Some genius had chosen a glorious woodland walk for this hottest September day ever, so we were shielded from the beating sun by the embowering trees. Continuing luck with the weather, even though the walk had been shifted one week later from its last Saturday in September routine, which never lets us down. Neither did this, enjoyed by a small select group who travelled over the shimmering morning Thames to the pulsing confusion of London Bridge station, a commuter venue unused to an influx of outbound travellers moved to exit London by the balmiest weather for decades.
A prompt train delivered us to the handsome Eridge station in East Sussex , starting point for the eight-mile walk. First signpost up was one that might serve as a symbol of these walks and the tendency of the Ramblers to walk in circles, given the chance. Then came a stretch of landscape weird for the south of England : Harrison’s Rocks owned by the British Mountaineering Council, and much visited by cramponned climbing crews. Autumnal beauties much in evidence in the woods.
Lunch at Groombridge was reached surprisingly fast and the Junction Inn provided a nice garden meal which afforded us the only group picture of the outing plus the chance of a pudding.
While some chewed the crumble, others eschewed it (“Mustn’t crumble”) to transport themselves with delight up the junction to Groombridge station on the Spa Valley Railway line to view the arrival of no less than Thomas the Tank Engine under the watchful eye of the Fat Controllers’ Assistant.
Autumn was effulgent. The walk resumed by entering Kent, and we passed the 17th century moated splendour of Groombridge Place.
Then through confusing woodland paths rendered more confusing by disruptive RSPB remedial work. One or other path led the party eventually to the rigours of the A26 Maidstone to Newhaven arterial road, soon abandoned for a quieter route with Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty views past interesting estate cottages emblazoned with the “A” symbol of the Neville family who came over with William the Conqueror etc etc but eventually became Abergavenneys, if you see what I mean.
On the way back to Eridge station, more late flowers and a late hedgerow substitute for pudding before we passed (but shunned the chance of some early Christmas shopping) another curiosity with an Islington flavour : a Gill Wing farm shop at the end of a long lane. And then a Southern Rail miracle: the hourly train from Eridge waited for the entire party (including the slow party) to board before leaving for home. That is service. Perhaps the driver thought we were Nevilles. (Or Abergavenneys).
Words: Peter. Pictures: Peter and Tessa