Gravesend

Gravesend, there are many versions where the name derives from. For example from grafs-ham – a place “at the end of the grove”. Or it may derive from the Saxon Gerevesend, the end of the authority of Portreve. Some of the locals believe, that the name was born when the bodies of those who died from the plague in London were buried in the town in attempts to put an end to it. Hence the name Graves-end. Unlike princess Pocahontas, we didn’t end in a gave here. However it was a place where something ended for us, the circumnavigation of British coast.

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From now on, we are truly on the way home, back to the big City of London, and precisely to Shadwell Basin.
Today’s visit to Gravesend was very different to the one four months ago. Then we were at the beginning of the journey not knowing what to expect. And apart form late dinner at local international cuisine place we didn’t see anything.
This time we discovered that Gravesend is quiet a nice place with rich history connected as a gateway to the City and sea by the river and roads.

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Still being influenced by the routine of our journey it felt strange to walk around the place without the dry bags full of valuables and iPad in hand. We didn’t have to worry about kayaks being just left somewhere relying that they are too heavy to be carried away and clothes too wet to be touched. Having food in a pub was a pleasant affair without the need of quickly writing an update or choosing where to sit according to position or number of plugs. We didn’t have to rejoice at the availability of WiFi, something we baldy needed and couldn’t really get since leaving Scotland. They even had great coffee with soya milk here.

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So although something may have finished for us here, something else is starting. As from now on, we can partially resume our lives and do something different for a change. I am saying partially resume our lives as our flat is still being lived in by somebody else, but hey, it’s still holiday time, so no real need for something stable just yet.

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Windfighters

It has been blowing F5 since yesterday late afternoon. And it will be like that untill Tuesday.
Despite the wind we enjoyed the paddle yesterday crossing from Holland on Sea all the way to Shoeburyness. We hoped for Southend, but well.

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At least we could paddle off together into the sunset. In our individual way, of course.

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After fairly short and not very peaceful night at Shoeburyness Beach the morning was early as we wanted to catch the last three hours of tide. The plan is to fight to reach Canvey Island, have a break, and leave again with the afternoon tide to Gravesend. It felt good to be on the Thames again.

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This side looks very different to the opposite one.

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During the trip I often thought of how it would be coming back this way. How would I feel, what weather there would be, and so on. I can say that the weather is as expected, sunny and warm. The paddle is awfully hard, not as expected, yet after paddling against the wind for so many times, it doesn’t bother me anymore. As I never get too excited prior expected in case it won’t happen, the thoughts still go as far as the night or what the weather will be tomorrow. But I do have to admit, I am looking forward to different clothes, nail varnish, hair brush, clean socks every day, sand free feet and always having the roof over my head once on the loo.

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Rounding the sixth corner

We like it when people are using the spot in its correct way – to find us on the water. And this is what happened yesterday, but I will come to that later.
The day started nicely after a good night sleep. The neighbours were quietly humming in the back ground, but were no bother, really. We stayed at Sizewell beach.

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From then we just paddled and paddled. Aldeburgh looked great, colourful match of interesting houses which we decided to come back one day and explore together with the inland canals and river.

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This soon changed and we started the long paddle along Orford Ness and Orford beach. It was soooo long, a true Chesil beach of the East minus the drift wood structures. But eventually we reached Shingle Street.

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It’s situated in Hollesley Bay and has many Martello Towers. This one was my favourite.

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The crossing of Felixstowe – Harwich was uneventful, but at least we met other water users.

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At Walton-on-Naze we started to look for place where to pitch. Well, no luck, so we continued and continued, passed Frinton-on-Sea and then we heard someone shouting from the promenade. We do not respond to people shouting to us, but then I heard my name. Ok, if someone knows my name then maybe I should respond. And right we did. It was Tim, we met him a while ago, he lives close by and thought we may do with a break. We did indeed. So we finished in Holland-on-Sea, loaded everything on and in the car, forgot to load the flask, and left.

