The group convened at Doddington Church car park with intention of enjoying a stroll in the last of the summer sunshine and taking the opportunity to pick a few plums. Heading north towards the M2 up Church Hill we passed a chocolate box cottage only slightly spoiled by the satellite dish tethered to the ground. After about a half mile we reached Pond lane and Pinetrees farm. This is an old familiar route which hasn’t changed much since the last time the intrepid team undertook the walk. At the farm there is a footpath to the left which leads for about a half mile to the church at Kingsdown, St Catherine’s. Details of this church are recorded in previous blogs - it is still an attractive building. Taking a little time to look around inside, even though we had visited several times before, the magnificent ceiling above the chancel was still a revelation. Taking the drive from the church to Down Court Road we turned right towards Bluetown. At the junction a wild hop was in flower. Normally a very quiet road we were at one point almost mowed down by two leviathan tractors towing straw bales. It is sometimes surprising that these tractors make it to their destinations when their height inevitably results in the highest bales being shredded by the high hedges. Just beyond Bluetown we took the footpath to the left opposite MIntching Wood through a nectarine orchard. The nectarines had already been picked with only a few hard ones left. The assumption was that they had been were picked for storage and ripeningh before going to market.
At the end of the orchard the path should have led through the hedge but unfortunately the edge of the field has been layered and the fallen growth now blocks access. Turning right we eventually found a point at which we could get through to the field beyond – not an easy access for those with bad backs! Skirting the edge of the field and heading towards Hogshaw Wood we eventually found a suitable log for lunch – not to eat! Already for the time of year the bracket fungi are prolific and the log had several sizeable examples. Following intense discussion it was decided that we would attempt a slightly different route to the usual one which takes us through Hollybushes and risk entering the wild wood. Entering the wood the path is quite clear but after a few hundred yards it is less so. After some meanders we eventually surfaced from the wood to enter a field of sheep This necessitated crossing a barbed wire style which nearly ruined several of the parties manhood.
Beyond the field lies Torry Hill Park which was the seat of Lord Kingsdown. The Barony of Kingsdown was a hereditary peerage given to Thomas Pemberton Leigh around 1858. Lord Kingsdown never married, and his title therefore became extinct on his death in 1867. The land however stayed in the family who later became known as the Leigh-Pembertons. The current Baron is Robert "Robin" Leigh-Pemberton who served as Governor of the Bank of England from 1983 to 1993. It was at this point that our senior member made a claim to fame of some connection or other with the current Baron’s daughter. The claim was very vague and not likely to be one that she would be happy to be publicised!
Entering the Park by a path to the west we headed towards Doddington. On reaching Sawpit Road we turned left for a few hundred yards until we reached a path on the right hand side which led across a field to a denehole. The spire of St Catherine’s was visible in the distance. We have seen the denehole before but each time we visit the protection around the outside seems to get stronger. This may have something to do with the depth of the hole. When lobbing stones down, it was several seconds before we could hear the satisfying plunk of stone hitting water. Deneholes were shafts dug to access chalk and it is believed originally got their name from the Danes. It is however difficult to believe that this one was originally so deep. From the denehole the path back to Doddington is straightforward passing by Little Higham and West End before we entered an abandoned plum orchard. The group were greatly disappointed to find that the plums were not yet ripe. It is a ‘mast year’ for acorns and other nuts but there is also an abundance of fruit as well so we plan to return next week to see if the plums have ripened. From the orchard the path crosses Chequers Hill before returning to the Doddington Church car park.
Five walkers completed the 5.5 mile walk in what turned out to be extremely hot and humid conditions.