Escaping with Magwitch -day one, Hoo Ness Island

Published by Carol Donaldson on

We cast off and head out on the river in the brief gap between showers. Steve looks a little nervous as the heavily laden inflatable boat, christened Magwitch, is buffeted by the winds and I realize I forgot to pack the sea sickness tablets.

The river is busy with Monday morning activity. Orange and white dredgers churn up river with the tide and the army are out, giddying in circles as they practice manoeuvres. Cool men in Ray bans and camouflage ignore my cheery wave. As we tack across the channel towards Hoo Ness Island waves break across the bow drenching me in buckets of salt water, my hat flies off and as I go to retrieve it, I’m ingulfed in diesel fumes. But still, I’m excited. After the boredom of winter lockdown and a wet, cold Spring, we’re are venturing forth into the light once again.

we make landfall using oar power and set off to explore, ploughing through nose high Alexander’s which release their oily sweetness as we pass. Showers fly across the sky, we are drenched, we are hot and blackbirds sing again after the rain.

Steve was last here in 1995 when he spent weeks camping in Hoo Fort. He is keen to show me the graffiti that he carefully documented. We find a path through the blackberry thickets but, at the entrance door to the fort we find a flooded moat. All we can see is a tantalising glimpse through the open door of a fern dripping staircase leading to the upper floors. The fort is marooned, with the oystercatcher sentinels and battalions of mosquitoes circling in the stagnant water.

“I’m tempted to wade across,” Steve says.

So am I but I point out the bleeding bramble scratches on his legs and those mossie clouds.

“No point getting legionnaires disease, on day one,”I say pragmatically.

@estuaryfestival @stephenturnerartist