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Day 1

We arrived last night after the usual nightmare journey down the M25. There had been a major smash in the West bound carriageway blocking the road completely, leaving a tailback for miles. A happy way to end the holiday for many!
We stayed in the pretty village of Wye where we would walk to today. We arrived at the cathedral to be met by a group of friends who had come to walk with us including our daughter Clare, grandson Daniel and her friend Alanah who was to send us off with a trumpet voluntary. She is a fine musician! Sadly the Cathedral is covered with scaffolding and the courtyard is a building sight but there was time to have a quick look inside before setting off.
Sadly our old Garmin Sat Nav, which I fondly called Fred and had directed us to our destinations over 9 walks, was now obsolete so I have been issued a new one by my son in law John, who designs all the walks. He assures me it is easy to use and it did seem to be when I tried it out in Bladon. However setting off in the confined space of central Canterbury was another story. After one hour we realise we were going diametrically in the wrong direction along a busy A road, marked in red on the machine, rather than in pink,which was our planned route. Our driver Markus had to be summoned to return us to the start and we began again. This time we were rightly on a lovely route along the beautiful Stour Valley to Chartham for lunch where one of our friends left us to catch a train back to London. The rest of the party then continued on to Wye arriving later than planned due to our unfortunate start. I think and hope I have now worked out the use of the new SatNav which I will call ÔFred 2.Õ A quick cup of tea before our family and others catch the train back to London and Canterbury.

Day 2

An easy start today as we have been staying at our start point in Wye. We are on our own today as we have no visiting walkers. This tends to speed up our progress as walking and talking and navigating slows us down. It is a glorious morning. Blue skies scudding white clouds and a gentle breeze. Far less muggy than the last few days. We leave the Stour valley and join the North DownÕs Way, through the attractive village of Boughton Lees, with its large village green and cricket pitch. We then follow a busy A251, luckily along a footpath to the edge of Ashford. Here we see a very imposing gates with a royal coat of arms but leading to nowhere. We ring the bell of the gatehouse and are told by a charming young girl, that it dates back to the 16 century and the house, now a hotel, was lived in by one of Queen Victoria Ôs sons but she did not know which one. We lunch at a very good pub on moules and chips and then on along quiet lanes and tracks, very pleasant, crossing the M 20 on our way. ÊAlso, we cross 3 different main line railways which makes me realise why Kent is such a popular commuting county for London, despite the reports of train delays and stoppages in this part of the world. We arrive at our destination in Bethersden feeling good but ready for that welcome cup of tea and bath.

Day 3

Another sunny morning with a light breeze and we make good progress along narrow lanes and then turning off into a large farmyard with a number of stables. We were a bit confused by the way through but eventually met the owner who showed us the way through. She was a hunting lady as well as a big sheep farmer and her husband was away at market selling lambs. We walked through large fields with sheep everywhere. It was good for me to see such a large farm of stock for a change. We walked down the side of a wood and a large dog fox appeared, much to the intense excitement of Moses. Not that the fox had much to worry about. At lunch we met up with another supporter who joined us for the first half of the afternoon. After initially negotiating a horribly busy road our path took us through untouched meadows, with deep thick grass full of wild flowers even this late in the summer. It must have been an even more wonderful sight 2 months ago. Our companion left us when we were deep into a large wood and she said she would enjoy photographing some of the things she had seen on the way back. She promised to ring to tell us she had got back safely. We were now in a large deciduous forest, such a change from endless evergreen firs etc. I later learn that this area has the highest number of deciduous forest and woodland in the country. Back on to another terrifying B road, with tall banks along side woodland. The traffic is horrendous all going far too fast for terrain and the poor camber on the road. This is positively dangerous and we eventually call Markus to pick us up one mile from our destination in Sissinghurst. Our host for the night told us that 5 years ago there would have been hardly any traffic on that stretch but now it is a rat run.

