The Swale is a stretch of tidal water that separates the Isle of Sheppey from the Kent mainland. It is open it both ends, so not really a river as popularly supposed. It has numerous creeks off the South side.
The varying character of the Swale is summed up by the 2 neighbouring towns, which could hardly be more different: Sittingbourne in the West has been known as a depressing industrial slum, whose channel to the Swale (Milton Creek) was previously been the destination of choice for supermarket trolleys, but recent regeneration has introduced a new Country Park and a clean up, so things could be looking up for this area. Meanwhile, Faversham, just 10K to the East, is a picture postcard of Olde Kent, with hopfields, oasthouses and sailing barges. The Faversham end of the Swale, best accessed through Harty Ferry, is a gem ! Calm and peaceful, especially in Winter.
Tide floods into the Swale from both ends, meeting up in the middle. Currents are thus strongest at the 2 ends, with a notional "dead spot" where the 2 tides meet, somewhere east of Milton Creek. This can be turned to advantage if circumnavigating Sheppey, by arranging to pass through this point just as the tide changes! The Red and Green buoys also change sides near here, at Kingsferry Bridge.
As with the nearby Medway Marsh, it's important to be careful on a falling tide ! Parts of the Swale are a kilometer or more across, but dry very quickly leaving a navigable channel barely a 100 meters across, and oceans of horrible, sticky mud.
Access Points listed here are just the SOUTH side ones. For the NORTH side, see the Isle of Sheppey.