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Footage reveals beauty of new trail in the Thames Estuary

13th January 2022

Natural England has released a video including drone footage of a new beautiful path in the Thames Estuary for residents and visitors to enjoy.

The footage gives a bird’s-eye-view of some of the sights along the new path opened today that reaches almost 50-miles along the north Kent coast from the Isle of Grain to Woolwich in East London.

The incredibly varied 47.12-mile (75.85km) trail connects people with the wild reaches of the Thames Estuary which supports a wealth of wildlife and the dynamic working tidal Thames in London. This exciting continuous ‘source to sea’ route is the latest stretch of the ambitious England Costal Path that will become England’s newest National Trail.

Emily Buckley, Lead for Green Spaces at the Thames Estuary Growth Board welcomed the news, commenting:

“I am delighted that Natural England is opening this section of the England Coastal Path in the Thames Estuary between Isle of Grain and Woolwich. At the Board, we strongly believe in making our beautiful natural spaces accessible to people who live and visit here. The mental and physical health benefits and creating a deeper connection to the natural world cannot be overstated. Sustainability is at the heart of our vision for transforming the Thames Estuary, the UK’s best green growth opportunity, and this path fits beautifully with that. I look forward to pulling on my walking boots and trying it for myself.”

Marian Spain, Natural England Chief Executive said:

“The 2,700-mile-long England Coast Path will be the longest coastal walking route in the world as well as England’s newest National Trail. It follows the whole coast, passing through some of our finest coast and countryside as well as iconic seaside towns and places of marine industry, past and present.

“At a time when the benefits of connecting with nature are clearer than ever, it’s fabulous that we are opening up this 47-mile-long section of footpath from the capital to the Kent coast. Easily walkable in all weathers and readily accessible by public transport, it is a wonderful new recreational resource for the hundreds of thousands of people who live nearby, as well as a tourist attraction for those who will come from around the world to walk the whole Path.”

Discover the route video.

This new trail covers a wealth of unique environments. As you set off from Grain on the Hoo Peninsula, you can enjoy views across to Sheerness on the Isle of Sheppey, to Southend-on-Sea, and the confluence of the Medway and Thames.

Surprisingly so close to such an urban area are some of the remotest grazing marshes in the south east. Between Allhallows and Cliffe in Kent, you can walk more than 12 miles (nearly 20km) without passing another coastal village or car park. There are some gorgeous little pocket beaches and extensive mudflats full of wintering wading birds. Along the river, you may also see the occasional grey seal hauled up on one of the many small beaches.

View of Shornemead lighthouse across shallow river on a clear day

Shornemead lighthouse. Credit @Ian Tokelove, remotelondon

In the Thames Estuary, the largest in England, the creeks, extensive mudflats, saltmarsh and grazing marshes support a wealth of wildlife of national and international importance. During the winter months, you’ll see flocks of waterbirds such as avocet, knot and dunlin and the nature reserve at Cliffe Pools in Kent is a popular spot for bird watching.

The Thames Estuary also has a long and rich military and industrial history. You can see forts such as Shornemead, near Gravesend, which were installed to protect London in the 1860s. You pass under the largest pylon in the UK and can look up at the impressive Queen Elizabeth II Bridge, which is the busiest estuarial crossing in Europe.

As you walk beside the Thames, the busiest working port in the UK, the boat traffic provides a fascinating view into this dynamic working river. There are many independently run wharves handling goods arriving by large maritime vessels.

Arriving in Woolwich, there are great views of London’s skyline, the England Coast Path meets the existing Thames Path National Trail. You pass the impressive Thames Barrier, which protects London from flooding, and can walk along the Thames to its source in the Cotswolds. This new stretch of the England Coast Path completes a ‘source to sea’ walking route along the country’s most famous river.

Natural England has worked with a number of partners to develop this trail, especially the four Access Authorities – Kent County Council, Medway Council, London Borough of Bexley and Royal Borough of Greenwich, who have worked on this project from the start and will be taking on management of the path now that it is open.

In 2021, the Thames Estuary Growth Board supported the development of a 107-mile signposted walking and cycling trail tracing the route described by author Tom King, in his book ‘Thames Estuary Trail: A Walk round the End of the World’s published with a new introduction and extended chapters for Estuary 2021 arts festival.

For more information about the Thames Path visit: Thames Path – National Trails where you can also find more information about the Source to sea.

The Countryside Code, updated this year, is the official guide on how to enjoy nature and treat both it, and the people who live and work there, with respect.