Since leaving London I have traveled predominately on foot, though I
succumbed, after leaving Greenwich, to catching public transport to
Gravesend. It was a journey that did not save time though - it took three
and half hours to travel there, though in hindsight I probably could have
walked it in nearly the same time. However, by doing this though, I managed
to avoid most of the industrial area which would have made the walking very
I had to catch two boats to Woolwich Arsenal, they call themselves the fastest
clippers on the Thames, and they were that - ignoring the 20 minute wait to
change ferries!. A very old restored place on the river front, luxurious
apartments, pubs etc., but a different story on leaving that area!. Then
there was much walking to and fro to find the railway station, only to be told that I
would have to catch the train, then change to a rail replacement bus and then
back to the train. Imagine my surprise when, after about 3 minutes, the
train ground to a halt and we all had to get off for the replacement service.
At Gravesend I relented and had a luxury hotel room - it was so late, it was
getting dark and nothing was open. Interestingly the hotel manager was a
scout leader - a commissioner in International and so I was able to give him
a Onkaparinga badge when I left.
The next day I had a good look around Gravesend taking photos of various
statues - Pocahontas, who is buried in the churchyard there, and General
Gordon of Khartoum, also from Gravesend and a man with a great social
conscious by all accounts. There are two lovely piers on the Thames, which
also took my time up with photographing. Leaving town I had a good hour of
industrial walking before getting into the countryside.
I began the day on the Saxon Shore Way, but somehow ended up along a path
beside the Medway canal and also the no. 1 cycle path. I tried, a number of
time to get back onto the Saxon Shore Way, each time losing it quickly - it
was a very elusive path! A pleasant (and flat) path none the less, and had
chats with the locals as I passed, including a bunch of canal volunteers who
were out mowing and such like.
I had a lovely stay in Rochester with Sian my hostess, and really enjoyed the
town. The Cathedral didn't have a stamp for my pilgrim record and instead
gave me a sticker that they use for the children!
The next day to Charing was a tough day. The terrain is quite hard going
with a lot of ups and downs and it wasn't helped with the weather either. At
one point I was walking through a hail storm so thick that the ground looked
as if it had snowed. I thoroughly enjoyed the wildflowers - daffodils, blue
bells, and primulas (or were they polyanthus?). The down side was the
constant drone of traffic from the motorway a good mile away. It started to
get on my nerves after a while. This was another day where I resorted to a
train ride - successfully though this time!
I had just finished a late lunch in a cosy little pub where I "entertained"
(they bailed me up with questions) a group of English out for the day, and
was planning to head back onto the downs. I could see in the distance a
group of walkers silhouetted on the skyline and was bracing myself for yet
another climb when the sky show started! Lightning flashing and thunder
crashing everywhere and I decided that I was not going to be the highest
point on the highest point, and decided to take the train instead the next
few kilometres to where I was staying in Charing.
This part of the world is steeped in history - various Kings have stopped in
the villages on their way to somewhere and my hostess that night told me that
Henry 8th stayed in the village with 6,000 soldiers on his way (I think to
Canterbury) and that the locals were expected to feed them.
The North Downs way to Canterbury was much more pleasant and mostly flatter,
though still a long hard day. I could only occasionally hear the traffic
(relief!), and frequently walked through woods that were carpeted with a blue
haze of blue bells - not quite at their best, but a picture for these eyes
nonetheless. I was very relieved to find that my hotel was on the path into
Canterbury as by the end of the day I was feeling pretty tired. I also had
the bonus of a free upgrade to a double room that had a bath! oh, how good
that felt at the end of four pretty tiring days!
Canterbury? that will have to wait till next time - I have to hit the trail