Reculver – Seasalter – Reculver
A heatwave forecast, so we set a cunning plan. A coastal walk to capture the sea breeze and head out early in the week before the heatwave took hold. We found a ‘flattish’ route on the Saxon Shore Way – this would be the 4th walk in 20 days so we wanted to be as kind to our legs as possible. The challenge this month was more about the frequency of walks than the terrain itself.
We arrived at Reculver Country Park mid morning, we being Neil, Ruby and I. The route was nice and simple – face the sea and turn left – walk for 10 miles and turn back. We were almost immediately swarmed by midges. I was donning my Macular Society yellow T Shirt to help promote Macular Week, and it was quickly attracting midges to it.
We continued on the path to the top of the cliff, and through a protected meadow full of nesting Skylarks and headed down the steps to the beachside path. We left the distinctive towers and Roman Fort behind to explore on our return – no doubt we will need to find an extra quarter of a mile..
It was cloudy and breezy – perfect walking weather. We were walking now along the coast towards Herne Bay, from there we would continue onto Hampton, Tankerton, Whitstable and Seasalter before retracing our route back. We had thought we would be walking the Saxon Shore Way, but the signage for this path was limited and dominated by the Oyster Bay Trail. So Oyster Bay Trail became the guidepoint, and was full of interesting facts along the way – lucky for you all!
These sculptures in Reculver ,for example, highlighted the history – a Roman woman, an Oyster Fisherman and a Dambuster – the squadron used to practice over the sea here as the Towers were similar to those on River Ruhr. The route was stretched out for us along the coast – not so easy to spot the end point with the bays, but this picture gives you a sense of what stretched ahead:
Three miles in and we arrived at Herne Bay. A seaside town complete with a pier, bandstand, crazy golf and beachside gardens. In fact it was a true English seaside classic. I was also heartened to have reached it so quickly, ticking off milestones on these walks is a great motivator.
The clouds were starting to lift a bit now, and as we walked along the promenade here, we were delighted by the beautiful regency townhouses and well kept public buildings.
We shortly came across the bronze statue to Amy Johnson, and had not known of the story of her death off the coast at Herne Bay before, very tragic, and what an incredible life she led.
It just shows how much you can gain just from a simple walk. I think every walk I have done so far has shared something new to me, making the aching legs worth it.
We headed out from Herne Bay towards Hampton and the beach here was lined with around 500 beautiful Beach Huts. Every single one was in perfect condition and gorgeously painted. I knew Tankerton and Whitstable would give us Beach Huts – but these were definitely the best we saw on this walk, and worth a look if you are on a trip to Herne Bay.
It was getting warmer now, and Ruby – who usually hates the sea- decided it was time to take a dip to cool off. She kept blocking our path and trying to get us to head down onto the beach. A drink of water wasn’t enough she wanted to have a paddle. We caved in, unfortunately setting a precedent for the next 15 miles!
Refreshed we headed off again, keeping the sea on our right and headed round the bay towards Tankerton and Whistable.
We arrived at Long Rock – a site of Special Scientific Interest and a wildlife haven. It meant we could divert from the cycle path which was becoming quite busy at this point – a sign we were nearing Whitstable.
The view across the bay here showed the beach huts of Tankerton coming into view. Another milestone on this route. It was also the only time we found a sign for the Saxon Shore Way..
As Tankerton approached we got the first glimpse of Whitstable – the East Quay on the horizon and ready for us to explore.It was far less crowded than usual with the restaurants closed.
You can’t visit Whitstable without a look round East Quay. I’m allergic to shellfish so I don’t get too excited about the place, but its still a lovely area to be on a beautiful day.
We had to retrace our steps back out through the Quay and towards West Beach. We still had to head as far as we could along west beach and if my plan was right we would hit 10 miles just as we hit the private restricted areas by Seasalter.
Its really picturesque along here with lots of rejuvenation having taken place. The old Fishermans huts are now available to hire for overnight stays and the area really feels cherished.
You can see by these photos that the clouds had now cleared. It was a glorious day and felt much hotter than the 21C it actually was. The wind had dropped and my T shirt was packed away in my rucksack. We were almost at the 10 mile mark now, and gave Ruby another paddle and play in the sea whilst we grabbed our snack bars and bananas.
Time to turn round, and a quick pic to share on social media for the halfway mark – just to remind everyone we were out and walking today ..
Then, a moment after we turned to head back it appeared. The dreaded aura. The sign of an ocular migraine. These are ‘silent’ migraines – I get no headache or pain but I am incapacitated by them. I have to stop allow the aura to pass and then prepare for the afterglow or hangover that it gives. An inability to focus, inability to find words when speaking – face blindness where I can’t recognise people but know their voices and a general clumsiness. It can last up to 36 hours in bad cases and something that really ripped through my life last year, until they cam back under control. In fact this blog has taken a lot longer to write as I have the afterglow lurking and have to keep pausing and rereading. These are effectively a brain reboot – often caused by a reaction to light and glare. As my brain is constantly filling in my blind spot and struggles with bright light it just needs to reset itself and this aura is the first sign.
