Northfleet to Gravesend


Dad gave Mum an old (1930s?) book about the Thames for Christmas. Near the start it had a chapter about Northfleet, which mentioned how Northfleet and Southfleet were separated by the Roman Road.

So on a sunny New Year's day, the three of us set out to walk from Northfleet to Southfleet. It has changed quite a lot since the book was written...


Northfleet is in Kent, one stop west of Gravesend on the railway line. We got off the train and walked along the high street toward the church, diverting briefly for what would have been a look across the river except that a footpath was closed.

Nice paint and curtains.
1/125 at f8, 23mm, ISO200
Northfleet church (St. Botolph's).
1/400 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 51°26′34″N 0°20′3″E

A public footpath from the church runs across some of the old cement workings in a high, caged bridge.

With an annoyingly tight wire mesh.
1/2000 at f4, 23mm, ISO200 51°26′34″N 0°20′0″E
Looking back across the bridge.
1/250 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 51°26′34″N 0°19′57″E
Path down after the bridge.
1/125 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 51°26′34″N 0°19′53″E

After a residential area, the path was interrupted again by a conglomeration of railways: a spur off the recently-built Channel Tunnel Rail Link connects to sidings and the older local line.

Railway lines (local line nearest, Ebbsfleet station in distance behind trees).
1/250 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 51°26′31″N 0°19′48″E
On the bridge from previous picture.
1/500 at f9, 23mm, ISO200 51°26′30″N 0°19′46″E
Looking back. Train is a local service from Gravesend.
1/250 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 51°26′31″N 0°19′45″E

Reaching the newer line, we had to walk a little distance to the road bridge and then back on the other side.

Road bridge.
1/250 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 51°26′32″N 0°19′34″E

After rounding the end of a gravel pit and passing a sewage farm, our path then led between an industrial estate and a new housing estate - new enough that it wasn't on Google Maps. We got a bit lost, because they had moved the next footpath.

Fence between housing and industrial estate.
1/250 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 51°26′4″N 0°19′44″E
Chapel in Northfleet Cemetery, just across the road. (Distant brick tower is a Catholic church.)
1/500 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 51°26′2″N 0°20′1″E

By chance we found the new entrance to the footpath and followed it around the edge of the not-yet-built part of the housing development. It ran parallel to a disused railway for a short distance; then we crossed that on a bridge and reached a large Sainsbury's.


We'd chosen this route so as to cross the 'Roman road' (Watling Street, and now the A2). When that book was written, the road might have been a barrier, but it probably wasn't eight lanes and a fence in the middle: the natural footpath between Northfleet and Southfleet now dead-ends at each side of the road. Instead, we crossed on the pavement beside a road bridge.

The high-speed rail line goes underneath the road at this point.
1/250 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 51°25′34″N 0°19′48″E

Across Watling Street the surroundings changed very abruptly: we were definitely in the countryside, and soon walking along a rather muddy footpath.

Field (and Dad).
1/500 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 51°25′24″N 0°19′31″E
1/500 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 51°25′11″N 0°19′19″E
1/250 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 51°25′2″N 0°19′23″E

We reached Southfleet (complete with five-hundred-year-old cottages, thatch, oast houses, the works) and ate our sandwiches in the churchyard.

The Black Lion pub leaves a little to be desired.
1/250 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 51°24′46″N 0°19′19″E

Passing a duck pond, we walked along country lanes and on a path round a field until we reached a more suburban area called Istead Rise.

Farm entrance at the edge of town.
1/250 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 51°24′20″N 0°20′38″E
Nice afternoon light at the top of the 'rise'. Bungalows.
1/250 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 51°24′19″N 0°20′56″E

Leaving that behind, we followed a couple of tracks through countryside until it was time to cross the A2 again.

Tree at junction.
1/125 at f7.1, 23mm, ISO200 51°24′19″N 0°21′58″E
Danger of death.
1/125 at f7.1, 23mm, ISO200 51°24′20″N 0°22′0″E
Small tree.
1/125 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 51°24′21″N 0°22′0″E
Looking back at footbridge over A2 and railway line.
1/250 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 51°24′49″N 0°21′57″E

After that we had to walk along a rather boring road into Gravesend proper. Night had fallen, but we decided to have a look at the river before heading home.

Gravesend church.
1/30 at f2, 23mm, ISO800 51°26′38″N 0°22′4″E
1/15 at f2.8, 23mm, ISO1600 51°26′43″N 0°22′5″E
Riverside path (Tilbury docks opposite).
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Part of the riverside path.
1/15 at f4, 23mm, ISO1600 51°26′42″N 0°22′10″E
Pier (Tilbury power station opposite).
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That's it! We got a train back into London and home.

All images © Samuel Marshall. All rights reserved.