Last night I finally got the last of the mud off my boots. They were caked. Kent is a county that has a reputation for being dry, but the first two fields we walked across were lakes of mud. There was no escape. I’m a mucky walker at the best of times, coming home with mud splattered trousers whatever the weather, but Saturday was pretty spectacular. The ground sucked at my heels so that each step was accompanied by a distinctive squelching sound.
I’d caught an earlier train out of London than planned and it was wonderfully quiet and empty.
The fields we passed by were covered with frost, and the sun shone benevolently. The walk, a Pluckley
Circular, was organised by the Ramblers and shared between two groups which meant there were nearly thirty of us when the walk began. But I’m getting ahead of myself. If you’ve clicked on that wiki link you’ll have read Pluckley claims to be the most haunted place in the country. But how would you tell?
So I was at Pluckley station half an hour ahead of kick-off, though perhaps that should be step-off.
Station car park
The station has a legitimate claim to historical fame.
But it’s not actually in Pluckley. It’s a distance away from the village, over a mile. Here’s the pub that is beside the station, a pretty impressive pile, named for the Dering family who were landowners.
The pub at Dering
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.
Converted Oast House
Nettles. Great for a hair rinse, at least according to Aunt; good as soup apparently; and nice tea; but up close and personal in the raw state, no. Nowhere near as bad as the poison ivy across the pond, which is Nature in a Very Bad Mood, but nonetheless, not to be messed with. So we walked back and forth through holes in the fence, bypassing the things, and finally emerging illegally into the next field.
Sidestepping the end of the path was a necessity rather than an option. Nature had achieved a fine and very effective barrier across the legal way.
Impossible and Impassable
It all went very well until the lunch stop. The sun shone; the blackberries we intended to gather in the afternoon were abundant; the path was clear. Fab.
Two year ago, Celia and I did this same walk. In my mind at least, it is the Dead Mothers Walk, as for both of us it had been the summer when our mothers died, and this walk was our day away from normal life and its demands.
Roydon Hall, where once the Maharishi held sway, is still for sale, and had very tasty blackberries we could reach through the fence.
Roydon Hall with Blackberries
From a rise, we looked back and down to a field. It was shiny and looked a bit like bubble wrap. We wondered. Polytunnels perhaps?
Much later, as we started to gather our blackberries we were able to confirm our guess.
I was so pleased to get out and about walking last Saturday as that it was one of the things I had been looking forward to doing with Sue when she visited in August. It didn’t happen for reasons I hadn’t anticipated, and the non walk nagged and snagged at my thoughts. You know how it is when you have really been looking forward to doing something? The way in your mind you can feel the boots on your feet, see the greenery around you, smell the air, touch the bricks on the chapel you planned to visit, enjoy your companion’s enjoyment?
So not walking left a gap that felt like an unfulfilled promise.
Saturday’s walk was in Kent and with Sue, we had planned to walk in Surrey, taking in Compton with its lovely Watts’ Chapel. Continue reading
Two pubs, eight miles, mud up to the knees on my trousers, some friendly dogs, sunshine, driving rain, autumn colours and a bull in a field. Yep, that about sums it up. Oh a bus that surged through a puddle and showered my legs with icy water on my way home from the train station.
I’ve been out in Kent today, walking with two like minded people.