.
As we ate the tide rose to its full height at around 12.45, completely covering our landing beach, from which we’d removed our kayaks in anticipation of just this. A trip to answer the call of nature found some concealed wildlife in the form of a clutch of seabird chicks, who seemed unbothered by our presence, unlike their mother who drove us away on her return.
Suitably refreshed and inspired by our lunchtime conversation we started back toward Stangate Creek wondering if it would still be as choppy on the way back. The water was noticeably higher and possibly a bit little less choppy because of this, but it still seemed like a long way back across as Matt took the lead and Martyn the tail of the group. At the other side close to the shore again we encountered a weird and tiring combination of wind, current and waves coming round the corner of the creek and were glad to quickly get out of this into the lee of the shoreline.
The shipwrecks from earlier were practically underwater as we passed them again heading east down the Medway to the west end of Deadman’s Island, where this time we turned left for a bit of variety along the north shore of the island to rejoin the Swale. The wind remained quite strong and a light following swell was breaking onto the shore, which was tantalisingly nearly but not quite surfable.
Tired by the wind by now we were glad to turn the corner back into the Swale and get in sight of home. We’d reckoned without the upwind reach of the Swale making its own smaller chop though, which we battled the half mile up and quarter mile across back to the beach at Queenborough. The trip had required a bit of stamina and everyone paddled very well, so well done to everyone having their first experience of wind, waves and salt spray!
Thanks to Britta for her photos.