After the dampness of the spring, the customary wondrous weather was reinstated (just for the day) for the Ramblers’ Autumn Outing on the last Saturday in September. It was a truly glorious excursion to Kentish orchard land, enjoyed by a small select group of walkers and three dogs. Many normally faithful regulars were scattered all over the globe (and London) by more urgent matters.
This gentle ramble was not about urgency. It started at what some say is the world’s oldest railway station (or Britain’s or Kent’s) at Pluckley, though in fact the village of Pluckley is a mile or more away. The main feature was the ubiquity of what are called Dering windows in almost every house on the walk, modest and large. The Dering family owned the land here for almost 900 years up to 1927. The Victorian windows commemorate the Civil War escape from the Roundheads by a Dering ancestor who dived through such a (roundheaded) window.
Vast skies, great trees, and farms and oast houses turned into very expensive second and third homes.
Kent County Council’s walker signpost suggests that these footpaths attract professional road walkers rather than the ORRA crowd, but we did not see any of them. Indeed the sense of slow-paced English idyll was accentuated by our arrival in the village of Little Chart, the home of the writer HE Bates whose creations included the Larkin Family in The Darling Buds of May, later a rather celebrated TV series. It was indeed perfeck, as Pa Larkin would have said.
Lunch was taken outdoors at the Swan Inn in Little Churt, a nice pub with disappointment lying in wait for several participants. Many Ramblers opted for the Scotch Eggs, but by the time their orders were reached, all but two discovered that the chef had run out of Scotch, or eggs, or something. Spurned diners watched expectantly as the lucky winners tucked in unashamedly, and then toyed with their own substitute fare. One of the elusive eggs was enrobed in black pudding, thus adding to the saga of puddings for which these rambles are becoming known.
One of the lucky egg eaters dozed off dozedbefore being awakened by wedding bells sounding from what must be one of the most unprepossessing church towers in England. Little Chart’s original church was hit by a WW2 Doodlebug, and the 1950s replacement suggests that the architects were under the illusion they were building a municipal water tower.
The sleeping beauty was then able to pose by the pub’s slightly suggestive sign before we tramped on into real orchard country ripeness with many trees still bearing ruddy crops of different (delicious though we mustn’t say so) varieties of apples , chestnuts chestnut, and some vines.
Grapes not very apparent nor sampled, but it has been a terrible year for English wine. Pluckley the village not the station was eventually reached and the modest party was small enough to pose (illicitly overage) for the official photograph on a children’s swing. We then emerged onto a little ridge with a huge sudden view of the Low Weald in front of us, and a succession of fields where recent ploughing had first encroached on and then obliterated our track. We blazed a trail across the unforgiving sods, and then missed a secretive turning off the road for a path back to the station.
A friendly local who appeared to be on the alert for such errors gave us corrections; it was nice to feel that the OR Ramblers are not the only Ones Who Go Wrong. When we got to the oldest station in the world etc there was a mere 10 minute wait for the train back to London Bridge through a golden late afternoon.
Words: Peter. Pictures: Annie and Peter
Want to relive past walks? Find them in the Archive