East Sussex Walk
Royal Military Canal - Cliff End to Seabrook
Walk Route Description
This is a 48 km (29 mile) linear walk along the Royal Military Canal, from Cliff End in East Sussex to Seabrook in Kent. The walk can be started from either end but by starting from Cliff End the prevailing wind will be at your back. The walk follows the edge of Romney Marsh and there are no gradients to speak of. Most of the way is on a fairly good path that has mile posts every mile. It can be attempted in one go or broken into parts. There is plenty of public transport at the Seabrook end with train and bus connections at Folkestone and Hythe but only an hourly bus service at Cliff End (Mon-Sat) which stops outside the Smugglers Inn.
The canal was built in 1805 as a defence against Napoleon and as a way to provide drainage and irrigation for Romney Marsh. It is still used for drainage and irrigation but it is also an important site for wildlife, with part designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). As you walk along look out for Kingfishers and Herons.
Start at Cliff End (grid ref. TQ888134). There is a small car park here. The canal is right in front and the path easy to follow and is also part of the Saxon Shore Way. After approx 3km Winchelsea can be seen on the left bank of the canal and the Old Strand Gate, part of the town wall can be seen on the skyline, another 1.5km and the path arrives at small road bridge (grid ref. TQ908175). Turn right onto the road. Follow this road for 800m approx to where it takes a sharp right turn at TQ916175 but continue straight for 100m on the footpath to where it splits at TQ917175. Take the left fork and continue for approx 200m. The path splits again at TQ917176. Here the path goes straight on pass the sewage works, or you can go right, past Castle Farm to TQ920177 where the path splits again, the left fork going past Camber Castle and Rye Harbour Nature Reserve. Both paths eventually join up again at TQ918188.
The path continues for approx 1km to the river Brede sluice (grid ref. TQ919198). Turn left and follow the road to the T-junction with the A259 approx 100m. Turn right onto A259. You will now enter Rye, a very popular seaside town, which can get very busy at weekends. It is a good place to take a break (or make as a holiday base for exploring the surrounding countryside). Follow the A259 and cross Rye harbour bridge over the river and turn right. The road then follows the opposite bank of the river to that which you have just walked along. After 300m at TQ919203 the footpath appears on the right and goes down through the harbour. Care should be taken here as it is a working harbour and there are many vehicles. Alternatively you can continue along the A259 and it will eventually meet up with the path after 1km at TQ925935 where another bridge is crossed. As you cross the bridge look to the right and see the swirling currents of the river Brede, river Rother and the sea fight one another.
Immediately over the bridge the path continues on the left and follows the river Rother. The path here also forms part of the Sussex Border Path. After 400m the path goes under a very low railway bridge and there is a gate to providing access - tall people will have duck here! After another 1km the path crosses over a sluice (grid ref TQ932220) where a large drainage ditch called the Union Channel branches of to the right. 500m further on the large Scots Float sluice is reached (grid ref. TQ933225). This is as far as tidal sea water reaches up the river Rother and there are some large barriers above the sluice that control the tidal flow.
Continue following the path and eventually a junction is reached where the river Rother branches off and the main part of the canal is reached (grid ref. TQ936245) and the disused Iden lock, although it has a working sluice that controls water levels in the canal as far as Appledore. Take the path to the right here, the path to left is where we part company from the Sussex Border path and approx 500m further on we part company with the Saxon Shore way, which branches off to the left at TQ939253. At Iden lock the first of many pillboxes from WW2 is encountered, they are a good indication that a bridge will soon appear.
Continue along the path and the village of Appledore will soon appear after approx 5km. A break can be taken here, there are two pubs that serve food and there is a railway station a short walk from the village. Continuing the walk, the A2070 road bridge is crossed (grid ref TQ999323) where the path goes from the left bank of the canal to the right bank. Care needs to be taken crossing this road as it is very busy with the section across the bridge straight and very fast. Once over the road and back on the path, Ham Street bridge is met after 500m (grid ref TR004324), taking a left here will take you to the village of Ham Street, again there are pubs and a railway station.
The path continues onward to Ruckinge bridge (grid ref TR027034). Here the path crosses the canal again, this time from the right bank to the left. Be sure you cross to the left bank here, as the path on the right leads to a private house with some very large dogs. Probably the worst stretch of the path is now encountered for approx 1-2 km from Ruckinge bridge to a pillbox. The path is about 1m wide, on the left side is a barbed wire fence and on the right is a hedge that is mainly brambles and although its cut back it can be tricky to negotiate in places, behind the hedge the canal is very close, 1-2 m in places and the path undulates with many rabbit holes. Once past the pillbox the path widens out again and goes back to a good surface.
Keep following the path and St Rumwolds church is reached (grid ref TR056344), a small church all by its self at the side of the road. If you happen to be passing in the second Sunday in June you will come across the St Rumwolds raft race held on the canal. Further on at TR089344 the Saxon Shore rejoins the path. Aldersgate bridge is reached (grid ref TR101344) and this is where Port Lympne wild animal park is located. The perimeter fence follows the path for approx 600m, the enclosure behind the fence just happens to be where the lions and tigers are kept!
From here its 4km to West Hythe (grid ref TR125343). This stretch of the path is split into two parts, an upper path on an embankment for walking and a lower bridle path, both parts of the path here can be very muddy in wet weather. The Saxon Shore way parts company with the path again at TR107343. After West Hythe, an 8km stretch of the path has been surfaced, and so the path is shared with cyclists and joggers as you walk through the urbanised landscape of Hythe and onto Seabrook and the end of the canal (grid ref TR188348).
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