Kent Walks

Saxon Shore Way

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Saxon Shore Way

The 153-mile (246 km) Saxon Shore Way from Gravesend to Hastings offers the walker an unrivalled diversity of scenery from the wide expanses of marshland of the Thames and Medway estuaries to the majestic White Cliffs of Dover.  Spectacular panoramic views follow the route along the escarpment of the old sea cliffs from Folkestone to Rye and from the sandstone cliffs of the High Weald at Hastings.

Click to view larger map

The historian is treated to the "Saxon Shore" forts built by the Romans at Reculver, Richborough, Dover and Lympne, to the landing place of St. Augustine and of Caesar and to defences of more modem times against Napoleon and Hitler.

The shoreline provides a treat for the naturalist and is a delight for birdwatchers.  Sections of the route pass through internationally recognised areas of importance for birds - took out for divers and grebes, peregrines at Dover Castle and Bewick Swans wintering on Romney Marsh.

The Saxon Shore Way is a great walk for all interests and all abilities, from family groups to the seasoned rambler.  The map shows the route before it was extended to Hastings.

A History of the Walk

Back in the 1970s there was much talk in footpath circles about the concept of a footpath circling the coast of Great Britain.  It didn't then come to pass, but it spurred a group of enthusiastic volunteers to see what they could do to create a route around the coast of Kent.  It quickly became apparent that the modern coastal route would not provide an ideal or varied walk.  So they cast back some 1500 years and decided upon a route that would follow the Roman shoreline in the third century AD.  The Romans were plagued by Saxon pirates and fortified the shoreline against them.  From that the walk took its name.

Initial work was done by Andrew Gray assisted by Sheila Cameron, working under the auspices of the Kent Rights of Way Council, an organisation which represented many Walking and Rights of Way groups in the County.  When she left, the main coordinators became Andrew Gray and Elsie Straight, who, with the assistance of many volunteers and the limited resources of the KCC, created a 140 mile path around the coast.

On 22 June 1980, His Grace, the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury unveiled a sign stone at the Grove Ferry Picnic Site near Sandwich and then led a fine body of walkers along a stretch of the route, to formally open the route.

Kent Rights of Way Council published, with the help of the KCC and the Countryside Commission, a set of walk cards describing the route.  These were lovingly prepared by Andrew Gray who wrote the text and drew the fine linear maps.  These sold very well and within three years there was talk of the need for a revamped publication.

Mick Whittingham stepped into the breach and agreed to rewrite the guide, so that it formed a series of short circular walks.  The first sections, along Kent's north coast, were published in 1986, but development on Kent's south coast held up work on the final sections.

By 1989 Kent Ramblers had assumed responsibility for the guide and Peter Miller oversaw the production and final distribution of the last sections as far as Ham Street (the walk then finished at Rye).  That guide also sold very well and is no longer available except for a few sheets listed at the top right.

Next came a splendid Recreational Path Guide produced jointly by the Aurum Press and the Ordnance Survey in association with the Kent County Council and covering a route extended to Hastings.  That guide too is no longer available.

For details on ordering publications, see our books page

Ordnance Survey Maps

The whole route is covered by Explorer maps 163, 149, 150, 138, 125 & 124.

Saxon Shore Way Publications

There is no current guide to the entire route but Kent Ramblers produced a guide in ten sections in the 1980s.  The following sections are still available, at their original 1980s prices, but have not been updated and should be used with caution.

Section 1 (50p + 53p postage)

This pack consists of three circular walks:

  • Gravesend to Higham (and back by train)
  • Higham to High Halstow (and back by bus and train)
  • High Halstow to Strood (out by bus)
  • Other Guides

    Kent County Council has produced a new guidebook in 2006.  However, it offered only an overview of the route and eight short circular walks that included parts of the Way.  There was no description of the full route.  The guide is now hard to obtain.

    The Medway Swale Estuary Partnership has produced an on-line guide with full route description for the part of the Way that falls within Medway.

    Links

    Long Distance Walkers Association


    West of Dover

    South Foreland Lighthouse

    Sandwich Bay

    Leaving Faversham towards Oare Marshes

     

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