The rendezvous point for todays walk was the car park at Bluebell Hill. A prompt start was necessary as the temperature was several degrees lower than it had been over the past week or so. The views were a little hazy due to the overcast conditions but clear enough to see that we were about to embark on a serious downhill walk. Following the North Downs Way alongside the A229, the descent was about a mile until we passed Kits Coty. Coty means house and it is thought to be the resting place of an Iron Age chieftain. The site however probably dates back 5,000 years. Continuing downhill we arrived at the Pilgrims Way. Taking a left hand footpath in an easterly direction we came to a narrow pathway south. This track was overgrown and at two points presented a problem. The first was a traffic jam when twenty of our German cousins came towards us. They were shortly followed by two horses and their riders requiring us to dive into the hedgerow in order to enable them to pass. The path then joined Pratling Street which we took for a further half mile. Beyond Little Cossington Farm there is a footpath which cuts off a corner of the road and eventually leads to the Aylesford Road. When we arrived at Bull Lane we turned right through the village.
It was disappointing to see that the Little Gem public house was up for sale. The pub dates back to 1106 and is a Grade 2 listed building. It was one of the smallest pubs in Kent if not the smallest. We took a small diversion to look at the bridge over the Medway where the tide was out. The medieval bridge was built in 1250. Returning to Bull Lane we headed up the narrow roadway controlled by traffic lights in order to allow one-way traffic towards Aylesford Priory. We took our lunch break within the grounds of the priory where there was an abundance of geese and other water fowl. There was clear evidence that one of the geese had fallen ‘foul’ of a sparrow hawk with the debris of feathers. Having unpacked lunches it became clear that one of our number was ‘lunchless’. Appealing to our better natures we succumbed to his appeals and lunch was shared. It was at this point that concerns started to be raised about the return journey. Having made a descent from the starting point it was obvious that we were going to need to ascend an equal distance. Preparing for the return and having gathered our belongings together, the ‘lunchless’ member uncovered his missing packed lunch. For those that follow our travels on this blog it will come as no surprise to learn that this was the same member who had forgotten his walking boots last week. The assembled masses can hardly wait for next week to find out what will have been forgotten or lost.
Returning toward the village and taking the high path towards the church we took the footpath before the cemetery towards Bluebell Hill. This passes by several sand quarries which have now filled up with water. One of the quarries, however, still appears to be in use. The path joins the upper Aylesford road and looks down on the road we had walked on to enter the village. We then joined the Centenary Walk. Blocking the path was an ambulance with an eye hanging out. Coming towards us were two paramedics and a groggy looking patient. Fortunately it did not look to be a serious accident and we were able to advise the grateful paramedics that one of their headlights was hanging out of the ambulance. We then passed an established vineyard and two fields which appear to be young vineyards being prepared for next year. The observant member from Broadstairs was impressively able to identify the vines being grown as Chardonney. It was only at the end of the vineyard that it became obvious that his insight had been made possible because the posts holding the vines were labelled ‘Chard’! The vineyard is the second of two vineyards owned by Chapel Down, the other being at Tenterden.