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(Tim’s boatyard)

It was great evening, food was cooked for us and we saw the Olympic opening ceremony, good reminder that we’re getting closer.
This morning we arrived back to the landing spot, unloaded everything from the car, found the flask still waiting for us, packed the boats and now are ready to go. Southend is our destination for today.

Norfolk – Suffolk

Our first half a day in Norfolk was great. Lots of terns, many oystercatchers. We enjoyed passing the estuaries.

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Then it dawned on us. During almost two days we only saw dunes, sandy beach, sandy cliffs or any combination of those three. Besides Norfolk lacked in WiFi, 3G and public toilets. On top of that we had the most expensive coffee so far. £5 for two filter ones in a cafe where they had awfully dirty tablecloths. That was in Caister on Sea.

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Great Yarmouth failed to lift our spirits, too.

Finally we reached Lowestoft Ness, the most Easterly point in UK.

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With Suffolk the change in coastline came and our spirits did get the lift.

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Southwold indeed reminded us of Islington. Sadly we could not stop as we were trying to get the most of tide.

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One thing we have discovered is that it is a real lottery win to be a lighthouse keeper on South East coast. The light house is never in the middle of nowhere. You definitely don’t have to worry about water seeping through your cellar. The keepers accommodation also seems bigger than the ones we have seen before, let’s say on west or north coast.

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If you can have it, you must grrabbit!

This was a frase from a book I read ages ago. I sadly don’t remember its title, but it was about an old jewish lady living in an old house in Islington. Quite fun.

And grabbing opportunities was the theme of yesterday. It started in the morning with these.

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If you see “Cappuccino special” on the menu, you must have it. We accompanied it by Banoffee ice cream pie. Again an opportunity to grab, since our days of carefree cake and coffee eating are being numbered. No more, once we get back to normal.

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The next opportunity came in the form of Mark. The one who put us up with his friend in Aberdeen. He came to Skeggness for meeting and found us on the beach. His strength was very welcomed since the water moved considerable distance from the shore.

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The paddle across the Wash was idyllic. The slight sea was gently rocking us by waves generated by F5 wind. The wind was blowing into our faces cooling us in the afternoon sunshine. The turbines of the wind farm which we passed hummed in the air.

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Just when I decided to take a relief a boat came very close, probably for a friendly chat. Well, when a lady needs to go, she needs to go. Hope all on board made it safely on shore.

Norfolk announced itself as Mark said, by sandwich terns making lots of noise. The land looked golden in the evening sun. It was high water when we landed, therefore even the beach looked inviting.

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The last opportunity of the day emerged as three strong young men. Who didn’t mind to save me lots of hassle and energy.

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Grrabbit, you’d love it.

North East Lincoln Amusement Arcade

“A seaside resort or resort town, is located on the coast. Where a beach is the primary focus for tourists, it may be called a beach resort.”

North East Lincoln seems to us to be one big seaside resort. Caravan park after caravan park, seaside town with its attractions after seaside town. The popularity of such holidays grew since mid-nineteen century. However from mid-twentieth century popularity of such holidays started to decline with more people being able to take holidays abroad. Many British seaside towns changed from being mainly beach resorts to hosting entertainment industry.
Here we go, few photos from Mablethorpe. But not all’s like that there. We fund a nice licences quiet cafe, Marlborough cafe, with very good freshly cooked food and beautiful prices.

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What’s more, last night we camped in front of Buttlins between Ingoldmells and Skegness. Now, I have heard about these many times. I figured out they were big holiday parks offering affordable holidays to ordinary people. Staying in front of one last night made me to find out more. The one we camped in front of, was the first one opened by Billy Butlin in 1936. What I like is the reason why these were establish, according to Wiki: “Billy Butlin’s inspiration for his holiday camp empire came from an unhappy holiday on Barry Island in his youth, when he had been locked out of his bed and breakfast accommodation all day by his landlady, which was normal practice at the time.” We could hear the fun and amusement sounds all evening, but when I woke up at 3.30am all was dead quiet and very strange.

Crossing the Humber

First we have here two photos from paddling towards Withernsea and after the landing there. Of course as usually with photos the surf looks much much smaller than what it was.