We paused our walking apps and headed to the beach again (Ruby was thrilled..) Used my rucksack as a make shift head support and lay down for half an hour shielding my eyes from the sun to wait for the aura to pass. It took about half an hour – grabbed some more water and another energy bar (I always crave sugar after one of these episodes) and we set off again. This time I was holding on to Neil as the disorientation it really confusing and I can easily lose sight of him and not recognise him again in a crowd. Ruby always seems to hover around me though as though she can sense somethings up.
There was no point whinging – the car was 10 miles away – at least a 3 hour walk, and so a steady stroll back was the plan
Obviously I wasn’t exactly looking forward to this, but these walks are a challenge and are to highlight what it is like living with Macular Disease. For me an ocular migraine is my nemesis, but I still have most of my vision and limited restrictions in my day to day life. I do have days where I complain, (OK sometimes I complain a lot!) but its largely from frustration and I find a way to adapt.
It also reminds Neil why he has inadvertently become a participant in this challenge. To support me in the event of this happening. He was now chief navigator – keep the sea to the left until you reach the towers, and photographer. I would be the annoying art Director.
This is one of the funny things post aura. You start noticing details that you wouldn’t normally – like I have a heightened sense of awareness around me. Probably just because of shut up talking for once and concentrated more on whats around me.
So here almost straight away were the first photos requested – along with my garbled requests why they would be good
It was good to navigate back out of Whitstable and Tankerton to quieter areas. I think this photo shows that I struggle in this afterglow (I’ve decided its a better phrase than hangover!), it seems that I use 3 times as much energy as I’m constantly orienting myself as well as undertaking the physicality of a 20 mile walk.
I’d like to say we headed back at speed, but that just wasn’t true. Lots of pauses for water and shade to keep hydrated and the reflection of the sun off the sea was penetrating my light blocking glasses constantly.
For some reason I just had in mind that Herne Bay was just 3 miles from the car and I focussed on getting there as a major milestone. I also had a constant thought about the steps back up the cliff to Reculver but did my best to ignore those.
Neil was struggling a bit with the heat now too. Ruby had another dip to cool off – another break for water and another push to get to those lovely beach huts.
Herne Bay – 3 miles to go – back past the clocktower and the BiPlane bench for Amy Johnson – the inscription lept out at me this time – those heightened details again.
So now we could see the end goal – the Reculver Towers on the headland ahead. It was great to see the end point, and feel it coming tangibly closer. I hadn’t had that on a walk since early March in London, where the London Eye kept popping into view around the route.
You can see now how clear the skies were – thank goodness we walked on the coolest day forecast this week. There was the hint of a light breeze now but we had hit the usual wall for the last 5 miles. Every step is now felt – we clock up around 42,500 steps on these walks, and that sheer repetition takes its toll regardless of warm ups and stretches.
We kept moving and soon the beachside path stopped and we were faced with the vertical steps back up the cliff where the meadow , Towers and our car were waiting.
I made another big push and headed up the steps and promptly felt faint. Another 10 minute pause with my head between my knees as I took on more water. I forced myself up – it was less than a mile now and being up on the cliff there was a lovely breeze and I felt so much better. Those heightened senses reappeared and the meadow was filled with yellow butterflies and skylarks rising full of song. Another wonderful vision memory and an upshot of the afterglow.
You guessed it – back near the car and 0.2 miles short so a walk up to the Towers and Fort – luckily I was expecting this, but it was not exactly a crowning moment- more a final slog with the highlight of realising the Towers were a classic ‘faces in things’
20 miles done. Walk 11 of 20 done. 4 walks in 20 days done. This was tough – it should have been a breeze.. Macular Dystrophy doing its part in Macular Awareness week to remind me it can make anything a challenge when I least expect it.
Today, 23rd June, I should have been at Moorfields Eye Hospital for an assessment of the progression of my Macular Dystrophy. Its non urgent not because its not debilitating, but simply because there is no treatment or cure. This is simply a monitoring appointment that gives me an idea of how fast it is progressing. Everyone progresses at a different pace and I am doing all I can to keep healthy, exercise and eat well to help – hence these walks.
This week is Macular Week, where we are all trying to raise awareness of the spectrum of conditions and diseases that affect the Macular. This is why I am walking 20, 20 mile walks – to raise awareness and encourage people to donate in support.
I genuinely appreciate all the support from my friends, family and a whole raft of people who have been in touch to encourage me. Thank you for all your donations. Some of these have been anonymous so I haven’t been able to thank you directly.
I still have 9 more walks to complete and every donation gives me a real boost. Please do share my story as much as you can this week, using #macularweek to help raise awareness, and if you or someone you know would like to make a donation, the link is here.
Thank you – please excuse typos and grammar errors in this blog – its tough to write post migraine x