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Harty Ferry causeway, Oare, Kent

The name The Swale refers to the strip of sea separating North Kentmarker from the Isle of Sheppeymarker.


The Swale was originally part of a river. Before the formation of the English Channelmarker in about 6500 BC, the eastern coast of Great Britainmarker extended much further into the area of the present-day North Seamarker, and the Isle of Sheppey formed part of mainland Britain. The channel now occupied by the Swale comprised a river valley facing eastwards. As sea-levels rose, water occupied the whole length of the valley, dividing today's Isle of Sheppey from the mainland.

A distance shot of the two Swale crossings.
When the Romans arrived in Britain, the Swale extended much wider than it does today, with one part of the Isle of Sheppey — now called the Isle of Harty — a separate island. The Isle of Harty is no longer separate but the marshlands now gradually filling the channel delineate it. The channel needs constant dredging to allow use of the busy waterway.

The Swale is crossed at its western end by two bridges: the Kingsferry Bridgemarker and the new Sheppey Crossingmarker.


The Swale forms both a National Nature Reserve and a Special Protection Area: the eel grass, Ray's knotgrass, white seakale, glassworts and golden samphire support rare and uncommon migrant butterflies and moths, including the Essex emerald, the ground lackey, the clouded yellow butterfly and rare hawk-moths.


The Swale notably provides habitats for the following birds:


Sunset over the Swale
North Yorkshire also features a River Swale. Most definitions of the word swale indicate it to mean a 'depression in the ground to allow water to drain into'. Whether the names of two rivers have a common root remains unknown.

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