Day 5: Rainham to Dartford

Oyster Loop Day 5 of 8, a circuit of London for hybrid bikes using Oyster stations.

Estuarine Meanders

The salinity of the Thames Estuary becomes indistinguishable from that of the North Sea around Gravesend, so the lands along the coast are typical low-lying, often marshy, unproductive land. Hence they have either been industrialised to exploit water-bourne trade, or else form reserves for wildlife. The result is open vistas and circuitous route finding between countryside corridors.

  • Total Distance: 63.7m
  • Total Ascent: 281m
  • Highest Point: 114m
  • Lowest Point: 0m
Crossing the Thames Estuary

Route 13 in Essex is fragmented so this links sections across Rainham marshes, the Langdon Hills and Coalhouse fort with the Mardyke Valley before crossing the Thames to Gravesend and taking route 1 to Dartford.

From Rainham station follow Route 13 across the expanse of Rainham marshes, famous for its bird life. The views are extensive, especially when the bank of the Thames is reached, both eastwards to the Queen Elizabeth Bridge and back upstream to the City. Just before leaving the Marshes there is a RSPB visitor centre with a cafe.

There is no continuous route to Tilbury, so a variety of surfaces are used to get there. After some roadside cycleway through Purfleet, the Mardyke valley is followed for several miles. The first part of this is Sustrans 137, a narrow gravel track with overhanging vegetation and this then becomes a normal bridleway, with rough bumpy grass following between the stream and ploughed field boundaries. At the end of summer this was cycleable with moderate effort. The Poster Map shows a road-based alternative if conditions on the track are poor.

Finally it reaches Bulpham where minor roads are picked up across the plain before before a steep climb into the Langdon Hills, a pretty section of woodland with good forest tracks and where Route 13 is again encountered. Good views across the Thames estuary from the top of One Tree Hill, before descending through Corringham and picking up quiet roads to East Tilbury and the Coalhouse fort, part of the river defences against invasion. There is a good cafe here.

Minor roads are then taken to reach Tilbury. As an alternative, Route 13 is shown as following the estuary walls to Tilbury, however it is not formally taken up and at one point, It drops onto the foreshore where care must be taken, especially near high tide. Steep ramp and steps take you back onto the river wall past Tilbury Fort to the port and ferry crossing.

This is half-hourly and not on Sundays. On reaching Gravesend route 1 steadily climbs the North Downs to the A2 before dropping into Dartford.

Day 5 Viewranger Route

UPDATE: I had been holding back my detailed information on the Oyster Wheel Days until I had the opportunity to re-ride them and check them for accuracy. However due to Coronavirus “shielding”, I will be unable to ride them for some months. I have therefore decided to publish the draft copies in case others get the chance to use them before me. The route card is a simple table of directions and distances, where the description is a book chapter with the same directions, but also detailed maps and a commentary on the route and places of interest.

If you have any comments on these documents, please let me know.

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