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The day we didn’t leave because the surf still looked menacing enough we went to do some sightseeing. Now Withernsea was something. Once it used to be a great and popular seaside town with many attractions. Nowadays it’s still is a seaside town, only it looked less glamorous and not very popular at all. And we had to show great effort to find decent coffee shop. On the other hand it has lighthouse which is situated right in the middle of the town.

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Of course it wasn’t always like that. When the lighthouse was built, there was no town, no houses. The lighthouse was built among dunes far away from eroding shore. But once the shore started to be strengthen the houses appeared and slowly spread all around reaching the sea.

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Right, it’s time to get to our heading for today. Ever since leaving Aberdeen we were told about it. We heard about it all the time. Crossing the Humber. Who cares we done Cape Wrath, Pentland Firth or something foolish like going over to Northern Ireland, history. Humber, that was what was getting us interest and fame.
Well now we know why. If the other crossings were hard, this one, was one of the hardest. Only ten kilometres from shore to shore, due to few launching or landing possibilities before and after the crossing, it is a considerable distance. In the end we made over 24NM without landing. The tides are strong, too and happily play with the kayaks dragging them left or right as they wish.
On the pictures our path can be seen, we held the same 150 course for the whole journey.

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And then there are the ships, big and many. We had four big ones passing us very close and few lurking in the distance. We also found a tiderace or overfall, and when we were fighting our way through them, I was only hoping that shipping lines don’t go through these. No, they didn’t. To make it more interesting our not so favourite friend, the headwind, joined in at the very beginning and kept us company at solid F4 all the way till the finish.

Fortunately the seals saved the day. They joined us in hundreds and followed us for miles, playing and showing of. Some of them also tried to splash us and succeeded with Michal getting few showers.

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We decided to land in natural harbour of river Saltfleet. At its mouth we met few members of Satlfleet boat club. They were very friendly and straight away offered us their grass for camping and toilet to use. There are very simple things that make us happy after so many months of kayaking.

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GET CLOSE AND GET OUT

The wind swung from headwind to tailwind over night. The sea during our morning departure was nice and calm due to being sheltered by Flamborough Head. Soon after passing Bridlington the following sea started but even with the tide agains us, we were quite pleased with progress we were making.
As we progressed south it became more obvious how much shelter there was in the morning. At Hornesea the sea was bigger and messier than what we would like for nice and dry landing to have lunch. Instead we decided to continue towards Withernsea and finish there for the day. Well from the roadmap we knew this stretch of coast was pretty exposed but now we could finally see what it means to follow exposed coastline. With moderate sea, there are no landing options.
We hoped for some surf landing on a beach in Withernsea. Unfortunately at high tide there is no beach, we had to continue. Now we were looking for any gap between muddy cliffs. Soon there was a place, where cliffs were low enough to drag the boats up. More importantly there was a strip of sand in front of it. And surf with huge dumping wave.
While we were getting closer, it became obvious that this would be a swimming landing. I knew there was no chance to stay upright and there was no point to attempt rolling. It was much better to be dumped on the beach out of the kayak than having it dumped on the head. We both knew that it was all about getting as close as possible and getting out fast. We put our helmets on and went for it.
In the end we managed to find all the bits and pieces of the kit, mainly the shewee and our water bag, on the beach. A bonus came in a really nice place to pitch our tent.

North England

The road map sheet number 225 gone missing. It wouldn’t be that important if it didn’t contain our route for almost two days. But following the coast, we managed.

It had some benefits. We didn’t have to worry about miles long beaches with surf or cliffs without landing possibilities.

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We saw some interesting sights but didn’t have to match them to their geographical names.

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But we know we crossed the Tynemouth and the Teesmouth. There were some impressive cliffs in between with a lighthouse on Lizard Point.

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Crossing of the harbour in Middlesborough knocked the air out of us due to strong side wind and it being 3NM wall to wall. We finished that day right pass the spit in a hole between dunes, hoping the tent will last the wind. We don’t like sandy beaches and definitely camping on sand with sand in the air and everywhere.

