Days have passed, maybe a week, maybe more, since I posted. I have not been ill, not been lying in a darkened room. I have been stressed, but I have still been active. There’s been work for starters, so no staring at a blank wall emptying my mind.
And Celia and I have resumed our out of town walking. So three Saturdays, three walks. The middle walk was fairly close to home, but one I will gladly do again. I had thought I might write and post photos of all three tonight. Then I downloaded thirty-one pictures from yesterday’s walk. The other two will either have to wait or not get written about. That would be a pity as this blog is essentially my diary, albeit with bits of my life expurgated to protect myself and others.
The first thing to say is that we didn’t get lost. Celia and I have such a track record of getting lost (and thus finding unexpected delights before we find our way again) I feel that needs to be said. The second is this not the first walk, or even the second we planned to do yesterday morning. The first was discarded because of transport problems. The second I printed out and helpfully left on the window sill at home. It started from Otford and finished at Eynsford. Celia was keen to see Shoreham. On the train we found an Otford circular via Shoreham. Bingo.
The forecast said it would be cloudy all day, and that is how it started. having climbed a steepish hill we looked at the view and saw a white cross on the opposite hillside at Shoreham.
But soon we were shading our eyes and grateful to walk through woods filled with filtered sunlight. Celia is a bit of fungi fan, so this specimen, glowing in isolation caught and held our attention for several minutes. What is is it?
We walked across fields, past barns, were warned, were objects of curiosity, saw views down valleys. I think my favourite bit, and there were so many good bits it’s hard to choose, was when we entered a wooded paddock where a notice warned of us of hardy animals kept there to help with the bio culture. I was expecting sheep, maybe ponies, perhaps highland cattle or llamas. But we had barely walked a few yards into the paddock when there was the noise of hooves and animals coming down the path and three very healthy looking bullocks came to check us out. They were curious, not aggressive, but I wondered if their curiosity might put us in danger. We stopped. They stopped. Hello, I said, we’ve come in friendship. We don’t want to harm you. I’m vegan. Celia isn’t.
Celia may hold that against me to the end of my days.
One of the bullocks mooed. It was like a summons. More crashing through the greenery and a lot more cattle appeared. They stared at us then made up the hill. It seemed for a while they were tracking us along a higher path that ran parallel to ours. I’d love to be one of the volunteers who checks on them. What fun, what a privilege, to get to know them as individuals. Just before we left the paddock there was another long loud moo. It sounded like the all clear.
After walking through a valley which led to a farm then more woodland, we reached Shoreham, conveniently arriving by the church.
We ate our packed lunches in the churchyard. It turned out there was a ride and stride event for people to visit local churches, and Shoreham was one of them. We went in. What a lovely church. Not for the first time did I wish I had some religious belief. I lit one candle for Mother and one for some neighbours who have been having a rough time. My father was not really one for candles. The kneelers were wonderful, and one featured the cross we had seen in the chalk. It is a memorial, remembering people who lost their lives in the First World War. You can read about it here. Shoreham is a seriously pretty place. We enjoyed a half pint of cider each at one Shoreham’s several pubs. Actually two were closed for renovation. The one we were at also had an ostlers box, apparently the only one left in the country. There was a pleasant mosaic outside the local primary school.
So onward, and as so often after a lunch stop in a valley, upwards. We had been picking and eating blackberries for much of the morning, now we moved into hunter gatherer mode. I had an old ice cream container. It took a while to fill.
We found clumps of blackberries, then nothing, More blackberries surrounded by spiteful nettles. We picked a few, moved on through more fields, more woodland, more views. There were oast houses and scenes of immense tranquility while the constant roar of traffic from the nearby M25 over everything in contradiction to everything our eyes could see. It was when we reached the bottom of this field and moved onto a single track that we hit blackberry gold. I was too busy picking to photograph. We stared at strange objects is the adjacent field (again no photograph to my regret). They had a Dalek like appearance and vaguely official decoration, checked in blue and yellow like the police. They were close to a digging machine, itself enclosed by fences. It was Celia who inadvertently found out who they were. Her blackberrying drew her closer, and a voice which sounded disturbingly like that of Gerry Adams informed us that her presence had been detected and the farmer and the police had been informed. Celia is much more of a rule breaker than I am. The longer I have been friends with her, the more I realise how easily cowed I am by authority, how unwilling to break rules. I think I should be hopeless in a revolution. She carried on picking where she was, while I remained on the other side of the track. Helicopters flew overhead, but no police cars came to arrest us. I suspect Celia was a tad disappointed.
Then we were hitting the last few kilometres. And soon were were on the last leg, the path back to Otford.
Our blackberry picking had made us slow, so it was late by the time we got back to London. At Bromley South our quiet carriage was filled with teens and twenty somethings heading out for a night in London. No masks, no social distancing. For them Covid 19 is apparently history. B&J had returned from their jaunt to Cornwall, so B kindly went to my flat to feed and play with MasterB. I have done quite a few walks around Otford over the years, but have never been to Shoreham. It was delightful. What a treat, and the perfect mental health day.
Stay safe. Keep well. Look after your mental health.