A walk along the Darent to the Thames isn’t everyone’s idea of an idyllic landscape but will take you through an historic market town in transition, wetlands now teeming with wildlife and remnants of both war and industry. This is a marginal place not only topographically but socially as it was here that hospitals were built to exclude, from the London metropolis, the infectious sick, the insane and “imbecile children”.
Dartford is an historic market town and was on the original London to Dover Road. The Darent Path can be picked up close to the railway station. The town’s historic high street is struggling against the competition from its own town centre mall and the nearby mother of all malls, Bluewater. If that wasn’t sufficient there are plans for a new Tesco. The heritage buildings in Lowfield Street have been blighted by that behmoth and their plans that have taken, so far, eleven years.
The river flows through the town and is flanked by reeds and marshland eventually leading to open country. The wetland area sustains a small farm with cultivated fields and cattle roaming freely. An array of anti-aircraft structures still stand but now with vegetation rising look like hidden walled gardens. From the raised path there is a 360 degree panorama. The view north is to the river and the massive structure of Littlebrook Power Station.
The bright yellow ship’s funnels skimming across the horizon between the trees let’s you know that you are close to the Thames. The rivers Cray and Darent merge here before flowing into the Thames.
Turn east at the Thames and walk under the Queen Elizabeth II bridge. At this point the river is still a working area and was fascinating watching the German tanker Seacod of Bremen being pushed, pulled and turned by a couple of tough tugs. On the northern bank there is still the industrial presence of Proctor and Gamble. The conversion of brownfield land is never far away and once through the shadow of the bridge the uninspiring riverside apartments at Greenhithe can be seen.