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Yet, with the lit gas rig and the gas works humming gently in the background it was almost romantic.

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We passed Redcar and stopped in Saltburn for a Jacked Potato for Brunch. Brunches are our latest invention, we do them now, to speed up and save time. This jacked potato was very important, because on its fuel we continued all the way to Yorkshire.

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We stopped in Whitby. We should really have fish & chips here, but the potato, even after few hours, was still going.

Then there were the cliffs, dark in the rain. But we enjoyed them nevertheless. The rain and clouds transformed otherwise just another ordinary cliffs into something atmospheric.

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Not knowing where to stop kept us going, but when it started to be just a little bit uncomfortable we spotted some houses and landed. The name of the village wasn’t what was written on that stone which greater us on the beach, it was Robin Hood Bay.

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The dinner that day confirmed we were in Yorkshire for sure.

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Next day the cliffs were green and we could see the true Yorkshire landscape above. We enjoyed its views till Scarborough. We continued to Filey Brigg. From there the view towards Flamborough Head opened. Just there we also though if we ever were going to see birds again, for example puffins.

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We crossed the bay easily. These cliffs may the last ones till London. They are definitely the first chalk ones since South East Coast.

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The paddle around Flamborouhg Head was magic. If you haven’t done it, you should. We are coming back to do so. It’s like one of my favourite paddles, Old Harry’s Rock times hundred with the addition of thousands birds.

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We paddled in silence since their voices were so great that we would have to be shouting in order to hear each other. The wings flapped above us. The gannets stayed high. The razorbills, guillemots and puffing flew quite low around us.

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Just sometimes the peacefulness was interrupted by splashing in the water. I just hoped they could see the “No droppings!” sign on top of my head. They have, but missed Michal’s, fortunately only got his shoulder.

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We rounded the headland and stopped at South Landing. Grassy car park made a great camping spot, firm sand and slipway made the landing easy, too.

Northumberland

There is great surf here, now, on Northumberland coast. This is what we heard in a coffee shop in Craster today. Great if you are a surfer, not something why you should visit if you are a kayaker not liking the surf. Or if you sit in heavy loaded boat. If you still want to visit Northumberland then in the coffee shop mentioned above they do one of the best walnut and coffee cakes so far. That is if you like these as much as Michal, who sampled a great bit during this trip.
If you are not mad about cakes, then the castles may attract you. We saw them all. The Lindenfarne on Holy Island, where we slept last night.
Holy Island is one of Britain’s tidal islands. It was inhabited since early age, there is a castle, ruined monastery and small village now. They also produce a “mead” here, which we have to come back to sample.

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The next castle was the Bamburgh. According to Time Out Great Britain: Perfect Places to Stay, Eat and Explore 2009 – “….the finest castle anywhere in this country”.

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Next was the Dunstaburhg castle. According to Michal, one of the most photographed in british photography magazines.

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Well, today the one most photogenic was me.

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If history is not your think, then natural heritage may in the form of Farne island. There are between 15 and 20 or more islands depending on the state of the tide. The highest point, on Inner Farne, is 19 metres (62 feet) above mean sea level.

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One of the great attractions of the Farne Islands is the story of Grace Darling and the wreck of the Forfarshire. Grace Darling was the daughter of Longstone lighthouse-keeper, William Darling, and on September 7, 1838, at the age of 22 years, she and her father rescued nine people in a strong gale and thick fog from the wreck of the Forfarshire, which had run aground on Harker rock. The story of the rescue attracted extraordinary attention throughout Britain and made Grace Darling a heroine who has gone down in British folklore.
The day we finished in Amble. By chance we found and pulled at Coquet Yacht Club. We were very apprehensive to come here. Are yacht people friendly? Do they recognise other vessels than theirs? Are they posh? Are they kayaker friendly? Do we smell? Would they mind us camping here? These went through our heads. Phill greeted us from the balcony, pointed us to bathrooms and invited upstairs.

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We had drink, dinner, chats. We have been sitting here for the last four hours.
These yacht people are great. Thank you.

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