Following in the footsteps of keen local walker Charles Dickens, we take the England Coast Path/Thames Path from the RSPB Cliffe Pools Nature Reserve, with the Thames estuary on our left and on our right the Cooling marshes, which inspired the 'dark flat wilderness, intersected with dykes and mounds and gates' that pervades Great Expectations. Wetland wildfowl, birds of prey and the odd sheep are likely to be our only companions. At Egypt Bay, we turn inland amid, as one footpath sign has it, 'curlews, convicts, contraband' to pick up the Saxon Shore Way. We head for Cooling churchyard, the setting for the novel's opening scene in which escaped convict Magwitch terrifies young Pip (and, incidentally, Jools Holland got married here). We return via Cliffe.
The car park is just after Aggregate Depot, Salt Lane, on the left.
Please come dressed for sea breezes in the morning and muddy patches in the afternoon!
Please bring a picnic lunch. Refreshments at The Horseshoe and Castle, Cooling (where there are also public conveniences).
Largely flat; slight incline on Saxon Shore Way offers exhilarating panoramic views; muddy farmyard; a few stiles.
Assistance dogs only.