Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Roaming along the Greensand Way Day 10 Pluckley - Ham Street

As autumn dragged on, the weather became more unreliable and it was mid-November before I got another chance to get out and complete the walk I started in early March. By now the clocks had gone back and daylight hours were at a premium so an early start was required.

Sheerland Farm
It was a beautiful sunny Sunday and I headed out to Pluckley station, which appears to be in the middle of nowhere. Luckily, as with many rural station parking is easy and most importantly free of charge.

Little Chart Church
I retraced my steps back to Pluckley village and lingered awhile in this rural idyll, taking in the atmosphere and trying to decide whether it felt haunted. To be honest on such a day it was hard to envisage; perhaps I should return on a foggy day to get the real atmosphere.

Little Chart
The Greensand Way left the village through yet more orchards, although seven weeks on from my last visit, there were few apples left on the trees and mostly yellow leaves. This made for a different atmosphere; gone was the closed in feeling created by the trees in full leaf and fruit and a more airy feeling in its place.

Chestnut Farm
I soon came across Sheerland Farm, which had a very impressive rose garden still in flower despite the lateness of the season. After crossing a couple more orchards I reached Little Chart village. Here the church is of 1955 vintage and looks a little out of place, but apparently was a replacement for the original mediaeval church that was destroyed by the Luftwaffe in World War 2. Little Chart marks the end of orchard country and the way continues through patches of woodland and grazing land for most of the remaining part of the day.
Hothfield Common

Just before the village of Hothfield the Way enters Hothfield Common, a unique heathland area in this part of Kent. A crowd of BTCV volunteers were clearing some of the scrubbier parts of the common as I passed presumably one of the many tasks necessary to maintain this feature. In one corner of the common were some peat bogs, not something you readily associate with rural Kent.

Hothfield Common
As seems to be common in this part of Kent, Hothfield Church was also some distance from the village and was located by the large mansion presumably owned by the original country squire. The mansion was still complete with dovecote, and there was much cooing and flapping as I passed.
Hothfield Church

The next couple of miles of the Way skirt round Godinton Park, which was fast becoming another suburb of Ashford. The Way appears to have been designed to by-pass Ashford, but as one of the towns in the south east to be earmarked for growth, it is creeping out into the countryside at a fairly alarming rate. At certain points along the path it almost seems that you can reach out and touch it! At the village of Great Chart I reached the 100 mile point. I still had eight miles to complete and about two and a half hours of daylight left. I had a choice of heading into Ashford along another link route or cracking on to the finish point. Not knowing when I could come back and the possibility of another trip down into Kent spurred me on to want to finish.

Great Chart Church
Much of the remaining part of the route was across fields with some road walking and appeared to be mileage just to make it to a convenient point to finish. However, the last couple of miles through Ham Street Woods were particularly attractive, if very muddy. Here the Way is joined by another long-distance footpath, the Saxon Shore Way. This is a 165 mile footpath that follows the ancient shoreline around the Kent Coast and a likely candidate for my next walking project now I have completed this one!

Hothfield Chestnut
Reaching Ham Street station was a big relief just before it got dark. The end of the Greensand Way was rather an anti-climax though as not only was there no welcoming committee to acknowledge my achievement but there wasn’t even a sign to tell you that you had made it!

Lone Barn Farm
The Greensand Way is a very enjoyable walk and is to be recommended. I personally found the Surrey sections more enjoyable than those in Kent and some of the orchards can get a bit tedious. However, the villages and churches along the Way are delightful and there is much of interest to see. Undertaking the walk over a period of months as a series of day walks has a big advantage in that you get to see the seasons changing. The atmosphere and character of the walk changes over the course of the year and this adds a good deal of interest to the landscape.

Ham Street Station

Having completed the walk in November, this marked the end of the walking season for me and I now had three months to plan my next expedition before the days would become long enough again in mid-February to get out again. Now that I have done one of these long-distance footpaths as a series of day hikes I couldn’t wait to get started on the next one!

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