It is now 3 months since I booked my canoe journey with Dave Wise out to Darnet Island and the memories remain very vivid. I was born in Chatham and have lived in Kent all my life but this was seeing my native area from a completely different perspective. Right from cast off at Horrid Hill it was a new experience for me. I have never been on the Medway at water level; I have never heard the sound of water lapping up against a boat or breathed air so salty and fresh. Our journey began on a sunny early, summer evening in June.
Dave paddled the canoe at the back and his paddling companion was local artist Karl at the front. We ate our evening meal in front of a blazing fire (I was appointed woodsman to prepare the fire) and discussed all manner of things assisted by wine and beer. The home grown apples Dave baked in the fire added to this unusual dining out.
At one point in the evening for about 15 minutes there was the eerie experience of hearing all the street sounds from Gillingham: car engines revving, doors closing and human conversations. Then they were gone and we were alone in the estuary landscape. The landscape and skyscape needs to be seen. St Marys Island and the twin blue towers in front of the setting sun, Hoo St Werburgh Church to the right and Gillingham, which now seemed a long way away.
We woke up to a clear Saturday morning and breakfast tasted all the better for being cooked in the open. Saturday was the day of the Medway Barge Match and there really cannot have been a better vantage point. I was fortunate that Karl was drawing and sketching boats, flora and landscapes all day; I saw the beauty of the place through another’s eyes as well. There was plenty of time to walk round this strange, engaging little island and see the ruined fort –don’t forget departure times are dependent on high tide. You will see geese, owls, oyster catchers and any number of other birds. And yes – I saw a seal swim towards our tents by the shore.
I recommend that anyone should go to Dave’s website, look at his digital and pinhole photographs, read his stories and you will realise there is an unusual, unforgettable opportunity waiting for you.
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