First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
‘Bond motored slowly over to Reculver, savouring the evening and the drink inside him and the quiet bubble of the twin exhausts. This was going to be an interesting dinner party.’ Of course it was – Bond was driving his battleship grey DBIII with its ‘extras’ (battering ram bumper, radar set, long-barrelled Colt .45 in a trick compartment) towards a fight to the death with evil Auric Goldfinger and inscrutable henchman Oddjob.
The old village of St Nicholas-at-Wade lies hidden in plain view in the flat farmlands near the Kentish coast, its flint church tower rising among the red brick houses. The royal blue flowers of green alkanet brightened the dusty clay verges of the track I followed from the village through fields of barley and rape towards the distant twin towers of Reculver.
A sparrowhawk and a little egret crossed aerial pathways, the raptor flying at twice the speed of the bright white wader. Skylarks sang incessantly, and a reed bunting gave out its scratchy wheedle from a ditch where frogs were croaking, ‘Brexit! Brexit!’
Up on Rushbourne Sea Wall the path grew thick and jungly with alexanders. I shoved my way through, aiming for Reculver’s twin towers, with the rectangular pans of a shellfish hatchery – some dry, some glinting with water – stretching away to the low cliffs along the Thames. Sea wall met shore beside the towers, relics of the monastic Church of St Mary. Saxon monks founded the monastery on the ruins of a Roman shore fort to offer a beacon of civilization on a wild and lonely coast.
Out where the Thames Estuary dissolves into the open sea, I could just distinguish among the whirling arms of a giant offshore wind farm the Star Wars shapes of abandoned Second World War forts. It was a strange image to take with me along the coast path towards Margate among cyclists, strollers, scampering kids and dog walkers.
At Plumpudding Island a terrier with a coiffured hairdo like Little Richard’s pompadour came up barking. I gave him a pat, and took the homeward path along Wade Marsh. If that was 007 in disguise, he certainly fooled me.
Start: Bell Inn, St Nicholas-at-Wade, Kent CT7 0NT (OS ref TR266666)
Getting there: Bus 36 from Margate, 38a from Ramsgate
Road – M25 Jct 2; A2, M2, A299; past Herne Bay, St Nicholas-at-Wade is signposted.
Walk (8¼ miles, easy, OS Explorer 150. NB: online maps, more walks at christophersomerville.co.uk): From Bell Inn, left along road past church; over A299; left at junction (260674). At Chambers Wall, on left bend, right along field track (254676, fingerpost). In 700m track bends right; in 150m, left across ditch (250683). Follow concrete track to cross railway (248686); left along grassy bank. In 600m, opposite farm railway crossing, path bends right (242685); in 400m fork left (242689); in 100m track bends right (seaward), but keep ahead up bank (241689) and on (NB: can be rather overgrown) with shellfish hatchery on right, aiming for Reculver towers. At coast, (230694), left for St Mary’s Church. To continue walk, right along Thanet Coastal Path. In 3 miles at Plumpudding Island, opposite big grey shed on right, turn right down steps (273694). Follow path along embankment; in ¼ mile, cross railway (270690); follow path to Shuart (269678); right along lane to St Nicholas-at-Wade.
Lunch: Bell Inn (01843-847250, thebellstnicholas.co.uk) or Sun Inn (01843-841646), St Nicholas-at-Wade
Reculver Towers: 0370-333-1181, english-heritage.org.uk
Goldfinger by Ian Fleming (Penguin)
Info: Margate TIC (01843-577577)