I WAS cycling along the sea wall of north Kent. I passed pubs with unusual names: Four Brothers, The Good Intent, The Prince of Guinea. I was looking for a grim prominence, but I didn't find one.

'Horrid Hill,' it said on the map. But it was a thorn-covered strip of land protruding only eight metres from the tidal mudflats of the Medway. People go there to look at the docks and power stations over the estuary, and to count seabirds.

It was different once. Concrete embankments tell of an industrial past. There was a cement works here and a railway leading inland to a chalk quarry. There were wharves where great iron barges came in to load, and a sluice-gate to control the water. Across on Motney Hill there were huge kilns in which the chalk was broken down. 'That was years ago mind,' said a boatman who was waiting for the tide. Now barges lie rotting in the creeks, occasionally set about by lone men with oxyacetylene cutters who soon abandon them again. And the quarry is about to be filled in for land reclamation. 'There's been industry here since the days of flint, but it'll all be gone soon,' said a man I met near the quarry.

On the foreshore, a large wooden hull was slowly sinking into the mud. The clerk of the local borough had attached an order: 'Notice To Remove Vessel Within 28 Days'. I stood reading the notice and began slowly sinking into the mud.

The tide came in. The boatman started his engine. Then he stopped it again and went home.

Horrid Hill is at Ordnance Survey grid reference TQ 811688.

(Photograph omitted)

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