Day 4

After a lovely evening in another lovely old farmhouse we arrive back in Sissinghurst to meet up with two ZANE supporters who are joining us for our walk today. One with a golden Labrador which Moses makes great friends with and in the first field exhaust each other by rushing around madly. Our companions both arrive with maps, which fills me with trepidation as I have suffered in the past from well meaning people taking us in the wrong direction. However both men are local and really do know ways around busy roads so I am relieved. Another glorious morning and our route could not be more pleasant with wide footpaths through wonderful countryside and no more struggles through bramble strewn paths. We eventually walk through Angley Wood a large forested area of mixed trees. I do love walking in woods. Out of Angley Wood, we find ourselves on a shooting estate where thousand of young pheasants are running around everywhere. The dogs go mad with excitement chasing them hither and thither before we get them under control. I must say it is difficult to see the sport in bringing in this number of birds just to shoot them. Oh well, I suppose itÕs hugely lucrative for the landowner!
We stop for lunch in Goughhurst, in an excellent pub run by an Italian. We learn that the hop pickers from the East End of London used to arrive by train here and then stay the night in the simple cabins we spied in a field, before being sent to all the farms round about. This was big business up to the 1970Õs when the brewers found it was cheaper to import hops from Poland. There are now hardly any hop farms left and most of the Oast Houses have been turned into private dwelling. We did pass some fields of hops but they were owned by the National Trust. ItÕs sad to see another way of life in the country disappear. More country lanes and footpaths and apart from one mistake, finding ourselves on the wrong side of a boundary fence and having to climb over a rickety wire fence on to the right path, our journey to Hook Green was uneventful. We are staying tonight with one of our walking companions.

Day 5
After an extremely fun evening, mainly on the topic of Brexit and finding ourselves coming from different viewpoints, we had an excellent night and woke feeling refreshed. Another gorgeous day and we meet up with our other walking companion of yesterday,with his map, bless him. The countryside today is stunningly beautiful and it is such a privilege to be experiencing it in these incredibly peaceful surroundings. We walk through more woodland broken by little hidden valleys many of them holding converted Oast Houses and related buildings. We spoke to one of the owners who admitted things were pretty tough in winter and that the towers did make the houses very cold in winter and hot in the summer. But he seemed pretty contented with his lot for all that. After such a peaceful morning it was quite a shock to walk into Tunbridge Wells and be confronted by horrendous tragic jams even on a Sunday. After a rather mediocre lunch in a Sainsbury cafe we walk out of the town along the common, a very wooded area which appears to run through the centre of the town. It must be a joy for the dog owners and joggers of the town. Our route then takes us through another deeply wooded area, at the side of a stream and a single track railway line where they run a steam train as a local attraction. We pass some huge rock formations on the side of the path. Great slabs of rock one on top of the other, rather like you find in various parts of Zimbabwe. A very unexpected sight. We eventually cross under the railway line and continue through more ancient, untouched woodland to our destination at Gloombridge itÕs name rather described a not a very inspiring looking village.
We return to Tunbridge Wells for the night. Our hosts live in one of a row of 20 late Georgian houses that were built to accommodate those who came to the Pallidine to take the waters which were believed to have medicinal qualities and put Tunbridge Wells on the map at the time.

Day 6

Another walker joins us today with his elderly Labrador. Unfortunately Moses seems to have injured his foot this morning while going for a pee in our hosts garden, so he is feeling rather sorry for himself although I cannot find any obvious injury. We spend most of the morning walking along a disused railway line which makes progress easy although very shaded so we rather wish we were in the glorious sunshine of this morning. Eventually we leave the railway and make our way through undulating pastureland and realise we have left Kent behind and are now in East Sussex. After lunch we leave Moses in the car nursing his sore foot as most of the time is walking through East Grinstead on hard pavements. We get to our destination at the far side of the town earlier than usual and have plenty of time to unwind in the beautiful home of our hosts.

Day 7

Moses appears to have recovered from his injury. Today starts peacefully enough in pretty countryside but gradually we become aware of the constant noise of flights flying into Gatwick airport. By the middle of the day are ears were now being blasted by airplanes, trains and the M23 as we manoeuvre our way round the airport. A very confusing exercise and we almost find ourselves going through the doors of Terminal 2. We must have looked a strange sight to all the passengers, with our high viz jackets, walking sticks and small black dog. What a relief to gradually leave it all behind and get back on to the Sussex border path.
Tonight we are staying 30 miles away back near Tunbridge Wells. It always seems amazing when you travel back in a car to see how far we have walked! ItÕs our day off tomorrow, thank goodness. We decide to visit Chartwell, Winston ChurchillÕs family home.


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