St James Isle Of Grain


THE ISLE OF GRAIN COASTAL PARK

The single road to the Isle of Grain takes you to the final end of the Hoo Peninsula. Its northern coast borders the River Thames, and its southern coast the River Medway. An Island in effective terms, the last three miles of the Hoo Peninsula crossing, saturated wetland marsh which has no other road or footpath connecting to the Peninsula.

Claimed to be one of the most remote settlements in the Southern Counties, it divides the two great rivers at their estuaries to the North Sea. Most people who visit the Island will see the industry first and turn away and go back along the lonely road across the marsh but we say no, please drive on. For here you will see another side, to reveal the true wonders of the Isle of Grain. Drive through this eerie mix of industries and out the other side, and the road settles into a quiet tree lined avenue through fields of rapeseed or corn, to the small village of St James. A little retreat on higher ground and you will have found us. A small compact little community with a church, a Public House, and several busy little shops. Drive down the High Street and past the Church to the car park to the foreshore. Here our new Coastal Park, just past the Church, has the unique ability to offer visitors a choice. Walk along the two miles of shoreline, Cockleshell or sandy beaches, pass by the ancient Forts still standing all used and active during both world wars and if the tide is low use the causeway to see the Tower close up, still encircled with giant chains to anchor the nets which were raised to stop invasion of the Medway by submarines at war. Or you may choose to explore the woodland, leafy covered avenues with tunnels of trees, hopefully lit with dappled sunshine, to come out into open man made scallops of shrub free patches which host a variety of wild flowers and orchids to share with the moths, butterflies and bees. Along these winding paths there is to find hidden clearings and glades. Spread your blanket and sit in the quietness, removed from the hustle and bustle of the Industry in the far distance. Climb up the slopes to the top of the buried but complete Victorian Fort, and there nearly one hundred feet above the sea, a view for miles out across the estuaries to the Isle of Sheppey and the Town of Sheerness, at the start of the river Medway. Look the other way to the distant town of Southend, on the other side of the Estuary. Watch the ships arrive from the deep sea and look to see which River into which they turn.

It is our Foreshore that indicates where the famous painter Turner would have sat, when he sketched what is recognised as the most famous painting in the Country ‘The Fighting Temeraire’ which shows the old man of war which fought alongside Nelson at Trafalgar, being towed by paddle tugs from the Sheerness Docks to be broken up at Rotherhithe in the Thames in 1839. It would have passed behind Grain Tower. Explore the woodland paths amongst the ancient remains of old forts and concrete mats for the guns of war, or maybe, if the tide is low explore the shoreline rocks or search for Samphire to cook at home. If you can come to Grain in the darkness of the New Years Eve, stand still at our waters edge and listen. At midnight when Big Ben strikes its bell you will hear the sound in chorus of ships horns from the ships at rest on their moorings in the Estuary, as their crews salute each other to celebrate the dawn of the new year. All of this out of sight at the start of the lifeline that leads to London, the River Thames.

Michael Dale

(Parish Councillor)