Swale Ale Walk 7
A Sheppey Stroll
This island walk starts at Sheerness Railway Station and then follows the coast to visit the Ship on Shore, The Napier and though to Blue Town to The Red Lion.
This circular walk consists takes around one hour. The walk mainly follows the sea front, Marine Parade and though the town centre to reach Blue Town.
Starting at Sheerness Railway Station you should cross at the pedestrian crossing and head towards the beach with the McDonalds and supermarket development on your left. As you follow the path you will see the trappings of an old seaside resort with amusement park and arcade developments, which were still open even though our visit was in the middle of winter with snow and ice on the ground. After around 4 minutes you reach some concrete steps that take you up over the imposing sea wall and deposit you on the main promenade. Looking directly out to sea it is possible to see Essex in the background with the masts of the USS Richard Montgomery which ran aground on 20th August 1944 and became stuck on the sand bank.
USS Richard Montgomery was an American Liberty ship built during World War II, one of the 2,710 used to carry cargo during the war. The ship was wrecked off the Nore in the Thames Estuary in 1944 with around 1,400 tons of explosives on board, which continue to be a hazard to the area. You should turn right at the bottom of the steps and follow the promenade with the beach on your left.
After approximately 6 minutes the path will split. Turn left and down a few steps and then turn right across the shingle beach. Alternatively you can turn right and walk over the sea wall. Either way you will re-join the main promenade in approximately 2 minutes. After a short walk you will come to a bend in the large sea wall and a set of steps. Looking over this wall you will be greeted with an aerial view of The Ship on Shore and its historic Grade II listed Grotto made from a mixture of cement barrels, rocks and stone. Information on the walls of the pub and a leaflet supplied by the landlord suggest that the Grotto was built from cement barrels salvaged from a small ship called the 'Lucky Escape' when she floundered during heavy seas.
This long one barred pub has a games area to the left and a conservatory to the right serving simple pub meals. On our visit they were serving one real ale from a changing list, which was dispensed direct from the barrel in the cellar to the rear of the bar.
Upon leaving the pub take a left and follow Marine Parade towards Sheerness Town Centre. Your walk will follow the main road back to town with the imposing sea wall to your right. After approximately 10 minutes you will reach The Napier Free House.
This two barred ex Shepherd Neame pub has a distinctive public bar with four hand pumps serving national beers, which on our visit included London Pride and Courage Directors, both of which were in excellent condition. The second bar in this pub has been converted into a restaurant.
Leaving this pub turn left along the Broadway. After a while you will pass the bingo hall on your left. Continue until you reach a roundabout and The Royal Hotel. Continue along the Broadway towards the centre of town and the clock tower. At the clock tower take a right into the high street. Continue walking for approximately 5 minutes until you emerge outside Sheerness Railway Station. Continue walking past the station on the opposite side of the road with Sheppey College and McDonalds to your right. After a short while you will reach a roundabout and the entrance to the supermarket. Cross the road here and go across the bridge with the dock cranes in the distance. Cross Garrison Road and follow the new path into Blue Town, taking time to read the historical notice boards along its route.
The Jewish heritage and history of Sheerness and Blue Town is fascinating and virtually unknown in this still remote part of England. The Jewish community in Blue Town grew up alongside the Naval Dock Yard during the Napoleonic Wars and echoes of this past can still be detected in the western part of Blue Town next to the old Dock Wall.
Continue though Blue Town with the high dock wall to your right until you reach the Red Lion.
The Red Lion is a two barred local in the middle of Blue Town. It serves an ever changing list of beers which are listed on the chalk board above the bar.
At the end of your visit retrace your steps back to Sheerness Railway Station for connecting services via Sittingbourne.
If you have a short wait at Sittingbourne remember to visit the two Shepherd Neame pubs to the left and right of the station entrance.
To your left is The Globe and Engine which was closed when our last edition of Swale Ale went to press but has now reopened under new ownership. This traditional Shepherd Neame house has a large L shaped bar with a real coal fire next to the bar. The Globe and Engine currently serves one real ale which on our visit was Master Brew, although the landlord is trying to increase the beer range as the pub gets re-established. Since taking over the pub the landlord has removed the juke box, pool table and fruit machines to create a more traditional community pub. With its close proximity to the station he is also hoping to offer morning coffees and teas to commuters on their way to work.
On the opposite side of the railway station is The Fountain. This traditional Shepherd Neame pub has recently been given a quality refurbishment both inside and out. The pub now offers a range of Thai food at reasonable prices and currently serves between two and three Shepherd Neame beers. On my visit they had Master Brew, Late Red and Amber Ale. The landlord is keen to introduce beers from the pilot brewery in the near future and is also looking at holding Thai new year celebrations in March/April.
The countryside is a living place and for this reason many of the paths, fences and natural features in this guide may be subject to change. All details are to my knowledge correct at publication and follow signposted public rights of way. I cannot of course be held responsible for any diversion orders, inaccuracies in the text or maps which may result from changes to the landscape or any damage which may be caused by walkers trespassing on private property