Celia and I were remarkably calm about being lost. I don’t think she was putting on a brave face for me, and I certainly wasn’t for her. In some strange way, it was rather enjoyable, and heightened the feeling of having time out. Also we were in Kent, not the wilds of Siberia.
I came late to Kent. I grew up in the neighbouring county of Surrey. Say that to many English people and they will wrinkle their noses and assume you lived in a house with at least five bedrooms, you had a pony, went to private school and your father was Something in the City, while you mother did Good Works or played golf.
For better or worse, that was not my experience, but something of Surrey’s high opinion of itself certainly rubbed off on me, because despite some familiarity with Kent through regular visits to see Aunt, I always saw it as a much less attractive county.
Kent is beautiful. It’s different from Surrey and discovering it by walking its paths has been a pleasure. When you ramble, you usually bypass villages, only going into them for lunch stops at pubs, so getting lost and being guided along roads by my ‘phone meant we went to places I had never seen.
Oast houses featured. None being used for their original purpose, they had all been converted into homes way out of my price range. Still, it’s nice to look.
If you are unfamiliar with oast houses, here’s a definition:
An Oast House is a building used to dry fresh hops before they are sent to the brewers, to be used for flavouring beer. A traditional Oast House consists of the ‘oast’ and the ‘stowage’. The oast was a kiln, with a plenum chamber fired by charcoal at ground floor and the drying floor directly above. The steep pitched roof channelled the hot air through the hops to the top. The stowage, was the barn section, it had a cooling floor and press at first floor and storage area at ground floor.
Usually you see one or two together, but rounding a corner we saw a group of six.
Again, converted in residential dwelling, and, we guessed several homes in the one complex. Interesting.
Slowly, as we made our way along these roads we gathered blackberries, though nowhere near the quantities we had anticipated had we found the same spot as two years ago, at least we would not be arriving home empty handed.
We reached a village called Crouch, which we approached by the rather wonderfully named Basted Lane. The pub looked like it had been closed for quite a while, so no chance of directions there, and later we learned from a resident called Jill that there was an ongoing battle to keep the pub from being pulled down to make way for some new houses. She pointed to a house the developers were converting into *luxury* flats, a site where a huge residence was being built, and we became rather abruptly aware that this seemingly quiet and idyllic village was having a battle of its own to maintain that quiet and peace.
Jill cast some aspersions about current names not only of pubs but of people. We were all agreed about The Moody Mare not being a name to entice. At the end of our roadside conversation we introduced ourselves and Jill approved our names. We’d passed the middle class name test.
Despite living in London for more than three decades, I still hanker after quiet roads, so this sign appealed to me no end.
You’ll see by that photo that the light was beginning to fade. It meant the next part of our walk was bathed in a rather wonderful golden glow, but also that we were soon walking along lanes with no pavements and we were not in reflective clothing.
But we were still very zen about the whole thing.
Jill had been damning about a pub down the road. I didn’t see anything wrong with it, but we didn’t go inside, and I didn’t photograph it. I did rather like the conversion next door.
And I loved this weather vane.
While there was no tree canopy, it was alright. We crossed from one side to another to avoid being on the inside of blind bends and stepped where possible into the verges when cars swept by.
Suddenly we rejoined the path not taken. Not everyone was pleased to see us.
It was after this that it got scary. We eschewed the path through the woods as we had no torch, but the road was tree canopied and dark. I felt that at any second a car, ignoring the speed limit, could wipe us out. It was with considerable relief that we emerged into the town.
Celia, who had been in charge of the organisational details, knew there was only one train an hour back to London at this time of night. We could be in for a long wait.
Luck was on our side; a fast train to Victoria was due in five minutes.
The journey home was wonderfully fast. We read dscarded papers and learned how the nation had saluted ERII’s breaking of VR’s record. We also yawned and wondered how the vote had gone in the Labour leadership elections.
Celia suddenly sat bolt upright when she saw a picture of the minister at her church beside a lifesize cutout of Her Maj.
We were back in civilisation.