Tuesday, 17 March 2015

The earliest yawn of springtime

Springtime is just the most glorious time, isn't it?

The newness of it all, the novelty of the early flowers.  Winter wasn't even all that much of a hardship here in southern England.  The thing I had the most problem with was the darkness- if you didn't make a point of getting out, you could easily go days without getting a little daylight.  But now spring is here, and moody and damp alternates with sunny and hopeful.

Naturally, I jumped the gun and left my basil plant that had over-wintered on the window sill out too early.  I now have an ex-basil plant.

All the things you took advantage of in the cold months is now over.  Maltby Street in Bermondsey is  once again a scrum, with a tangle of beards and piercings and skinny jeans all pushing their way through the narrow alleyway, dodging harried waiters with fancy cocktails and inhaling the smells of whole roasted hogs.  Museums and restaurants are now packed, and having London to myself is a thing of the past.

Naturally, getting out into the countryside becomes a priority when the sun gets to my head.  After the mudbath of a couple weeks ago, I found a drier bit of trail...when in doubt, head for the hills!

After a train ride to Rochester, in which a hat lovingly handknit with Madeline Tosh Merino in the color Graphite was sadly left behind, we walked a stretch through the city, past adorable shops and an impressive cathedral and a Norman castle that stands guard the River Medway.  

We picked up a trail along the banks of the river, which were mudflats filled with gulls and ducks and waders.  Rather stupidly, I had doubled up on wool socks, thinking that it would be helpful in preventing blisters.  Less then two miles in and my heels looked bloody awful.  I stopped to put on the Compeed plasters that I always bring along (but never had to use!) and hoped for the best.

The North Downs Way passes over the Medway on this super motorway and highspeed rail bridge.  I really didn't mind skipping that bit of walking at all.

With the motorway behind us and occasional thunders of the train going from London to Paris at breathtaking speeds, the countryside opened up and once again we were walking in the lovely bucolic downland of Kent.  Considering this was only 45 minutes outside of London...not bad.

One notable thing:  a burial chamber on the hill, left by the ancients, the cremated remains long gone.

Rather mystifying why they would put the mile marker on a tombstone:

Really, I've only done 80 miles on this trail?  It feels like a lot more than that.  One thing I can say about this trail: it's great that it's so close to London and so easy to do stretches on the commuter rail.  Also, Surrey and Kent are both infuriatingly well served by motorways.  The trail has got some good climbs here and there, it keeps you in trees quite a lot, and there is very little chance anyone might ever get lost.  

The original plan had been to do 18 miles to Hollingbourne, but as we sat down at the pub with the obscene name for a breather I thought otherwise.  

My feet were in all sorts of agony.  New boots, the early double sock error.  Oh, what a world!  I took out the map and found a train station 4 miles closer than Hollingbourne.  I always feel like a lousy cheat when I take a shortcut or deviate from the original plan, but 14 miles is still not a bad walk.  Right?

Instead of climbing back onto the downs, we headed across the fields to the nearest train station, and let the rails take us home.

I did find a lovely little church tucked between some farms and some grand estates, which is always so charming to find.

So there.  We did our first big walk since early January.  My feet have recovered and I've been doing the fashionable thing and wearing my hiking boots around London, ignoring the fact that they don't go with a smart skirt and blouse combo.  The things I do for fashion!  


  1. I went to Rochester for the first time last year and loved visiting the shops and the castle. I love spring as well. It is full of promise after a cold winter.

    1. It was early Sunday AM so nothing was really open, but it seemed like a lovely place.