Like life itself, this was a walk in two parts: to the pub and back. Or rather, down the picturesque river bank before lunch, back over gently rolling farmland to the station afterwards. In quite lovely walking weather, warm sunshine, big moving clouds, and no rain at all despite the otherwise squally end to September 2019. A small select group accumulated at Yalding Station, which immediately on the platform provided the hops promised in the Walk as advertised.
But apart from many poshly refurbished Oast Houses, this was our only glimpse of what was once large-scale Yalding hop country, now pretty much vanished. Maybe Brexit will bring back Kentish hops? Not dwelling on this, our group of 11 marched off to the River Medway, beginning the walk proper at the Hampstead Marina (which is nothing to do with Hampstead, of course..)
This puzzling wood construction (a letterbox? a tollbooth for when the riverbank walk was fee-paying?) did not delay the party for long, and we were off on a wonderfully satisfying ramble down a few miles of the non-tidal River Medway, It was peaceful, tree-shaded and uneventful or nearly so.
This is the river that marks the celebrated division between the Men (or Maids) of Kent to the West and the Kentish Men to the East, before it eventually debouches into the Thames at Rochester, or Chatham or somewhere. It is a very historic river, now placid and recreationally boated.
Hedgerows still full of old man’s beard..
..and blackberries, which were (as is traditional) taken care of.
Further on, a party just out for that rather 1950s recreation, a spin in the car.
We weren’t the only walkers enjoying the sunshine:
Teston Lock provided a riverine backdrop for the slightly blurry group photograph. This time it was taken by a kind passer-by who thus absolved your reporter from a morning slaving over PhotoShop to include the entire party in a single picture; this time they really were.
That traditional obligation achieved, we positively romped over the medieval bridge at Teston..
..to encounter a poor badger, culled by automobile rather than official policy:
The path took us through some suggestively described woodland:
And on to the pub, licensed premises since the 1700s, with a distinctive moniker:
We were indeed tickled by The Tickled Trout, (its name since 1997, when it was changed from The Chequers, and got its lovely sign). Nice sour Golden Ale, good food and chat and some cloudspotting in the sun.
Above the diners towered an ancient chimney.
And below that, a carved stone memorialising the craftsmen who worked on (restoring?) the pub in 1836; something most buildings lack, but should have.
And at the end of the repast, the Trout had an exemplary payments system, enabling all to cough up separately without that normal flutter of “What did you have?” when a single bill is presented to the group leader, if such there be.
After lunch, we hoved southwards into modestly upland country on a bit of a slog back to Yalding, with the aforesaid posh oast houses, horses, apple orchards, a raspberry farm and a chance to walk the Wrong Way just for a few minutes in the time-honoured ORRA tradition (dodgy instructions, really!). A wedding, too.
Yalding is a nice but trafficy, done-up village, now expanding fast. We had to edge along a new developer’s wall of almost Berlin proportions.
We sauntered on over the river, untempted by the celebrated café with a reputed 3,000 teapots on display.
As in so many Kent places, it was borne in upon the party that the railway station was built pretty unadjacent to the village whose name it bears. Thus there was a sudden last-minute scamper for the once-an-a-hour train, which all made with minutes to spare. A slightly frazzled end to an otherwise very satisfying excursion.
2020 Vision: The next outing will take place on Saturday 4th January 2020. D o c o m e !