Section 8: 13.5 miles (22 kilometres), September, sunny and warm. With the fam
A family walk is not a family walk without the preliminary warm up: the vocal stretching over who carries what, the 400 metre dog lead baton relay, the seventeen minute marathon wait while someone goes back to the shop for water, and the barb throwing competition about appropriate walking speed. After limbering up with these flexing exercises, supple and primed, we eventually set off to see what section 8 will bring.
We head straight for the stamp in the church, and someone wants to know if we can eat our picnic yet. Sigh. Stamp bagged, we decide to disregard the book and go up the Greensand Way as it looks more woody. In the words of naturalist and wood lover Henry Thoreau, “Any fool can make a rule, and any fool will mind it.”
Over the gloriously deafening M25 again, we’re soon skirting the trees and watching red kites. The farmer is harvesting chaff, I guess the mice and voles are running for cover and the kites are loving the all you can eat buffet.
We pass the meridian marker and as there’s no mention of the PW I assume we’ve taken the unpath. We have not, but it won’t be long. There’s almost certainly a geocache but I think of it too late to turn back. We’re on Titsey land, and let me tell you I get a lot of mileage out of that name. My 12 year old calls me childish and that’s fair.
Soon we’re climbing up managed woodland and before too long we’re in woods where every path has no access but the wrong one.
I haven’t been paying much attention to the book and we end up climbing back up a steep hill and onto a disused track, scrambling up a sheer bank and hanging on to holly roots. It’s tremendous fun dodging speeding cars at the top so we climb another vertical overhang and suddenly all is peaceful again and I find a clump of wild cyclamen.
At Titsey church we bag another stamp and after a war of attrition I acquiesce to picnic lunch in the graveyard. After Titsey, it’s a long, loong, loooooong road on Pilgrims Lane. Five and a half miles to be precise. It’s not without its pleasures but it’s hard under foot and we share it with traffic. It’s so narrow that lovely son has to pick up Shovell each time a tractor comes, and obviously today is Go For a Spin in a Tractor Day.
And then without fanfare or flourish, we’re in Kent. Lovely Kent with its stoic weirdness and pubs to die in. Or rather I should say West Kent as east is east and west is west when you live here. I like Kent.
As we near Biggin Hill it also appears to be Go For a Spin in a Hurricane day. At least I think it’s a hurricane, it looks dumpier than a spitfire but I’m no expert. When I google it later I discover they have two seater spitfires and the worlds only two seater hurricane. You can actually go for a spin for a hundred pounds a minute. If money’s no object you can recreate the Battle of Britain in a spitfire with dual controls. I mean, I’m tempted, and I have a genuine (medically verified) fear of both flying and heights. Three grand is quite expensive to have your eyes shut for 30 minutes though.
At last we reach Chevening Park and emerge into impressive landscaped gardens with a view of the enormo-pile that is Chevening House.
What I did not know at the time, is that it is Liz Truss’s grace and favour residence and is at the time of writing being handed over to the new foreign secretary, a privately educated Brexiteer I’ve never heard of. Now we know why these people need a tax cut, imagine the electricity bill. If I’d known, I presume I would have hurled abuse at it and tried not to (let the dog) defecate on the driveway. I certainly would have had away a load of her acorns. I assume the morose man on the hillside staring down was Truss’s husband.
It’s a short walk through her back passage to Chevening church to get the stamp and fill a water bottle (another missed opportunity to leave them a message in the guest book), followed by an unpleasant stretch by the side of a main road and over the M25 again.
We scrump for apples on the M25 flyover, packed with juicy nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide and formaldehyde and take a short stop at the friendly Rose and Crown for one of us to catch up, and on to Otford.
It’s been a long day, but I’m determined to see the world’s largest full scale representation of the solar system at Otford. In fact we come across Neptune unexpectedly near the bus stop. The Otford solar system is (mostly) on the recreation ground, delightfully not at all spectacular, and wonderfully eccentric at the same time.
To be honest, it’s been a long walk and what I really want to do is just make more inappropriate jokes about Uranus. I think I’ve earned it.
Other walks on the Pilgrims’ Way
I use The Pilgrims Way by Leigh Hatts as a guidebook, it’s pretty much essential for this walk. You can buy it here or from good independent bookshops.
I also use a GPX file imported from British Pilgrimage Trust into the Ordnance Survey app. It is available from their website and occasionally differs from the book.
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