The spring walk in what turned out to be not quite Pooh Country attracted quite a crowd : 23 Ramblers and two dogs convened at Ashurst Station in Kent.
Most had travelled down from a slightly beleaguered London Bridge Station to which buses were not running, giving us the first logistical problem of the day, quickly followed by the second : could we possibly get lost in transit from the ticket office to the platform, unadvertised on the station indicator machine? No we couldn’t was the answer, but it was a close run thing.
The flimflam man who sends out the rousing summonses to the walks had forborne from promising fine weather, fearful of being cursed by this ramble’s proximity to what London’s advance traffic warning displays had coyly called a “Major Event in central London” the day before. And after two weeks’ dazzling weather up to Easter, the likelihood of anything really nice for this walk seemed a little remote. But once again, for the umpteenth time, the Last Saturday in April was quite glorious, a triumph of multitudes of different virgin greens, cloudless skies, balmy walking weather, and bluebells. This year it was not the first weekend of spring, which it often has been in the past, but it was very special.
So was the nine-mile walk, straight out of the station into the undulating woods and fields of Kent, immaculately preserved oast houses (bought with City bonuses, probably?) blazing fields of rape (or should it now be called canola ?) and just a few fine herds of cattle. The river Medway we crossed many times, a babbling brook rather than the big stream it becomes lower down.
A great mixture of Roaders and off-Roaders, old and new faces, one with the daunting experience of having completed the conquest of the 283 Munros, Scottish mountains over 3,000 feet….. to him this was a doddle. Like the wedding, we also sported some nice hats.
The Dorset Arms in Withyham was a nice place for lunch, with the party spilling over inside and outside, with good Harveys of Lewes beer. Pudding was not taken, but wavered over.
After lunch, Ashdown Forest and Five Hundred Acre Wood (which became 100 Aker Wood in the world of Winnie the Pooh) was tempting but abjured as it would have added miles and hours to the expedition. But what an intriguing thing to revisit midweek, when there may be fewer Japanese tourists about, in search of Eeyore. The absolutely mandatory walking-in-circles occurred a little after lunch in the AA Milne village of Hartfield, which at one stage appeared completely impossible to get out of. Quickly resolved (for once) by the ladies, this was logistics problem number three.
Then we went back to the station by another way. The hourly train arrived within minutes. A huge squad of transport police were on hand to escort us from London Bridge station, and the northbound bus came pretty quickly too. And a jolly good time seems to have been had by all. Including the dogs.
PS : When Annie got home, she needed a Nice Cup of Tea. The tag on her teabag bore a pertinent message.
Report: Peter. Pictures: Annie and Peter