Saturday, 17 January 2009

Roaming along the Greensand Way Day 7 Sevenoaks - Yalding

It was late July before I managed to get out on the Greensand Way again. The day was very hot and after a couple of months of inactivity coinciding with the birth of my daughter, I found the day a real struggle. I have to say that this was largely due to my fitness levels rather than the difficulty of the walk.

Knole Deer
Luckily it was one of the easiest days for transport. I parked at Yalding station and returned to Sevenoaks by train, changing at Tonbridge. Parking is free of charge at Yalding station. Once at Sevenoaks, I walked up through the town to return to the route in Knole Park. I made sure that I stocked up on provisions before leaving town, as I wasn’t certain that there would be any shops on the way.

Ightham Mote
While not officially on the route, Knole House is too good to miss. There is a link route across the park, which crosses just in front of the house. Bambi-like deer roam around, getting in the way of visitors cars and no doubt gorging on the remains of picnics. Presumably this has become quite a problem, since there are many signs around warning people not to feed the deer. The park associated with the house extends some distance away from the town centre and makes for a very pleasant escape route.

The Chaser Inn
After a couple of miles you reach a road and here is where the park ends. Shortly afterwards you reach the crest of the ridge again at One Tree Hill. Surely this is a misnomer, as the hillside is wooded! There is a good view across the weald, although this is the first and last of the day. From here on the ridge diminishes and views become a premium.

Shipbourne Church
The early part of the Greensand ridge in Kent is dominated by large houses and having already passed Chartwell and Knole, perhaps the next is the finest of all; Ightham Mote. This is a fortified manor house surrounded by a moat and owned by the National Trust. The path runs past the house itself, but you need to make a very short detour to actually see it properly. It is worth it as in my opinion it is the finest building along the whole route.

St Michael's Church
By now, although it was late July, the colours in the fields were already changing from green to gold suggesting that the end of summer was perhaps closer than I thought. During a restful moment I had a look to see how much was left after today and reckoned on about three more days of walking. Having not got out much since the spring my ambition of completing the walk by the end of the year looked in some doubt!

St Michael's Plaque
After the next hill the way dropped off the crest of the ridge again and crossed the clay vale to the south. The path runs through the villages of Shipbourne and West Peckham, both dominated by their churches. In between the villages the farmland took on a completely different look as fruit farms dominate the whole area. The fields in July were a hive of activity, with fruit pickers swarming over the strawberry, raspberry and blackcurrant crops.
Kentish Fruit Pickers

At West Peckham I had a rare navigation problem as I missed the sign that would have told me the path had left the road. Instead I carried on until eventually reaching a junction with a busy main road. It was only here that I realised my mistake and tried to devise an alternative without retracing my steps along the narrow and busy road I had come along. No off road alternatives were available so I swallowed hard and turned down the A228 to regain the path. This necessitated a walk of a mile along this busy road, which was a very unpleasant experience and made me wish that I had retraced my steps after all.
Votes Court

Eventually I regained the route shortly before East Peckham church. This building was an oddity as the village had moved away from the small hill on which the church was located. Stranded, the church had obviously lost a lot of custom over the years and was now officially a redundant church, looked after by a trust.

Arrival at Yalding
The path then crosses the Medway valley, a major feature in the Kentish landscape and the boundary between the so-called Men of Kent and Kentish Men. Again the signage in this area was very poor and I had to really be on my toes to ensure I stayed on the right path. Added to this, much of the path was overgrown and this presented me with a bit of a problem. I had worn shorts because of the hot weather, but spent the last couple of miles of the day getting stung and scratched to blazes by the stinging nettles and bramble bushes. By the time I returned to my car at Yalding station I was not a happy camper!

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