A stretch of beach where I grew up and a place that I still visit, this time with my family. Some of my best shots and series have been made on this beach! It can be busting with atmosphere!
The Isle of Sheppey is not the most salubrious place to go but there are aspects of it that are easy to grow attached to. The beach is one of them, a shingle and sand beach that stretches the full length of the northern coast of the Island it looks out across the Thames Estuary over the water to Southend.
For most of it’s length there is now a sea wall to protect the islanders from the floods we would receive back in the, dare I say it 70’s( I was a kid!) Beyond this further up the coast toward the higher end of the Island the wall disappears and is replaced by a rased bank of sand, shingle and grass, this leads into what is known as The Leas.
When I was a child this area was actually cliffs which would regularly fall away to reveal such wonders as fossils and of course a lot of mud, in the form of ‘London clay’ a particularly sticky and quite trecherous sucking mud that would pull in many a shoe if given half a chance, let alone many an unwary visitor that would need to be rescued.
If you stay on the shoreline you will of course be safe if you have watched the tide and not ventured around the ‘tip’ of the island at Warden, this is where the cliffs are still likely to fall and you can easily pick up fossils from the beach strand line if you don’t want to mess about with the mud and the cliffs, the best time is after a storm and then a lot has been washed down onto the beach. Most of these will be sharks teeth “Lamna” and also many different types of shells that have been fossilised in the form of iron pyrites, I have also found while wandering with my cams, turtle teeth, skin, palm fruits called ‘Pinna’ and Toredo Nevalla (shipworm) there is also plenty of fossilised bark trees etc. The area by the cliffs can be quite deserted even in the height of summer, the top of the cliffs have a few caravan parks but they are not that dominant.
The regular features on this beach are the breakwaters and to watch them slowly vanish under banks of stones after many years really shows the passage of time. They are tallest at the Sheerness end, still easy to hurdle but watch out if the tide is in as one side is always deeper than the other, by the time you reach Minster which is a good few miles they are sporadic and are more like useful seats to watch the waves from. They can also be the perfect place to rest your pinhole camera and do a long exposure!
Sadly a lot of the really interesting old Victorian/Edwardian buildings that would provide shelter along the prom have gone, due to weathering but I think mostly neglect and vandalism. This place has a wonderful sense of desolation, an expanse of flat land drawn to the sea edge. A great place to make atmospheric images.
Nearer the Dockyard end there are still Napoleonic forts which are wonderful to capture in the right light, it isn’t a place for everyone, more for those who don’t mind not having beach amenities and seaside amusements, there are a couple of these but faded grandeur is an understatement!
Enjoy the wildness of the place!